Noel Gallagher on ‘Council Skies’, touring with U2, Johnny Marr and more

Noel Gallagher on ‘Council Skies’, touring with U2, Johnny Marr and more

A few days before the release of his new record ‘Council Skies’, Noel Gallagher talked with The Irish Time talking about a lot of things, including U2, Johnny Marr and more.

Interviewed by Lauren Murphy of The Irish Times, Noel Gallagher started talking about touring with U2.

Noel and his High Flying Birds supported Bono & co. during the Joshua Tree tours in 2017 and 2019.

“It was great to be just part of that whole thing; they do it on a different level to everybody else,”

“But it was great, I really enjoyed it. We had a great time as a band, as a matter of fact – a really fucking great time. We were off-stage at half-eight every night, and I think out of the entire tour, I only ever missed [watching] one U2 show – it was in Paris and I was too pissed from the night before.”

‘Council Skies’ is the fourth record of his solo project born twelve years ago after the split of Oasis.

The Mancunian rocker admitted that ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ were born without a any grand plan.

“I was just going to make the first record, and that was it,”

“I suppose after the second record, it was like ‘Actually, this is working’ so it became more of a long-term thing. But initially, it was just that I had a bunch of songs that were gonna be for the next Oasis record, I thought ‘Well, let’s record them, put a band together and get out on tour.’ And then that led into the second one, and… it kind of went from there, really.”

About ‘Council Skies’, Noel is sure that this is quite possibily the best thing he has released with his solo project.

“I tell you, out of them all, this is one that I’ve listened to the most since I’ve done it,”

“I think it’s got a good flow to it, a good feel to it. I think it’s got an atmosphere and a colour to it.” He pauses, stony-faced. “I don’t know what colour it is. Probably grey. But I do love it.”

About the writing process, Gallagher said that the pandemic has been particularly fruitful because there were nothing else to do except writing lyrics.

“Usually, when I’ve been writing in the past, I’ve come off tour, I’ll be on a break and I’ll be seeing friends, going out…” he explains. “

And I guess at that time, because there was nothing to do, it was a time of reflection anyway, I think. It was quite a strange time. Not that the songs are about that, but for my own part it was quite a reflective time: how did we get here? And I don’t mean that in the sense of society and all that; I had stuff going on, and I was like ‘Well, how has it come to this?’ kind of thing. So I’m guessing because there was nothing else to do, I could really articulate it more succinctly than I [normally] would, I think.”

The distance of time between ‘Who Built The Moon?’ and his next record has been determined by a year off in 2020.

Noel admitted that once he came back from tour and after having a conversation with his eldest son, he decided to take a break.

“I’d gone away on tour and my eldest boy was a young boy, and when I came back he had a ‘tache and was calling me ‘Bruv’,”

“So I was like, ‘Okay, if I carry on doing this, I’ll be a grandad.’ I just felt I’d done a bit too much and you can overdo it sometimes, I think. Towards the end of 2019, it was time to just go away for a bit.”

The title of the album you might assume that Gallagher, now 55, is looking back on his formative years with a sense of wistful nostalgia.

“Well, I wouldn’t get very nostalgic about my childhood, I can assure you of that,” he quips.

“It’s not a literal document of my childhood, but I sat down one night and started thinking, ‘What would be underneath the council skies?’ And then the song started to take shape, and it was about trying to find beauty in the concrete and the noise and the dirt. But yeah, the title of book just set off a chain of events; I could already see the video, and I could see the cover. It’s about trying to find beauty in a big city. But to answer the question, if I was 55 and I’d had a magical childhood, skipping through poppy fields, y’know, I might get nostalgic about it. But as I didn’t, then I don’t. There’s no poppy fields in Burnage.”

Noel also admitted to having “stuff going on” in his life, and this could well be a reference to his split from wife Sara MacDonald after 22 years together.

And some of the lyrics inside the album could be interpreted as being about the end of a relationship.

“I think that all lyrics, no matter what they are – if they come from a place of personal truth, then they’re the ones that resonate with other people,”

“So yeah, I guess there’s lines in quite a few of the songs that are quite personal, that I didn’t have a problem with putting out there. Because why would you not? I’ve never been of that school of thought, that music should be like therapy or anything like that – but if there’s stuff going on in your life that you’re trying to make sense of… I’ve written enough throwaway lyrics for me to go, ‘Well, yeah. You might as well say it.’ And if other people recognise it, great.”

The conversation turned on one of his best friends, who collaborated again with him also in this record, Johnny Marr.

“He’s a real old friend of mine, and I’ve known him for such a long time that I’m lucky enough that I can call him,” Noel explains.

“I said to him, ‘Look, if you keep picking the phone up, I’m gonna keep calling you. I just want you to know that.’ It’s such an honour. He loves what I do, we get on great, and we’ve got a lot in common: we’re both from Irish families, he was born two bus stops up the road from where I was born, we’re both City fans, he’s a guitarist in one of the biggest bands… the similarities are endless. He’s a good guy to be around. So yeah, it’s a privilege, a real privilege.”

Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr

Noel thinks that their lifes have a lot of things in common, in particulary they’re both constantly asked about getting their former bands back together.

But also because their friendship is full of respect, Gallagher admits that Johnny has never offered a sort of advice about a reunion with his old band Oasis.

“There is no advice. I guess it’s a personal thing, isn’t it? I don’t know anyone who’s done it… I don’t know anyone who’d…” He trails off.

“No, not at all. I guess we both have the thing in common of having tricky lead singers.”

Lauren Murphy went on asking if he would go to see The Smiths if the reformed:

“Well, yeah. When I see Morrissey it’s great, and when I see Johnny, it’s great. Now, clearly, if Morrissey and Marr got back together, it’d be outrageous. But I know how he feels about it, and some things are best left in the past, y’know? They just are. They. Just. Are. And I know we live in this modern world where the consumer gets what they want all the time; that’s why the world is so shit. But no. I mean, I can’t speak for him, but he’s never mentioned anything to me, and I wouldn’t dare mention anything to him. Would I go and see them? Fuckin’ hell, absolutely, yeah, yeah. Do I think it should happen? Only if it made them happy.”

Now the conversation tuned to more random topics, in particulary on the advent of AI, that Noel Gallagher defines “music made by dickheads for dickheads,”.

“It’s some guy in dreadful shoes and shit jeans [who] has invented this fucking thing; ‘Oh look, you can get Paul McCartney singing Highway to Hell by AC/DC’. So fucking what? So what?”.

“Every day for the last month, I get sent these Oasis things: ‘Oh, have you heard this?’ [And] it’ll be some dickhead sat at his laptop somewhere… whatever mate, go get a girlfriend. Yeah, it’s not something I’m remotely interested in. There’s a version of Freddie Mercury singing Don’t Look Back in Anger…” he sighs, shaking his head. “Y’know. Get a girlfriend.”

Although he has a presence on Twitter and Instagram, Noel believes that internet and social media in general has had a negative impact on society.

“It just became boring,”

“Why do I have to thank everybody? ‘Oh guys, thanks for coming last night, what a great show…’ Really? I mean, is the world that needy now, that you need to be thanked for turning up at a gig?

“I think social media is like Brexit, right; if we could just pause and have a vote on it now, d’you reckon you’d vote to leave now? It’s like with the internet. If we could pause it right now and vote ‘Would you rather get rid of it?” He pauses, considering the result. “I mean, we probably wouldn’t, because there’s more fuckwits in the world than sane people. [But] I think things were better pre-internet, I think that’s a fact.”

The same opinion is for the music industry:

“[Labels] know what people want, because they can see what people want, because they can see the numbers and the streams and the likes and all that kind of thing,” he says. “So they give the people what they want. But people don’t know what they want – they’re fucking idiots! They didn’t want Jimi Hendrix; they didn’t want the Sex Pistols; they didn’t want Oasis; they certainly wouldn’t have wanted The Smiths. So it’s taken away that magic, I think. It’s destroyed innocence. And it spoils things. You go on tour, and play the first night, and everyone knows the setlist by the second night. Everyone knows what to expect, and there’s no sense of anticipation. I like going to gigs, not knowing what the band are playing. The dude beside me knows exactly what they’re going to play and when they’re gonna play it. And I pity them, I really do.”

One of the greatest privileges in life, he says, “used to be sitting out the back of a taxi, staring out the window and listening to the taxi driver rabbiting on about football. Now, you’re just sitting there, looking at your phone.”

“People sending you stupid videos of fucking goats singing Oasis songs that’s been done by AI, and you just think… actually, that sounds better than Liam.”

When asked if he’s thinking about writing his autobiography he said:

“I have been asked recently, I must be getting to that age now .I’ve been around a few people, Bono and Johnny Marr included, who’ve written books – and it seems that it just consumed their lives. And I don’t think I’ve got the patience to spend that amount of years writing a book. And I wouldn’t want somebody to ghostwrite it; I’d have to write it. And honestly, the minute it came out, I’d go ‘I don’t believe any of that!’.”

“I’m a person that lives in the moment, and sometimes I see interviews of myself and I go ‘But that’s not what I believe in, at all!’

“I’m just saying it for the craic, know what I mean? And if I started a book, I know for a fact I’d never finish it – because the way that I read books, I start them and never finish them. So why would I finish one that I was writing? I don’t think so. Unless someone was going to offer me a shitload of money, I reckon then I might consider it.”

For now his main focus remains the music.

“And I know what they’re gonna be,” he nods.

“This one was always gonna be a traditional High Flying Birds album; the next one is gonna be acoustic, and the one after that is gonna be stadium rock,” he says, nodding firmly as he takes another sip of water. “A computer will do it first, though; AI will probably fuckin’ get there before me.”

Source: The Irish Times

Photo: Getty