It’s virtually impossible to prepare for an interview with Noel Gallagher.
The former Oasis songwriter’s tack-sharp mind can veer between seemingly disconnected topics in a second. It’s best to sit there and do your best to keep up.
During an hour with the man known to those who work with him as ‘The Chief’, he discusses his new album, his friend David Walliams, his recent Radio 2 show, his plans for a new gameshow, The Beatles, Manchester City and last, but definitely not least, his beloved brew.
“If I’d known you didn’t drink Yorkshire Tea, I’d never have agreed to this interview,” he says with mock horror. “As any tea-maker knows, it’s the only bag.”
Gallagher’s debut solo album, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, was released earlier this week. The story behind the title? “So I wouldn’t freak out when I saw it written down. The High Flying Birds don’t exist, but I couldn’t just be ‘Noel Gallagher’,” he explains, adding he took the name from a song by Sixties psychedelic rockers Jefferson Airplane.
A tour begins this week, but the 44-year-old isn’t really looking forward to it.
“I wouldn’t say I was excited. I’m not excited about anything, really, except the Manchester derby, which is the same day as the tour starts,” he says, referring to Manchester City’s forthcoming clash with red rivals United. “I’m ready for what’s about to happen, which is a level down from excited. If excited is green, then I’m definitely amber, but not red.” Oasis split in 2009 after Noel and younger brother Liam, never the best of friends, had an argument just before a scheduled performance at the V Festival. Gallagher Snr walked out and it signalled the end of a band that had sold more than 70 million records. Whatever the state of his relationship with Liam, Noel says some sweet things about his mouthy sibling today.
“I need him more than he needs me,” he admits at one point, later referring to him as the best rock ‘n’ roll singer the UK has ever seen. “I never wanted to be a solo artist. I loved being in Oasis, and if the band had stayed together, I would’ve been the happiest pig in the nicest pigpen.”
So happy was the guitarist in Oasis that when he found himself sans band, going solo wasn’t immediately obvious to him and it took 10 months to come round to the idea.
When he finally went into the studio, Gallagher recorded two albums at the same time. An as-yet untitled second album is due in the spring. Of the 10 songs featured on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, two – Stop The Clocks and (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine – have been around for years, often lined up to be included on past Oasis albums. “They’re really good songs – too good to be left out – and if I don’t put them out now, when am I going to release them?” says Gallagher, refuting the accusation that songs available on YouTube since around 2008 shouldn’t have been included on his first solo effort. “The rest of the songs are post-Oasis.”
The debut is, as you might expect from the man responsible for the now hymn-like Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova, a melodic affair.
“I’m not a musical chameleon, like Damon Albarn,” he says, referring to his one-time arch-rival.
“Damon’s very adept, and can do anything. I’m not like that, although I sometimes wish I was.”
There is one unexpected song, AKA... What A Life, a nod to his late-Eighties raving days in Manchester’s infamous Hacienda, whose hypnotic piano riff was used in a Vauxhall Corsa advert.
“I wasn’t sure about that at first,” he explains. “But I want everyone to know, though, that through all this, I was only thinking about the money. I had to fill it with subliminal messages, too,” he jokes. “Anybody listening to that song will find themselves staggering towards a Vauxhall dealership, buying a Corsa.”
And with that, he’s off; a session in the gym beckons. “I work out at home,” he says. “No man should ever be seen in public wearing shorts unless they’re on holiday.”
As for whether he thinks the solo career is going to be a success, he’s not sure.
“I’ll tell you after the first show. I might come off stage vomiting and decide to never play a single note again.”
What’s the story? – Noel’s life as a rock’n’roll star
Noel Thomas David Gallagher was born in Burnage, Manchester, on May 29, 1967.
He wrote most of Oasis’ debut album while working on a building site for British Gas.
Noel has been married twice, once to Meg Matthews, with whom he has a daughter, Anais, and now to Sara MacDonald. They have two sons, Donovan and Sonny.
Noel recently filled in for Dermot O’Leary on his Radio 2 show. It’s the most-listened to programme in BBC iPlayer history.