It’s nearly 10 years since Noel Gallagher walked out of Oasis after one guitar-splintering backstage fight too many with brother Liam, but nowadays he’s ruminating on an even more acrimonious split.
Brexit was at the forefront of the singer’s mind when he sat down to talk with the MEN.
“There’s only f***ing one thing worse than a fool who voted for Brexit. That’s the rise of the c*** trying to get the vote overturned.”
“You take part in a democratic f***ing process – if you don’t like the outcome, go to North Korea.”
“I sat the day of Brexit and thought: ‘I can’t be arsed going to the polling station, who the f*** would vote to leave Europe? It’s a nonsensical f***ing idea’. And you wake up the next day and think: ‘F***ing hell, s***.’
“But the thing that is taking place after that is frankly a disgrace. It’s a disgrace when you see people trying to get that vote overturned. Because that’s fascism. Straight up. Pure and simple.
“Flying in the face of democracy, no matter what, because you don’t like what f***ing happened.
“None of us like it. But there it is, it’s happened. I get really f***ing cross at myself for not voting, as I’m sure a lot of people didn’t vote.
“They didn’t because they were thinking no one’s going to vote to leave, it’s a ridiculous idea. But now, I would defend the rights of people who voted to leave, it has to f***ing go through.”
We’re here to discuss Gallagher’s new EP, Black Star Dancing – but the conversation takes a political turn when we get onto the subject of Morrissey, who he says he’d love to write a song for.
How does the man who was once pictured sipping champagne with Tony Blair at Number 10 reconcile the former Smiths frontman’s controversial outbursts with his own beliefs?
“People’s political beliefs are their own. If that’s what he believes in, that’s what he believes in,” Gallagher says.
“I believe in something else. We’re all entitled to our own opinions. I think we live in a society now where everybody who has an opinion, someone will tell them to their face: ‘You’re f***ing wrong.’ But who are you or anybody to say your opinions on anything are wrong, you know what I mean?
“We’re living in strange times, aren’t we, where people’s beliefs are so opposing… It used to be people who were right-wing who were violent, protesting violently.
“Now you see people who are left-wing violently protesting and lobbing milkshakes – where did the milkshakes come from? It’s f***ing funny as f*** – over each other.”
‘The Brexit thing has been handled so badly’
Gallagher says he feels ‘bad for us, as a nation’ about the way Brexit has played out, despite not voting.
“I was always one of those people when I was growing up saying if you don’t vote, you don’t get to have an opinion,” he says.
“I was asked to go on Question Time and all that and I didn’t vote so it’s not for me – if I felt that strongly about it, I’d go to the polling station.
“I feel bad for us as a nation, that the Brexit thing has been handled so badly.
“And this unremarkable little man, Farage, this unremarkable little f***ing man, from nowhere, appears out of nowhere seemingly and has like somehow f***ing tapped into something that none of us were aware of.
“Maybe that’s our fault. We live in London, right – you might as well be in another country. Because everything is ran from down there. They don’t realise what’s going on in other parts of the country.”
And on the subject of a second referendum, he adds: “What happens then? What happens then if everyone votes to remain? Do we have a best of three? Or what happens if it comes back and it’s a bigger majority to leave, what happens then?
“It’s really sad f***ing times. But the thing I think about it is, when we eventually do leave, it’ll be f***ed up for a bit, right, then it’ll just get back to normal.
“No one is going to ostracise GB from the rest of the world. We’re too f***ng brilliant. There’s a lot of f***ing great things going on in this country. I don’t think when we leave we go into the abyss.
“It might get pretty black for a bit. We’ve got the stock market. The biggest f***ing money laundering racket in the world. It’s just sad that people are so divided now.”
Gallagher has long since turned his back on Labour since publicly supporting the party in 1997.
“I hate the Labour party. I have f***ing got no time for them anymore,” he says, citing the allegations of antisemitism that have blighted the party.
He’s previously said he’d rather reform Oasis than see ‘lunatic’ Jeremy Corbyn elected. Today his words are a little more colourful.
‘They talk pipe-smoking communist nonsense’
“F***ng student debater, f***ing captain fishy craggy old f***ing donkey, f*** off,” he says of the Labour leader, describing shadow home secretary Diane Abbott as ‘the face of f***ing buffoonery’ in the same breath.
“They talk pipe-smoking communist nonsense, do you know what I mean? I think the role of any politician in the world is to be forward thinking, and modern, and contemporary – looking forward.
“And make no mistake, in this country we need someone and it ain’t him. And it’s never been anyone from the Conservative party.
“The two extremes are the Labour Party don’t respect people who are aspirational, and the Conservative Party don’t protect the vulnerable.
“But somewhere in the middle is where New Labour danced, and they kind of had it f***ing right, and then 9/11 happened, and here we are.”
Here we are: backstage before his Heaton Park show, 10 years to the day since Oasis’s last-ever hometown show there.
The band played three nights in the park in June 2009, the first of which saw them promise full refunds to 70,000 fans after power cuts caused the sound to go out for nearly an hour. It cost them a reported £1m in cheques issued from the ‘Bank of Burnage’.
“F***ing b*****ds. Never forgiven them,” Gallagher laughs.
“It was quite a bit. Somebody came up with the novel idea of making the cheques a bit of memorabilia so not a lot of people cashed them. I don’t know what it was, I think I remember saying to someone: ‘Don’t tell me.’
“We were on stage for 40 minutes and [had] not played a single tune, it was a bit hairy. But it was great, you look back on it now and think it’s all part of the story.”
Sound issues weren’t the only thing going wrong with Oasis at the time. The Gallagher brothers’ tempestuous relationship had become increasingly volatile during their last world tour and, two months after their Heaton Park shows, Noel walked out on their scheduled performance at the Rock en Seine festival in Paris, saying he ‘simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer’.
“That entire last world tour was awful,” he remembers.
“There was an awful atmosphere, which was bad enough at the best of times but when you’re flying all around the world and doing big gigs, it was terrible. Well, so much so that I left. It was just like ‘I don’t f***ing need this anymore.’
“There was always points in previous tours where the music was always enough to save it, and then at that point I guess we’d done so much that it was like we just keep going round in circles now and it was just time to do something different.
“I’ve got to say I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made, apart from joining the band in the first place. Turning up at that first day’s rehearsals – that’s the best decision I ever made. The second best decision was leaving.”
Liam’s new film As It Was, released on the eve of Noel’s Heaton Park show, opens with the band’s split. As Liam tells it, Noel smashed up a guitar given to him as a present and he then smashed one of Noel’s instruments in revenge.
‘I don’t make music for other people’
While ostensibly a PR portrait promoting Liam’s resurgent solo career, much of the film dwells on the brothers’ estrangement. It’s unlikely to fix it.
“I’m going to take all my kids and my wife and we’re gonna go and watch it as a family, and hopefully there’ll be 30 seconds where he’s not calling us all c***s in there,” says Noel, his face stony and his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Yeah we’re planning a big family night out.
“Should be fun that.”
While the film charts Liam’s struggle to carve out a new identity as a solo artist, Noel’s career has soared since leaving Oasis. With his High Flying Birds he’s had three consecutive number one albums, including the Mercury Prize-nominated Who Built the Moon? in 2017.
This year will see him release three EPs through his own label Sour Mash Records, the first of which comes out today featuring the Bowie-indebted, Nile Rodgers-endorsed disco title track Black Star Dancing.
“It’s not really a song that you can visibly see if [the crowd] are getting into it because it’s more of a head-nodder and a foot-tapper,” he says.
“But I don’t make music for other people. If they don’t like it then that’s fine, because they’re going to have to sit there for four and a half minutes until I f***ing play it. Sometimes fans don’t know what they want. And you just have to f***ing give it to them.
“I remember walking into a rehearsal room saying ‘I’ve got this song called Cigarettes and Alcohol that does this’, and everyone was going ‘no one’s going to be into that mate’. And I was like ‘really? Well we’ll f***ing see.’ You’ve got to trust in your own instincts.
“Funnily enough it’s one of those songs where every girl I’ve ever met f***ing loves it. Girls like it because they can dance to it. Their boyfriends don’t like it because, it’s not f***ing mad fer it. That’s where we’re at.”
Two further EPs will follow later this year, adding new material to his live set in a departure from the traditional album and tour format.
“People don’t seem to give a s*** about albums anymore,” he says.
“I think it works for me because I’m in charge of what I do and I’ve got loads of material. And I was coming on tour for this year and it was like, it would be nice if I could put some new songs in the set and they weren’t old songs.
“And then I just had a load of ideas and it just seemed to be a good idea, ‘yeah let’s do three EPs’. If I add them all up at the end of the year it’ll be like 10 or 11 tracks and then maybe put them all together and maybe that’ll be an album.”
The third EP, ‘a bit more traditional sounding’, is still in the works but the second is nearly finished and ‘very Mancunian’, he promises.
“It just sounds like a late 80s Mancunian guitar anthem,” he says of the lead track.
“It took me a long f***ing time to write it, because I could never get the chorus right, and when I eventually finished it I was like ‘That’s the f***ing b******s. It really is. It’s amazing.’ Even the title is very Mancunian.”
There’s a Smiths influence in there, he teases, as he reveals he’d love to write for Morrissey and release music with Johnny Marr.
“I was in the studio yesterday doing a track for the next EP and I was thinking this sounds like The Smiths, I’d love to put Morrissey’s f***ing voice on it,” he says.
Growing up in Burnage, Gallagher found musical inspiration ‘everywhere you look’ in a city that produced some of the most important and influential music of the 80s and 90s.
“Who knows why all those great bands come from here? I’d have thought if you sat down and kicked it around for an hour or two it’d be a lot of different little things,” he says.
“The weather: you’re never outdoors, you’re always f***ing indoors, there’s nothing to do. When I was growing up, where we came from, there was nothing to do. If you were into music you were getting stoned and listening to music.
“And I guess if you’re growing up in Manchester and you’re becoming a musician you’re probably in one of the best cities in the world: there’s plenty of rehearsal spaces, it was cheap back then, and there was plenty of venues to play – or there was back then.
“There’s inspiration everywhere you look. All the great, iconic songwriters and frontmen and characters that have come from Manchester, it’s insane.
“We seem to be somewhat gifted in that department. I guess because there’s a lot of different people from different backgrounds.
“Although Manchester is very working class, there’s a little bit of a middle class element to it, there’s an Irish thing going on and a Jamaican thing, and the nightclubs, and there just seems to have been – and continues to be – just a lot of great people interested in music, and it’s just grown and grown and grown and grown. It’s a wonderful thing.”
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