Reach for the Moon ~ Noel Gallagher
by Karen Shaw
Noel Gallagher kicked off his Oasis past like a wet nappy and ran, bare-bottomed and vulnerable into a solo career that frankly could have gone either way. Now however, the entire human race must surely thank him for his bold decision as his brand new album, ‘Who Bulit The Moon?’ delivers a squadron of tunes so epic they transcend even the dizzy heights of his previous highflying solo work. Get out of the doldrums and strap in…
Noel Gallagher entered the national consciousness in 1994; the same year as Forrest Gump, the sitcom Friends and the Channel Tunnel. Yet, 23 years later, Noel has evolved musically far more than those other three things put together. We all know the story of the boy from Burnage, Manchester, with his mop-topped swagger, tracksuit and eyebrows Moses himself couldn’t part. The humble beginnings, touring the world with Inspiral Carpets and the younger brother! The story of the working class boy who dared to dream is now part of our national psyche. But all that was a long time ago.
“Not so much a nod to the past, more an enthusiastic handshake with the future”
I can distinctly remember the first time I ever clapped eyes on those furrowed Gallagher brows, the year was 1993 and I’d gone to watch Burnley band, The Milltown Brothers play at Manchester. Back in the day, Oasis were supporting The Milltown Brothers and my rather vague memory, was, well, very vague. So almost 25 years on, here I am with the opportunity to interview Noel Gallagher, our Noel is a busy lad and I’ve been offered the chance to chat with him for 15 minutes, not 16, 15 exactly. The only problem is that he’s only available two days after Northern Life is due to go to print. Decisions, decisions, do I turn it down or do I send the magazine to print late? I’ll be honest; I was and never have been a massive Oasis fan. I always struggled to tell the two brothers apart. Die-hard fans of Oasis have always described Liam as the daft one (I’m being polite) and Noel as the sensible one. But after listening to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds latest album, Who Built The Moon? – It’s anything but boring… it’s exciting, mature; box-fresh rock ‘n’ roll. Not so much a nod to the past, more an enthusiastic handshake with the future.
After receiving such a positive reaction from his latest album and solo gigs, he’s a happy man, “I wasn’t ready for it at all,” says Noel, “the audience and I didn’t have any expectations, we
just went with it and I really enjoyed it and we got to arena level so quickly. When the Oasis tours came to an end, I used to live to get away from the bullshit and chaos and just take like a year off, but this time I got bored so quickly. I didn’t know what to do one day to the next and I couldn’t stop thinking about getting back to the studio – whether I was in the shops or just watching TV – I just wanted to get back in there.
“There’s not a great deal I strive for… except greatness”
“Songs fall out of the sky in a moment of inspiration and you have to be ready for it. My albums don’t have a definite start but do they have a definite finish. I worked with David Holmes (renowned producer, DJ & composer) for this one and he insisted that I wasn’t to write anything outside of the studio.”
Meeting to work in Belfast and London, Gallagher and Holmes tuned into French psychedelic pop as much as classic electro, soul, rock, disco and dance on a cultured adventure into recorded sound. Who Built The Moon? marks a departure not only in style but also in method. Instead of his usual system of bringing songs into the studio and working them up slowly, Noel cooked up this future-platinum album by containing the entire writing process in the studio.
“It’s the complete opposite way to how I work so it was all written and recorded from nothing. Honestly, the first day was four years ago in his house in Belfast and we just sat there in silence. We ended up making it up as we went along but it is really upbeat, very melodic and it’s uplifting. The studio door was left open for Paul Weller (organ on Holy Mountain) and Johnny Marr (guitar and harmonica on If Love Is The Law) to not only bear witness to, but make a mark on a pivotal moment in Gallagher’s ten studio album career.
Noel has certainly changed since his Oasis days, preferring to write and record sober, “back in the day, we’d be up all night coming up with all sorts and believing it was better than The Beatles. Then we’d get up and listen the next day and think it was crap. So write sober, record sober and listen drunk – because if you listen to it in party mode and you enjoy it then you’ve cracked it! You know an album is finished when you get bored of it. You end up going
‘let’s wrap it up’.”
He describes his latest album, Who Built The Moon? as “cosmic pop, it’s not really that far out but it is a bit different. We took a keyboard riff we liked from an unused track and added chords. A year later we came to deal with it as a song and when we got to the chorus, David kept asking me to write a new one….again and again and again. He was doing my head in and I was ready to strangle him. It took me eight attempts, but he was right.”
Holy Mountain features on his latest album and it’s a firm favourite in our office, it lights up even the darkest of days, its up-beat rhythm is positively jubilant, so I was curious to discover how he decides on which single from the album he decides to release first…
“I knew instantly that Holy Mountain was going to be the first single. It’s one of my favourite pieces I’ve ever written, it’s full of joy. It sounds great live. I just had to do it justice though. I mean, what is more joyous than being in love? It’s why I wrote a song about love and it’s turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Despite turning 50 this year and being the proud owner of a MKII Jaguar, he still hasn’t learnt to drive. It seems such a shame for such a beautiful car to be sat on his drive gathering dust and I’d be happy to look after it until he’s ready to rip up his L-plates, but unfortunately, for me, he has other plans…
“I’m going to give it to one of my kids – whichever one proves themselves most worthy!” His eldest child, Anaïs (Noel’s daughter to first wife Meg Matthews) looks to be ‘in the running’; she’ll turn 18 in January… “My daughter is about to start her lessons though so she’s in the driving seat.” Noel has two young boys, Donovan aged ten, and Sonny aged seven to his second wife Sara MacDonald, who he married in 2011. “My youngest is hilarious – has better comic timing than Woody Allen and my ten-year old, he’s decided to start calling me ‘bruv’ instead of Dad!”
Like a fine wine, ‘our Noel’ seems to be maturing, although after saying that, he partied hard at his birthday celebrations in May, but then who wouldn’t? Saying it was “better than Glastonbury!” I had a party at some stately home with all my mates there. It started on a Friday and ended on the Monday morning. We toasted the end of my forties and we sang in the start of my fifties. I take each day as it comes and just live in the moment but if my fifties are half as good as my forties then my sixtieth is going to be out of this world. There’s not a great deal I strive for… except greatness.”
There’s no need for me to ask him, ‘Who did actually build the moon?’ It’s obvious, Noel Gallagher did, and everyone else can just reach for it!
2018 Northern Tour Dates
Thursday 3rd May Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena
Friday 4th May Manchester, Manchester Arena
Sunday 6th May Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
Monday 7th May Leeds, First Direct Arena
Sunday 27th May Neighbourhood Weekender Festival, Warrington Victoria Park
Live arena shows start in April 2018 across the UK for more details visit www.noelgallagher.com
Noel Gallagher & The High Flying Birds’ new album, ‘Who Built The Moon?’ is out now (on
Sour Mash Records).