While countless nostalgic Britpop aficionados still yearn for the day when Oasis’s Gallagher brothers will once again share a stage — and even younger sibling Liam, who released his debut album As You Were in October, seems more interested in getting back with Oasis than pursuing his own solo career — Noel Gallagher isn’t looking back, in anger or otherwise. Instead, he’s releasing his most forward-thinking, adventurous, and ambitious album yet, Who Built the Moon?, out Nov. 24. A kaleidoscopic, four-years-in-the-making project produced by electronic artist/DJ/film composer David Holmes and drawing inspiration from French jazz, psychedelic pop, soul, disco, ambient music, Brian Eno, and even Kanye West, it sounds like nothing the 50-year-old Mancunian rock idol has recorded before. It doesn’t sound like Oasis, at least.
The elder Gallagher is well aware that the bold sonic departure of his “divisive” third album with High Flying Birds will rankle some old-school fans, aka the “parka monkeys,” and that many of those fans will never give up hoping for an Oasis reunion. But he has no desire to revisit the past — and he claims that his estranged brother doesn’t really want to get the old band back together either.
“I think that Liam knows very well that there isn’t going to be a reunion,” Noel tells Yahoo Music. “So, it gives him absolute immunity to play his fans by saying, ‘I’ll do it!’ He knows it’s not going to happen. So, he can do the little f***ing dance and play to the gallery all he f***ing likes. I can assure you of this: He doesn’t want no reunion either, but he wants everybody to think that he does.”
Nowadays the brothers’ ongoing feud is often instigated by Liam Gallagher’s very active Twitter account, and while Noel prefers to stay off social media, he isn’t shy about bashing Liam in interviews, like Yahoo’s entertainingly mouthy Q&A below. Read on for more of his musings about Liam, the mixed reactions to Who Built the Moon?, the mysterious scissors player and the other women in his new band, and his famously lush head of hair.
Yahoo Music: This album is very different from what people might expect. Some of it, like “She Taught Me How to Fly,” reminds me of the ’90s electronica you did with the Chemical Brothers; “Holy Mountain” brings to mind Plastic Bertrand, even. How did all of this come about?
Noel Gallagher: To be honest, because the record evolved over four years, I didn’t actually realize how different it was. It was only when I started playing it to people and there was, like, silence after every track that I thought, “Oh. OK.” I guess I knew, in a way, that if there’s a girl singing in French on an album, people are gonna be, you know, a little bit divided about it — apart from the French, of course, who love it! … But the only thing that I thought would be divisive was I put “Holy Mountain” out as the first track that people would hear.
Did that really happen? Like you’d play it for someone, and there’d just be just crickets afterwards?
When I played my management “Holy Mountain” for the first time, the first thing that was said was, “Ohhhh… is it all like this?”
Did that concern you?
No, ’cause I don’t have a record deal. I am my own boss. So I don’t give a f*** what anyone else thinks. I was pretty sure about the songs once I completed them and started to mix them. I’m 1,000 percent behind it. I’m not in any way unsure about it at all.
You’ve said that the “parka monkeys” out there might not dig your new direction. What exactly are parka monkeys? I feel that’s going be a new catchphrase for 2018.
Hopefully it’ll make it into the Oxford English Dictionary at some point. What is a parka monkey? Well, he used to be in Beady Eye [Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band], and now he resides on Twitter.
Yes, Liam actually called himself “King Parka Monkey” on Twitter the other day, I believe. He’s owning it, I guess.
So he should. So he should.
Do you follow Liam’s Tweets?
No, I don’t go on social media. It’s a little bit beneath me, to be honest. … There’s not enough hours in the day as it is to f***ing get my s*** done. So I’ll not sit on a f***ing mobile phone, tweeting, or you know, commenting on the world. That’s not how I do things.
Liam somehow seems to find the time.
Yeah. Well, that’s because he doesn’t write any f***ing songs.
I interviewed Liam recently about his own new album, and we didn’t discuss songwriting much.
Well, [if you’d asked him about songwriting] the answer would have contained tumbleweed.
Have you heard Liam’s album? I think it’s very odd, if coincidental, that the two of you are releasing solo records roughly around the same time.
No. I’m not a fan.
It is actually good.
But we don’t strive for “good,” though, do we? We strive for great.
Do you know if Liam has heard your new material?
No, I don’t think he’s heard it yet. But when he does hear it, I trust you will f***ing know all about it.
I do follow him on Twitter, so I probably will.
Well, let me know if he gives it a five-star review, won’t you?
With your two records are coming out just a few weeks apart, it’s almost like Liam’s interviews are promoting your album, since he talks about you so much.
I know, I know. He can’t help it. He’s obsessed with me.
You’ve been pretty blunt about how you feel about a possible Oasis reunion, but in terms of your brotherhood, the personal side of things, is there any relationship left there? Or could it be repaired?
Does that bother you?
I think the whole episode is slightly unnecessary, but that’s just the way that he is, I’m afraid.
It seems like almost every band that could reunite has done so — even Guns N’ Roses, the Replacements, and Led Zeppelin. I can think of only a few bands that haven’t reunited yet and probably never will: the Smiths, the Jam, and now I guess I would put Oasis on that list. Is there anything that would change your mind?
I wouldn’t. I won’t. What would be the point? That’s f***ing awful. I’ve got no unfinished business with Oasis. I don’t mind during my shows looking back when I sing [Oasis] songs for the people that have bothered to show up, but I don’t particularly want to go back and relive it. Because you can never be that guy. Simple as that. It’s like, once you get divorced, you don’t go on holiday with your f***ing ex-wife, do you?
That’s a really good analogy. Is it at all flattering, though, that so many fans still clamor for an Oasis reunion?
Hang on a second. There’s an equal amount of fans who don’t want us to get back together. But they’re less vocal about it. Do you know why?
Because they’ve got f***ing lives.
All right. I will ask one more question about that, and is has to do with the fact that in a lot of Liam’s recent interviews, he has expressed a strong longing to get back with Oasis. I almost sense a sadness from him, that he really wants it to happen, and doesn’t even want to pursue a solo career…
I think that Liam knows very well that there isn’t going to be a reunion. So it gives him absolute immunity to play his fans by saying, “I’ll do it!” He knows it’s not going to happen. So, he can do the little f***ing dance and play to the gallery all he f***ing likes. I can assure you of this: He doesn’t want no reunion either, but he wants everybody to think that he does.
OK. Going back to Who Built the Moon?, given the fact that it is so different, and that releasing “Holy Mountain” was a risk, what has been the fan reaction overall?
It’s been fascinating. The people that don’t like the album are the people who’ve not heard it — because it’s not out yet! When I put out the trailer of the album, like 10-second snippets of four of the songs, it’s amazing how people were judging it immediately. When that happened, the people in my office were saying, “Oh wow, he seems to have split opinion here.” I thought, “Oh my God. If people don’t like it now, then it’s not going to be much fun for them the next couple of years!” You know, wait till they see the girl with the scissors.
I suppose I should ask about her. What’s the origin story behind that, and what does a scissors player do, exactly?
She is a girl called Charlotte Marionneau, and she is in a band called Le Volume Courbe. In that band, she is the singer, and she also plays the scissors. She is, as far as I know, the only person in the world who plays the scissors. She got them out one day when we were rehearsing “It’s a Beautiful World,” ’cause she did the French [spoken-word] bit, and I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.
What did it sound like to you? I mean, I’ve seen the footage of her with you on Jools Holland, but I’m not exactly sure what playing the scissors entails.
You don’t really notice them unless they’re not there.
You sound so galvanized, like you have a new lease on life creatively. Am I correct in thinking that?
Yeah. I think you hear that if you listen to the record. I genuinely feel like I’m at some creative peak. … I think this is my most rock ‘n’ roll album I’ve ever made, and I’ll tell you why I think that. People think that rock ‘n’ roll is about Les Pauls and f***ing drinking Jack Daniel’s at 6 in the morning and all that s***, but to me rock ‘n’ roll is about freedom. It’s about freedom of expression, freedom of thought. That’s why I think this is my most rock ‘n’ roll record, because it’s like it’s not trying to be rock ‘n’ roll. It just is. Because it’s the sound of freedom. It’s almost revolutionary.
That’s amazing. Is there anything that spawned this artistic rebirth for you, like a big life event or epiphany or anything like that?
I looked in the mirror one day, and I thought, “My music now has to be as good as my hair.”
You’ve mentioned your hair in interviews before. You’re very proud of your hair.
Well, wouldn’t you be?
You do have a nice head of hair. You’re very fortunate.
Look, there’s nothing fortunate about it. I’ve been a f***ing good friend to my f***ing hair down the years. I’ve treated it with the utmost respect. Now it’s payback.
What do you do to treat your hair with respect? Do you have a hair regimen? Like, do you take hair vitamins, use a special conditioner?
I can’t let you in on too many secrets. Let’s just say we have a very, very close relationship.
You could probably get an endorsement deal for hair products.
Yeah, I’ve got so much hair, I was thinking of getting rid of a bit of it and inventing a hair removal product called “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.” I could maybe go on that program Shark Tank with that.
Beyond that, what are your other future plans?
I’m on tour from February 2018 for almost certainly a couple years. I’ve got a new band, new band members. I’ve got three girls in the band — which will enrage a certain section of my audience, hopefully.
Why do you say that?
Well, you know what boys are like: “F***ing women? Women in a group? No way, mate, not having it.” So, you know, I’m ready for the ABBA comparisons that are going to be coming my way soon. … To be honest, the record has got such a strong female influence on it; I’d say there’s 37 musicians on this record, and about 15 of them are girls. So it just seemed like a natural order of things that I should get some women involved [in the live shows]. We rehearsed some of the songs and they sounded great with the girls, so they’re gonna be on tour. You know, it adds a different dynamic to your band vibe. I’m not sure my actual band were pleased about it, but f*** them, is what I say.
Why were they displeased?
Like I said, you know what guys are like, right? I mean, my band, they’re not like that, but when I said to them, “You know there’s gonna be three girls on the bus,” they were kinda like, “What?” I was like, “Yup!” So we’ll see how that works out. I’m convinced it’s gonna be f***ing exhausting. Three women? One is exhausting. Two is f***ing mental. Three will just be like, Jesus Christ. I actually will probably look back on this in five years’ time and think back to the time when I started losing my hair.
Well, I hope you don’t, because losing your hair would be an international tragedy.
Yeah. I’d have to f***ing retire then, wouldn’t I?