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* interview with gem and noel *

After a two-year hiatus a re-charged Oasis are returning to the arena. Now more rock establishment than naughty new-boys of Brit-pop, group leader Noel Gallagher and freshman Gem Archer want the world to know they're here for good...

Oasis will be huge again. It's been two years since Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants limped off, licking its wounds amid the disarray of two band members quitting as drink, drugs and sibling feuds ruled the day. And it's a stronger, much hungrier Noel Gallagher who confronts Guitarist at his farm studio in the Buckinghamshire countryside. Noel's new musical soulmate is Gem Archer, frontman of nineties cult heroes Heavy Stereo and replacement for unhappy rhythm guitarist Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs. Paul 'Guigsy' McGuigan's place has been taken by ex-Ride and Hurricane #1 guitarist-turned-bass-player Andy Bell.

These two players' writing skills and inventive musicianship are already proving invaluable to the new line-up. Andy and Gem, who joins us today, are sounding boards to the revitalised Noel, who's visibly at ease with the new situation, seems ecstatic about the group's new album and looks happy to give us two-and-a-half hours of his time. Mind you. the lad from Burnage in Lancashire is a self-confessed guitar nut. He's spent the past two years practising and he brims with new-found confidence.

His favourite instruments are readied for our inspection by longtime tech Jason Rhodes as the test of many jugs of Typhon is trolleyed in. Noel and Gem enter the room and I smile politely: "Hi, I'm Neville from Guitarist." Gallagher grins back: "And I'm Noel from Oasis "

It looks like the band is back with a vengeance...
Noel: Well, Liam certainly is. The single's pretty rocking. We haven't got a producer this time; we've done it ourselves. So the album contains no influences other than from the people who were in the band. Me and Gem spent the most time working on the record, so it's very guitar-orientated.

People didn't really know what to expect after Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. But on the first play of The Hindu Times there was a collective sigh of relief...
Noel: Whatever you call it, be it your mojo or whatever, it did go away for a long time. I think with all the pressure being on me to write all the songs... out of the 16 songs I'd write, six would be really good and 10 would be like, Well, we'll work on it. This time I only wrote six, so I didn't get the chance to write any shit ones. So Liam gives his best, I give my best, Andy gives his best and Gem gives his best. There's no fat there I don't think.
I don't think we've anything left to prove to other people, only to ourselves. You know, are we going to be any good with two new people? I'm just glad that, like you say, when people did hear the new single there was this collective sigh of relief.

Did the Hindu Times come from that one guitar riff?
Noel: Yeah. I went into Black Market Music in San Francisco and bought a Coral sitar. The money had just started to come through and it was like, What's the most expensive thing in the shop? They were like, Hey man, you warns, get yourself one of these Coral sitars. It was some completely stupid amount of money, so I bought it and I remember going to the soundcheck and plugging it in and it sounded fucking disgraceful. I've never played it since, but I just started doing that riff on it and didn't do anything with it for years. Then we were doing one of Gem's songs and while they were moving a mike around or something, I just started playing that riff, and Gem said, What's that? It was an instrumental for months because I found that writing something to fill in the gaps but keeping the vibe of the riff, was quite difficult. We got there in the end though.

The Dynamic of the band must be so different now...
Noel: It's brilliant. Bonehead, Guigs and Liam, none of them were interested in writing or contributing any ideas. So it would always be me saying, You play that, you do this and you do that. So all the old albums were just my version of Oasis, if you like. Once Andy and Gem joined it was really nice to be able to go, What do you think of that? And have somebody say, That's bollocks, or, That's really good, or whatever. The single wouldn't have happened without Gem, simple as that; I would have just been playing that riff at soundchecks for the next 10 years, y'know.

Gem, were you ever nervous offering up your songs to the band?
Gem: I wouldn't say nervous. Every band I've ever played in I've always been the writer. I understand what it takes to write a song and get it from here to there. But anyway I think you've got to give people time and choose when you give your opinion. I try never to say, I like that or I hate that until I feel it's warranted. It's just an unspoken thing-it's a dynamic.
Noel: It seems really natural now and there are no highly charged situations where I have to order people about.


You have obvious respect for Gem...

Noel: I was a big Heavy Stereo fan. I used to go and watch them all the time - Weller and me went to see them at King's College and I think Chinese Burn is one of the greatest songs of the nineties. I loved the first four singles, but they really George Bested their album - the life was mixed out of it. Then Alan McGee at Creation got involved, thinking he knew how to chart a rock and roll band. But those first four singles just had that sound...
Gem: It's easy to say in retrospect, but I had this whole thing in my head, even the production, and here we are however many years later and everybody wants a bit of dirt on a record. Back then it was like, This'll never get on the radio, and I was like, Well that's not my problem. I'll stand by those singles forever. Stick them on at five in the morning when everybody's run out of things to play and suddenly you get a second wind.

Did Gem audition for the band?
Noel: No. Nobody had sprung to mind until a mate of mine said, What about that guy from Heavy Stereo? And I went, Fucking hell, of course! So I got his number and he just came down to the studio. Anyway, what's to audition? He was in one of my favourite bands.
Gem: This is the only band that I would ever leave mine for. I was, and still am, a huge Oasis fan and so to join was so stupid a concept that it seemed quite rational.
Noel: We were up a creek without a paddle. We had a world tour booked and Liam was freaking out. I was like, look, something will happen. If we don't get anybody we'll pull the tour. The main thing is to get the right person, not some guy who's going to put a denim jacket on, grow his hair for six months and then say, See you, at the end of it. We wanted to carry on the way we had always been, like a band.

Listening to the Hindu Times, your playing seems much more confident...
Noel: Well that's the key word - confidence. But it's also to do with the songs. If you've got a load of songs which you don't want to play it's a nightmare. But The Hindu Times is a guitar player's dream; it's three chords and you can play air guitar to it and all that. Actually, most of the tracks on the album are a guitar player's dream, whereas a lot of the stuff on Be Here Now and Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants was me playing guitar for the sake of it. But how could you not have fun playing this?

Your Vibrato seems a lot heavier...
Noel: Yeah, that seems to have come over the last couple of years. It's practice and being a lot more bothered. I used to think that the way I played was all I'd ever be capable of. I don't really know any chords and I don't know what the terms are for the things I play, but having time off and having guitars round the house and practicing lead guitar has really helped. Using heavier strings as well. Paul Stacey (Oasis engineer, keyboard player and monster guitarist - Ed) said, You want to get yourself some heavier strings. I said, Why? He said, They're fucking poof's strings. I had the lightest things I could get my hands on, so Strangeboy said, You want to get some 12s on there. For the first couple of months it was like, My fingers are sore! But he said, Yeah, but in six months' time you'll be bloody great and your fingers'll get stronger as well. Also, Les Pauls are the easiest guitars in the world to play, but when you get that semi-acoustic on you've got to sit down and rethink, because it's a different ball game. The fact that Alvin Lee played a 335 for all those years is amazing. Les Pauls are a piece of piss in comparison. Jimmy Page, man, you could do that with a bit of practice. It's easy (laughs). Don't quote me on that, by the way.

You say you don't know chords. But people call the E minor seventh with the two fingers at the third fret, the Oasis chord...
Noel: After Morning Glory came out, I was in Manchester and went into this guitar shop and there was a sign banning people from playing Wonderwall. When I walked in they all groaned, Fucking hell, man, do you realise how many times we've heard Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall over the last six months?

It's also said you helped save the British guitar industry...
Noel: Guitars weren't cool for a long time. Suede came along about six months before us, but 'the guitarist' sort of died after Johnny Marr. Then there was Bernard Butler and he was someone to admire. When I heard Animal Nitrate I went away and wrote Some Might Say the very next day, it was that inspiring. I wouldn't say I saved the guitar industry, but I made Epiphone a lot of money, that's for sure.

Though John Squire, and Johnny Marr are obvious influences, the way you craft a solo is reminiscent of George Harrison...
Noel: I think you can tell if a guitar player has written a song, as opposed to a songwriter. For example, Cast No Shadow doesn't need much guitar on it at all. Don't Look Back In Anger doesn't need much on it; that's because I'm a songwriter first. Of course I wish I could play like Jimi Hendrix, but then I wouldn't be where I want to be. It's all about where the guitars fit into the song, as opposed to fitting the song around the guitar parts.

Did you ever get to meet George?
Noel: I was at this party and this guy came up to me with two cans of Heineken and said, Want to share a beer? I was like, Okay. So we sat down and he said, You play guitar, don't you? I said, Yeah. He was going, Do you like Carl Perkins? I said, Well I don't really know much about him. We went on like this for a bit, then I looked up and it was like, Are you George Harrison? And he said, Yes. I was like, Fucking hell! After that I was completely speechless. I was okay until I knew who he was, then I was full of crap about The Beatles and The Stones, the sixties and all sorts. He just listened away...

Neil Young is another of your heroes. You both possess the ability to take four chords and create a memorable song.
Noel: I learnt so much by playing along to The Beatles and The Smiths. And I learnt it all on acoustic guitar - I didn't get an electric until I was 21. So my style is built around strumming and not really knowing what the chords are. Liam does that now.

Is he a decent player?
Noel: No, he's fucking rubbish. And the longer he remains rubbish the better he'll be. I think the less you know the more effective you are. You've got to work it all out for yourself. I was never taught a note by anybody. It was just me sitting down and working at it. That chord from Wonderwall, I don't know where it came from. I don't actually want to know what a suspended, augmented ninth is. I remember having an argument with Aimee Mann once. The bridge chord going into the chorus of Supersonic (C#7 - Ed); she said, You must have studied music to come up with that. I was like, What are you talking about? I was on the dole six months ago. Where am I going to get music theory lessons in Burnage?

Gem, who were your playing influences?
Gem: First it was The Beatles, for making me think that groups were where it was at. Guitar-wise, I keep revisiting Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols. It's just that hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck sort of feeling, that sounds easy but it's not. I was well into Brian Setzer for a while: I used to do Stray Cat Strut. Fantastic player.

You've been quoted as saying, Playing guitar is a human in harmony with a tree.
Noel: Oh yeah. Absolutely. There's a picture of one of the Chemical Brothers in today's NME at a live gig. Have a look at this. (Guitarist is shown a spread with Tom Rowland gurning whilst wrestling with a strap-on synthesiser). That's a guy holding a piece of plastic! You're not telling me you can get to that level of consciousness holding what, if you melted it down, would be a fucking picnic set! I'm not having that. But there's something so human about playing guitar. Its a plant that's been shaped. It blows my mind, especially acoustic guitars, when you get a good one. You try to explain it to people and they just say, Well, they all sound the same. That's what we're up against.


You say you don't like jamming...

Noel: I'm a songwriter, so I really don't understand jamming. I've actually hidden guitars when mates who play have come round. They'll be like, Have you got any guitars here then? Er, no, I haven't. Have you got any musical instruments at all? Nope, and there are no CDs and there's no CD player, and I haven't got any milk... or tea-bags. Shall we go to the pub? I still find it really embarrassing to sit down and throw shapes. I'll do a gig with anyone, but jamming... no. Gem: The best jam ever is Rattlesnake Shake - 25 minutes long. Brilliant!
Noel: This lot had never even heard Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. I had a compilation tape which I was playing on the bus in Italy, and on it was some Peter Green. Liam was like, What's that? I said, It's Fleetwood Mac. He was going, That's never Fleetwood Mac - he'd never heard 'proper' Fleetwood Mac before. But these 'Top 10 Guitarists' things on telly, Peter Green doesn't get a sniff, but he could piss all over them - his voice and his songs. I mean, Man Of The World - Liam was totally speechless when he first heard that. He absolutely loved it.

Did you know your solo on Live Forever was voted number 46 by Guitarist readers in our Top 100 solos ever?
Noel: Yeah, I did, and I'm fucking pleased with that! But the thing I'm most pleased with was in this American magazine - I've actually got it framed on a wall somewhere - I was voted the most over-rated guitarist of the millennium. Number one, in front of Eric Clapton, in the last thousand years! Shit, it doesn't get any better than that!