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
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.
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.
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 "
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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...
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!