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Noel Gallagher On Oasis Split, Writing Songs For Madonna And The High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher is worrying about his first solo tour.

"One of two things is going to happen," he says.

"Around the 12th gig, I'll be sat in the dressing room, dripping with sweat and thinking, 'I'm easily as good as Elvis. Hey, I'm up there with The King!'

"Or, I will be sat in the same dressing room, going, 'This is sh*t and I don't even know why I left Oasis. Why did I leave that band? We were f**king great'."

It has been two years since Noel quit Oasis following a huge bust-up in France involving Noel and younger brother Liam, a thrown plum, a smashed guitar and lots of expletives.

While Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Chris Sharrock went on to form Beady Eye with Liam, Noel has spent the last year working on his debut under the moniker Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. He's also been working with psychedelic DJ duo The Amorphous Androgynous, who had remixed the final Oasis single Falling Down.

And as far as his "divorce" from the band goes, Noel, 44, says it all started off pretty harmoniously.

He reveals: "After I quit, we had to fold because we were all partners in various businesses - not businesses like selling oranges off the back of a truck, but a touring company and the record label had to close, which took a while and all the money needed to be split. So there was all that f**king nonsense, but as break-ups go, to be honest it was quite amicable.

"Then Liam started doing interviews and then it was like... hmmm.

"But I still speak to Gem and Sharrock and I've got nothing against anybody else. I like to think they're still my mates. There was a period I thought I could just sit at home. But I'm a songwriter. So I thought I'd make an album, which is going to be no big deal. Then it turns out, this sounds pretty good."

SFTW have joined a bright and breezy Noel at a London studio where he's ready for a day of interviews and photographs.

Looking trim and healthy, in a fitted cream shirt, he jokes with Japanese journalists and poses for pictures with a young fan.

Then taking a seat for the next hour, he gives us his full attention on the story of Noel Gallagher post-Oasis.

"I just never wanted to be a solo artist," he admits, stirring sugar into his cappuccino. "I f**king loved being in Oasis."

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is the Mancunian singer-songwriter's first solo album even though one was rumoured to be on the cards for years.


He explains: "I kept being asked by record labels about doing a solo album but I was happy in the band.

"Yes, I'd been writing songs because I am a songwriter but I didn't think they'd get heard. I thought about doing a solo project, y'know, bash out a few songs in the studio, do a few gigs but I wouldn't have done it at the expense of the group.

"Then at the end of the Dig Out Your Soul tour, I thought 'I'm going to do this solo thing' then go back to Oasis.

"2015 marks 20 years since (What's The Story) Morning Glory? and I thought it'd be cool to play the album in full live and make a new Oasis record. It would be a proper celebration of everything we did. But, it was not meant to be."

And so as Noel hid away from the public glare to mourn "the band that was his life", he started working on one of two records which are to be released over the next year, beginning with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, which hits the shops in October. "Coming up with the name High Flying Birds might just be the coolest thought I've ever had," he laughs.

"I was driving past Shepherd's Bush Empire and I thought 'I can't see Noel Gallagher up there'. It's not very Ziggy Stardust. So I was listening to Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac then put on Jefferson Airplane's (1974) album Early Flight and there it was, High Flying Bird. Now that's cool isn't it?

"But it's not a band, it's my mates helping me out. I guess in a romantic vision of the future, I will gather together a solid line-up then drop the 'Noel Gallagher' to just be the High Flying Birds. But I might be 65 by then and I'll be more like a low-flying owl!"

Noel wrote the album and played every instrument himself "except the drums and half the keyboards", calling on help from former Oasis keyboardist Mike Rowe, The Lemon Trees drummer Jeremy Stacey, American percussionist Lenny Castro and the Crouch End Festival Chorus and The Wired Strings. He believes this way of working has given him a bit of freedom he'd lost on the last Oasis albums.

"Being in a band is a compromise. Oasis was always, me writing songs and Liam singing them. It's what made us. But circumstances changed.

"If the singer's not allowed to put songs on an album it's grim so, for band harmony, I didn't hog it all. So Liam wrote more, I sang more and Andy and Gem started writing and Oasis became something else.


"I guess this record is more in the spirit of what Oasis was in the beginning, on the first two albums, except it's me singing all the songs.

"Plus it's easier on your own. You get an idea, something happens, you book a studio, within a day you're in there. You don't have to gather everyone. 'Where's Liam? Oh he's in rehab? Where's Gem, Oh he's fell-walking. You can just get in there and think, 'F**k I've made a dance tune.'" SFTW are treated to some of Noel's songs - Everybody's On The Run, new single The Death Of You And Me and AKA... What A Life! - a pounding dance track reminiscent of his collaborations with The Chemical Brothers.

"I asked Fatboy Slim to remix the song because I f**king love him," reveals Noel. "But he said he couldn't do anything with it as it's great.

"I was thinking of the piano from (classic dance track) Rhythim Is Rhythim's Strings Of Life. It was very acid house to begin with and so I was thinking of giving it to someone. I thought about Madonna then (Noel's wife) Sara said, "Don't be daft, Madonna won't sing it. When are you likely to see Madonna?" So that spoiled it.

"It took me back to the Hacienda where, for three years from 1988 to 1990, I practically lived. I loved it and I wanted something to remind me of it.

"But I still wasn't sure so I played it to our office and all the girls loved it. Once girls like it, you're on to a winner. The song's easily up there with the best things I've ever done." In Oasis, some of Noel's greatest songs were inspired by being young and going out, being on the dole then being a rock 'n' roll star.

He says: "It was amazing. I went from working with the Inspiral Carpets to Madchester then to Camden and Britpop. Then I'm at 10 Downing Street, thinking where the f**k is this going to end? Am I going to get a knighthood? Am I going to end up being the Pope? It was a relief when it all stopped.

"But fans grew up with us and inspirations changed. I was writing about being skint. I couldn't start writing about being wealthy or people would tell you to f**k off."

On the new album, Noel says his inspirations include love, hope and "finding your feet".

Noel says: "Oasis were a very macho rock band and you couldn't really sing songs about love. But I never shied away from writing those songs - they were just piling up. For If I Had a Gun, I'd like the listener to think about the person they love the most. It could be your mum, girlfriend or wife.

"The only conscious decision I made to be different on this record was to release The Death Of You And Me first. People always expect you to come back with a bang and I wanted to come back with a whisper. I'm going to draw people in and go, 'Shhhh, yes, they really are trumpets.

"This album has a more human sound, whereas Oasis was about the primal energy. It was in-your-face, like a football match set to music. But this, I would really like people to stop and listen. That's why I'm playing all-seated venues because the lad swilling beer element has got to go." Proud of his solo effort, Noel says having a definitive narrative and feel all the way through adds to the flow of songs.

He says: "In a band with different writers and styles, the album will always be disjointed and never as coherent as Morning Glory where you can tell the same person has written all the songs.

And the story on this album?

"Well, it starts off with Everybody's On The Run where two people are saying 'Come on we've got to get out of here'.

"Then it goes through all the twists and turns to the middle and says, 'What a life, we are having such a great time'.

"But then you've been on this journey and you're thinking this is not where I want to be. (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach is saying the grass isn't always greener on the other side and maybe what you're running from isn't all that bad.

"That's where Stop The Clocks comes in. I'm saying 'Let's go back to the beginning'."

But Noel is very much looking forward. His album with Amorphous Androgynous duo Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans is due next year.

Noel says: "It's exciting working with these psychedelic wizards. I would send demos and in the studio they'd say, 'Yeah, forget it and play along to this drum loop for ten minutes and let's see what happens.'

"It's coming out next summer. It will be out for the festivals next year. That's if I get this tour right.

"I'm not a frontman. I've got nothing to say and I haven't got any moves. And I never will be as good as Liam. My whole life was Sideshow Bob and I was happy."

And if his mum manages to bang his and Liam's heads together, does he ever see a one-off Oasis reunion in the future?

Noel says: "Well I think it's a f**king shame we won't get to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Morning Glory.

"But Liam is on record as saying the thought of it makes him want to vomit and I don't want to add anything more to that."

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' first single The Death of You And Me is out on Monday followed by the album on October 17.


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