Victories in art are difficult to call, but in the wake of the break-up of Oasis three years ago, time has been kinder to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds than it has been to brother Liam’s Beady Eye. It’s no surprise, really. Even within the Oasis lightshow—the sparks from the friction between the Gallagher siblings spanned almost two decades—it was clear that the band’s best songs belonged to Noel. The elder Gallagher is now back in the United States for another leg of a seemingly endless world tour, his first as a proper solo artist. While resting up for this current jaunt in a hotel suite near Lille, France, Noel Gallagher spoke with The A.V. Club about abandoning projects, feeding his cat, working with hippies, and looking like Keith Richards.
The A.V. Club: Listening to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds now, without the distraction from the Oasis breakup, it sounds like it has joy in it, something that might have been missing from the last couple of Oasis records.
Noel Gallagher: Well, the real difference is that I’ve written the whole album. On Oasis records, there were always four songwriters, so you would never get a concise feel or flow. Liam would write a certain kind of song and Gem [Archer] would write a certain kind of song and Andy [Bell] would do the same. Then, you put them all together and try to make them fit as best as you can. This album has a very definite narrative. That’s just ’cause I’ve written it all and I put it all together. I guess it’s just more of a personal statement. But I agree with you. There is a lot of joy on it.
AVC: The trilogy of videos that was released when the album came out was filmed in and around Los Angeles. The album cover photo is of you in front of the iconic Jack Colker Union 76 gas station in Beverly Hills. Were you out to brand yourself anew as a Southern California singer-songwriter?
NG: [Laughs.] It just so happened that all of that took place because of economics. It’s cheaper! All of those things were done while I was mixing the record. I recorded it and mixed it in Los Angeles, so I just happened to be there. I guess things develop their own meanings to certain people. I wouldn’t have even been in the videos if it wasn’t for my management, who insisted I was in them in some way. I’m not too sure I was branding myself as anything. There seems to be a rule that one has to be on the album cover if you’re a solo artist. I don’t know when that rule came in. I certainly won’t be on the next one, that’s for sure. But yeah, there is kind of an American feel to it, visually. It’s a strange one. It’s an odd one. I don’t know what to make of it, because I couldn’t be less American. But everything was done in America. All of it. So, there you go. What does that say? I don’t fucking know. [Laughs.]
AVC: Well, with Thom Yorke moonlighting as a Los Angeles DJ and starting a new band there, Atoms For Peace, it seems like there might be a secret society of big British musicians hiding out together…
NG: Oh, fuck that. I don’t fucking mix with anybody—British or any other musicians. I tend not to hang out with musicians. You know why?
NG: Because they’re fucking idiots.
AVC: You’ve become quite a blogger. Your “Tales From The Middle Of Nowhere” diary is a regular feature on The Huffington Post, of all places.
NG: This came about on the last Oasis tour, when the people that ran our website said, “You have to have some personal involvement in this, because you’re like the last band in the world.” We never had any involvement in it whatsoever. We were like, “Fuck the Internet.” I didn’t even have a computer at the time. I thought, “Well, I’m not interested.” They said, “Well, look, can somebody do a tour diary?” I think one of the other band members started to do it and it was fucking awful. It was shocking. So, anyway, as I tend to have a lot to say for myself, it fell to me to do it. It just carried on from there, really. But let’s be under no illusions about what this actually means. It’s just a way of drawing people to the website so I can sell them some shit. That’s all it is.
AVC: Are you just warming up to pen a tell-all memoir? You could probably sell a lot of books.
NG: Everything I’ve got to say, I can say in my music. But I guess once you get into that [Internet] world, it’s very difficult to fucking get out. With the last Oasis album, I thought, “Well, that’s that.” But my management was like, “You can’t stop now. We’re selling these kids so much shit! If you stop, we can’t sell them more shit!” I was like, “Oh. I do like selling people shit…”
AVC: Britain got very nostalgic over the summer during the Olympics, even for its bands. With Blur performing and the Stone Roses reuniting right at the time Oasis has gone missing, does it make you think fondly about the “old days”?
NG: You have to speak to the individual members who get into these reunions. I’m sure they’ve all got valid reasons; it’s not for me to say. I know it’s a thing these days. And I know from experience now that the one way of stopping people from just asking about fucking reunions is to actually do it. And then people stop asking. But I’m afraid I won’t be getting involved in any of that. There’s no need for me. I’m not interested in that kind of a thing.
AVC: It comes up so quickly, too. It’s only been three years—
NG: Yeah! Honest to God, it was about six weeks after I left people were saying, “Do you think you’ll ever get back together?” I was like, “I haven’t even made a fucking record!” It’s like, fuck me! It cost me about a half a million fucking dollars to get out of that band, and then people were saying, “When are you going back on tour?” I was like, “What the fuck?”
AVC: Do you think if you got your record out before Beady Eye did, the appetite for an Oasis reunion might have been quelled for a bit longer?
NG: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. The thing with Beady Eye is… their singer does them a great disservice. By pronouncing that they will eventually be bigger than Oasis? I was just like, “Oh, dear.” But I think they caught a lot of flak that was quite undeserved, really. It’s only their first album. I think they’ve got a great album in them next time. They need one. They fucking need one, that’s for sure.
AVC: Are you resigned to being asked about Liam for the rest of your life? It’s not like he’s Art Garfunkel and you’re Paul Simon and—
NG: [Laughs.] Wow.
AVC: You’re blood. You’re brothers. It’s not like he’ll just disappear and no one will ever ask you about him again.
NG: Yeah, maybe. It’s just one of those things, you know? I don’t mind. It depends what the question is, really. The reunion thing is a bit of a pain in the ass. It’s like, “For fuck’s sake.” What else do people want to know about you? I don’t know. I don’t mind. Ask me a question. I don’t tell any lies.
AVC: Well, apparently your mother and your wife are both practicing Catholics. Do they ever encourage forgiveness, even if it’s for the sake of having Christmas dinner together?
NG: Yeah, I’m sure she’d be thrilled if we did. But really, I’ve got one true failing as a human being and that is, I find it very difficult to forgive people. I accept that, but that is the one flaw in my character that keeps me from being pretty much the ultimate human being. It’s just something I have to live with. I find it very difficult. Particularly if I’ve been sued. I don’t do forgiveness.
AVC: Do you hold grudges? Because forgiveness and holding a grudge are—
NG: Oh fuck yes I do! Oh yeah. I have some grudges that go back to the ’80s.
AVC: Any you’d care to share?
NG: Oh, they know. They know.
AVC: Unlike Oasis, the High Flying Birds is a project you’ve financed yourself. Are you coming out ahead in the deal? Are you done with the old way of doing business?
NG: Oh, yeah! I’m coming out ahead. It’s all gone very much according to plan. The second album [with Amorphous Androgynous] ended up having to be scrapped. That cost me a fortune. I made a tour film, which cost me a fortune, which I also scrapped. But all that being said, I’ve come out ahead. My wife is thrilled about that. She gets a new kitchen. My children are thrilled. They get to go to schools without metal detectors. My cat. He’s thrilled. It means he’s not gonna get thrown in the canal anytime soon.
AVC: What’s the cat’s name?
NG: Boots. Don’t ask. A 4-year-old named him. I would have called him Mr. Whiskers. But there you go. What do I know?
AVC: You just said the album you made with Amorphous Androgynous is scrapped. Is that official, or are you still considering releasing it?
NG: No, I don’t think it will come out. I’m pleased with the songs. The songs that I did when I was in the studio—I’ll probably re-record them. But the moment has passed, I think. Do you know what I mean? When you have records, there’s a window before their moment passes. I’ve already moved on from that Amorphous Androgynous thing. I’ve written a bunch more songs since then, so I’m afraid—unfortunately—the success of this album killed that one. I wasn’t planning on being on tour for 15 months.
AVC: What’s wrong with it? What don’t you like about it?
NG: Well, it was a record that contains songs that weren’t conventional songs. It wasn’t verse-chorus-verse-chorus. They’re a bit trippy and a bit floaty. My songs, in general, they don’t really rely on the mix. They’re all written on acoustic guitar. They’re as good with me just singing them into the microphone in the style of Bob Dylan as they are with a full band. The High Flying Birds album didn’t rely on the mixes. The songs were there. This was a record that—absolutely, 100 percent—relied on the mixes, because they weren’t songs, so to speak. They were grooves and, you know, there weren’t many chords in them. And the mixes weren’t fucking right. And unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go back in and remix it. And now I’m too fucked. I’m fucked. I’ve been on the road for 15 months. I am fucked.
AVC: Have you considered having someone else mix it?
NG: No. I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to my music, unfortunately. I need a holiday. I’ve suddenly started to look like Keith Richards. That’s not good.
AVC: And he’s older than you are.
NG: He’s a hundred years older than I am!
NG: Maybe. I guess there’s lots of things that one could revisit down the years. I don’t know. I don’t even know when I’m going to make another record. Right now, I’m in the middle of touring and it’s taken quite a lot out of me. It depends. If I got in the studio next time and somebody says, “What about that track you did with those fucking hippies?” I might go and listen to it and think, “Hmm. Well, okay.” I don’t know, but I don’t think so.
AVC: What’s it like to come over to the United States now, on your own, without being in “the big band” with “the big tour”?
NG: I’m resigned. No, resigned is not the right word. I’m not going to have another hit in America. I’m not bothered about that. I don’t think anything would stop me from going back and playing and releasing records there. I’ve got a lot of love for that country. I don’t fly across the Atlantic Ocean and wish I was in the top fucking 100, you know? I don’t wish for things like that. All I know is that when I go there, a lot of people turn up, they seem to like what I do, and therefore when it comes to the next time around, I’ll insist on going back there. I’ve grown to love America. In my 20s, I fucking hated it. There were just so many ludicrous fucking rules. But the older that I’ve got, I kind of fell in tune with it. I enjoy going there now. It’s a great place to sit on a tour bus and stare out the fucking window and just think, “Fuck me. You could get a lot more people in here!” Why is the rest of the world so overcrowded? Nobody lives in America! We’re all squashed up on top of each other in London. What the fuck?
AVC: You’re looking forward to it.
NG: I am going to be very good. I’m going to look tired. I’m going to look like Keith Richards. But I am going to be fucking good.