Interview: Former Oasis Frontman Noel Gallagher Discusses His New Solo Album, 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds'
Noel Gallagher might have joined his brother’s band, Oasis. But he also eventually became its creative force.
His gift for writing hit songs put Oasis on the map in 1994. Their 1995 album, What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?, which featured the hits “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” sold more than 14 million copies worldwide and propelled the band to international stardom.
But from the very beginning, brothers Noel and Liam fought -- usually in the public eye, often via the press. On September 5, 2009, Noel had finally had enough and called it quits. Oasis split into two, with the entire band (minus Noel, of course) joining Liam in the newly formed Beady Eye. Noel went solo.
Noel's debut album, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, which comes out November 8 via Sour Mash/Mercury Records, is distinctly "Noel Gallagher" in that its 10 tracks capture some of the brilliance of Oasis' early hits. In fact, “The Death Of You And Me” and “If I Had A Gun…” could fit nicely on any classic Oasis album.
Over the years, it hasn’t been easy to track down Noel. His not needing to do press is a luxury of being in a massive, internationally famous band. But now with a brand-new solo album, it’s a different story. Luckily, Guitar World grabbed a half-hour of his time during his recent visit to New York. We tried to play catch-up for a few decades of his work, right up to his new album.
GUITAR WORLD: When did you start working on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds?
I don’t really have a set start date; I’m always writing songs. But the first day in the studio was Valentine’s Day. It was a momentous day because my wife called me at 3 o’clock that day and told me she was pregnant. It was as I was doing the drums for the first track, and I was like, “Wow.” I couldn’t tell you what year that was ... last year.
Do you have your own recording studio? In the past you've spoken about using Garage Band.
No, I don’t. I used to, but I let it go. It’s just a fucking waste of money. It’s counterproductive in the end. We would end up recording the album twice. But no, just a friend's studio in London; and then we finished it off in Los Angeles.
I know “Stop The Clocks,” which is on the album, is an unfinished Oasis song. Are there any other songs from Oasis days?
Yeah, “Record Machine.”
I've always wanted to ask you about the Oasis song “The Masterplan.” Was that finished or unfinished? I ask because it seems to be missing a verse.
The story of that song is, “Wonderwall,” the single, was coming out, and we didn’t have a B-side. My label hooked me up with a studio and said we need a B-side, so the night before I wrote it in my kitchen and I thought, “Fucking hell, that’s really good.” I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I just thought it’s a really good song. We recorded it over a few days and then as the finished thing emerged, everyone was going, “Are you sure you want to send this out as a B-side?” And I was like, “What do you want me to fucking do? You asked me to write a song, there it is."
I was a bit headstrong and arrogant. I mean, I would have fucking saved it and built an entire career around it. But I kind of threw it away. But the flipside of that is, that’s one of the great things about Oasis. For every great album, there’s like five or six great B-sides that are there to discover. Which I think will be a great thing for future generations. Even on Stop the Clocks, the best-of -- there’s a lot of great stuff not on that. So there are lots for people to discover down the line, if they wish to do so.
Another example is “Flashbax.” That's a killer song.
Well, there ya go. They’re all out there and readily available from the iTunes store. So I guess that is one of the great things about the Internet and YouTube. It’s very easy to discover that thing now.
I had to go and buy imports.
Yeah, now you can just fucking buy them on iTunes. But that’s the kind of thing I do. The B-sides for all this stuff, you’ll really like as well. I don’t really sit and write B-sides, I just write songs in my spare time. Then I kind of pick the best ones for the album and then the things I pick as B-sides aren’t necessarily not the best; they are just, you know, maybe I don’t like the lyrics, or the lyrics are great but I don’t like the tune, or the tune is good but I don’t like the singing -- or there’s just something and they’re not perfect. But people hear them and go, “God, I fucking love that.”
So when you’re doing B-sides, you’re writing them quickly and bringing them in. When you were in Oasis, were the other band members there to bounce ideas off of?
I’d write them on my own, so not really, particularly in the early days more than in the later days, maybe.
Would you just bring in a song and say, "This is going to go on the record"?
If I decided it was going to go on the record, then it was going to go on. If I wasn’t sure, then we’d have a heated debate about it.