"That,” says Noel Gallagher, thrusting his index finger accusingly in the direction of a stray banana skin, “would not last 10 f*cking seconds on my tour bus.”
It’s not that the former Oasis man has an irrational fear of slapstick comedy. He’s just — ShortList is startled to discover — something of a neat freak. His aversion to mess isn’t the only surprising revelation that emerges during the afternoon we spend with the older Gallagher brother. Sat with our Dictaphone perched precariously on his kneecap following an exclusive ShortList photoshoot, Noel is cheerfully letting fly on every subject under the sun, from his new solo project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, to his distaste for politicians and his late-night lightsaber duels…
You’ve said recently that you’re apprehensive about performing live as a solo artist. Why is that?
I know I can do it — I’m just anxious about what people will expect. It’s inevitably going to be compared to Oasis and I don’t mind that, but Oasis had two frontmen, me and Liam, and now there’s just one. And I’m not really a frontman — I’m a backing vocalist. At Oasis gigs, I would sing one in every six songs — to give Liam’s voice a rest, the poor flower — and that was always a nice change. I just hope people are prepared for me singing for an hour and a half. But I’m trying to get it out of everyone’s heads that I left the band to ‘go solo’. That’s not my preferred explanation for why I’m doing this.
What is your preferred explanation?
I’ve got f*ck all better to do. Seriously, I don’t see it as a career. I’ve never wanted to be a solo artist — I’d still rather be in a band. But you can’t start another band after you’ve been in Oasis. What’s the point? It’s just f*cking ludicrous. I’m doing this because I’m a songwriter and I make records. I’m not going out there to prove anything to anybody.
Liam told ShortList that when people hear your new material, “there’ll be one thing missing — me”. How do you respond to that?
If I was playing live and singing Rock’N’Roll Star and Some Might Say, then people would be thinking, “There’s something missing.” But I’m not — I’m only singing the songs I’m famous for singing. And if people do miss Liam, I’ll bring a little cardboard cut-out of him — a tiny, dwarf-sized one — put a spotlight on it and go, “There he is. Remember him?”
So an Oasis reunion is still the furthest thing from your mind right now?
Liam has said he’d never do it, so I don’t need to add anything more to that.
Have you been working on honing your ‘frontman’ skills?
Well, I’m rooted to the spot because I play guitar. So I won’t be busting any moves on the mic [laughs]. And I hate audience participation in any form. I cringe when I see these bands doing all that “Everybody over here get your hands up!” sh*t. F*ck off. I’m not arsed where I am or even why you lot [the audience] are here. I’ve made a record, you’ve come to see me play it live. The end. Now buy a T-shirt on the way out and f*ck off.
Did you get other bands trying to recruit you after Oasis split? There were rumours that Kasabian asked you to join…
No, that’s nonsense, and I would’ve joined that band in a heartbeat, by the way. But they never asked. I never really got calls off anyone. I never had Bono phoning me, saying, “I’ve always thought The Edge could do with some back-up.” [Laughs] So, if you’re reading this and you’re in a band that sells in excess of 15 to 20 million albums and you need a rhythm guitarist, then… [Coughs and points to himself]. I do interviews, the odd photoshoot, I’m a good laugh and I run a tight tour bus. There you go [laughs].
Have you seen Beady Eye perform live yet?
I’ve seen them on telly. I couldn’t walk into one of their gigs, though, could I? I’d just get f*cking hassled.
Do you feel that you’ve got more freedom to experiment now you’re on your own?
I don’t know. I mean, I’m not one for hearing a Trojan Records 7in and suddenly thinking, “Right, it’s reggae time.” I make music that comes from my soul. I’m not like Damon Albarn, who can seemingly turn his hand to any f*cking thing he wants to. I have certain parameters.
You’re not planning a gangsta rap reinvention any time, then?
[Laughs] Well, you never know. I’ve always thought there was a bit of gangsta sh*t to my music, and what better time to go gangsta than when you’re 44 years old? [Laughs] I could give Dizzee Rascal a run for his f*cking money.
You mentioned Damon Albarn — have you seen him since the days of your Britpop feud?
Funnily enough, when I was out last night, I bumped into him. I literally haven’t seen the guy for 15 f*cking years and I bump into him in some club. We both went, “Hey! F*cking hell!” and then he said, “Come on, let’s go for a beer.” So, we’re sitting there, having a beer, just going, “What the f*ck was all that about 15 years ago? That was mental.” Then he said, “It was a great time, though,” and I was like, “Yeah, it was a f*cking good laugh.” It was cool, man.
So, there was no animosity between you? You’ve exchanged some harsh words over the years…
Look, like I said to him last night, you can say that you respect someone as an artist a thousand times and it will never get reported. But you call someone a c*nt once… you know? And it still rings true today. I lose count of the number of times I’ve had to say about Jay-Z, “Look, hang on a minute here…” and it never gets f*cking printed. But I don’t mind. I can live with that.
What’s your wildest memory of those early years of fame?
Ewan McGregor was my neighbour, right, and he came round my house the night he got the part of Obi-Wan Kenobi. I just happened to have two of those lightsaber toys, so I said, “Come on — in the back garden.” And we had a f*cking lightsaber fight. His first Jedi training session was with yours truly in my back garden at eight in the morning.
That’s brilliant. But we were expecting an answer about drugs and booze, rather than lightsabers…
Oh, I can give you those anecdotes as well. But to me, having all those actors and fashion people round my house, hoofing up mountains of gear… I never took it seriously. I just thought, “This is a f*cking ball.” I remember one night round mine, mountains of drugs everywhere, and a bloke came round to deliver a load of pizzas. We kept him there for hours [laughs]. We were like, “Come on, one more drink!” He had the f*cking greatest night ever. I thoroughly enjoyed those days, but then, one day in 1998, I said, “Everybody out.” And that was it. It was a moment of clarity. You can’t keep having the same f*cking conversation in your kitchen about the Pyramids and David Icke and all that sh*t. Imagine if I was 44and still turning up here like f*cking Pete Doherty. I wouldn’t have much respect for myself.
As a Manchester City fan, are you enjoying the antics of Mario Balotelli?
I absolutely love him. Football needs players like him because most footballers are basically squares, and he’s not. He’s got something about him. He’s a total f*cking rock’n’roller. His hairdo is unbelievable. I love him and if I ever meet him, I’ll kiss him. On the f*cking face.
Did you give Russell Brand some stick when West Ham got relegated last season?
Of course. I’m good at kicking a man when he’s down [laughs]. I’m constantly on the phone to Russell, saying, “We’re away at Chelsea today. Who are you playing? Oh, yeah, that’s right — f*cking Newport.”
You’ve just started getting the Tube in London — do you get hassled by fans?
I see the odd cameraphone coming out. And I always get this: “Excuse me, mate, are you Liam Gallagher?” F*ck’s sake. Sometimes, even when they ask me, I say no, and they’re like, “You don’t half look like him.” For all you budding famous people out there, the key is to keep a straight face. “Are you Noel Gallagher, mate?” “Nope.” “Are you sure?” “Yep.”
Do you ever get people pleading with you to reform Oasis?
I get people who say, “You should really make up with your brother.” I go, “Why’s that?” “For your mother’s sake.” What the f*ck’s it got to do with her? You don’t know Liam, you don’t know me, so f*ck off.
Liam’s got his Pretty Green clothing line — do you have any non-musical projects in the pipeline?
No, because I really enjoy my spare time. And I’ve got three kids. I can’t be coming off tour after two years and then leaving again a week later, saying, “I’ve got to go to Sri Lanka to source material for some socks I’m designing.” There’s football to watch. I’ve got my first ever pet — a cat. I’ve got to get to know this cat.
What’s the cat called?
Well, I didn’t name him. Let’s get that straight. My four-year-old named him Boots. Not after the chemist, obviously. Although, if he’d named him Superdrug, that would’ve been f*cking brilliant. Anyway, I don’t know why he’s called Boots and I didn’t think I’d like him, but I f*cking love this cat. I f*cking love him. I keep telling him, “I f*cking love you.”
You famously visited 10 Downing Street in the Nineties. What are your thoughts on the coalition?
This lot now — Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems — they’re all the same, all full of sh*t. They’ve got nothing to offer any more. Particularly with this financial crisis that they oversaw and won’t do anything about. I wasn’t even going to vote in the last election, but I looked down the list [of candidates] and there was a guy standing for The Pirate Party. His manifesto was, “Everyone should dress like a pirate,” and I thought, “You know what? The world would be a better f*cking place if everyone dressed like a pirate.” Because, really, is there anything cooler than a pirate? Keith Richards is one and that’ll f*cking do me.
You recently turned down the opportunity to be an X Factor judge. Was there any part of you that was a little bit tempted?
If they’d asked me to do one show, I might have done it. Just so I could put everybody through — every midget, dwarf, obese f*ckwit, the lot — to the next round. “You’ve all got the f*cking X Factor!” [Laughs] But they wanted me for the full series, and I was like, “You mean I’d have them coming round my house?” No way. I’d have people crying on my couch while I’m telling them, [adopts serious, sombre voice] “It’s been the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make — the Knebworth set list was nothing on this — but… [dramatic pause] You’re in my final four! Now, go and my mow my lawn, you fat c*nt.” [Laughs]
How did Simon Cowell try to sell the role to you?
He called me up personally and said, “We need an alpha male.” But I just told him, “You do not want me on that f*cking show, mate.” Simon’s all right, you know. I tell people that and they’re horrified, but it’s true. If the music business was full of people like him, it would be a better place because he’s real — he’s not a bullsh*tter. He’s not pretending he’s going home every night listening to The White Stripes. I know people in the music business who are pretending to do that, and it’s like, “You’re into f*cking Hall & Oates. F*ck off.”
Your 11-year-old daughter must have been mortified that you turned down Cowell’s offer…
Oh, she went ballistic. “Why won’t you do it, Dad? Why?” We were watching it the other night, and some f*cking idiot was on, crying and that, and I said, “She’s sh*t.” My daughter said, “Well, if you were on the panel, you could’ve told her that, couldn’t you? But no. Too cool for The X Factor, aren’t you, Dad?” [Laughs] I was like, “Aren’t you supposed to be in f*cking bed?”
How do you think Gary Barlow’s doing?
He’s all right. I’ve met him a few times, and he’s a good lad. And it is a good show. Anyone who says they don’t watch it is a bullsh*tter. I know for a fact that Paul Weller watches it.
He told you that?
We’ve never spoken about it, but his daughter told my daughter that he watches it with her. That’s f*cking interesting, isn’t it? The ‘Modfather’ sitting around watching The X Factor. It’s an endearing image, that [laughs].
Are you a fan of Lady Gaga?
I’ve had her album on round my house. My 11-year-old daughter’s bang into her, but it’s not for me, is it? A bird dressed in a suit made of meat? I’m 44 — I’m not supposed to get that. I’m sure she’s not beavering away in a Manhattan loft right now, thinking, “I’ve got to f*cking turn these 44-year-old dads on to some crazy sh*t.” I’ve got nothing against her, though. She’s not as good as Madonna, but then not many people are.
Have you had any similar offers from other TV shows? You haven’t been asked on I’m A Celebrity… or anything?
If I have, it hasn’t got back to me. But if I was a washed-up celebrity and I needed £60k in a hurry, I’d f*cking do it. I wouldn’t be shy about it — I’d say, “I’m here because I’m f*cking skint.” Luckily for me, I’m not skint. But if Oasis hadn’t been as successful — if we were the equivalent of Razorlight, or someone — I’d do it in a f*cking heartbeat. If you can make £60k by hanging out in a jungle, why not?
Well, you’d probably have to eat a kangaroo’s penis at some point…
That’s all right. We’ve all had a kangaroo’s c*ck in our mouth. We’ve all been to that after-show party [laughs].
Finally, did you apply for any 2012 Olympics tickets?
No, my friends at adidas will sort me out. I wouldn’t mind taking the kids to the opening ceremony. That will be spectacular. Other than that, the 100m final could be good. Usain Bolt will smash it.
Bolt’s a big Manchester United fan, of course…
Yeah. Well, there’s a little bit of c*nt in everyone, I suppose [laughs].
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is out now
(Photography: Paul Stuart)