Bong! The train now standing at platform nine is the 11.10 to High Wycombe.
These days, the favoured mode of transport for Britain's biggest rock
and rollers is - much to the tabloids' amusement - neither supersonic
Limo nor chocolate brown Rolls Royce, but British Rail. Oasis have been
making the £9.60 return journey from Marylebone Station in London
to Huckingdon Farm in rural Buckinghamshire every day for the last few
months. In a converted farmhouse, away from the 'hassle' of the capital,
the band have been writing, recording and rehearsing their seventh album,
'Heathen Chemistry', the 'vibe' of which is, naturally, 'fucking rocking'."
morning, Noel Gallagher and guitarist Gem Archer are sole Oasis ambassadors.
Noel has dispensed with the services of Liam, Andy Bell and Alan White
for the week, on account of the fact that the sound at rehearsals for
their British tour was deemed not loud enough and, worse, they sounded
"like fucking Travis".
If I can't feel the wind from the amps making my trousers flap, then I'd
rather go fucking shopping," reasons Noel. the plan today, then,
is to play 'Heathen Chemistry' at ear-cracking volume and to discuss,
track by track the album that by official Oasis party line, will make
up for the pair of pigs' ears 'Be Here Now' and 'Standing On The Shoulder
Kitted out in Oasis-issue corduroy and feather cuts, Noel and gem kick
back in First class, untroubled by ticket collector or autograph hunter,
and hold court on the issues of the day. Good: the Doves, Richard Ashcroft,
Man City. Bad: polite-but-insecure Americans, The Beach Boys, insurance
companies. Really fucking excellent: Buckethead, the guitarist from Guns
N'Roses who performs with an upside-down Kentucky Fried Chicken container
over his head.
There's a more serious issue to debate, too. Although 'Heathen Chemistry'
is yours to buy in the shops from Monday (erm, get your facts right NME!)
it's been yours to download for nowt for the last two months. Internet
piracy is a problem that meets with the kind of indifferent shrug that
says, 'It's just the way things are' from Gallagher senior, but you suspect
he's rather more annoyed than that. Particularly when one smartarse wandered
up to him at a gig recently and presented him with a CD of the new album.
Has he heard it on the internet? "I don't need to. I wrote it,"
says Noel, accurately.
Huckingdon Farm is the size of Tesco and split into three play areas.
Kitchen at the front, rehearsal space at the back (set list: 'Heathen
Chemistry', 'Whatever (acoustic)', 'My Generation') and a lounge area
in the middle. Noel has taken out a five-year lease here and decorated
the farmyard as only a man whose home once included a Mod target-shaped
bath knows how. A RockOla jukebox here, Richard Avedon Beatles prints
there, vintage Isle Of Wight festival posters everywhere and a 'Never
Mind The Bollocks' clock. Tea and sandwiches are prepared, Benson &
Hedges are sparked up and we settle down to hear 'Heathen Chemistry'.
But there's a problem.
Noel: "Right, Gem, give us the album."
Gem: "I haven't brought it with me."
Noel: "Well, I've given all my copies away."
fact, the only Oasis album to be found in Huckingdon Farm is 'Be Here
Now'. "We're not listening to that," says Noel. "That's
really fucking poor. We come up here to hear the album and nobody's brought
it with them." NME has obviously heard it. Have we got a copy with
us? Erm, no. It's on the desktop at home, downloaded off the internet.
Fortunately, like Noel says, he wrote it, and he can remember how it goes.
This was supposed to come out in October 2001 wasn't it?
Noel: "It's the first time I've ever sat down and gone, 'Right, I'm
going to write a Number One single.' We'd recorded it, mixed it, mastered
it, done the artwork and I got up every day and said, 'I don't like it.'
Liam, the woman he is, goes fucking apeshit. 'You're off your head! You're
smoking too much fucking pot! I'm not going to fucking speak to you, you
fucking dick!' and slams the phone down. I thought, 'If I put that out
now it's going to kill me for the rest off me fucking life. It's going
to be 'Be Here Now' syndrome when I should have taken more time to write
the lyrics.' That's why that record annoys me so much."
The original lyrics were: "There's no love in this shotgun town/What
you believe is not fair/When you leave/Yeah, the world won't care".
Noel: "I must have been in a fucking bad mood that day. That's far
too bitter for me. I said to him (Gem), 'I'm going to change the lyrics.'
And you was going, 'Yeah, it's got to sound like the most Oasis-sounding
You have written some dodgy lyrics in the past.
Noel: "I think the stock standard attitude to Oasis on the past has
been, 'Great tunes, shit lyrics.' But I could pick apart every single
line of every single song and tell you what it's about. (Thinks) Eminem
writing an album solely about his ex-wife and his mother...look man, fucking
get over it. Why don't you write about something real? Thom Yorke. Hey,
the ice age is not coming. You fucking miserable c---."
Noel: "This was supposed to be the first single. It started off with
a sample from 'Nightclubbing' by Iggy Pop. I only sung it once. Liam went
in there and sung it (then listened to my demo) and said, 'That's one
of the best fooking vocals I've ever heard.' And I was like, 'Cool. Well,
that scuppers the plan for the first single then.'"
Aren't you allowed to sing on Oasis singles these days?
Noel: "I don't like singing at all. I only started doing a couple
of acoustic songs in the middle of the set to give Liam a break for his
voice. In America it used to go down a fucking storm. I come back to England
thinking, 'I'm having a bit of this', Bob Dylan, you know. Then I read
the reviews and I was going, 'Actually, it would be a bit shit to see
one of the best bands ever and the ugly one comes on and goes, "(Mr.
Bean voice) Hello, I'm going to sing you a song now".'"
There's been speculation that the line, "It's all over town/That
the sun's going down/On your easy life" is about Meg.
Noel: "That song and 'Little By Little' were written for a film in
'98 - when I was married - called Love, Honour & Obey. It didn't get
used because I didn't finish it. But of course the story about it being
about your ex-wife is quite titillating."
The film wasn't very good.
Noel: "It's fucking awful. Straight to video."
IN A BAD PLACE
Noel: "When I hear it I think of Tarzan for some reason. I think
it's the 'Swing through trees' line... (to Gem) What's the lyric?"
Gem: "'I can sing to the trees/With Tarzan on harmonies'."
Noel: "(Peeved) On right... I never quite got it. I wish we'd put
the fucking lyrics on the fucking album now. Bollocks."
CRYING YOUR HEART OUT
Noel: "A friend of mine was going through a pretty bad time with
his kids and I sort of wrote it with him in mind. We got Will Malone (Massive
Attack, Faithless arranger) in to do the strings and we played it to him
for the first time and he said, 'One word: gold.' I hope it does for us
what 'Don't Look Back In Anger' did. It's now going to be the next single.
That's the good thing about (this album) being leaked. When the reviews
started coming in, that song got ten out of ten everywhere. I didn't want
it as a single because I thought, 'We'd done all that before', but everyone's
going, 'You're fucking mad.'"
Gem: "Liam wrote the whole lot. We were in here and it was like,
'What's that fucking Beatles song. '(Sings) Oh, I could've known better
what a girl should be..."
Noel: "It was sounding like a 1964 'Love Me Do' vibe, all mouth organs
until I said, 'You know what? It aint fucking working' and Liam was like,
'What do you mean it's not working?' I said, 'Give me half an hour, go
to the fucking chippy or summat.' It was like, 'Stop, take all the electric
guitars off, take all the drums off.' They all fucked off for half an
hour and they come back and went, 'Ah! Acoustic rock.'"
How does Liam write all these songs then?
Noel: "Dunno. Don't want to know. I don't know whether he pinches
them or if he completely makes them up. I love it when Liam comes in and
goes, 'You know when you go from that chord to that chord? What shall
I do next?' And it's like, 'Youngster, sit down. Let me fucking tell you,
man.' He done about 11 for the album and eight were shocking and three
were good. He's got this one song which mentions every Oasis single. It's
fucking rubbish. It starts off with a little shuffly tune and it goes
'(Mike Flowers Pops voice) Some people say that you were fading away/Well/Whatever!'
Fucking hell! If that ever goes on a record with my fucking name on the
front, I'll stab myself under the chin with a fucking ice pick. I was
listening to it going, 'Fucking dick!' But he loves it. I had to pull
rank and go, 'No. Absolutely fucking not.' '(Really going for it) You
say you're gonna live forever...!!'"
What happened to your solo record?
Noel: "There's no point now. See, that was said around the time of
the last tour. Liam was on my case 24 hours a day, he was doing my head
in. Bonehead and Guigs has left. Creation had collapsed and it was like,
'Well, is there any fucking future' But as soon as we started making the
record, all I can see now is another ten Oasis albums. I've got a lot
of stuff on cassette that are just not Oasis songs, you know, all quite
folk. They're quite good. Saying that, if they were brilliant I would
have used them already. People sat, 'You should give 'em to your fucking
publisher or something' but I don't want Ronan Keating singing one of
my songs. I'd rather set fire to myself."
This sounds like a Liam anthem. Why doesn't he sing it?
Noel: "It's a shame 'cos that would have made it extra, extra special.
When it came to him (recording the vocals) you could see he was going,
'I'm not going to fucking get it.' And we were all willing him to get
it. I went in and did a version and you could see he was sat at the desk
going, 'Fucking bastard. He's got it.' But he doesn't want to do anything
that's shit. This album, all of it had to be the bollocks. All of it had
to be worthy of us fucking carrying on making records. This is a contender
for the third single. 'True perfection has to be imperfect'. I love that
line. I think it's very Zen Buddhist; I must have been smoking pot that
So is pot now the Oasis drug of choice? When did you last take cocaine?
Noel: (Immediately) Four years ago. During the Italy vs Germany game in
the last World Cup. Ten past two in the afternoon. I went to the kitchen,
straight out of bed, hair all over the place, got a can of lager out the
fridge, chopped a fucking line out and at that point I thought, 'What
am I fucking doing?' I worked myself into such a fucking state that I
just phoned a doctor and said, 'Please man, just give me something' and
he said, 'I can't give you anything, just stop doing it.' From that day
I never touched drugs."
You're quite proud that you didn't end up in a private hospital.
Noel: "Can you imagine? Walking through The Priory and seeing fucking
Robbie Wilson (sic), coming the other way in a fucking dressing gown?
That's enough to drive you to heroin! For a while after that I was addicted
to prescription drugs 'cos they give you things that make you feel calm
and all that. It was harder coming off them than anything else. That's
what 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' was written on. I was on downers
reflecting on my drug past and thinking, 'Well, I'm still addicted to
What prescription drugs were you taking?
Noel: "Valium and all that stuff. Just to fucking calm you down and
space you out. 'Cos I had panic attacks for a long time. And every time
I'd get one - which was quite regular - I'd just take a couple of tablets
and then it'd be cool."
Why do pop stars take cocaine?
Noel: "I did drugs because it made me feel superhuman. People say
to me, 'Well, do you regret it?' and I think, 'No man, because I could
tell you the greatest stories known to fucking man what took place in
my kitchen about people that you would think, "Well I fucking never".'
I had 'em all in my house and I've got shit on everybody in fucking London.
And I tell you this, man, they'd better hope the fucking album doesn't
stiff because if I ever have to write a book to keep the fucking wolf
from the door, man, there's gonna be a lot of people going to fucking
So how much money were you spending each week?
Noel: "Erm, right (starts too add up). Seriously and honestly, I'm
not going to tell 'cos I'm not going to give the little fucking knobhead
from The Sun the chance to write 'as he boasted about his drug habit'.
But it was a lot of fucking money. And I spent a lot of money buying stupid
fucking things while I was on drugs. Fur coats, cars...I've got a fucking
fleet full of cars. I've never learned to drive in my life. Then after
that (it was hard) being socially active with the people I hung around
with when I was sober and straight. I'd go out with them and think, 'Actually,
I don't like you. And I don't want to insult you so I'm just not going
to call you anymore.' It was a good experience. But I wouldn't like to
do it again."
Gem: "It's never been my bag, man. If you're on about the other stuff,
the softer stuff, then the last time I smoked was last night. You know,
but to me that..."
Noel: "...having a smoke is not even drugs, is it? Now that is like
having a cup of tea. (Shouting) You fucking c--- from The Sun, print that!"
Gem: "I'm waiting for them to fucking bring out 'F'. See what that
Noel: "If another new drug comes along next year, I swear to you
right now I am first in fucking line. 'Ave it! Drugs are...they're just
part of growing up. You've got to do them."
Gem: "This was a period when there was a lot of acoustic guitar happening
before and after gigs. We had a big, long journey over the Alps and me
and Andy just played guitar for about five hours."
ALL IN THE MIND
Liam does some very convincing John Lennon impressions on this album.
Noel: "I don't think he sounds like Lennon at all. I think he sounds
more like Johnny Rotten."
Gem: "Me too. I think that's really lazy."
Come on, 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' sounds exactly like Lennon's 'Mind
Games'. It's like Stars In Their Eyes.
Noel: "His delivery is more like Lennon than his voice. I tell you
what, if John Lennon sounded as good as Liam does on his fucking day he'd
be a ten times better singer than he was. But going back to that song...it
lended itself to Beatles psychedelia. So we wrote quite a vague psychedelic
(lyric) about 'hearing people smile' and all that."
Noel: "It took around 40 minutes to record. The chords go round and
round and round. I was living in a hotel room and I had a new girlfriend
and...you know. It's about being really, really happy on a Sunday morning.
I'm chuffed with the lyrics. It's the only one I insisted on singing on.
When Johhny Marr heard it he said, 'That sounds like it took you five
minutes to write.'" That was a bit rude.
Noel: "No, it's a compliment. When songs pour out of you like that.
Then Liam accused me of nicking his arrangement from 'Songbird', not realising
it was written, recorded and arranged six months before. 'You fucking
nicked that.' 'Fuck off!'"
What does Sara make of it?
"I showed her the words and she went, 'Play it to me.' I actually
wished I'd never been given the gift to play the guitar cos I was like,
'I'd rather not if it's all the same to you.' So I had to play it to her
with my back turned. It's the one song on the album I really don't give
a fuck what people think about it. It means so much to me. And I'll always
remember that day."
ON A DIFFERENT CLOUD
Gem: "Liam calls it 'A Manc Odyssey'. Liam's got this thing about
his drinking. That were the sailors and we're coming into port. I think
in his head that's how it sounds. 'I can see this huge galleon in the
sky sailing the sea of fucking booze.'"
Noel: "To quote himself, he does drink like a God. And he drinks
everything. 'What have you been drinking?' 'All of it.'"
Are you going to let him get his guitar on stage?
Noel: "I'll break his legs. Simple as that. If he ever, ever, ever
has any aspirations to pick up a Telecaster onstage I'll walk off. Tambourine
and fucking sunglasses. That's all you're having in your hands. You're
not playing guitar in my band."
Who looks good to you in music right now?
Noel: "Kids in leather jackets and guitars...The Hives look fucking
mega. It's better than that cocksucker from Placebo and idiots thrashing
about the stage going on about how they want kill their grandparents.
These nu-metal cocksuckers - fucking dicks. So, The Strokes, Soundtrack,
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club...take them out of the equation, what else
is there? Fuck all. (Disgusted) Starsailor. They're fucking outrageously
average. Daddy was an alcoholic? So fucking what? My dad beat the shit
out of me but I sang about living forever. You fucking cock."
And what about Coldplay?
"I like Coldplay. He looks like he means it. I don't know why McGee
got into that, saying they make music for bedwetters. He wants to go back
and check his fucking back catalogue before Oasis came along. You know,
18 Wheeler? BMX Bandits? His band, Biff Bang Pow? For fucking crying out
And what's on Liam's stereo right now?
Noel: "The Beatles. It can be quite suffocating. He doesn't like
The Strokes, but the only thing Liam doesn't like about The Strokes is
that he's not in them. He's not having The Hives, The White Stripes..."
Gem: "He's asked me about eight times, 'Have they not got a bassist?'"
Noel: "'Nah no bass player.'
"'(Impersonating Liam) So who's in it then?'
"'Well it's the guy and his sister.'
"'Right. So who plays bass then?'
"'Well, no-one. She plays drums.'
"'A girl plays the drums? But who sings?'
"'Well, the guy. And he plays guitar.'
"'What? Alright, but does she play bass at the same time?'
"'No. THEY HAVEN'T GOT A FUCKING BASS PLAYER!'
"'That's fucking stupid, that is.'
"'But The Doors never had a bass player.'
"'Who didn't? Fuck off! Who played bass then?'
"'I'm not fucking having that!'""
Gem: "Liam had these two chords and I think he was going to keep
it acoustic. But we plugged in and he went, 'That's it.' We cut it live.
I've got this photo of us doing it. Everyone in a line..."
Noel: "...Him and Johhny (Marr) on guitar, Andy on bass. It was really
hard for me to find a bit in the fucking song. You don't want three guitarists
on a track, so I got me drumkit out and bashed it out. Fucking great.
I was playing my Ringo drumkit with a Beatles drumskin. George Harrison
had just died."
You're definitely happy with this album, then? You're going to come back
in six months' time and say, 'Actually, 'Better Man' is a bit rubbish'?
Noel: "No, not at all. Anyway, I didn't write 'Better Man'. I'm 100
per cent that this is the second best record I've ever made. You've got
to grant me some honesty; even with 'Be Here Now' when I got doorstepped
outside Abbey Road and someone said, 'What's it like?', I said, 'It's
pub rock, man.' I won't lie to people. Everyone's got a 'Be Here Now'
Where's it all going to end?
Noel: "We don't have a concept for the band. It'll just happen. And
if it takes four years for the next record, then fine. But we won't put
out another shit album. That's for sure. There won't be a 'Be Here Now'
scenario, where it's like, 'Let's put an album out because everyone thinks
we're going to split up. Give us two weeks!' Those days are over."