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Noel Gallagher's Epic Year-End Gripe Session

The Britpop vet praises Kanye, slams Arcade Fire and hints at new solo material in the works

Noel Gallagher performs in Kinross, United Kingdom.
Ross Gilmore/Redferns via Getty Images
December 5, 2013 11:30 AM ET

Noel Gallagher did not enjoy 2013 very much. "Fucking had a shit year," says the British guitarist and songwriter, formerly of Oasis, when Rolling Stone reaches him by phone. "All I've done is sit around the house and become a fucking hypochondriac. Dog-shit year. Can't wait until it's over."

The 50 Best Albums of 2013

Yes, it's been a quiet year for Gallagher, if someone like him can ever be said to have a truly quiet year. (His last shows were in the spring, including the Teenage Cancer Trust charity gig where he performed onstage with Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon of sometime arch-rivals Blur.) But the man is full of typically barbed opinions about what everyone else in music did over the past 12 months. Read on for Gallagher's uncensored thoughts on Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, David Bowie and much more – plus an update on what's next for his solo project, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. "I don't think I'll ever take this much time off again," Gallagher says. "I can't wait to get back to work."

Do you think 2013 has been a good year for music, overall?
It's been okay. There's been some catchy tunes, for sure. I think any year that David Bowie puts an album out has got to be a great year, eh?

So the Bowie album lived up to your expectations?
I thought at the time, and I still think now, that it's a fucking masterpiece. I love it. Nobody has the right to be that fucking good at this point in their career. Apart from Neil Young, all of the people that are in his league are basically fucking shit. Do you know what I mean?

Like who?
Well, I'm not going to start naming names! We all know who they are. But "Valentine's Day," that song is just fucking outrageous. There's at least three songs on there that you listen to them and immediately pick the guitar up and just think, "Fucking bastard! Why did I never write that?" I think it's some of the best stuff he's ever done. I'd give it 10 out of 10. I'd give it 11 out of 10, if I could.

The 100 Best Songs of 2013

Did you get a chance to talk to Bowie this year?
Me? [Laughs] Me, talk to David Bowie? Fucking hell, no. I've met him a couple of times down the years. But why would I get a chance to talk to David Bowie? Just, like, call him up? I don't think he's been in England. As soon as he lands in England, he's going to get taken to the Tower of London, and they're not going to let him out until he's done a gig, so I don't think he'll ever come back.

What else did you like this year?
Half of the Arctic Monkeys record is really good. You know, the other half is like, "Eh, yeah" – but half of it is really fucking good. And I actually, for the first time ever, listened to a Kanye West record.

Oh, yeah? What did you think of that?
I'm not really a fan of his or anything like that. I don't really like that kind of modern hip-hop, whatever you call it. But somebody told me to watch this interview he did in England [with BBC DJ Zane Lowe], so I watched it, and I thought it was one of the best interviews I've ever seen. I fuckin' loved it! Especially the bit about the leather jogging pants or whatever he's going on about, fucking claiming he invented them.

I was at a party quite soon after that, and that track "Black Skinhead" came on. I didn't know who it was – like I said, I'm not wised up on that kind of shit. I was like, "What the fucking hell is this?" And turns out it's off that new album. So I got the album, and it's fucking great. I really like it. Particularly that track – it's fucking out there, do you know what I mean? It's got a great low-fi, punk vibe to it.

I'll tell you what's a great record. Have you heard that record by Disclosure?

Yeah, that's a good one.
That's fucking mega. I went to Glastonbury this year. It was my seventh time, and it was the best one I've ever been to. I saw Disclosure in the dance tent, and I thought they were truly fucking amazing. I love that record. It's got a really old-school fucking acid house vibe to it, which I really fucking like.

And what else? There's singles on British radio that I don't know what they're fucking called. I have no idea. I hear them when I'm getting my kids ready for school. As for what they're called? Fuck knows.

They all seem to be quite urban, though. There's not a lot of guitar music being played on national British radio, anyway. That being said, it does sound pretty good to me, some of it. I could sing you some songs, but I couldn't give you any titles or any artists. [Laughs]

Why do you think there aren't more new guitar bands making waves?
Well, I don't think there's a lack of new guitar bands. I don't think that guitar music is any better or worse than it's ever been. There's just a lack of exposure to it. The game has shifted to shiny, urban pop, you know? It's like, back in the Nineties, when I was going, guitar music was the main thing in Britain or England. Now the focus has shifted to something else. But that's all right. You've got to find it yourself. It's kind of like going back to what alternative music was before Oasis ruined everything by being massive.

Let's talk about some of the other big records this year. What did you think of Daft Punk's big comeback album?
Well, I haven't heard the album. I'm not interested in the album. It's all about that song, isn't it? It's so effortless and brilliant and now. It's got everything. You just think, "Has this song always been around, or am I just hearing it for the first time?" It's fucking amazing.

My favorite act at this year's Glastonbury, when I went, was not the Rolling Stones, as great as they were; was not the Arctic Monkeys, as good as they were; was not Disclosure, as good as they were; but it was Chic. They were fucking mega. Absolutely out of this world. Unfortunately [Nile Rodgers] didn't play "Get Lucky," but what an amazing, amazing track.

What about "Blurred Lines," by Robin Thicke?
I don't mind it. It sounded good on the radio. Got a bit annoying after the five millionth time you've heard it. I think he's going to be a one-hit wonder, surely. It'll be like that guy who's done "Gangnam Style" – we'll never hear from him again.

How about Miley Cyrus? Are you a fan?
I think there's a trend, unfortunately, in the game, at the minute, of girls desperately trying to be provocative or desperately trying to – in inverted commas – "start the debate" about some old shit or other. Because, really, they're not very good. Do you know what I mean? We have it in England regularly, and you have it in the States. I feel bad for 'em. It's like, "Write a good song. Don't make a provocative video – write a good fucking song. That'll serve you better, I think." She was on TV recently, Miley Ray Cyrus, and it was just like, "What the fuck is all this about?" I don't know. It's a shame, because it puts all the other female artists back about fucking five years. Now, Adele and Emili Sande – that music, to me, is like music for fucking grannies, but at least it's got some kind of credibility.

It's just embarrassing. Be good. Don't be outrageous. Anybody can be outrageous! I could go to the Rolling Stone office and fucking shit on top of a boiled egg, right? And people would go, "Wow, fucking hell, that's outrageous!" But is it any good? No, because, essentially, it's just a shit on top of a boiled egg. That's all it is. If I was to go to your office and play you a song that I'd just written that was amazing, that would be better, wouldn't it?

I think that would be the preferable option there, yeah.
Right. So, you know, I feel bad for the girls. The sisters are not doing it for themselves.

What do you think about Lady Gaga?
Lady Gaga for me is all about that first album, because my daughter and my wife loved it. I've never heard of her since. What does that say? That speaks volumes, to me. She's another one. In fact, she's probably doing a shit on top of a boiled egg right now. And somebody will fucking freeze it and call it art.

Did you hear Arcade Fire's new album?
I haven't heard it. Anybody that comes back with a double album, to me, needs to pry themselves out of their own asshole. This is not the Seventies, okay? Go and ask Billy Corgan about a double album. Who has the fucking time, in 2013, to sit through 45 minutes of a single album? How arrogant are these people to think that you've got an hour and a half to listen to a fucking record?

Did you see that they've asked people to wear formal wear or costumes at their shows? [Ed. Note: Arcade Fire has clarified that this dress code is "super not mandatory."]
[Sighs] Well, what's the point of that? Do you know what the point of that is? That is to take away from the shit disco that's coming out of the speakers. Because everybody's dressed as one of the Three Musketeers on acid. "What was the gig like?" "I don't know, everyone was dressed as a teddy bear in the Seventies." "Yeah, but what was the gig like?" "Ah, fuck knows, man, I have no idea. I was dressed as a flying saucer." "Yeah, but what was the gig like?" "Fuck knows. I don't know. Seen Cheech and Chong, there, though." Not for me.

All right, maybe that's enough. You mentioned that you've been working on some new songs yourself lately – how's that going?
It's great. That's the one saving grace of 2013, was that I really did write a lot of material. Apart from that it's been shit, to be honest.

Do you think you'll put out a new record next year?
No. I haven't started recording yet, so I was kind of going to see the rest of the year out and then kind of spend most of next year in the studio. I hope to do some recording in New York, because I've never done it before, and maybe on the off chance I might bump into David Bowie somewhere on the street, and get him to come down to the studio, dressed as an elf, and do a little mime while I'm putting an acoustic guitar track.

You know Bowie sings backup on one of Arcade Fire's new songs, right?
Oh, that's a shame.

Would your new material still be released under the High Flying Birds name?
I don't know if I'm going to keep that name or not. Probably will, it's such a fucking good name. I might change the Noel Gallagher bit – call it "Paul McCartney's High Flying Birds" and see if I sell any more tickets in America. [Laughs]

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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