- 09 Apr 01
Noel Gallagher and Paul Arthurs of Oasis talk about their staggering rise from being unemployed no-hopers to Top Ten chart act striving to outshine T.Rex, The Beatles and Neil Young to name but three and show Tony Clayton-Lea how to order a peanut.
Some bands pay their dues, some slog around the same old gig circuit for years with ne’er a whiff of success, and some are just instantly catapulted into the charts and a lifetime of adulation.
Oasis, for instance. They didn’t have to work at it. There they were, eighteen months ago, playing a gig in Glasgow (and playing, it is said, because they threatened to burn down the venue if they weren’t allowed to), when who should happen to walk into the place but Creation records boss Alan McGee.
And why was McGee there? Because he had missed his train back to London. Not wanting to kick his heels in a cold, miserable station, he wandered back into Glasgow, taking refuge in the first late-night venue he could find. So impressed was McGee by the band he saw on stage, that he immediately offered them a record deal.
Some people call it karma. Noel Gallagher calls it fucking good luck. “If you don’t have luck, you’re fucked,” he says. “Especially if you’re in a rock band. We don’t have any advice to give to young bands, because we don’t know how it happened to us. We signed, we released, we charted. In my experience, you just need a break. There’s no point in worrying about getting that break. It’ll happen if it’s meant to.”
Oasis songwriter and lead guitarist Noel
Gallagher and rhythm guitarist Paul Arthurs (otherwise known throughout the interview as Bonehead; don’t ask . . .) are lounging on an upholstered leather chaise longue in an anteroom somewhere in the Berkeley Court Hotel. They have swaggered through the foyer in a manner befitting their current status as The Biggest Thing Since The Stone Roses. Noel’s sunglasses and purposeful stride even attracts the attention of some off-duty Red Hot Chili Peppers, who, for some unfathomable reason, are measuring the length of their socks, and sniggering.
Ensconced in the comfort zone, Noel and Bonehead turn to their minder and demand a particular type of peanut. And some alcohol to wash them down. And right now, if you don’t mind. They are, without question, cocky little fuckers, but then this is undoubtedly part of what makes Oasis so good. Their new album, Definitely Maybe, is full of this arrogance. Oasis talk it like they walk it, too . . .
“We do as little as possible, really,” shrugs Noel, when asked about Oasis’ work ethic. “Put a single out every three months, and tour as often as we can, so that people can see us live. That’s about it, really. We don’t do things a certain way, we just do them to the best of our ability.”
Bonehead formed Oasis in Manchester three years ago. Most of the members go back years, to when they were teenage friends with nothing to do on weekend nights except to drink and piss away their dole money. They could all play instruments. “Lucky for us it paid off,” he says.
“It’s a dream, really, isn’t it?” Noel adds, throwing peanuts into the air. “You dream of being on Top Of The Pops, you dream of being in the back of posh cars, of not having to pay for anything, of loose women, and all the rest of it. That’s all come true, so you might as well enjoy it while you can, before it finishes. You’re only going to get five years out of all this.”
“It’ll last as long as it lasts,” interrupts the philosophical Bonehead, instantly reminding me never to ask him to join my pub quiz team.
“We could all die in a car crash tomorrow,” continues Noel, “so there’s no point in sitting around wondering how much money we’ve made or anything else like that. For us, it’s all happened so quickly this year that we’re just going to take it as it comes. Do as much of it as we can in as short a time as possible, and when we get bored with it . . .”
In a year of pitiful anniversary tours and nostalgia celebrations (The Seekers’ 25th, Diana’s 30th, Cliff’s 35th, etc.), it’s refreshing to encounter a band who don’t want to be around for longer than five years. Built-in obsolescence is intrinsic to both the nature and the growth of rock music.
“Of course we’re derivative,” says Noel. “Everyone is derivative. The Beatles were derivative of The Shirelles, The Rolling Stones of Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry. We don’t go out of our way to make our records sound as if they were made in 1967. I don’t know what it is that makes our music so modern, because the album sounds as if it were recorded today, tomorrow even. It doesn’t sound retro.
“The ‘now’ bit is simply because there’s not a lot currently happening in music,” he adds. “There aren’t many bands these days who can capture the imagination of thousands of people between a certain age bracket.”
Noel admits that Oasis are influenced by The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Neil Young, The Jam and The Sex Pistols.
“That means we’ve got their songs to aim at, to better. That’s better than some bands being influenced by Velvet Underground, a good band who never impacted upon popular music as much as the ones I’ve mentioned. Ultimately, we aim to write the songs The Beatles, T. Rex, The Jam, Neil Young never wrote. We’re not trying to emulate The Beatles musically. It’s the spirit of trying to capture the imagination of the world.
“You gotta have ambition. Think penthouse, not bedsit. When you do the pools, do it to win. You don’t back a horse to lose, do you? I’m not saying Oasis are as good as those bands, but that’s what we’re striving towards. Our self confidence stems from the fact that we know there aren’t many great bands around today, and we know we wrote a song like ‘Live Forever’. If you’re involved in anything to do with a record like that, it makes you feel invincible. Plus, we can actually play live – no trickery, no effects pedals, back-up musicians, sequencers, drum machines. It’s just us five. Easy.”
Noel reveals that he didn’t think Oasis would
have had a Top Ten hit by this stage of their existence.
Has the quick rise to fame got to the members of Oasis in any way? Looking at Noel juggling peanuts and swigging drink, it appears not. He is, apparently, completely unphased by all the attention his band are receiving.
“Some days I think, fuck this, but then I remember the days when I was on the dole. Collecting my giro on Thursday, and by Friday night it was all gone. You had another two weeks to go until the next one. All you have to do is think about those days, and then you wonder why you’re complaining about having to fly to Ireland to do some interviews, and being paid for it, and having someone bring you peanuts. There’s no point in getting down about it. Life’s a blast . . .”
And what about the so-called sibling conflict between Noel and his lead singer brother, Liam?
“We argue,” confirms Noel. “Not all the time, and not always in front of the press. Although we don’t bother when the press are there these days, because it’s become a bit of a joke. But we fight, yeah. Hourly. In fact, I haven’t seen him today, so I might ’phone him up and pick an argument with him. Plus, it isn’t really in-band rivalry, because he doesn’t do anything except sing. I write the songs. It’s strange, though, I don’t get excited about much. I can take all this in my stride, but I get excited about fighting with our kid sometimes.”
Arrogance. Confidence. Cockiness. Passion. They all equal Oasis.
“When you know you’re great there’s no point in denying it. It’s like wearing a T-shirt with a great slogan on it and then putting on a jacket. You’ve got to believe you’re the greatest.”
What was Noel like before Oasis came along?
“I’ve always been a songwriter, but I didn’t have a vehicle for the songs. Just me and a guitar. I didn’t know anybody else. As soon as I saw the others playing I knew this was it.”
Noel then had to make a choice. He could either work for the rest of his life, maybe miss a chance that comes along just once, and be forever regretting it, or forget the job and put all his energies into the band.
“I did that and was proved right,” smirks Noel. “Yet again.”