A few weeks before the release of his new album Council Skies, with his High Flying Birds band, Noel Gallagher is buzzing. Sure, if he has to, he’ll natter on about the latest project (“I always try to find the hope and joy … some of the songs come from a place of truth … it’s quite an honest record,” etc.), but his mind’s on something else: his beloved soccer club, Manchester City.
“I sat and drank and bathed in the fucking tears of Arsenal supporters yesterday,” Gallagher quipped. “And I intend to do it all summer as well.”
Barbs at the English Premier League’s second-place club aside (Manchester City pipped them to the title), Gallagher will not have much free time in the months ahead. In addition to the album release, Gallagher is taking the High Flying Birds out on a North American co-headlining tour with Garbage, with European dates to follow through the end of the year.
Gallagher formed the High Flying Birds in 2011 and the band’s longevity is something that continues to amaze him. “When I put out that best-of [compilation], it was a bit like, ‘Wow, 10 years,’” he says. “A decade is a long time. It doesn’t seem that long at all now. I suppose when I started, I wouldn’t have envisaged 10, 12, 13 years of this. Now looking back on it, it has been a breeze.”
Now 55, Gallagher prefers to look ahead. He isn’t nostalgic, though he does marvel that Oasis’ landmark debut album, Definitely Maybe, turns 30 next year. He has his doubts, however, if Oasis could succeed in 2023. “We were controversial at the time,” he says. “Imagine how controversial we’d be now? We’d be canceled after the first rehearsal.”
Ahead of the June 2 arrival of Council Skies, Gallagher sat down with us for a wide-ranging interview about the album, a new Oasis discovery, AI, and the heartfelt plea from the 1975’s Matty Healy for he and his brother to finally reunite.
SPIN: Did you hear what Matty Healy of the 1975 said about Oasis a few months ago?
Noel Gallagher: Oh, that fucking slack-jawed fuckwit. What did he say?
Among other things, he said, “Can you imagine being in potentially – right now, still – the coolest band in the world, and not doing it because you’re in a mard with your brother?”
He would never be able to imagine it. He needs to go over how shit his band is and split up.
Johnny Marr plays on “Pretty Boy,” a single from Council Skies that Robert Smith then had a tinker with. What did you take away from working with Marr and Smith?
Johnny, I’ve known for 30 years and I’m a fan. So what do I get? I get to hang out with him and watch him do his fucking thing. He’s elevating my music to a place where I could never do on the guitar.
What did I get from Robert Smith? Well, I got to tell him I admired his work and I love his songs. He did a remix for me and there’s this piece of music now that exists with me playing guitar on it, Johnny playing guitar on it, Robert Smith playing guitar on it. So, there’s a triad of the Cure, the Smiths, and Oasis on a single song. Who would have thought that?
It makes perfect sense in 2023. Do you see yourself as an elder statesman of rock?
No, not really. I still see myself as an outsider, if I’m being honest. I don’t have a record deal and I run my own shit in England. I don’t know how I see myself actually.
You seem to be coming from a pretty optimistic place, though, with Council Skies.
I guess it’s uplifting in the right places, and it’s melancholy in the right places. I think it’s quite an honest record. I don’t like to make the [songs] too autobiographical. I certainly wouldn’t draw attention to the parts of songs that are about me and my life. “Dead to the World” is very autobiographical. So are “Think of a Number,” “Council Skies” and “Trying To Find a World That’s Been and Gone.”
I guess my style of songwriting has always been to try and focus on the universal truths of life – it will mean as much to the next man as it means to you. It’s a knack that you have to work out to try and articulate something that’s been articulated a billion times before, but try to do it a different way.
What do you have lined up for this upcoming string of live shows? How are you going to keep things fresh for yourself, the band, and the audience?
The one idea — if I had any idea at all -– for the High Flying Birds is that it would not get stuck in a rut like Oasis did, where it was the same guys who had the same roles within the band, churning out the same record. My idea was that the lineup would be forever changing – not, like, drastically or radically, but there would be people coming and going and styles would change and people’s roles in the band would change.
As for this tour, I’m not really sure what to do until I get out there. I won’t really know until we’re about a half-dozen shows into it what we’re doing. The first couple of weeks are always a bit rusty.
You’ve played some Oasis songs on every High Flying Birds tour. Do you have any interest in revisiting some more obscure material from that era?
Ah well, you’ll have to come and see. There’s going to be a lot of people in fucking Idaho going, “What is this shit?” But yeah, I’m digging out some old songs this time, and they do sound good. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Are you hopeful about any recent new music, in the sense that it can have the same type of impact Oasis had at the beginning?
No, the internet squashed everything, I’m afraid. The thing about Oasis was if you wanted to see them, you’d have to go and see them. Whereas now if you wanted to, you could pick up your phone and judge Oasis by some shit video that somebody posted on YouTube and go, “Eh, they’re not for me.” Back in the day before the internet, once Oasis got you in the venue, you were a fan.
Did you hear any of this AI Oasis music that recently popped up?
Fucking embarrassing. I just think people clearly have too much time and money on their hands if they’re fucking around with that for a laugh. I mean, who wants to fucking hear Ringo Starr singing “She’s Electric” and Freddie Mercury singing “Don’t Look Back in Anger?” Life’s too short for that shit.
How did you find out about it?
How do you find out about anything? Somebody sent me a text with a laughing face emoji saying, “is this real?” Of course, it’s not real, you fucking moron!
What do you think of AI?
AI will be the final nail in the coffin of music. I’m sure that the major record labels are now working on the technology to copyright it and machines will write music. Why hire a songwriter when you can own a machine to do it? Then Harry Styles can pump out Harry Styles music for the rest of his fucking life.
Imagine having that when you were growing up…
The Matrix is real.
What new music have you been listening to?
There’s a band called Young Fathers. They’re fantastic. There’s a guy called Callum Easter who’s great. I have not really heard anything new in a while that’s kind of grabbed me, but I’m sure it’s out there. When you get to a certain age, you’re just busy doing other things than just scouring the fucking Internet for new music. Most of the stuff that I hear that’s new to me is from the ‘60s and ‘70s, like Willie Griffin. There’s a track called “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire” and it will blow your mind how fucking out of tune it is. It’s a great song. Things like that are always fascinating to me. I often think about how much more stuff is there to be discovered from that era.
Is it hard to believe that Definitely Maybe is turning 30 next year?
Is there anything left from those sessions that haven’t been unearthed?
I found some master tapes with some cool stuff on it that’s going to be coming out. It was in the Sony vault and was mislabeled. So, when Oasis did Definitely Maybe, the idea was we would do three takes of each track and then move on. I remember saying to somebody, so presumably, the master version, there’s another two versions, which weren’t chosen, right? They said, “yeah, but the master tapes had gone missing.” It turns out they have been with Sony for the last fucking 30 years, mislabeled. I found them and there’s some interesting stuff on there. Now, we can sell the album for the fifth time all over again.
Are you going to do anything like you started to do with the Be Here Now reissue?
Well, I did a remix of “D’You Know What I Mean?” and then the idea was to remix the whole album. I don’t like the sound of it and the songs are too long. After working on it for a week, I was just like, you know what? What’s the fucking point? “D’You Know What I Mean?” sounds great, but let’s leave it how it is. I’d like to remix Morning Glory because I hate the fucking sound of that record. I guess I’ll get around to it one day if all the stars align. You never know.
So, in addition to whatever you’re planning to release, do you plan on playing shows in honor of the anniversary like your brother is?
Well, I’m not going to perform it in its entirety on the banjo, if that’s what you mean. I prefer to live in the moment and keep making new music. I acknowledge the past. Definitely Maybe is great and Oasis were great. It was an amazing moment in everybody’s lives, but you’ve got one life. I don’t intend to fucking live it in the past. If Liam wants to do the show, great. He’s got to make a living and all of that. Keep the fucking flame alive. It’s not something I particularly would be able to put my heart and soul into.
If Oasis hadn’t fulfilled its potential, I might have a different attitude towards it. But as Oasis did everything it set out to do and more. I don’t see the point. It was a moment in time and if you missed it, tough shit. I missed the Sex Pistols and I’ve managed to get over that. So, people should get over it.
Let’s talk soccer. Do you think Manchester City can win the treble? Which, of course, would include knocking off your city rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
It’s fucking on, and those guys [Manchester United] are about as relevant as the 1975.
What’s more likely to happen: Manchester City winning a quadruple of tournaments next season or Oasis reuniting?
They are equally unlikely to happen.