Noel Gallagher is not a fan of much contemporary pop music, as you may have garnered from his recent slagging of the British breakout star of the moment, Lewis Capaldi, as “wank.” But if he’s not about to take his cues from any current hitmakers or producers, that doesn’t mean he wants to recycle the glory-days sounds of his tenure in Oasis, either. So on “Black Star Dancing EP,” the new five-song collection he’s released with his current band the High Flying Birds, Gallagher is turning to some favorite sounds from his youth that he previously hadn’t mined quite as much to put a new spring in his step.
Anyone in the States coming to see Gallagher and the High Flying Birds tour with the Smashing Pumpkins in August will hear plenty that’s familiar, though. And the most unchanging thing of all about Gallagher is his sometimes hilariously unvarnished outspokenness. In a transatlantic call with Variety, he didn’t mince words on much, whether the topic was modern rock (“It might sound like the f—ing Stooges, but it is shit”), the youth of today (“All they can do is take pictures of each other”), his unlikely feud with Capaldi (“Chewbacca better enjoy his 15 minutes”), or his brother Liam’s new documentary film (“Apparently there’s a lot of jogging in it”). We also got to a couple of things Gallagher does like: vintage David Bowie and Britain’s thriving grime genre.
You’ve said you’re putting out three EPs, with the last around Christmas time. Are you doing that just because it’s the more bite-sized way people are consuming music now?
I was still on the road, and I had a lot of material, but it was too soon to put out an album. It was like, let’s just put out three EPs and see what happens. Luckily enough, I’m on my own record label, so what I f—ing say goes. By the time these three EPs are wrapped up at the end of the year, there’ll be 9, 10 new songs, so it’s kind of like putting out an album without having the milestone of putting out an album.
“Black Star Dancing,” you’ve said, was the result of watching a lot of “Top of the Pops” between ‘83 and ‘87. That’s a pretty specific time frame.
Well, I was just using that as a kind of jumping off point, really. It was the golden age of pop, wasn’t it? In England, anyway. Bowie was great, U2 were great, INXS were great, New Order were great, the Smiths were great, Echo and the Bunnymen were great, and Talking Heads were mind blowing. I could go on all day if you like. When you look back on it, it’s so sad that pop music has just become so f—ing shit and formulized. It’s an endless procession of special guests featuring f—ing someone else featuring this girl written by this guy written by these fellows in a f—ing shed. People don’t even write their own music anymore. When I look back on the “Top of the Pops”-es themselves, it’s a little bit sad, even though it makes me feel great that I was around at that time to experience it, when they were all new artists. I’ve always loved pop music, but in the ‘60s sense, the guitar pop music. Pop music now is f—ing wank.
Your “Black Star Dancing” title references Bowie’s final album title, even though that’s not the period you’re musically referencing.
They’re titles, you know what I mean? If I’m working on a thing and I get to a point where I don’t have the chorus, and I walk past my record collection and see “Blackstar” by David Bowie and go “hang on a minute” … But it’s not in any way an homage to that album. My favorite period of David Bowie, if there is one, is “Ashes to Ashes” and “Scary Monsters” up to “Let’s Dance.” And (I was) just listening to those records and saying, hang on a minute, there is no rhythm guitar on any of these records, (so) the first thing I want to do is ditch the rhythm guitar. It’s amazing how people will say, “Oh, I love your new direction,” and I’m thinking, “Well, all I’ve done is taken the rhythm guitar off everything.” Lo and behold, I’ve reinvented myself — and it’s just like, wow, if I’d have known it was that f—ing easy, I’d have done it 20 years ago. It was just a case of feeling a bit free. I’m 52 now, and I don’t give a f— what people think about me or where I’m going. I don’t give a f— what Oasis fans think. They’ve got the Oasis records. I can please myself from here on in.
You said on Radio X that one of the remaining two EPs will sound “Mancunian.”
Well, anybody that was going to the Hacienda [a nightclub in Manchester] between ‘87 and ‘89 will recognize the sound. It’s more acid house than disco. But the other tracks on the (next) EP — one of them sounds like the Smiths, one of them sounds like the Stone Roses, and one of them I don’t know what it sounds like. But I suppose I finally got Oasis out of my system now, musically. My first (impulse) is not to reach for the guitar. It’s not my waking thought. It’s more like, “All right, I want to get a bass and keyboards on this; we don’t need any guitar.”
People seem to have become comfortable with your diversions, as an outgrowth of where Oasis was headed in the latter days.
Well, good. When I do tracks that are vaguely — you can put this in inverted commas — vaguely dance-orientated, if they’re using it as a criticism, they choose to forget (Oasis songs) “F—in’ in the Bushes” or “Go Let It Out” or (early Gallagher solo tracks) “What a Life!” or “Battle of the Mighty I.” All of these things have been derived from some kind of dance music. But I get my opinion from the crowd when I play every night, and people love it. If I was to go on an Oasis fan site, it’d be a different story. But I’m not trying to still dress like a 19-year-old, metaphorically speaking. I have moved on, and it doesn’t matter if people don’t like it, because I don’t give a f—. I like it; in fact I love it. That’s all that matters.
You have been writing on the bass, just to change it up, right?
I do write now a lot on the bass, yeah. It’s been very liberating and it takes you into a different area musically. Bass, drums and a vocal — that’s really all you need. That can be a struggle when you play live, because then I play guitar and I’ve got another guitarist and you’ve got to try and get two guitarists onto a track that’s got no guitar on it. But it keeps you on your toes. I suppose that’s why rock stars, when they get into their 50s, just kind of give up a little bit, because they can’t be f—ing asked to be reinventing themselves, or trying. So they just do facsimiles of what they were.…. There’s plenty of people trying to do that Oasis thing, right, and you’ll get people saying it’s rock and roll. Well, rock and roll it might be, but it’s f—ing shit. It’s unsophisticated music for unsophisticated people. It might sound like the f—ing Stooges, but it is shit.
You recently played Manchester on the 10th anniversary of Oasis’ last gig there, and people assumed that can’t just have been a coincidence.
It was a coincidence, actually. What is it with journalists? Coincidence doesn’t exist in the world of journalism. It always has to be like, “Oh, you must have done that because of this.” And you sit there reading things sometimes thinking, honestly, life is so f—ing random. Do you think I’d book a gig on the 10th anniversary of an Oasis gig just so somebody could write about it? I don’t give a f— about that. Or somebody will say, “You’ve got a single out the day Liam’s got a new haircut. Was that deliberate?” What? I’ve got better things to do with my time than sit and look around people’s calendars and see what I can do. Life’s too short for that.
In America, you’re going to be touring with Smashing Pumpkins. Is that random, or is there a reason that makes sense?
I’ve (already) done my (proper) American tour last year for six weeks, and I loved it. The more that I tour the States, the older that I get, the more I like it. it’s actually one of my favorite places to play now. Anyway, somebody said to the Smashing Pumpkins, “Who would you want to open up for you,” and they said “Oh, well, how about that f—ing guy?” Somebody called me and said, is that a thing you’d consider? And I was like, “What am I doing in August? Yeah, there’s a few festivals, but if somebody can hit the magic number, then we’ll do it.” And we’re gonna have a great time. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of Smashing Pumpkins, (but) they’re good tunes. I never saw them in their heyday, but I’m looking forward to it, and looking forward to being in America in August, if the weather will be nice, if nothing else.
You haven’t seen the movie “Yesterday” yet, but there’s an Oasis joke. Basically, very few things in the film’s alternate reality are different because the Beatles never existed — except for the fact that he tries looking up Oasis, and nothing appears.
So the joke is, if the Beatles never would have existed, Oasis wouldn’t have existed? Is that the joke? Okay, well, you could safely say that about f—ing 99% of every guitar group, couldn’t you? When that movie was being made a couple years ago, somebody was telling me the premise of the film, and I thought, well, that sounds as ridiculous as an “Avengers” f—ing film to me. But one of my very dear friends is in it, Lily James, who I adore. I’ll probably get around to seeing the film one day. Apparently it’s pretty good, though, isn’t it? That’s what people are saying.
Not everyone. It seems insulting to the Beatles to say that all of music would be exactly as we know it now even if they’d never existed, except Oasis.
Well, the Beatles must have been involved somewhat. Paul McCartney must have been, because he would have had to clear his songs, right? … I don’t know. There are a lot of music movies doing the rounds at the moment, aren’t there? Apparently it’s the in thing — Queen and Elton John, and I’ve seen a trailer for another one the other day, some f—ing thing about somebody else.
I don’t know if you’re referring to Liam’s new documentary, “As It Was,” but there was talk that you objected to having Oasis songs included. Is that true?
Oh, I turned it down, yeah. If some f—ing moron is going to make a film slagging me off, calling my wife a c—, after trolling my kids on the Internet, after being a filthy little misogynist sexist prick who cannot keep his f—ing mouth off Twitter, and then call me to ask me a favor, I’m like, “Wow. You are as dumb as you f—ing look.” I don’t give a f— what music you have in your film; you’re not putting any of mine in. It’s like, “Can I ask you a favor?” “No, you can’t. Go f— yourself.” You’re not using my songs to sell his f—ing film. Have you seen it?
No, it hasn’t opened in America yet.
Apparently, it’s riveting.
Any plans to check it out, just for a lark?
Uh, no. I couldn’t think of a reason that would make me want to watch it, considering that every time I see that c—’s face, I want to f—ing take out a McDonald’s with a machine gun. So I don’t think I’ll be going to the local cinema to watch him rewrite f—ing history (about) what a great guy he is; what a wonderful family man. I’ve got better things to do with my time. You should go and see it, though. Apparently there’s a lot of jogging in it. I don’t know about you, but I like to see my favorite rock stars jogging. Don’t you?
Sure, you should all be taking yourselves down a notch or two.
The press is having fun with you and Lewis Capaldi. You took some shots at his music, and then he came out at Glastonbury wearing a shirt with your face on it and said “getting slagged off by Noel was a life-affirming moment.” Then you posted a video of your son mock-sobbing to one of his ballads.
So are the youth truly being saddened by all these sad songs being put out in the universe?
It just seems to me that every singer-songwriter gets to be shitter than the next person. It’s a race to the bottom. And you dig deep enough with these c—s, they’re not even singer-songwriters, because they don’t f—ing write their own songs. But there were a lot of people talking about me from the main stage at Glastonbury over the weekend. [Liam got in a dig at Noel during his set, performing “Roll With It” and then saying: “There’s no way that’s shit. … You’re the proof of that. So next time you see the little fart, you tell him.”] People are obsessed with me. They should stop obsessing about me, because really, I’m not even that good.
It’s great that you can be a star at Glastonbury without having to actually come to the festival.
Well, I know. But it’s a curse. What can I do? I’m having the f—ing weekend off, and I’m still one of the best things at Glastonbury. My wife was there and she said, “All you could hear was people chanting your name. It was unbelievable.” I was in f—ing Holland, high as a f—ing monkey.
You may not be a Taylor Swift fan, either, but there’s a business story going on. Do you ever care about trying to get your masters back or that aspect of the business?
No, the game is the game. You don’t own your own f—ing shit, which is why when I finally left Oasis, I started my own record label, because I wanted to own them. But I’m aware of the story of Taylor Swift and some idiot called f—ing Scooter. Scooter? Is that even a real name? [He adopts an American surfer accent.] “Scooter. F—ing Scooter.” Um, I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift. I’m less of a fan of Scooter Brown or whatever his f—ing name is. They’re just American idiots. Which, really, I’d be f—ing ashamed of them, if I were you.
Is there anything going on in music that makes you proud at all?
Yeah, you do hear odd things from time to time, but it seems that it can never be sustained. A band will come along like Jungle, and they’ll have a great first album, then they’ll just disappear off the face of the earth for five years. Or Young Fathers will come along and you’ll think “This is f—ing amazing,” then they disappear for five years. It doesn’t seem anybody can get any momentum. You know, some of the grime of Stonezy is great. I was watching his thing on Friday at Glastonbury, and while I was watching him, I was thinking, “Ah, so that’s what my children are on about when they’re dancing around the kitchen at 8 o’clock in the morning.” Because my kids, they love f—ing grime, and I watch them through one squinted eye, thinking, “What is a Vossi Bop? What is he talking about? F—ing lunatics.” And then it all became apparent, and before I know it I was going, “Ahhh, Stormzy.” So that’s great. I’m not an expert on it. They don’t really speak for me. It’s kind of street jive, isn’t it? But yeah, there’s good stuff. There’s a bunch from Wales called Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, which they’ve got a couple of good tunes. But will they ever make an album? Who f—ing knows?
The record industry is absolutely not f—ing interested in guitar music. It’s all about how many followers you’ve got on social media and how many likes this got and how many streams that got. It’s not about whether there is any longevity in it. Record execs have got their spreadsheets, and if the numbers don’t add up, then they get someone else to do the job, Whereas I think when I first started in the music business, the record labels worked for me, right? They came to me and said, “Please, can we put your records out, because you are amazing.” And I was like, “Hmmmmm. Go on, then.” Now, i people go into record labels and say, “Please, will you put my records out? I will f—ing do anything.” And that is the fundamental difference: people are so pleased to be in the music business. They’re so happy to be on stage at Glastonbury … Who was the Scottish guy you were going on about before?
Lewis Capaldi. [Besides wearing the T-shirt, the young star posted a video saying, “Noel Gallagher has just slagged me off. This is dreams coming true. It’s Father’s Day, I’m being slagged off by a man who is old enough to be my Da’ and I’ve never been more happy.”]
F—ing Chewbacca should enjoy his 15 minutes. The greatest day of his life that I slagged him off or called him an idiot. It’s the greatest day of his f—ing life so far. He’s just thinking, “Wow!” Well, I know you’re Scottish and all that, but f—ing hell! It is like a third world country, but for f—‘s sake, man, you must have had a better day than this. Surely!
So, I don’t know. The youth of today: f—ing moronic c—s, if you ask me. … I meet young people, and they’re so culturally lost at the moment. All they can do, young people, is take pictures of each other. Because there’s nothing else. You know, when a band walks out on stage, they might as well be at a photo shoot. Nobody lives in the moment. Everybody’s sharing everything with everybody.
Your daughter [Anaïs Gallagher] seemed to be taking a sarcastic cue from you when she tweeted that she wants to be him when she grows up.
What did she say? She wants to be me when she grows up?
No, no, she tweeted, “I want to be Lewis Capaldi when I grow up.”
When she grows up? Well, she better be better looking than that c—! Let’s hope she doesn’t have his looks. Or his girth. I’m not going to allow that. She’s gonna have a bad day soon if she wants to be Lewis Capaldi when she grows up.
This last EP just came out in mid-June, but do you know when that next one will be out?
End of September, I believe. Well … what does that mean? Out in the shops where you can buy it? Who knows? I do believe I have to have the whole f—ing entire thing delivered by Monday. I’m going to say it’s going to be out by the time we get on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins.
U.S. fans look forward to seeing you over here in August. [It begins August 8 in Camden, NJ and wraps up August 31 in Mountain View, Calif.] Your tour in Europe got strong reviews these last few months, for how the old and new stuff fared, juxtaposed.
I think with the Smashing Pumpkins, we don’t get to play that long; we only get to play for an hour. But my gigs have been getting better as the tour has been going along. You know, the first half of my shows is exclusively new material, which can be a bit tricky, but luckily my new material is quite high energy, so you kind of carry it off until, you know, waiting for the inevitable to be played. But I did write them all, so I don’t feel that bad. I’m looking at the setlist going, [exhales] “At least I wrote them all.”