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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Noel Gallagher: I didn't Really Learn To Sing Until 2005
Somewhat out of character for a Mancunian, Noel Gallagher is praying for rain. He's about to play the Big Day Out on the Gold Coast and figures that a sudden downpour, of which there have been several during the day, will send thousands of punters towards the shelter of his covered stage on the BDO site.
Rain ensues and, for whatever reason, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds pull good numbers and enjoy a warm response on what is their first gig on Australian soil, while hip-hop superstar Kanye West entertains the rain-soaked masses across the paddock.
That Gallagher, 44, should be nervous about pulling a crowd in Australia or anywhere else is a little surprising given his status. Rarely has that been a problem in the 19 years since he and his brother Liam emerged from Manchester and made their band Oasis one of the most successful on the planet.
That came to an end in August 2009, when, after a few failed attempts during its tempestuous tenure, Oasis finally broke up, Noel walking off stage in Paris vowing never to return. It was a bitter end to a sibling rivalry that over the years provoked as many headlines as the band's music.
The brothers still aren't talking, although Noel has no problem explaining his feelings about the break-up of the band that brought them untold wealth and fame.
"It wasn't relief," he says of the split; "actually it was a pain in the arse. It's like trying to learn a new skill when you're 43. Who wants to do that? We were all set in that band for life.
"But things happen for a reason. Being in a band is a compromise on so many levels and it's a great compromise because of what you accomplish in terms of size and scale, but they are compromises all the same and I'm not willing to do that any more."
This first solo project -- the Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds album released last October and a world tour that continues for most of this year -- is Gallagher taking control of his future, although by most people's accounts he was uncompromising, as chief songwriter and elder brother, in guiding Oasis's career.
Musically High Flying Birds isn't a huge departure from the anthemic pop of Oasis's Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger. There's still the familiar strain of the Beatles' influence on new songs The Death of You and Me, If I Had a Gun and AKA . . . What a Life!
But Gallagher points out that he took his time after Oasis plotting how to rise from the ashes under his own name. And he was quite prepared for it not to work.
"My first thought when I left Oasis was that 'I'm going to do f . .k all'," he says. "Everybody else would have put a band together and been out on the road again within six months."
Instead Gallagher laid up for a year, aside from a couple of charity performances at London's Royal Albert Hall and a guest spot on stage with his mate Paul Weller.
"When I was going into it I didn't announce what I was doing," he says of his return. "Not that I was doing it in secret, but I wasn't putting it out there that I was embarking on a musical journey. I just thought 'I'll make the record and if it's shit I'll can it and just disappear'."
Since its release the album has sold more than half a million copies in Britain alone, second only to Coldplay in album sales there last year. Reviews of the live performances have been favourable as well, including of the Gold Coast performance on Sunday and in Sydney the following night.
While songwriting is nothing new to him, being a frontman after years of mostly playing guitar and watching "our kid" do his petulant pout centre stage has been a steep learning curve.
"I didn't really learn to sing until 2005," he says. "People refer to me now as a singer-songwriter. I prefer to think of myself as a songwriter-singer. I don't think I'm a great singer or a great guitarist. In fact, I don't think I'm great at anything, but I am a good songwriter, good at lots of little things that make up who I am. So I'm great at being me. It's a good job, really."
Songwriting is definitely one of Gallagher's strongest suits. Flying solo post-Oasis produced 36 songs, only 10 of which made the album. Thirteen more will surface on another album project recorded with psychedelic outfit Amorphous Androgynous, to be released early next year.
"It's always been the same for me," he says. "I tend to have a lot of songs that are in various states and then when I get on the road I can finish them off.
"I write a lot of songs at irregular intervals. I don't have a set time for writing or a set room or anything like that, but I do tend to have a lot of material lying around. There's not a lot happening right now though, songwise."
While Gallagher dips freely into the Oasis catalogue in his new guise, there are some of his songs from that era to which he will never return. He mentions Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rock 'n' Roll Star, both from the band's debut album Definitely Maybe, which he says are too aligned with his brother's rock 'n' roll voice.
"Liam would want to do those songs, I would think," he says, "but I couldn't sing those songs. I couldn't do them justice. The only songs that I sing now from my back catalogue are the ones that I can do justice to.
"I'd love to be able to do a gig and get a crowd going, like Kasabian (English rockers also on the BDO bill), singing rock 'n' roll music, but I can't sing rock 'n' roll music. I don't have that kind of voice so I do other things. To get a crowd bouncing you have to have that kind of voice. My main aim is to get them to sing."
Judging by his performance, Gallagher is selling himself short a little here, but no matter what style he's using, he's happy with his new lot as the singer in the band.
"It has made me cut down on my partying, which I am not best pleased about," he says, not completely seriously. "Singing is good," he says. "It's like the feeling you get from taking drugs. It's addictive. I like it."
Singing is not the only reason there's not much room for the party lifestyle in the Gallagher household. He has three children, two with his wife, Sara MacDonald, and one from his earlier marriage to Meg Matthews. The most music he gets to listen to around the house these days is Lady Gaga, with the kids "running around the table going nuts". But he's still a music fan. It's just that his tastes haven't progressed much beyond the 1960s.
"I'm still an avid collector of 60s music," he says. "I haven't finished with the 60s yet to get on to the 70s, never mind contemporary music. I like the odd tune. Foster the People (also on the BDO bill) have a couple of good tunes and Kasabian, but I don't follow the new trends. I'm not interested in them."
Gallagher has no long-term plan for High Flying Birds or indeed for his career. After the Oasis experience he's a little older and wiser and less immersed in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle.
"My plan was to make a record because my wife insisted I got out of the house and stopped annoying her," he says. "That's the truth.
"I'm not sure what I'll do next, but that's the great thing about not being in a big rock band. I can do whatever I want. I'll let you know, though."
The Big Day Out continues today in Sydney, followed by Melbourne on Sunday, Adelaide February 3 and Perth February 5.
via L4e / Source: www.theaustralian.com.au
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