During 18 years as the guitarist, primary songwriter and sometime vocalist for Oasis, Noel Gallagher became one of the biggest rock icons of his era. His sales and chart statistics were downright gaudy: 23 UK Top 10 singles, seven UK No. 1 albums, concert audiences as large as 125,000 a night, and album sales of more than 70 million.
But the alliance of Noel and his younger brother Liam was fractious and temperamental. In 2009, just days before the end of an Oasis world tour, Noel and his brother fought one time too many. Noel left the venue, and the band was done.
“I don't think it's any coincidence that all the wrongs of the world have coincided with the birth of the Internet,” Noel says.
CultureMap: It’s a strange couple of weeks for you to be in America with the elections and the hurricane. Are you having some interesting conversations on the road?
Noel Gallagher: I find the whole thing fascinating. American politics is fascinating. It’s so confusing and bizarre. I like to watch it play out. But I don’t begin to understand it.
You can watch Fox News on one channel and it gives you the exact opposite view of CNN on the other — using the same figures. It’s insane how it’s even legal to do that stuff. You can’t do that in England, you know what I mean?
CM: It’s crazy. I think we all may have too much information. It’s too easy to get angry with people that are different than you.
NG: Well, yeah! I mean, of course! I don’t think it’s any coincidence that all the wrongs of the world have coincided with the birth of the Internet, you know what I mean?
“The Internet, for all the great things it has given us, has destroyed magic. It’s destroyed word of mouth,” Noel says.
CM: Do you feel like the record-store magic or some of that attentive music listening is gone now?
NG: Yeah, of course. And the software was invented by people that didn’t go to record shops. You got some guys in fucking Seattle or wherever these guys with bald heads and glasses sit, they’re thinking, “I don’t want to fucking go to record stores, I want the record stores to come to me.”
The Internet, for all the great things it has given us, because people are connected all around the world, it has destroyed magic. It’s destroyed word of mouth.
You know, particularly in the music industry, before a record is out, an opinion is formed. It’s destroyed the ability of people to think for themselves.
CM: What do you think that means for young musicians now? I know you’re a fan of Jake Bugg and have brought him out on the road with you. What does it mean to someone like that, who is good but is living in a different world than you did?
NG: Well, he’s growing up with it. He’s fully immersed in the machine now as it is, you know? For the likes of me and every artist from the ’90s, we had to make the transition. So it was difficult.
Young acts now, they’re kinda brought up in the machine, so they don’t know any different. I was talking with him the other night, and he was saying that it was mind blowing to him that [Oasis] sold 700,000 albums in three days in England. And you wouldn’t even sell that now with people on their computers.
CM: I get the feeling that not many people are going to get rich making music anymore. That it’s becoming more of a working-class gig where you live in the bus or the van and that’s how you earn a living.
NG: Well, absolutely. Trust me on this: The days of Led Zeppelin and David Bowie and fucking Marc Bolan and all that — they’re all gone. Those flamboyant rock stars flying around in fucking jets.
There won’t be another Rolling Stones, there won’t be another David Bowie, that’s for sure. Because the industry doesn’t want that. They don’t want a guy like David Bowie completely murdering Ziggy Stardust to go off and become another character.
They would want Ziggy Stardust for the rest of his fucking life, you know. But it serves the industry right, I think. You know what I mean? Because for starters, they overcharged for music in the first place. So there was a quest by young people to get music for what they felt was the right price. And in the end, they’re getting it for free now. So it serves the industry right.
“I don’t get back after a tour and think, ‘What’s my next project?’ I just think, let’s go back to being a regular fucking guy for a while,” Noel says.
CM: When you left Oasis, you laid low for a solid year and a half or so. What do you do with your time off?
NG: Well, I got married, I had another baby. I moved.
It’s just life, you know what I mean? I’m not really driven as an artist. I don’t get back after a tour and sit down and think like, “What’s my next project?” I just think, right, let’s go back to being a regular fucking guy for a while.
I like sitting around the house. And I don’t really ever wanna overdo it, because I don’t want to have contempt for my job, so to speak.
I could conceivably not make a record for the next five years. I just do things when I feel like it, and I might not feel like it for a few years, and that’s great. And I don’t really believe in saying anything unless you’ve got something to say.
At the moment, I’ve got nothing to say. You know, in regards to doing a new record.
CM: Where are you today musically? What are you listening to or influenced by?
NG: I have become heavily obsessed with David Bowie again. On the road, I’ve been listening to him regularly. I always thought he was great, but I never really thought he was as great as I think he is now. I think he is up there with John Lennon and fucking Bob Dylan and those guys.
His recorded output is fucking phenomenal. But every single style of music that he attempted, whether it be pop in the ’60s and this glam rock thing in the ’70s and the avant-garde electronic music in the late ’70s and then, like, electro-pop in the ’80s — all fucking truly amazing.
It’s beginning to blow me away, so I’ve been listening to it lots recently.
CM: On the new record, “If I Had A Gun” may be one of the best songs you’ve ever written. It feels pretty direct compared to some of the other ballads you’ve done. Is there a good origin story for that song?
NG: When I put together a set of chords and a melody and it lends itself to being a romantic song, I always go back to the first night that I met my wife. I remember what that felt like. And what those first few weeks felt like.
And then try and make it as believable as possible. And just really, if you’re gonna write a love song, write it from the heart. And write it about someone you actually love. I’m not going to mention her name, because people don’t know her, but I make it as universal as possible.
My whole attitude toward songs like that is that if you’re going to fucking say it, say it. Don’t piss around pretending it’s a song about a tree when it’s really about sex. And I’m talking about Radiohead here.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Snow Patrol, and Jake Bugg conclude their U.S. tour at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie on Wednesday, Austin Music Hall on Thursday, and Bayou Music Centre in Houston on Friday. Tickets are available via AXS (Dallas), Ticketmaster (Houston) and Front Gate Tickets (Austin).