Q&A with Noel Gallagher from Oasis

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Dig Out Your Soul, the seventh studio release by Oasis, marks a new role for Noel Gallagher, the band's figurative helmsman and one of its literal frontmen. Gallagher, who took on the role of producer for the band's previous studio outings, has handed complete production control over to Dave Sardy, opting instead to focus on songwriting, band camaraderie and drinking. According to Gallagher, it's a shift that's allowed for a more focused approach to the creative process. It's also allowed for more streamlined partying.

We recently spoke with Gallagher (excerpts of our conversation appear in Rough Mixes in the December 4 issue), and he detailed the recent shift, praising his new freedom to drink, the challenges of the latest tour and the progression of his brother, Liam, as a songwriter.

Westword (A.H. Goldstein): Can you talk to me a little bit about your new role on Dig Out Your Soul? I know that you stepped away from your previous role as a producer.


Noel Gallagher: Dave Sardy produced it. I was concentrating on being in the band. He wanted to make a modern psychedelic blues record, and I think in most of it, we kind of achieved it, really. I still think there's possibly a little more way to go with that sound.

We don't really have grand concepts when we go into the studio. We get in there, we write the songs before we go in, and we try and record them to the best of our ability.


WW: On that note, with the songs that you penned, including the first single, "The Shock of Lightning," was there any unique tone or dynamic you were going for? Did you pull on any different creative approaches this time -- seeing that you weren't burdened with producing duties?


NG: This is the first time we've ever not played an album live in the studio together. This is all virtually hung around a drum loop and a bass line, and then we just start and we build it from there. So we were trying to create it like you would create dance music.

We weren't really set on the arrangements. We had the songs, the words and the melodies. The rest of it was all up for grabs. Like, we'd put down a drum loop and then play the bass on top of that, and then the first thing we'd do is the keyboard, as opposed to doing the guitar. We used to put keyboards on last, but we did them on first this time. And if we didn't need any guitar, we didn't put them on -- just to get a different dynamic.


WW: Was the new process effective? Did it allow for new sounds and new textures to come out?


NG: Yeah, I think so. Like "Falling Down" and "To Be Where There's Life." They're kind of quite synth-heavy, I think, or Melotron-heavy.


WW: Speaking of letting the producing duty go, that started for you in 2005 with Don't Believe the Truth, right?


NG: I produced all my own songs on Don't Believe the Truth, and Dave Sardi produced all the rest. But this time, Dave produced everything.


WW: Was there any difficulty in getting used to that new dynamic and letting it go?

NG: I felt like I'd gone as far as I could with my own thing. I'm not really technically proficient in the studio. I know how to get one sound, and it's fucking great, but I've kind of gotten a bit bored of it now. 

It allowed me to focus more on drinking and kind of just being in the band, as opposed to being one foot in the band and one foot in the production team. But the main thing was the drinking.


WW: There was a personnel transition after the new album was completed. Zak Starkey left the band, to be replaced by former Robbie Williams drummer Chris Sharrock for the tour. Did that pose any challenges in placing the new material in a live context?


NG: Well, [Zak] quit. Actually, it wasn't as direct as that - he just said he couldn't really commit to being away from home on the tour for three years, because he had some personal problems. So we got a friend of ours who I've known for a while who we actually offered.... He should have been in the band last time, but I forgot to call him back. All things happen for a reason. I think, if I'm being honest, I think we've got a better drummer.


WW: The shift must have posed some acclimating, all the same. With the change in drummers and the longer recording process, did making the shift to a touring lifestyle take some getting used to?


NG: I don't mind the lifestyle. I've grown up with it. I was a roadie for many years before I joined a band anyway, so I'm used to it. I'm used to spending my summers touring around Europe playing gigs.


Number one, we had to break in a new drummer, and number two, we had to play songs off a new album that we'd never played before. It had all been done on the computer. So for the first few weeks, it was a bit - I gotta say, it was a bit shit, it was a bit, fucking, "Oh, my god, this isn't going to work."


Of course, the onus was on our keyboard player, and that in itself poses problems, and it all sounded a bit weird. But it clicked in the end.


But I like being on the road, you know. There's a lot of bullshit you put up with, just bullshit, but I love the traveling aspects - to see how the town that you've been to maybe twelve times in the last ten years has changed.


The airport thing is a bit of a fucking pain in the ass.


WW: The security part of it?


NG: You know, international terrorism and all that shit -- you've got to show up in the airport naked. But such is life, I guess. It doesn't take me long to get into the lifestyle of, you know, rock and roll and partying. That's what we live for, no?


WW: Is it difficult this time to be away from the baby?


NG: Yeah. But then at the end of this tour, I'll probably get to spend the year at home. So you've just got to be thankful for small miracles, I guess.


WW: I've read a quote from you where you said that after this tour, maybe you'd like to see the different bandmembers try their own projects. Why is that a direction you'd like to see the band take?


NG: I'd love that. I think it would be really good for everybody in the band, and I think it would be good for everybody who follows or has an interest in the band to see how the four parts make up the whole. We'd all have to agree on that, of course.


I would enjoy being in the studio on my own. Although this is still my band in a way, you've still got to roll things past everybody four times. So that in itself has been great, because there's the whole camaraderie, we're-in-it-together kind of thing, whereas before it all rested on my shoulders.


Sometimes you just kind of want to blaze your own trail. I have to stress, it would never be at the expense of Oasis, though. I would find a way to make both work or I wouldn't do it.


WW: Now that the band has made the transition from upstarts to established veterans with 15 years of experience, what sort of potential do you see for creative growth?


NG: It was a big thing for us to finish our record deal in England with Sony - we've gone on our own now, we've got our own label. That kind of frees you up. You can do whatever you want. We're not part of such a great big machine. But I never think about what I do if I'm doing it. I don't sit around and say, "Next year I'm going to really try and write some reggae music." That's not the way I work. I wouldn't like to do that.

I can't really try my hand at different types of music. I'm not that technically proficient. I do what I do.


WW: I wanted to get some feedback from you on Liam's progression as a songwriter. Do you think a song like "I'm Out of Time" on the new record points to progress on his part?


NG: Yeah, of course. The thing is, you haven't even have even heard the half of it; he's got loads of songs. He never finished anything, though. Never. We all had to finish loads for him.

I really like his songs on this album. I like "Soldier On" -- it's one of my favorites.


WW: Any cities in particular that you're looking forward to visiting when you're in the States?


NG: I like it all. When I first went to the States, I could only really stand New York, because it's like a big metropolis. I was too young to appreciate it. Now, as I get older, you kind of slow down and you're not in bed after a fucking hangover from the night before, you're kind of a bit like, I can appreciate the beauty of places in America. It's the only place in the world where you spend six weeks on the road. I love the scenery and the big sky.

I always think to myself, I must read that On the Road book by Jack Kerouac when I'm in America, but I never quite get around to it because I'm staring out the fucking window looking at clouds.

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