When Noel Gallagher clears his throat, it’s not simply a bodily function; it's a sardonic exclamation, the kind of thunder that precedes the shock of lightning.
Like all things the former Oasis chief does, it's to make a point, often with impeccable comic timing. In this case, he's doing it partly to regain his composure following a rare moment of sincerity whilst recalling a meeting with David Bowie, and partly to sterilize the air before hammering home his defining thesis on public life — a mantra that binds him with the greatest braggadocios of our generation: Kanye West and Donald Trump. A lineage, he assuredly boasts, of which he's quite proud.
"When the world is hanging on your every word then you have a duty to cause as much f--king trouble as possible," Gallagher says, pausing to let his words sink in. "When the world is not hanging on your every word, you have a duty to sit back, shut the f--k up and enjoy everything else.
"So I don't really care anymore."
This is Noel Gallagher in 2016. When we speak, he's days removed from his 49th birthday. And though the flesh may be getting older, the world has certainly not stopped hanging on his every word. In fact, two weeks after our chat, a few choice words from a previously published version of this very interview landed on the pages of several newspapers around the world: they involved calling the majority of the British public "thick as pig shit" in regards to the Brexit vote.
So maybe let's not hang up that world's last rock star plaque just yet.
Below, Gallagher, who is playing a trio of Canadian shows this week, discusses everything from his upcoming album to Oasis reunion rumours to his online war with roller skaters, while taking swipes at Jack White, Drake, Bieber and, of course, his brother Liam's inability to perform.
Let’s start things off light: Paul McCartney recently said Oasis’s biggest mistake was claiming you’d be bigger than the Beatles. Do you agree?
I'm not sure anybody, bar the singer, uttered those words. So probably Liam's biggest mistake. The press and Liam came up with the Beatles thing. Everybody knows Liam obsesses with John Lennon to an unhealthy degree. He even called one of his kids Lennon.
Unfortunately, people like that are not smart enough to realize what they're saying. Yeah, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to say. But hey, I don't give a f--k.
I'm used to it. I was used to it in my 20s. It's never really bothered me. That's why my hair's not gone grey. Sometimes I sit in my house and I'm looking 'round it thinking “I didn't do too f--king bad out of it.”
Sounds like wisdom born of age. Happy 49th birthday, by the way.
Thank you very much. Same as 48, really. The big one's coming up next year, innit?
Does that give you pause?
Am I worried? No no no no. I don't know what happens at 50. I guess you might get to some kind of crossroads. I didn't hit a crossroads at 40, nor did I hit one at 30, so maybe if I'm lucky I might now be entering the midlife crisis years. Hopefully because I've never had one and I quite fancy a model bike.
You’ve never owned a fancy vehicle?
No, I can't drive. I might get a tattoo on me 51st. The morning after I might get a tattoo or an earring.
A tattoo of what?
An earring. Or I might do something ridiculous like get into the Beach Boys.
How’s the new album coming along?
Finished half of it, I think. We've done six tracks, they're not mixed. I'd say they're all right. It's a very casual affair that's going on. We record it during breaks in tours and [producer and electronic musician] David [Holmes]'s film commitments. We've been at it for nearly two years and I think we've still only done about four weeks [of recording].
What’s taking so long?
Well, I'm f--king on tour and he's over in Hollywood or whatever on Earth he does when he's not working for me and then it's like, “Oh, I've got a week free are you around” and it's like, “No, I'm not, I'm in the f--king Gabon playing in the f--king jungle for someone.” And then you manage to cobble together a few days here and there.
David described the new music as ‘fun’ and 'big, bold and uptempo.' Is that a fair assessment?
I guess. It's difficult to talk about something when half of it's not been written yet. I can tell you it's not, thus far, an electronic record. That's all I'm willing to say about it.
"Liam calls people lots of things. One shouldn't take seriously the ramblings of a f--king buffoon."
Will you be playing any of it on your upcoming tour?
If you turn up during soundcheck you may hear a blast of it but I'm not playing it [in the set]. But if you hear anything that's big, bold and uptempo … probably it.
Since you don’t want to talk about your new music, what did you think of the new Stone Roses?
I heard it in [Stone Roses bassist] Mani's kitchen while Mani and his wife were staring at me intently — which was quite off-putting, I must say. But I thought it was f--king great, to be honest. I'm very pleased for them. Good for them. It sounds like them.
Sounds a bit like you.
Well we all come from the same pond.
The Roses had a documentary made about them, which seems to have spurred new music. And of course Oasis has a documentary coming out soon. Have you seen it?
Yeah, I've seen it.
Give us a review?
It's good. I think fans are gonna love it. Brought back a lot of funny memories and how big we were and what an impact we made on people's lives and blah, blah, blah and all that. I'm not sure if anybody's gonna f--king learn anything from it.
Well, we weren't very mysterious as a group. We kind of put it all out there, which was part of the appeal, I think. So I'm not sure anyone's gonna be walking away from the cinema going [imitates old lady] “F--kin' 'ell did you see that thing, I never knew that.” But it's difficult for me to say because I'm so close to it — because I'm in it. And I'm in it as a f--king 24-year-old or something. And I continue to be in it, albeit in an estranged manner.
Did it give you a perspective on your career?
Only the fact that it's so clearly pre-the digital age. You see footage of these humongous shows, there's not one mobile phone shown in the entire two hours. For my 16-year-old daughter, it blows her mind. You're looking at a sea of people and there's not a single camera phone so the fans are there, in the moment, with the band and the music and that's it. You see stadium gigs now and it's all people not in the moment.
So you agree with Jack White that phones should be banned at concerts?
I wouldn't be that fascist as to say you can't f--king bring a phone in here. That's a bit mad. But clearly I think things were better pre the digital age. The digital age has kickstarted the death of imagination.
I have to ask you to clear up something. Why did Liam call you a potato on Twitter? Was that an inside joke?
Liam calls people lots of things. One shouldn't take seriously the ramblings of a f--king buffoon. I have no idea, I guess you'd have to somehow get an interview with Liam. But as he's f--king retired I'm not sure that's going to happen any time soon.
Seems you’re the only one who can bring him out of retirement.
Yeah, probably. I'm sure that must hurt him as well.
Do you occasionally read what Liam writes on Twitter?
Twitter's for knobs tho, innit?
You prefer Instagram?
Not that it matters a shit. I used to do a tour blog, which, when I was writing it, was like being back at school — it won an award once, which is highly amusing. [When that ended] the people that run my digital stuff said, “You have to do something for the people on the internet or they'll f--king die” and I wanted to get out of doing it so my daughter said, “Why don't you get an Instagram account? You've only got to take a picture and put f--king two words underneath it.” It was like, “Well, you're a f--king genius just like your dad!”
I don't really take it that seriously.
Yet you still somehow managed to get into a fight with skateboarders, for some reason?
That was f--king brilliant. That might have been the best four or five hours I think I'd ever had in my life. When you get to my age, there's not a lot of things that can hold my attention or amuse me anymore, but that was funny. Who would have thought grown men dressed as teenage boys skating around on things that are supposed to be surf boards are racist, misogynist f--k wits? Who'd have thought that? Nobody would have thought that. Would you have thought that?!
Who needs drugs when you have trolling?
Indeed. But bless them, skaters. All skaters: ice skaters, roller skaters, hockey players. Bless 'em all.
You also posted a nice note when David Bowie died along with a picture of the two of you.
I recall being taken to meet him before one of his gigs at Wembley. I think I'd appreciate it more now. Not because he's dead but I don't know, I was in a different place when I was young. If I met him the week before he died I'd be speechless because he's David Bowie. In that picture I was obviously taking the piss of someone, probably Our Kid [Liam], which he found highly amusing. Which is understandable. I don't remember. I wish I could relive it now and tell him how much he meant to me, whereas back then I was probably saying “F--kin' 'ell, have you gotten our singer? What a knob.” But at least the picture is there and he's obviously finding what I'm saying highly amusing.
A photo posted by Noel Gallagher (@themightyi) on
Now that you’re a sagely old man, do you have young pop stars come up to you? Have Drake or Bieber been around backstage?
I wouldn't recognize either of those two. I'd recognize Kanye, I think.
Big Kanye West fan?
I like him. I think some of his music is good but I like him a lot because he's clearly otherworldly. When I see the odd interview you can see the bits where the lights come on. He'll start off quite seriously talking about his music and then he'll start talking about leather handbags for 14 minutes and how he invented ambience. And how they should ban the ocean. Shit like that. It's just like yeah man, I'm f--king with him. I'm with him all the way. F--k the ocean.
I’m feeling a bit of a passing-the-torch scenario here. Do you feel your days of spouting fire are through?
[Clears his throat loudly]
When the world is hanging on your every word then you have a duty to cause as much f--king trouble as possible. When the world is not hanging on your every word, you have a duty to sit back and shut the f--k up and enjoy everything else. So I don't really care anymore. I'm in the game to make records and please my wife.
Which camp would you put Donald Trump?
Doesn't Trump make you proud to be Canadian? I find Donald Trump f--king hilarious. Purely from somebody speaking from across the Atlantic it's an amazing thing to watch. I'm glad he's not running to be president of England but he is f--king funny, I'll give him that. To be honest though, if it's a toss up between Hillary and Trump, American politics is in a worse f--king place than ours.
Listen up no oasis reunion Rkids not into it I am hes to busy being beige new sounds on there way stay cool and most of all relevant LG x— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) July 1, 2016
I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t ask about an Oasis reunion. Liam’s into it, obviously.
I don't think there'll ever be an Oasis reunion. I'd do it for the money but I'm not sure the singer would be able to pull it off. He wasn't that good last time I played with him, d'ya know what I mean?
If you're gonna come back you've got to be at least f--king average. Now myself, I practise a lot so I'd be quite confident I could pull it off but the rest of them? They don't seem to be doing much these days.