Oasis: Rubber Soul
Originally published in Guitar World, January 2009
Noel Gallagher and Oasis snap back into shape with Dig Out Your Soul, the Brit-Rockers' fab-tastic album.
"I feel like it's my destiny to be talking to you—to the media—right now,” says Noel Gallagher. The 41-year-old guitarist, main songwriter and sometime singer for Oasis is surprisingly serene, sitting backstage at the Bell Centre in Montreal, ready to dole out 15 years of hits and a few new songs to a sell-out crowd of 9,000. Tonight’s show is a preamble to the year-long worldwide tour of arenas and stadiums that Oasis will soon undertake. “That’s part of my destiny as well,” Gallagher says. “As soon as you pick up a guitar and form a band, whatever is meant to happen is going to happen. Fate’s funny like that.”
It’s also dangerous, as Gallagher discovered two days after our talk, when he was violently attacked onstage in front of 40,000 fans at Toronto’s V Festival. Bum-rushed from behind by 47-year-old Daniel Sullivan, Gallagher fell hard onto his stage monitor and suffered bruised ribs and hips, resulting in the cancellation of several shows. “It felt like a sparring session with [Manchester boxer] Mickey Hatton,” Gallagher has said of the assault. “I can’t say much more than the perpetrator’s gonna get the book thrown at him. Repeatedly. And it was all going so well up until that point n’all.”
Pummelings both onstage and off are nothing new for Gallagher. He and younger brother Liam, Oasis’s mercurial front man, are famous for them. Much of the band’s early press centered around their contentious relationship, but the Canadian episode comes at a time of newfound calm in the guitarist’s life. He spends most mornings tending happily to his kids (daughter Anais, eight, from his first marriage to Meg Matthews; and son Donovan, one, from his current relationship with girlfriend Sara MacDonald). It’s a far cry from the drug-fueled existence that he lived during much Oasis’ early days, and Gallagher admits that he’s enjoying his newfound maturity. “Giving up drugs? What’s the big deal?” he says. “If I was a pathetic geezer in my forties doing coke off some girl’s behind, that’d be a pretty sad story, wouldn’t it? Granted, the press would love to write about it, but it’s my life, and that ain’t the way I plan on living it, thank you very much.”
Gallagher’s current state of bliss even extends to his relationship with Liam, whom he describes as “a man coming into his own, in his own way. He does things his way, I do them mine. We just happen to be in this group together, and that’s where we meet.”
On the band’s newest album, Dig Out Your Soul, their seventh studio release and first for Warner Bros. in the U.S. (the group releases product for SonyBMG elsewhere), Gallagher has turned over much of the songwriting chores to Liam and band members Gem Archer (guitar) and Andy Bell (bass). Whereas early smashes Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? were written entirely by Noel, he’s penned little more than half the new record. “It doesn’t mean I’m getting lazy,” he states. “Shit, I think I worked harder on this record than most. I just choose to concentrate on the songs I’m really excited about, and it’s no one’s business if that’s five or five hundred. The only thing that matters is how good they are.”
On the band’s last album, 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth, Gallagher admits that he tried to hard to Xerox the raw, basic “Supersonic” sound of the group’s first recordings. “Big mistake. You can’t remake your first records. That’s why they’re your first records.” This time out, he says, he went for “more of a groove approach. I don’t mean trip-hop or anything like that. I just wanted the songs to go where they wanted, instead of forcing them to go somewhere artificial.”
Not that he’s given up on rocking: He lays down howling, dirty guitar throughout cuts like “Waiting for the Rapture,” “The Nature of Reality” and the album’s propulsive, heads-down slammer “The Shock of the Lightning.” As always, the Beatles influences are heavy, from the Lennon-esque piano ballad “I’m Outta Time” to the “Dear Prudence” guitar end of “The Turning” to the “Give Peace a Chance” stomp of “(Get Off Your) High Horse, Lady.” Gallagher is, as usual, unapologetic about nicking bits from the Fab Four. “They were the best. If you’re gonna take something, take from the best. Do I have to teach other bands everything?”
The recent departure of drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son—how’s that for borrowing from the best?) dealt a blow to the Gallaghers, but the quick addition of former Robbie Williams skinsman Chris Sharrock makes Oasis “the steadiest we’ve been in years, probably ever,” says Gallagher. “If that makes us boring to people, I really couldn’t care. They might want us bustin’ chairs over each others’ heads, but fuck that. You gotta grow up sometime. I’m in my forties now. Better now than never.”
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