Noel Gallagher Talks Crafting the Perfect Setlist, Touring With Smashing Pumpkins

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Few respond to “How are you?” more honestly than Noel Gallagher. The Oasis songwriter is about to break down a recent set he performed in Dublin with his current band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, but he wants to be real first. “You want the honest answer?” he asks. “I’m completely fucked.”

Gallagher has spent the last 10 years trying to build the perfect setlist. His number one rule: less than half of the songs are from his previous band. “It’d be very easy to put together a setlist of all Oasis songs, obscure ones and all that kind of thing, and it would be great,” he says. “But like I say to people, it’s not an Oasis gig. Oasis is done. If you missed them, that’s fucking tough luck.”

Though his brother Liam is also currently on tour, Gallagher says he doesn’t feel any competition: “I would imagine if he’s got any brains he’d be playing quite a lot of [Oasis songs] because his own music is dreadful,” he says. “One of us is still trapped in the Nineties dressing like a fisherman like he’s going to go to Norway trawling for sardines. He makes unsophisticated music for unsophisticated people. It’s not really my thing, so there can’t be any competition.”

On September 27th, Gallagher will release This Is the Place, a five-track EP that includes the groovy single “Black Star Dancing.” On Thursday, he’ll kick off a North American tour in Camden, New Jersey alongside the Smashing Pumpkins, but he says he’s only met frontman Billy Corgan a handful of times until now. “We were in the studio together one time in L.A.,” he says. “I don’t remember a great deal about it apart from I think Billy had just bought a new Ferrari, and he was very proud. I remember smoking a cigarette, looking at this Ferrari, thinking, ‘I’m not into cars. It’s just a fucking car,’ you know what I mean?”

While Gallagher isn’t the biggest Pumpkins fan, he does like some Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tracks. “I like ‘1979’ and ‘Tonight, Tonight,'” he says. “I remember seeing them do that at the MTV Awards in the ’90s with the full orchestra. I was like, ‘Wow, fucking hell. That’s pretty.'” He’s also relieved bassist D’Arcy Wretzky won’t be joining them on the tour: “Let’s put it this way. If she was a guy, she would have got fucking kicked in the bollocks.”

1. “Fort Knox” (2017)
Gallagher kicks off with a mostly instrumental rocker he wrote with the hopes that Kanye West would record it. “It came out that good,” Gallagher says. “It was like, ‘Fuck giving it to that guy.’ ” He likes opening with it: “It’s a good way to set things up. You’re not throwing a big hit away. Usually the sound is quite shit for the first song. So it’s good for the ol’ sound man  — whatever his name is — to get the sound in order.”

2. “Holy Mountain” (2017)
“On the day I wrote it, I knew it was going to be a single and I knew it was going to be fucking brilliant live,” Gallagher says of this Who Built the Moon? track. He wrote the psychedelic stomper as a nod to “Chewing Gum Kid,” a song by obscure Sixties band Ice Cream that he discovered through his producer David Holmes. “No one had heard of it,” he explains. “I know quite a bit about music, I’ve got to say. So if I hadn’t of heard of it, it pretty much wasn’t fucking out there. But of course, as soon as I mentioned it, there it was.” The track was immediately shared on the internet by fans. “It wasn’t on fucking YouTube until I put that single out,” Gallagher says. “As is the way with fucking shit for brain assholes on the internet. Why don’t you go stick your fucking head in a meat grinder, you penis?”

3. “Black Star Dancing” (2019)
A groove partly inspired by INXS and U2 with a bass line akin to David Bowie’s “Fashion,” this new track has disappointed some of his longtime fans. Gallagher doesn’t care. “If you’re not trying to rewrite ‘Wonderwall,’ people are going to go, ‘Oh fucking hell, it’s disco!'” he says. “Actually, it’s the most successful single I’ve ever had. I’m raising my middle finger to the audience.”


When performed live, Gallagher claims that the song, “Sounds a bit more punchy and a bit more guitar driven live because there’s two guitarists,” he explains. “Boy, it’s a fucking great song. It’s funny when you see couples at the gig and you can see that the girl is really into it and the guy — who is a bit of a macho guy, like ex-Oasis fucking casual — is begrudgingly nodding his head thinking, ‘I don’t really like this, but I really fucking like it.'”

4. “The Importance of Being Idle” (2005)
The latter-day Oasis singalong gets a wild reaction from the audience. “It’s incredible seeing kids in the crowd,” says Gallagher. “You think, ‘Hang on a minute. You were fucking 10 years old when we broke up!’ It’s fascinating, and it makes me think that I must have done something right when I was writing these songs. My whole thing as a songwriter is trying to be all-inclusive and universal when I’m writing the words. Songs like this transcend generations, so in that respect, I’m doing OK.”

5. “Dead in the Water” (2017)
Recorded in Dublin, “Dead in the Water” is a bonus track from Gallagher’s latest LP, but to his surprise, he says, “Everyone’s gone mad for it. It’s a complete accident. I remember getting little shitty little comments from journalists about it just being an acoustic track. I always say, what journalists are writing aren’t the fucking world. They don’t decide — the people decide. So no offense, but fuck you.”

6. “Whatever” (1994)
While it was never a U.S. hit, this early single is “a huge fucking song in England.” It’s the beginning of what he calls “the karaoke section”: “I really don’t have to do a great deal — just strum the opening bars of a few songs and let the crowd take over. It’s not one of my favorite songs, I don’t particularly look forward to playing it live. But the people have decided that it’s fucking amazing and that’s what they want to hear and we give it to them.”

7. “Wonderwall” (1995)
“You play the opening first three seconds and everybody goes, ‘Right, this is what we’ve fucking come for,'” says Gallagher. “All the great artists have one of those songs. I’m lucky to have five. And it’s funny, in no fucking way is it my favorite song.”

8. “Half the World Away” (1994)
Gallagher wrote this sweet ballad with Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s in Love With You” in mind, and he’s still proud of it 25 years later. “It’s got pretty much the same chords,” he says. “I did skate around the copyright so as not to be sued. The song itself is a national fucking treasure. I feel so lucky to have put the work in all those years ago when the rest of Oasis were frankly fucking drunk and high most of the time.”


9. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (1995)
The Oasis hit became an anthem of unity after the 2017 Manchester bombing. “It’s a fucking extraordinary song in the sense that it’s brought people together after tragedy,” Gallagher says. “My instincts around the time led me to start doing it acoustically so that the people wouldn’t have to sing over the band. [They] let it out, whatever it is they’ve got in them.”

10. “All You Need Is Love” (1967)
Oasis used to close their sets with “I Am the Walrus,” and now Gallagher concludes performances with another Magical Mystery Tour Track: “All You Need Is Love.” “To do that without any irony is amazing,” he says of John Lennon’s classic. “If I was ever in any doubt of what a genius that guy was, you just got to read those words back. Who else comes up with that shit?”