Oasis 2


Chalfont St Giles, January 2000

No cocaine. No hyped-up headlines on The Nine O’Clock News. No press wars and no punch-ups. No more parties at Supernova Heights or at Number 10, drinking Champagne with the PM. No Bonehead. No Guigsy. No Alan McGee. New musical influences, a new line-up, and a new label. A nice big house in the country. Married life. Babies.

A lot has happened in the two years that Noel Gallagher and Oasis have been away from the British music scene, and since the trailblazing, glory-making days of mayhem when he and I last met.

Given the all-encompassing arrogance of the universe that Oasis previously inhabited, perhaps the most striking change is that nowadays Noel Gallagher can even allude to the possibility that the band’s supremacy has waned.

“‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Be Here Now’ were uninspired, just treading water,” he spits bluntly of the previous two Oasis albums – albums now for ever consigned to history, blighted by the derisory label, ‘Dad Rock’ and the moniker ‘Quoasis’.

“At least now, with new tracks on the album like “Fuckin’ In The Bushes”, and the single (“Go Let It Out”), I know that I can combine rock ‘n’ roll with a contemporary feel, and that gives me the confidence to go on.”

Not only does he appear to be at ease mentioning the concept of possible failure, the new Noel that stands before us even seems to be suffering from a previously unheard-of attack of modesty.

“Even if the new album absolutely fookin’ stuffed big-time, all around the world,” he considers with something actually approaching enthusiasm, “at least I know we made One decent album !”

Surprisingly – for someone with a brand new album, ‘Standing On the Shoulder Of Giants’, to talk about, it turns out, Noel is actually referring to the first, classic Oasis album, Definitely Maybe.

“You write your first album when you’re young and you’re broke and you’re hungry and you write your third album when you’re a big fat drunken rock star. You just fall into that treadmill. All the great bands have a great first album, don’t they ? So in a way, it’s no surprise that the following two were so Dull. ‘Be Here Now’ does nothing for me. We lost it down the drug dealers.”

Noel Gallagher and, consequently, Oasis, it’s safe to say, have changed: not only clean and serene and happily married but finally more grown up.

Now 32, Noel – the man who compared taking cocaine to drinking tea and famously sprinkled it on his cornflakes – has been coke-free for two years, and even Liam has determined to cut down on his drinking, putting an end to the days when he would greet the new day by immediately downing the two glasses of Jack Daniels by his bed, carefully prepared the night before.

“Liam’s like, two steps forward, two steps back. As for his chances with drugs, well he was never really big on buying it anyway, the tight bastard. I suppose he’ll follow suit, eventually.”

After all those years of bragging, taunting the likes of Blur, it is still something of a shock to find Noel embracing mortal status, and leaving the battles to be the biggest and best band in the world to someone else.

“I’m not really fookin’ arsed about that any more. I just wanna make records and, whatever I do, just have a good time. And I want to remember most of it ! I don’t want my life to consist of just sitting up for days, around the same coffee table, doing gear and listening to the same conspiracy theories.”

He seems almost happy to acknowledge that the new Oasis album is not the greatest album ever made, and not remotely as radical or dance-related as has been reported.

“This idea that it’s some sort of reappraisal is getting right on my tits,” he scoffs, sounding like his old self. “It’s just another rock ‘n’ roll record. It’s a tiny little step in a contemporary direction, not a fookin’ big side-step.”

After all, as he points out, every time he asked his brother how he wanted the vocals and the guitar sound on a song on the album, “Little James” (the first Oasis song ever written by Liam) to sound, “he just said, ‘like The Beatles’.”

The best songs on Standing… are, as he says, either the most contemporary, like “Fuckin’ in the Bushes” (a heavily sampled vocal-free groove worthy of the Primals’ Screamadelica) or the most personal.

The dark paranoia of “Gas Panic”, for example, is ostensibly about the drug-induced chest pains, night sweats and panic attacks Noel had started suffering but, on a more telling level, also alludes to the pressure of having to bring Oasis up to the standards of greatness he had so publicly set.

The comparatively soulful “Where Did It All Go Wrong ?” sums up Noel’s attitude towards what the band had mutated into – the very thing Oasis had set out to sweep aside – just another band forever flaunting their Champagne and cocaine lifestyles, celebrity girlfriends, big houses, flash cars, and famous friends.

“It’s about me looking in the mirror and going: how the fook did I end up in a room with a bunch of actors and supermodels ? And politicians ! All that fookin bullshit.”

Ask him if he would go to that famous party at Number 10 again and he answers: “No ! Never !” before you can finish the question.

“Tony Blair is no Tony Benn or John Smith. But if we all thought they were ever going to be any different, we’re the mugs aren’t we ?”

Besides, he says, he “hardly ever goes to London any more”, and keeps away from the paparazzi and the drugs.

“My life revolves around proper things like fookin’ family and friends.”

Having sold Supernova Heights, “the biggest tourist attraction in Belsize Park”, he has settled down in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire with his wife Meg, waiting for the birth of the couple’s first child – what he calls “having another little person on the firm.”

“It’s a bit isolated out here, yeah, but it’s fookin’ fresh air innit ? I can actually walk round the garden without somebody sticking a camera up me fookin arse. If I want to play me music double, double, double loud, then I can.”

As for the future, he seems genuinely excited and is utterly dismissive about the idea of looking back – refusing to mourn the end of the original line-up, being signed to Creation or the legendary drug fests.

“The Nineties to me were just a phase we were going through,” he shrugs. “It’s the next five years that will determine where we actually stand in the history of British music.”

After the forthcoming British tour, he wants to go straight back into the studio to record with new members, Gem Archer and bassist Andy Bell, who have replaced Guigsy and Bonehead. Asked what the difference will be, Noel retorts, “There’s no bald people.”

“After that, who knows ? I could well be just so attached to me kid that I wouldn’t want to leave the house. Then it will be official: Dad Rock Lives !”

Improbably, for a moment, it appears Noel Gallagher has become almost mawkish.

“I’m looking forward to everything. I’m looking forward to the baby getting a personality and running round the house, that’s going to be fantastic. But for the first couple of years, fook all’appens. They just sit around and shit and fookin’ cry, don’t they ?”

The one shadow in his life right now seems to be that Michael Abram, the man accused of attempting to murder George Harrison, was, it has been suggested by the local police, planning to go for Noel afterwards.

“That really fookin’ freaked me out. He (George Harrison) only lives up the road ! We had the police round here saying, ‘You’ve got to beef up your security.’ But I’ve got a bunch of dogs here anyway,” he shrugs. “Dogs are the best deterrent,” he explains. “Because they don’t give a fook do they ?”

The undoubted admiration in his voice suggests some things at least never change.