Apple recently posted the biggest quarterly profit in corporate history. But the success of the company that brought iTunes to the world definitely isn’t music to the ears of rock star Noel Gallagher. “Apple came along and destroyed the fucking world,” says the former Oasis songwriter/guitarist. “Youth culture is pretty much non-existent anymore.”
Noel is mid-rant about the current state of the music industry. Many have felt the sharp tongue of Gallagher in the past – Britpop rivals Blur, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and famously his own brother and former bandmate Liam. But right now it’s the US technology giant that’s in his firing line.
“It’s this whole youth culture which is based on gadgets. It’s like Apple are driving youth culture, not youth culture driving the world,” the 47-year-old continues. “Culture has stagnated because of conservative middle-aged Americans thinking, ‘Fucking hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could just fucking do this.’ And it’s like, no it wouldn’t be cool. No.”
It’s compelling stuff when Noel Gallagher is ‘on one’. He’s busy promoting his second solo album as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday. While nostalgia is one of the themes on the new record, the ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ songwriter insists he doesn’t spend his time dwelling on the past.
“I don’t sit and look out the window all day and think, ‘Wow, Britpop, fucking hell that was amazing.’ Britpop was amazing. I lived through it. But the record I am doing now is better. It won’t sell as many copies, and not as many people will love it, but that’s what other people think. I think it’s better,” he says, with his trademark unabashed confidence.
Britpop was amazing. I lived through it. But the record I am doing now is better
Chasing Yesterday is the follow-up to his 2011 self-titled debut solo album, released two years after Noel quit Oasis after a bust-up with frontman Liam while on tour in Paris. Noel says the success of his first solo effort was the “amazing moment he hoped it would be” following his band’s demise. But this time around it feels a little different.
“This album is more about me than anything I’ve ever done,” he continues. “I produced this one myself; I even designed the album cover. There’s lots of little rough edges that I left on because I thought fuck it, that’s what it is – you know what I mean? Whereas my last record sounds very slick and LA and American and expensive and shiny and fucking new and great and I love it, this one sounds a bit more British and a bit dirtier.”
Tracks on the new album include the singles In The Heat Of The Moment and Ballad Of The Mighty I, the latter of which features former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Marr was an idol of Noel’s when he was growing up in Manchester and he was delighted when Marr agreed to record with him. However, Noel says it’s a wonder they ever finished the song.
“What the pair of us don’t mind doing is talking – a lot,” he laughs. “I’ve got to say that it was amazing that anything ever got done in the studio because all we fucking did was shout at each other for about five hours about how much we loved music. Then, somewhere along the line, a tune got made – and it’s great, and it’s one of my favourite songs.”
“I’m not going to be some grumpy old fella telling my daughter to put her phone down and saying, ‘Go listen to the Beatles.’ That’s her world. She doesn’t care.
Noel started playing guitar at 13. After being expelled from school at 15 for throwing a bag of flour over a teacher, he worked for a building firm before landing a job as a roadie for the Manchester band Inspiral Carpets in 1988. He then teamed up with brother Liam, who had formed a band of his own. They called themselves Oasis and went on to sell more than 70 million records worldwide.
Noel moved to London soon after Oasis landed their first record deal and has remained in the south ever since. He now lives in Maida Vale, north-west London with his second wife Sara MacDonald – who he has been with for more than 15 years – and their two sons Donovan, seven, and Sonny, four.
A fierce Manchester City fan, his hometown is never far from his heart. He alludes to that, and the music scene that inspired him as a young man, which was centred around the famous Haçienda club, in the lyrics to the track on his new album called While The Song Remains The Same.
Noel explains: “When I used to live in Manchester, I lived in the town centre on the same street as The Hacienda and on a weekend I used to walk around the town.
“And I was up in Manchester to see a football game and I had a few free hours so I decided to do that walk again, and every time I turned the corner I would think, ‘Oh right, I think the Haçienda is around this corner or something.’ And I would turn there and it would be gone – the landmarks of my life would be gone.
“I went back to London and I was telling my wife and I was a bit sad about it because I often thought that I would take my sons on that walk and say, you know, ‘Son, that’s The Hacienda, and Boardwalk and…’ So the things that were relevant to me as a Mancunian growing up, now they’ve all gone. The song is all about that really.”
It’s a poignant moment in the conversation, a change in tone from the characteristic Gallagher bravado we’ve become accustomed to. He pauses for a moment then continues, “It made me think about progress and how when they’re knocking down buildings they’re knocking down memories of people’s lives. And while progressing is a good thing, maybe not at the expense of the past. It made me think I wouldn’t be able to share those stories with my children.”
Noel has a 14-year-old daughter Anais from his first marriage [to Meg Matthews in 1997], who has come into the spotlight in her own right recently as a model. So how does he feel about her being part of a youth culture based on gadgets, as he perceives it?
“I’m not going to be some grumpy old fella telling her to put her phone down and saying, ‘Go listen to the Beatles.’ That’s her world. She doesn’t care. If somebody would have said to me when I was 14 about cassettes I would have said, ‘I don’t fucking care.’
“When we were growing up nobody would make you walk through an airport naked just to get on an aeroplane. And there was no 24-hour news, so they have to fill it up with bad shit. So we will always, always hark back to the old world and vinyl records and record shops and all that. 14-year-olds don’t want to hear that. Why would they care?”
Would Noel ever do a thoroughly modern deal like U2 [another past verbal target of Noel’s] did recently with Apple, giving their latest album away free on iTunes. “I wouldn’t have thought so,” he says bluntly.
There’s just time for the compulsory question that has to be asked whenever interviewing a Gallagher: are Oasis reforming anytime soon? Definitely, maybe? “No. It’s not going to happen, OK.”
Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is out now.
The full interview can be found in the March issue of Square Mile. To see if you qualify for a free subscription, click here