Interview: Noel Gallagher, singer, songwriter

ONE of Noel Gallagher’s chief assets, apart from both an ability to write stadium-rousing anthems and a knack for entertaining us with razor-sharp verbal volleys, is his honesty. But still we had to be a little surprised when the former Oasis man said last week that he’s not really looking forward to the tour that brings him to the Usher Hall tonight.

“I wouldn’t say I was excited. I’m not excited about anything, really, except the Manchester derby,” he said, referring to Man City’s clash with Man United last weekend [City spanked their rivals 6-1, which no doubt delighted the diehard Sky Blues fan].

“‘Ready’ is the word, I’d say. I’m ready for what’s about to happen, which is a lot of graft. I’m a level down from excited. If excited is green, then I’m definitely amber, but not red.”

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Perhaps the reason Gallagher is not so enamoured with his live dates stems from him not wanting Oasis to split in the first place.

“I never wanted to be a solo artist,” says the 44-year-old. “I loved being in Oasis, and if the band had stayed together, I would’ve been the happiest pig in the nicest pigpen. Unless I’d had this opportunity, it never would’ve happened.

“Oasis took up so much of everyone’s time, I would have had to make a solo album between Oasis records and tours - and I don’t think my wife [Edinburgh-born Sara Macdonald] would’ve been too happy if, after a two-year world tour, I’d come home and said ‘I’m off again, see you in a year’.”

Gallagher was so happy in Oasis that when he found himself sans band after falling out with brother Liam at the Rock en Seine music festival near Paris in 2009, their fight signalling the end of a band that had sold more than 70 million records and defined the music of the 90s, going solo didn’t seem the obvious thing to do at first.

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The man who penned classic songs like Live Forever, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova didn’t exactly panic when Liam gathered together the remaining members of Oasis and formed Beady Eye - though he does admit to a 10-month period of not really knowing what he was going to do next.

“When you’ve been in Oasis, there’s no point making another band,” he says. “They’d only get compared. If you’ve changed the world once, you can’t do it again. Not in your 40s.

“I thought the only noble path was to go solo,” he adds.

But the singer still needed a little prompting from his other half to get back into the recording studio.

“My wife said ‘You’ve got to do something, because you’re getting on my t*ts’ so I had to go out,” he recalls. “I really started to focus then. When I was sitting at home moping about, I just wanted to turn the clock back and sort Oasis out, but from the day I decided I had a record to make, I’ve never looked back.”

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And once he was back into the old routine, Gallagher found himself on a roll - recording not one but two solo albums at the same time - an as-yet-untitled second album is due next year.

Not all the songs on High Flying Birds are new, however. Two - Stop The Clocks and (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine - have been around for several years, often lined up to be included on past Oasis albums.

“They’re really good songs - too good to be left out - and if I don’t put them out now, when am I going to release them?” says Gallagher. “The rest of the songs are post-Oasis, although I was writing them while in the band. They’ve never been recorded, demoed or anything.”

High Flying Birds doesn’t see Gallagher trying to reinvent the wheel - it is no radical departure in style for the songwriter, and sounds a lot like Oasis.

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“I’m not one for wildly changing my musical hat every two minutes,” he says. “I’m not a musical chameleon, like Damon Albarn. Damon’s very adept, and can do anything. I’m not like that, although I sometimes wish I was. I’m quite happy with what I do.”

High Flying Birds entered the charts at number one on Sunday, selling significantly more than the debut album by Beady Eye. But despite the album’s success, Gallagher warns fans to make the most of it.

“I’ll be soon enough retired,” he says. “There’ll come a day when I don’t want to do it anymore.

“One day I’ll get up and think: ‘F*** this for a game of tennis – can’t be arsed.’”

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Usher Hall, Lothian Road, tonight, 6.30pm, returns only, 0131-228 1155