Noel Gallagher Discusses the Sad State of Rock and a Billion-Dollar Oasis Reunion

(Image credit: Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

As the primary songwriter in Oasis, he was responsible for such Nineties mega-hits as “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” and occasionally had violent, public fights with his singer brother Liam. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…

You produced the new Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album, Chasing Yesterday, by yourself. It’s the first time you’ve ever done that. Why did you go that route, and what was the experience like? —Dating a Weirdo
Because my producer that I’ve used for the last 10 years, Dave Sardy, has decided to get into the film industry, so he’s not doing records anymore. At least that’s what he told me. He probably thought the demos were shit. [laughs] I found it very fulfilling. I also found it very easy, and I’ve come to the conclusion that producers actually might be the biggest batch of fucking chancers in all of musical history.

What gear are you using on your current tour? —Robert Nivelle
Amp-wise, I’m using a very special-edition Hiwatt Custom 100 combo that was made as a prototype for me in the late Nineties and was never put into production. I have the only one, and it’s fucking amazing. For just my own stage sound, not in the mix, I use a Fender Blues Jr.

My guitars consist of a 1960 Gibson ES-355, two 1960s Gibson ES-345s, a Nash Guitars ’72 Tele-style, plus a Martin D-28 and Gibson J-150. I had a very expensive 1963 off-white Strat stolen from me about three years ago. It was the best Strat I’d ever played. And I thought, I’m not fucking spending that much money to replace it, so I bought a Nash copy of it, and it’s the best guitar I’ve ever owned. Ever. And the Nash Tele is astonishing. I use them both all over my new record.

I haven’t been hearing a lot of guitar on your recent albums. Any plans on getting back into guitar in the near future? —John Jellicoe
Well, on my previous record [2011’s Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds] there was one guitar solo. On this record, there are nine. So, fuck you [laughs]. It’s not something that was thought out in advance; it just depends on the songs I’m working on. These songs have guitar solos in them. The next album I make, if I do make another one, might have no guitars on it whatsoever. I don’t know. I’ll decide when I decide to make a record.

What do you listen to at home and in the car? —J. Algernon Hawthorne
I listen to pretty much everything apart from heavy metal. There’s no one particular music I prefer. I mean, I guess I prefer Sixties guitar pop above all else, but I listen to all sorts: dance music, jazz, punk…well, maybe not punk. But I listen to everything. That’s why my record’s so good.

Do you think popular music can ever be as important as it was in previous decades? —Damien Linotte
Clearly, the answer is no. There’s a new generation being born who were born in the modern age. I have a 15-year-old daughter, and the most important thing in her life is her fucking telephone, which just happens to have music on it. When I was growing up, the most important thing was music and television shows that had music in them, and the radio and shit like that. The modern world has a place for music, but it’s not the life-changing force it once was. There’ll never be another John Lennon, let’s put it that way.

How’s your relationship with your brother Liam these days, and what would it take to get Oasis back together? —John Thomas
Our relationship is as good or as bad as it ever was, depending on how you perceive it. As for Oasis, it would take half a billion dollars. None of that Canadian shit. American dollars. Half a billion. Not million. Billion, with a B.

Do you have any plans for releasing a signature guitar through Gibson or Epiphone? —Trevor French
I’ve been asked and I kinda can’t be fucking bothered, do you know what I mean? It’s a funny thing, designing guitars. Because, let’s face it, somebody got it right in about 1956. What’s the point? You can do them in funky colors with funky switches and blah, blah, blah, this, that and the other.

But really, if I was to sit down and design a guitar, it would be exactly the same as the one I fucking play. My main guitar, my 355, is in no way unique. It hasn’t got any unique, specific features on it. It’s just a fucking great guitar. It sounds great, has great pickups. I mean, what more could you do to a guitar? The guitar itself is really not important. It’s the fucking player, isn’t it?

If there were a fire at your house and you could save only one piece of gear, what would it be? —Luis Diaz
My white Nash Strat, considering it’s the only guitar I’ve got at my house. [laughs] But I’d probably regret not saving my big plastic bowl of plectrums. Because really, what the fuck is a guitar without a plectrum?

Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr appears on “Ballad of the Mighty I” on your new album. Do you think there’s a chance you’ll ever make a full album together? —Gus Bates
Let’s just say I could close my eyes and have a wild dream, and it would be for Johnny to be in my band. That would be amazing. But as he’s a solo artist and I’m a solo artist, it’s hardly likely to happen. But I would definitely be up for doing something with him, but a full-length record might be a bit too much.

What’s it like when thousands of people, in some cases hundreds of thousands, sing along to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” at your shows? —Leslie Castle
You kind of have to detach yourself from it. It’s been that way since the day that record came out [1996]. It’s such an extraordinary song. Not that my part in it was extraordinary in any way, and not that the component parts are extraordinary. They’re not extraordinary chords or lyrics, and there’s not an extraordinary melody or arrangement or anything like that. But for some reason, it’s become this extraordinary piece of music that people…they took it, and it means so much to them, and I don’t know why.

I’m just the guy playing the guitar while they’re singing their hearts out. It’s crazy. The song just arrived. Fuck knows why I played those chords or why they came in that order or who the fuck Sally is. Or where she’s going or why she was watching everybody walking on by. It was just a song that was in the air, and I’m glad I was around to write it. Because in the wrong hands, it could be a bit shit, do you know what I mean?

What do you think about the current state of rock? —Joe Lee Jr.
Oh, it’s dead, no matter what anybody fucking says. There are great bands—U2 and Coldplay and Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys and all that—but all those guys have been going for such a long time. If you’re talking about new rock music…people are going on about Royal Blood, but I’m like, “Really?” I don’t fucking get it. Show me the tunes. Rock has left the building.

Is it still easy for you to write songs in 2015? —John Babcock
I find it easy to start them, but it’s difficult to finish the bastards off. I could start a thousand songs a week and finish maybe one a month. But I’d rather have 75 songs that are in need of a second verse and an arrangement than finish one shit song. There’s many stages to what I do. There’s the writing, the recording, the mixing, the rehearsing, the gigs and all that. But my favorite thing to do is catch a bit out of the air and develop it into a song that didn’t exist, and a great song that’s gonna mean something to someone. That’s a great thing to be involved in.

Do you still hate the guys in Blur? —Damiano Sciancalepore
No, no, no. [laughs] Too old for hate now. To be quite honest, I don’t think anybody really hated each other anyway. It was just a very competitive time. Most of us in both bands were either drunk or high when we were doing it. In my case, I was both. When you’re young, you’re full of energy and spunk and you’re up for it. It turns out they’re lovely guys.

If you had to choose a single song that best represents your new album, what would it be? —Doyle Barr
Ah, this is why it’s a good album. There isn’t one song that really is representative. You could take any two songs; play “Riverman” and “The Right Stuff” to people and they’d think, This is kind of like a groovy, psychedelic jazz album.

Then take “Ballad of the Mighty I” and “In the Heat of the Moment” and you’d think it’s like a disco record. You could take “Lock All the Doors” and “The Dying of the Light” and you’d think this is a classic example of what he does. But if I were to choose one track to play to some person who’s not into what I do, let’s call him a fucking square, I’d play them “Riverman.”

Some journalist said “Riverman” sounds like a bit like “Wonderwall.” What are your thoughts on that? —Albert Woolson
What the fuck? [laughs] I mean, honest to God, it just goes to prove that the internet has given a voice to every fucking bozo on the planet. I mean, 99.9 percent of people on this planet are fucking dumbasses. And then there’s the 1 percent of the rest of us that are kind of discerning. You read stuff by people and you think, “You fucking morons.” Idiots. There’s only two things that connect that song to “Wonderwall.” One of them is me. The other one is the fact that I’m singing it. That’s it. Other than that, it bears no resemblance to it whatsoever. Oh, hang on a minute: It’s got an acoustic guitar on it, so it must be like fucking “Wonderwall.”

Will you be working on a box set anytime soon? —Fred Upham
No. I don’t like box sets. They’re too long. You lay all the shit out and you think, Will I ever live long enough to actually fucking listen to all this? Are there enough days in the rest of my life to get through this? But they do look good. I’ve got Pink Floyd box sets, and they look great on a shelf, and they’re great artifacts. But does anybody really listen to them?

You used to say you weren’t too fond of Oasis’ Be Here Now [1997]. Has your opinion of that album changed over the years? —Meg Matthews
It’s my least favorite of the albums I wrote, for sure. But I won’t take away anybody’s right to like it. I meet people regularly who say, “That’s your best album.” And I say, “Really?” but I think, You fucking moron, you don’t know what you’re talking about. If people like it, that’s great. Don’t expect me to play any of it.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.