“Not great, not bad, just a fucking ‘nother day,” Noel Gallagher says with a bored sigh. It’s afternoon in London, and the famously sour-tongued songwriter is calling while on a break from tour rehearsals for Chasing Yesterday, the second album by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the solo project he began after Oasis‘ 2009 split. Gallagher produced the LP himself, calling in session players to create a lush psychedelic vibe unlike anything he’s ever done. “I’m loving the solitary aspect of being in the studio on my own,” he says. “I spent 20 years in a band making records by committee. I’m fucked if I’m going to do that now. I think Oasis was at its best when I was solely in charge, anyway.”
How are rehearsals going? Are you excited to tour this album?
Of course. It’s the yin to the album’s yang, isn’t it? Who would want to be Brian Wilson, sitting in a studio in a nappy, eating a fucking carrot with your little fat feet in a sandpit, not going on tour? Fuck that.
Are you feeling good about the album?
Oh, yeah. There’s no way you would be even getting to hear it if I didn’t fucking like it. The last record was produced by a professional producer, and it sounded expensive. This one was produced by me, so it’s more rough around the edges. It’s got more character. And there’s a bit more guitar action on this one, where the last one was very choral and symphonic. Apart from that, they’re fucking identical.
Your new song “Riverman” has a Pink Floyd-style saxophone solo, which is pretty unexpected. What would you have said back when Oasis were getting started if someone had suggested adding a sax part to, say, “Live Forever”?
[Laughs] Well, that conversation wouldn’t have lasted very long, and it would’ve ended with somebody being shown the exit door. But that was 20 years ago. You can’t stay playing a Les Paul through a Marshall stack forever.
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What’s your lifestyle like now compared to those days?
If I can give you an analogy — back in the early days of Oasis, my lifestyle was like a wild fire-breathing dragon. My lifestyle now is like a faithful sheepdog. When you’re 24 in the biggest band in the world, I’m sure you can work out all the nonsense that entails. When you’re a 47-year-old solo artist, it’s different. You become a fucking pussy, is what happens. But if you still behave at 47 the way you were behaving at 24, you’d be a bit of a dick, wouldn’t you?
Do you live full-time in London these days?
Yeah, I live right in the heart of the city. I did spend a bit of time in the late Nineties out in the country, and it’s got its benefits. But I was born in the city, in Manchester, so I’m very, very used to noise and traffic and police cars and junkies and fucking beggars and prostitutes and all that kind of thing. And that’s just for breakfast.
Do you go out much in the city?
I do have a very active social life in London. Trying to make a record there and not disrupt my social life was quite the challenge — more of a challenge than producing the album, I’ve got to say. And I managed to pull off both. I hate to use the word party — it was a word that was invented by your countrymen, party — but we do go out regularly on a Thursday evening and not get in until Friday afternoon. So there wasn’t a great deal of work done on Friday [laughs].
“If you still behave at 47 the way you were behaving at 24, you’d be a bit of a dick, wouldn’t you?”
Do you go to clubs? Are you out dancing at night?
I wouldn’t go out to a nightclub in London. That would be fucking chaotic. But I do go to Ibiza — that’s where I met my wife, on a dance floor in a nightclub in Ibiza. There’s an image for you. So yeah, I do like dance music. I was there right at the birth of acid house in 1987, and it was fucking outrageous. It was the revolution. Still is, in many ways.
How do you feel about being a lead singer? Do you like how your voice sounds on the new record?
I come from the Neil Young and Bob Dylan school of thought on this. I don’t give a fuck what anybody says about me as a singer. Is Neil Young the greatest singer in the world? No, he’s not, but he’s Neil Young, ain’t he? And I’ve heard a billion covers of “Like a Rolling Stone,” and they’re all shit. You want to know why? Because Bob Dylan ain’t singing it.
What about Jimi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower”? Even Dylan likes that one.
Nonsense. I mean, yeah, it’s fucking great — but by its very essence, it’s only a watered-down version of the original.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Ah, well, it depends. At the end of the last tour, I took a year off. If you’re asking me what I did in that year, I have no fucking idea! You just exist, don’t you? But I write every day. I’ve always got a guitar in my hands. If I’m sitting at home, fucking about, I’m known to go through the Beatles’ repertoire. Currently, I’m in a period of David Bowie songs on the acoustic guitar. “Ashes to Ashes” is great when you’re watching TV with the sound down.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I still can’t get enough of Seinfeld. It’s still the best thing that’s ever been filmed. It reminds me of the Nineties — good times. I was the only person in England who was watching it! That’s a fact. Certainly the only person in Manchester who watched it. I identify with Jerry. When I met my wife 15 years ago, she’d never seen it, and I was like, “If we’re going to be together, you’ve got to be into this shit, because this is important.” Luckily, she fuckin’ loves it.
Do you have a favorite Seinfeld episode?
I was watching “The Summer of George” last night. That’s pretty fucking good. The one where George starts doing the opposite — that’s a good one. There’s one where somebody talks dirty into Jerry’s tape recorder at the comedy club which is great, as well.
Did you watch this year’s Grammys?
No. I can’t really stomach things like that. Everybody’s too nice. You cannot have a room with 5,000 people, who are all fans of each other. That’s not real.
“Somebody needs to buy that dumbass Kanye West a dictionary so he can look up the word ‘artistry.'”
Have you ever gone?
I’ve never been to the Grammys because I’ve never been nominated. It seems like it would be a very, very long ceremony to me. It’s, like, four hours. There can’t be that many fucking awards for music, can there?
What did you think of Kanye West’s statement that Beck should “respect artistry” and give his Album of the Year award to Beyoncé?
He’s a character, I’ll give him that. And I love his track “Black Skinhead.” But somebody needs to buy that dumbass a dictionary so he can look up the word “artistry.” Beck can play the banjo, for fuck’s sake. Nobody plays the banjo! Get him a dictionary from me, I’ll fuckin’ sign it and give it to him so he can look it up.
You’re friends with Bono. What do you talk about when you hang out?
Of all the people I know, he’s the most fun to hang out with, for sure. He’s a funny fucker, and he can drink. And he’s got big ideas — for his band and for my music as well, which is astonishing. He’s always giving me titles for songs and albums. I call him Father Bono.
What did you think of U2’s new album?
I like it. Some of the greatest moments of my musical life have involved U2. Anybody who doesn’t like The Joshua Tree is a cocksucker, for a start. And anybody who went to see the Zoo TV tour and didn’t think it was the greatest of all time at that time is also a fucking idiot.
Have you heard any other music that you’ve liked lately?
Do you know that track by Alt-J, “Left Hand Free”? That is a great track. But Alt-J can fuck right off as far as I’m concerned. It’s a great tune, and I paid 79 pence for it, but I am in no way a fan of Alt-J.
I don’t know. One of them’s got a mustache, and that’s unacceptable.
You recently said that you didn’t want to live in a world where Ed Sheeran was headlining Wembley Stadium. Unfortunately, he is. Should we be worried about your well-being?
Am I going to take my own life, is that what you mean? No. He’s all right, Ed. He took it with good humor, which is how it was meant. I was bemoaning the fact that the biggest rock bands in England can’t even sell out Wembley, and yet pop music can.
Do you listen to much pop?
No. It’s fucking awful. Modern pop music is bland nonsense. There isn’t even a word yet that’s capable of describing it. If it was a color, it would be beige. Do you know what color beige is?
I do, yeah.
It’s like a milky brown. Not for me.
What about Taylor Swift? She’s a pop star, but many people praise her talent as a songwriter.
[Laughs] Who says that? Her parents?
Lots of people.
Who’s “people”? Name these people. You’re fucking lying. She seems like a nice girl, but no one has ever said those words, and you fucking know it.
What about One Direction, do you like them?
I know Harry Styles. We’ve hung out a couple of times. They’re lovely lads. But I’ve got to say, I have difficulties with people who don’t write their own songs, who’ve got a team of songwriters who work for your record label.
Well, One Direction co-write a lot of their songs, to be fair. And many of the great Motown artists had teams of songwriters behind them — is that how you feel about them, too?
If you’re trying to insinuate that what’s going on now is akin to what was going on at Motown — what, were you out late eating magic mushrooms? Not equivalent. Not in the slightest.
Is songwriting still as fun for you as when you started out?
Oh, yeah. I still think tomorrow might be the day that I write the greatest song of all time. It’s like going fishing. The guitar is your fishing rod, and if I’m not fishing for that song, fucking Bono will get it, and if he’s not, Chris Martin will. And fuck those two guys, because they’ve got enough. We’re all fishing in the same river, and it’s cutthroat, baby.