Any artist at one point in their life faces a dilemma: would it be better to keep trying new things or stick to doing what you’re best at?
Both paths have their strong and weak sides. Apparently, Liam and Noel Gallagher have different opinions on which approach is the lesser evil. After the breakup of Oasis, both brothers have gone their separate ways. While Liam is certainly reliving the Oasis nostalgia, Noel seems determined to get as further away from his trademark sound as possible. The older Gallagher believes the Oasis days are over and strives for versatility in his solo endeavours. In an exclusive new interview Noel talks about his favourite guitars, his changed approach to songwriting and how for him the art of music is above the opinion of the audience.
These days Noel seems very relaxed and inspired. He loves where he is as a musician at the moment and has no doubt he’s chosen the right direction. The audience aren’t as convinced though. His latest solo album Who Built The Moon hasn’t lived up to the expectations of diehard Oasis fans. Meanwhile, Noel’s new singles that came out this year don’t really do that well in the charts either. Nevertheless, the iconic musician doesn’t seem bothered with the poor feedback.
“Before I started my first solo record, I had acoustic demos, and I listened to them for quite a while before I actually recorded them. So by the time I got in there to record them, I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do with them. But I never thought I was making that record for my fans. I was just trying to serve the songs. On the second record, when I played people The Right Stuff, they said it’s a bit different. But I didn’t care. If it’s a good recording of a great tune, that’s all that matters to me. I wasn’t thinking, “Wow, this will really fuck with people”. I wouldn’t do that! Because all that matters to me is the song”.
When we think about Noel Gallagher as a musician, we instantly imagine him sat onstage or in the studio with a guitar, strumming away the simple yet catchy chords that made him famous in the Oasis days. This image is precious to many Oasis fans. However, these days Noel does his best to leave that period of his career in the past. Instead, he’s trying new instruments, new melodies and new vibes.
“When I went to make the last album with David Holmes, he famously said to me on the second day, “Do you have to play the guitar all the time?” I looked at him and thought, “Google my fucking name there for a second. What else am I going to play?” He asked, “Can you play keyboards?” And I said no. Then he replied, “Great. You’re going to play keyboards”. It seemed mad, but once I’d written a few songs like that, it was actually really fucking liberating. So when I use guitar now, like on the new EPs, they just kind of drift in and out”.
Nevertheless, it’s exactly the guitar that became Noel’s first love and best friend even before his soaring career with Oasis. Up until today, we keep discovering Noel’s old demos recorded back in the 1980s when he used to work as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets. All his most iconic songs were written on guitars. In the earliest days of Oasis, some well-known Manchester musicians recognised Noel’s talent and supported him by lending him guitars along with their advice on songwriting and performing. Among them was Johnny Marr. Noel fondly recalls the time the legendary guitarist lent him the instrument which, according to him, possessed some magical powers. No wonder Slide Away seemed to write itself as soon as Noel lay his hands on that guitar.
“He’s given me three or four guitars over the years. The first was a Les Paul that belonged to Pete Townshend. That one got damaged, so then he gave me the black Les Paul that was the guitar he used on The Queen is Dead. And he also gave me a Stratocaster that I wrote and recorded Don’t Look Back in Anger on. I never gave those guitars back… And he’s not getting them now!”
But out of all those brilliant guitars, which one is Noel’s favourite?
“My favourite electric guitar I bought in the 90s”, he says without hesitation. “It’s the 1960 Gibson 355 that I played in Oasis. I don’t play it that much nowadays, because the music I’m writing is different and I’m going for a different sound. But if push came to shove, that guitar is priceless for the amount of tunes that I wrote on it”.
Meanwhile, these days Noel likes to rotate his guitars and sometimes even writes new songs for his EPs on a bass guitar. He admits his newest songs all started from a catchy bass riff he came up with. And yet, even though it might seem Noel doesn’t turn to guitars that often nowadays, the instrument still holds a special place in his heart. The legendary musician confesses he has a feeling some guitars already seem to hold songs within them. No wonder for him songwriting seems not only a kind of art, but also a kind of magic.
“I don’t have a go-to guitar that I write on. I’ll have a guitar for a couple of years, but then it’ll feel like it’s all used up, so I’ll send that one back to my lock-up. I’ve got a lot there, so I’ll just pick one at random, because I think all guitars have got songs in them”.
So what does the future hold for Noel Gallagher? The iconic musician says his nearest plans include getting away from it all and coming back with a new album refreshed and full of original ideas.
“Apart from the odd festival date next summer, I think I’m going to try to take 2020 off, Now, that being said, my missus may have something to say about that. Plus, I’ve got loads of songs, they’ve just got to be knocked into shape. I have a list of things I must do. But actually, once the Christmas EP is out of the way, I’m going to take a step back. I just need to get away from it a bit. So I don’t think I’m going to start making an album seriously till 2021”.
Hopefully, Noel will have enough time to recharge his batteries and polish the new songs to perfection. While the older Gallagher keeps experimenting, thousands of Oasis fans still can’t help dreaming of the reunion of the most missed band in history. After all, a dream is all they need to get by.