I hope it won't sound too much like dereliction of duty but when the subject of an interview is as garrulous and opinionated and indiscreet and just plain entertaining as Noel Gallagher is, the job of the journalist is simply to turn up with a fully charged Dictaphone and press "record".
There's little need for searching questions or penetrating insights, and good luck with trying to get a word in even if you had arrived armed with those. (I'd had a bash, of course, as you do, but I needn't have bothered.)
Better to sit back, keep quiet, and enjoy the show. It's not that one is a non-participant exactly, just that the vacancy is for an audience member and the requirement is to nod, laugh or grimace at the right moments.
Only a handful of times in the two hours and more we spent talking did I – gently – attempt to steer the conversation, to pick Noel up on some small point of fact, or challenge an opinion.
"Honestly," he said, exasperated, after perhaps the third such timid intervention, "you're like my missus, you are. You're interrupting! You're putting me in a corner!"
"Sorry," I said, but he'd already started on the next anecdote, so he didn't hear me.
We met in the sitting room of a substantial house in Hampstead, North London, on a late afternoon in early autumn. This wasn't Noel's house or mine, the latter possibility less likely given the size and neighbourhood and air of deep-pocketed seclusion. It had been hired for the day as the location for the Esquire cover shoot. Neither of us had been before and it's not likely we'll go again. But for a couple of hours, the tasteful greys and muted beiges, smooth surfaces and soft furnishings of this spacious room served as Noel's stage. I settled myself at right angles to him on a low suede sofa and waited for the fireworks. I didn't have to wait long.
It's hard to express quite how refreshing it is to interview a famous person who not only feels that giving funny, honest, even outrageous answers to a journalist's questions is part of the job of being a performer. More than that, to meet a celebrity who genuinely enjoys the process of being interviewed, who wouldn't rather be somewhere, anywhere, else doing something, anything, else.
At one stage I wondered if Noel has any hobbies.
"This is my hobby!"
"You mean, music?"
"No! This: doing interviews. I fucking love it. I could do this all day long. It's sick."
"Why do you love it so much?"
"Because I get to be a gobshite, and I get to do that thing: to be the last of a dying breed."
A trim, 48-year-old father of three in a navy knitted shirt, light grey jeans and dark grey trainers, the last of a dying breed is not a big man, but he fills a room. It's not just that he's instantly recognisable: the caterpillar eyebrows, the screwed-on-sideways hair, the features hewn from Northern granite and the accent straight from Central Casting (Kitchen Sink Department). It's that in spirit and action he's exactly as advertised: wry, cocksure, spectacularly self-assured.
What might in anyone else be insufferable – the absolute certainty of the rightness of his own exalted position, the total belief in the value of his judgments, his tastes, his world view – is made somehow acceptable, even charming, by the self-mocking smile, the delighted laughter at his own hyperbolic pronouncements and the man-of-the-people lack of vanity. He's the working class hero who makes boastfulness likeable. He's been getting away with it for years, and he knows it. If he's not careful, he's likely to become a national treasure, like his hero Sir Paul McCartney: Lord Gallagher of Burnage.
Those who came in late need know only this: that for almost two decades, from 1991 to 2009, Noel was the leader of Oasis. (I'm calling him Noel not to be overfamiliar but because that's what you'd call him if you bumped into him in the street; a more likely event than you might imagine, given his freewheeling approach to fame; given his freewheeling approach to everything.)
He was Oasis's songwriter, guitarist, spokesman and sometimes singer, too, though not the only face of the band: his younger brother Liam, the comically truculent lead singer ("our kid", as he was more often called), took equal top billing, in the tabloids and on TV if not in the studio. While lurching from triumph to disaster and back again, Oasis released seven studio albums, sold 70m records and played to countless stadiums full of numberless fans: a roiling human sea of shaggy hair and Premier League shirts under anoraks, a lairy, sweary, beery singalong that reached a peak in August 1996 with two concerts at Knebworth in front of a total of 250,000-plus people. (More than two million had applied for tickets.) For all those post-internet millennials who can't remember because they weren't there, Oasis at that time were bigger than any band then, any band since and, with a few famous exceptions, any band before.
Liam, left, and Noel Gallagher, right, in May 1994, three months before the release of Oasis's debut album, Definitely Maybe. Other original Oasis members, later replaced, are in the background. From second left: bassist Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan, drummer Tony McCarroll and guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs
One of three brothers (Paul, Noel and Liam) from a working class Irish Catholic family – a family scarred by the violence of the Gallaghers' father, Tommy – Noel was the teenage tearaway who, inspired by the canon of English rock, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to The Smiths and The Stone Roses, taught himself guitar and threw himself into the febrile Manchester music scene of the late Eighties – hanging out at the Haçienda, raving in the fields of Lancashire, working as a roadie – before accepting Liam's invitation to join the younger Gallagher's band. By that time, Noel had already begun to write the songs – potent, propulsive and anthemic – that would make them rich and notorious.
The rowdy Gallaghers were throwbacks almost before they began. Oasis was a British band on a mission to conquer the world: brash, cocky and confrontational. They wanted to "have it", and have it they did. And if their music was often presented as conservative and derivative, and Noel and Liam were characterised by the press as cartoon oiks (this was the now dim and distant era of the New Lad), then that, frankly, was the spirit of the age. Oasis, alongside their great rivals Blur and others, provided not only the soundtrack to the Britpop Nineties – that retrospective riot of Sixties-style Anglophilia – but also the swagger.
During his time in Oasis, Noel married and divorced Meg Mathews, with whom he has a daughter, Anaïs, now 15; moved into and out of the house in North London he named Supernova Heights, for a time the most infamous private residence in the country; found a new wife, Sara MacDonald, with whom he has two boys, Donovan, eight, and Sonny, five; took a lot of cocaine and then stopped; hurled insults; caused punch-ups; made a considerable fortune and won the admiration of a generation, particularly the male half of it, around the world.
The end came in August 2009 in Paris, when Noel quit the band, apparently for good, after yet another backstage bust-up with his brother. Two years later, he launched a successful solo career with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Earlier this year, his second album, Chasing Yesterday, was released, and he has already started work on a third. He has become, like his friends Paul Weller and Morrissey, an elder statesman of British rock. Not that his edges have been blunted. The chaos has died down (he's a happily married dad now, not a drug-addled reprobate) but the appetites for incitement – and for good times – remain.
I've come prepared to ask him to talk about all this: the chaotic childhood; the ramshackle early years; Oasis's Imperial Phase; the break-ups and make-ups; the drugs and the women; the final implosion of Oasis; his re-emergence as a solo artist.
And we get to most of it, in a roundabout way. But one preoccupation keeps recurring: the protracted death of British rock music, the sad absence of an Oasis equivalent in today's sanitised mainstream pop culture.
This is what he means when he calls himself the last of a dying breed: a rock star who is loud and impolitic and larger than life and who decisively commandeers the cultural conversation. He feels that in this he is part of a tradition stretching back to the early days of rock'n'roll – "the poor boy done good", in his words – and that no one has come along to take his place, as he came along to take the places of Lennon and Lydon and Weller and the rest. That a music scene without a huge, headline-grabbing rock band in it is a paler place, that the music industry now promotes bland pop stars and toe-the-line groups more focused on their careers than on caning it, more worried about social media than shagging supermodels, more concerned with drippy songwriting than with danger and subversion and making a racket.
"The worst thing for an interviewer to say," he tells me, "if you're doing a big magazine: 'so, I want to talk about the new record.' You just go, 'God. Why? We've just listened to it. That's all there is to say about it.' People are not interested in how I went from G-minor to fucking F-sharp major."
"No, they're not. What do you like to be asked, then?"
"Anything other than that. I have an opinion on everything and if I don't have an opinion, I'll fucking make one up on the spot."
In that case, take it away, Noel...
1 | "Hard work and a f**king filthy tongue"
I was born in Longsight in Manchester, which is a really rough-arse part of town. They knocked our street down to build this new-fangled thing called an Asda superstore in the Seventies and we got housed in this place called Burnage, which at the time was quite a leafy suburb. But as the Seventies turned into the Eighties, it got a bit more desolate. There used to be a place called Renold Chains. It made chains for anchors on ships, big fucking things. When that shut down that was the end of it, really. Nobody had any jobs. Fuck all goes on there now. Most of the shops are boarded up.
My mum's one of 11. I'd say seven out of that 11 all moved to Manchester from Ireland, and they've congregated around a five square-mile area and none of them are leaving. Someone got shot in the face outside my mum's house about four months ago. She's oblivious to the violence. She loves it there.
Hard work and a fucking filthy tongue, that's what I inherited from my mum. She taught the Nineties how to swear. And what's the word, stoicism? Yeah, she was hardcore. She didn't give a fuck.
I remember once as a child, the local priest came round because she hadn't brought us to mass for ages. She gave him the short shrift in the house. Words to the effect of, "What's the church ever done for me? I run my own life. These lads, they can go to church if they want." Go to fucking church? Fucking joking, man.
From my dad I got my love of Man City, thank fucking God, although I resented him for that up until about eight years ago. And he was a DJ in Irish social clubs, so he had a big vinyl collection. Actually, what I got from him was my utter fucking devotion to The Best Of… Because that's all he had: The Best Of The Drifters, The Best Of This, The Best Of That.
My old man invented road rage. When the new Ford Sierra came out it was a big thing. I remember him calling a guy in the street out of the window, "You fucking Sierra-faced bastard!" That's poetry, man.
I'm the middle child. I know a few people who are middle children and I get on great with them. They have a kind of laid-back attitude. I think there's something in that. I was very much a loner as a child and that's something that's stayed with me. I don't really need a great deal of people.
My brother Paul? I guess it must be weird for him but you can only surmise. He does all right. He's a DJ. When I'm on tour or when Liam's on tour he'll play in each town and we allow him to put the band's logos on his flyers. He follows me all over Europe. One thing is, though, he's not mastered the art of taking a breath in between sentences, so sentences can go on for fucking hours, to where I don't even know what he's saying, he's just talking fucking nonsense. Paul will tell you he's a better singer than me or Liam. Make of that what you will. But he's a good lad.
I laugh when I hear people moaning about their childhoods. It's usually middle-class people. I think, "mine was worse." Mine was wrapped up in violence and drunkenness and there was no money. And still we didn't go around fucking robbing people. We stole things, we didn't rob people.
It's preposterous to say you're working class when your back garden is bigger than the fucking street you grew up on. But it's always there. Do I feel working class? In my soul, I guess I do.
If I was in my late forties and struggling, I might think I'd been short-changed by society. But I wasn't upset about being on the dole. That was just the way it was. I wouldn't say dole culture in the Eighties was cool, but all my mates were on it and all my mates' dads were, too. And out of that dole-culture in the Eighties came what became known as Britpop.
It's a good job I didn't have a mobile phone when I was on the dole at 17. I wouldn't be sat here today, I fucking assure you of that. I'd have spent all day watching The Beatles on YouTube, getting stoned, thinking, "This is the greatest thing of all time." Nowadays even people who are on benefits have got iPhone 6s and fucking iPads and flat-screen tellies and all that shit. And these are the people on the breadline? What the fuck, man? We didn't have anything to do so we had to invent it.
We couldn't afford carpet and it was embarrassing when you'd bring girls back. "Oh, you've got no carpet?" And I remember coming to London for the first time and people having no carpet on the floor and it was a status symbol. And I had to go back and say to my mam, "You know in London, they don't have carpet on the floor? What they've done is polished the floorboards."
"Really, why would they not have carpets?"
"Fucking hell, it's cockneys. How should I know? Fucking lunatics." Still makes me laugh to this day.
2 | "This music can't not be heard"
I'm going to say I was maybe 12 or 13. I used to get grounded a lot because I was always bunking off school and getting caught smoking and fucking glue-sniffing and all the usual Seventies, Eighties gear. And there was this guitar that was behind the back door – no one knows how it got there – and I used to play one string and then it kind of just went from there. It wasn't an instant thing and I never used to stand in front of the mirror with a tennis racket. I never thought I would become a rock star. It was just something to do while I waited for these two bozo parents downstairs to relent and let me out to get some mushrooms.
We didn't make plans, back then. There's probably a careers channel on Sky, now: Sky School Leavers. But I always felt somewhere right in the back room of my mind: music. I used to go to gigs and love it and then I met one of the guys from Inspiral Carpets, who offered me a job as a roadie and I thought, "Well, that's it! My instincts were right." And I was fucking thrilled with that. And then I got fired for some reason, probably being a cunt or taking drugs.
You know what was the weirdest thing about doing my first ever gig? I'd never played guitar standing up, in my life. I'd always just played it sitting on the end of the bed. So I had to get a strap. I remember the week leading up to the gig thinking, 'What am I going to fucking do?' I just stood still. And that's where the art of Stillism came from, which Oasis mastered.
The first couple of years in Oasis I thought, "This is just a laugh." Then one night, I was in my flat in India House on Whitworth Street in Manchester, and I wrote "Live Forever". I knew enough about music to know that it was a fucking great song. I knew it! I remember taking it down to the rehearsal room and playing it on the guitar and Bonehead going, "You've not just written that song. No fucking way." He was adamant. He was going, "No, no, no, no, no, you're fucking blagging," And then when it got to the solo there was a look around the room of like, "Fucking hell, that's great."
It was just a case of waiting for people to come to us. Liam said, "Why haven't you sent any fucking demos out?" I'd say, "Listen, this kind of music can't not be heard by the world. It's just fucking impossible."
Once I'd got the record deal my whole MO was: I'm going to London and I'm going to get involved. There's this place called Camden and I'm going there and I'm getting involved in all manner of shit. And I was just up for it. I got on the train with a holdall and I never went back. I never, ever went back. I was like, "Give it to me, I fucking want it." I didn't make it until I was 27, so I was old in rock'n'roll terms. I was very prepared to have a fucking great time.
3 | "The stadium's going to fall over!"
Metaphorically, in 1993 youth culture was dead. Acid House had petered out. The stage was set for something. And we turned up. And the people said, "Yes," and boy did we deliver. And then it just exploded.
There is this magical moment at the start of your trip, and it only lasts for about six months until you become wealthy. It's when you're wearing the same clothes as your audience and you're in the same circumstances. And there's probably people in the crowd that are better off than you are, got a better job than you have. So it's a moment of truth. You're not a rock star. You're in a rock band but you've not yet got the supermodel and the drug habit and all that. You're just a fucking guy with a guitar.
The first album is a bona fide fucking moment in culture. Nobody is ever going to fucking tell me any different. That was when we were just a gang of guys. We had fuck-all and we made this music. The second album, Morning Glory, if you listen to the songs, the second verse of every song is just a repeat of the first verse. But that was our time. And I think when we were good, we were fucking great, and I think when we were bad we were still pretty fucking good.
The good years were from '91 to Knebworth [in 1996]. Then it levelled out. There was nowhere else to go. What do you do? It was the apex and then we made the mistake of coming off stage and going to America for six weeks when we should have come off stage at Knebworth and disappeared.
Am I aware of a hierarchy? I'm aware that Radiohead have never had a fucking bad review. I reckon if Thom Yorke fucking shit into a light bulb and started blowing it like an empty beer bottle it'd probably get 9 out of 10 in fucking Mojo. I'm aware of that.
I used to put us at number seven. It went The Beatles, the Stones, the Sex Pistols, The Who, The Kinks… who came in at six? I don't know. We were at seven. The Smiths were in there, The Specials. Where would I put us now? I guess I'd probably put us in the top 10. We weren't as great as the greats but we were the best of the rest. We did more than The Stone Roses could fucking even fathom. We're better than The Verve: couldn't fucking keep it together for more than six months at a time. If all the greats are in the top four, we're in the bottom of the top four, we're kind of constantly fighting for fifth, just missing out. Just missing out on the top four, I'd say.
Morning Glory was slated when it came out. And then when it became the biggest thing ever – and I've been told this by two editors – they thought, "We're not going to be caught out next time." And they lauded Be Here Now, which was clearly a shit fucking album, full of fat fucking rock stars, and then they got caught out again. And they never forgave us. They were just like, "Wankers. We can't fucking get on it."
I've never seen Oasis live but there couldn't have been that many better than us. I've been to Wembley to see many bands but I've never seen the entire stadium pogoing, ever, at anybody else's gig. You'd be on stage thinking, "It's going to fall over. The stadium's going to fucking fall over!"
I had 30 to 40 kids sleeping outside my house every night, so much so that the council put in two benches, fucking bolted them to my wall. And a litter bin on a fucking side street in Primrose Hill. The neighbours went fucking ape-shit.
We'd be partying with supermodels and all sorts. It'd be like, "We're out of cigs. Who's gonna go to the shop?" "No way. Press are outside." So, you just go out and say to one of the kids, "Do us a fucking favour: go round the Tescos and get us 400 Benson and Hedges, can you?"
In the Nineties, all of us were high on fucking cocaine, all the time. Having it. The last party. Nobody gave a fuck.
I haven't got a "My Drug Hell" story because it was fucking brilliant. [But] what happened was I started getting massive panic attacks. You think you're going to die. So I stopped. I haven't done it since '98. I did one line maybe, a couple of years after I gave up, because I was pissed and I had to sober up quickly. And I haven't touched it since. It is a shit drug.
I might have had my midlife crisis in my thirties. I started wearing fur coats, doing loads of cocaine and thinking, "I am a rock star. Fucking get me that fur coat." "But it's made out of rabbit." "I don't give a fuck. Give it here."
I smoke a bit. And drink a bit. Too much, really. But nothing else. Even now I'll be at a party and I can sense the night takes a turn when people are off to the toilets in pairs and suddenly it's not fun any more. Everyone gets very serious.
Liam was on that programme The Word at 19 years of age. Left home a week later and moved in with Patsy Kensit.
I tell you what I think about Liam and this is just an opinion. He would fucking aggressively disagree. He was rightly put up there as this fucking huge rock star but he didn't write a note, not a word. From my perspective I don't know how comfortable I'd feel about the mania surrounding us, and you knowing in your fucking soul that you were responsible for really wearing the clothes. And that's not a dig. But when you're doing interviews about an album you've not written... I know it did his head in a little bit that he was just the singer.
Liam was a great singer and a great frontman in a great band. At his best he was the best. I think maybe inside himself, after Knebworth, Liam thought, "You've done it now." It didn't last long, you know?
The fame thing, some people it hits them hard. I flourished. I love it. I've never gone out of my way to be famous and I don't go to the opening of a fucking envelope but if somebody wants to lend me their superyacht just because I'm famous, "Thanks very much, man." I do enjoy that side of it and you should fucking enjoy it.
The longer that it went on the stronger I felt because nobody else was responsible for my success: not a producer, not a fucking A&R guy, not a guy who did these videos, because they were all shit. I wrote the songs, I wrote the lyrics, I came up with the parts, I did the interviews. I felt so bulletproof because I did it all.
I fucking hate whingeing rock stars. And I hate pop stars who are just… neh. Just nothing, you know? "Oh, yeah, my last selfie got 47-thousand-million likes on Instagram." Yeah, why don't you go fuck off and get a drug habit, you penis?
Fame was not wasted on anybody in Oasis. It certainly wasn't wasted on me and Liam. And wealth, notoriety and all that, wasn't wasted on us.
4 | "Start with the chorus. Work backwards from that"
Someone asked me what "Champagne Supernova" is about. I was like, "Who gives a fuck what it's about?" And he's going, "But surely when you write it you must know?" On stage, two hours later, in Scotland, with an acoustic guitar, I'm playing it and there's a 15-year old kid, he's got his top off and he's singing it, crying his eyes out, and I'm thinking, "That's what it's about."
The chorus. Never mind the fucking words. Start with the chorus. Work backwards from that. Awopbopaloobopawopbamboom. What the does that mean? Nothing. Exactly.
"Don't Look Back in Anger." I remember writing it in Paris on a rainy night. We had just played a strip club: our set finished, the strippers came on. We were nothing, an insignificant little band. And I remember going back to my hotel room and writing it, and thinking, "That'll be pretty good when we record it." If I'd have known that night what I know now about people playing it at fucking funerals and weddings, I'd never have finished the song. Too much pressure. Technically, there's better songwriters than I am. Guardian writers will tell you that. Have other people's songs ever really touched a generation, though? Radiohead? When do people listen to them? Is it when they go out, or is it when they come in? Because I'm struggling to think.
Look, as soon as Thom Yorke writes a song as good as fucking "Mony Mony", give us a fucking shout. Me and my missus, we were at the Coachella festival a couple of years ago and Radiohead were headlining. We were like, "Right, let's give them one more chance. Let's go and see them." Beautiful, sunny night. We walked out through the crowd as they came on, and they were playing this post-techno: "de-de de de". We were a bit pissed. Fucking great. And then he started singing. No. Not for us. We're party people.
I'm never going to write a song that connects with people as much as "Don't Look Back in Anger" has, but that doesn't stop me from going to the well every morning. I still think there's great songs out there that haven't been written yet. And I still think when I'm sitting down to finish off that song I'll come up with that line that turns it from a good song to a great song. I guess it's like any writer – not that I consider myself "a writer" because they are the fucking most boring cunts in the world – but, as a writer you surely always think that your best work is in front of you, even though I'm self-aware enough to realise it's probably fucking behind me.
There's a certain joy in my songs where they go well with boozing.
5 | "We'd had about 11 drummers at that point"
Oasis was just so fucking massive. I'm not saying it wasn't fun because it was. We had some fucking great times – but we also had some shit times as well.
The last six months were fucking awful, it was excruciating. Me and Liam had a massive, massive, massive fistfight three weeks before the world tour started, and fights like that in the past would always be easy to rectify but for some reason I wasn't going to let it go this time. I was just like, "Fuck this cunt." And there was an atmosphere all the way around the world.
If I'd thought there was anything left to achieve I wouldn't have left Oasis. I made a very snap decision in the car that night in Paris: we've done it all, we're only going go round in circles now and do bigger tours and make more money and get another fucking drummer – we'd had about 11 drummers at that point. We sold out all the great gigs in the world: Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, Wembley fucking Stadium, City of Manchester Stadium, Hampden Park. You name it, we did it all.
By that stage I was flying separately to the rest of the band, which I have to tell you was fucking great. And Liam was sacking tour managers because he didn't like their shoes. Then he starts his own clothing label and starts dedicating songs to it on stage and I'm like, "Really, is this what it's come to?" He's modelling parkas on stage which you could buy on his website. And it's just like, "This is not for me." All that being said, we had two gigs left and I reckon if I'd had got to the end of that tour and I'd had six months off I would have just forgotten about it, got on with it. But the straw that broke the camel's back was the night in Paris and that was a fight. There's no hidden darkness. It was just a fight about fucking nonsense, just him being pissed. He'd cancelled the gig at the V Festival and we were getting loads of shit for it in the press. And to this day, Liam thinks that I know every journalist intimately in London, like they're my mates, they all come to mine for Sunday lunch. It's amazing you've not been there! It's a great spread my missus puts on for everybody. But Liam's convinced I'm some kind of puppet-master, and he blames it all on me. And then it just escalated. It blew up. And that was it. I sat in the car and thought, "You know what, I've done enough now. Fuck it, I'm going to leave."
I was being asked about a reunion five weeks after I left the band. It's a modern phenomenon. It's a modern disease. All the bands that get back together, all those ones you've mentioned [Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin] they didn't have anybody in the line-up as fucking brilliant as me. What's the guitarist out of Fleetwood Mac called? Lindsay Buckingham. I can't remember him setting the world on fire. Jimmy Page? That's debatable. He's a good guitarist but I'm not sure how many solo albums he's fucking made.
If Oasis were ever to come back we couldn't be any bigger than we'd already been. There's no kudos in us selling out three nights at Wembley because we've already fucking done seven. The Stone Roses never played gigs of that magnitude. They came back and they were bigger than they'd ever been. So it was justified.
Ten years from now, if I wake up one morning and go, "You know what? I think I'm going to do it," I can guarantee you, just for spite, Liam would say, "Oh, no, I'm not keen." Because that's the way shit works. I can only tell you I've already got the next five years planned out. So it's not going to happen in the next five years. Who knows what circumstances might be thrown up in the future? But, certainly, it's not even on the horizon. Not even on the horizon.
6 | "Ice cream for breakfast and liquorice for lunch"
Do you know what time my wife got in this morning? Half-six! She was out last night with her mates. I was woke up this morning with a tap on the head from my eldest. I looked at the clock and it was half-six, and he went, "She's just got in." So I told her, "I'm not doing your PR no more. I don't get any back."
I know it's extremely fucking un-rock'n'roll to say this, but the person I prefer to hang out with more than anyone is my missus. She's my favourite person to go on holiday with, to go to dinner with, 12-hour lunches, go to the party. She just, yeah, she means everything to me. She's a fucking good girl.
I fucking love women. I much prefer hanging out with them. I remember my upbringing being pretty much my mum and her sisters, and even when we went to Ireland the men were never around. I'd much rather hang out with girls. I mean who wouldn't? Fuck me, if you've got the choice of a night out with six birds or six fucking geezers, thank you very much but I'll go with the six women. I never go on lads' nights out. Ever.
I've said to Sara many times: she wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes in the Nineties. All the scene around my house would have devoured her. She was too pretty for the Nineties. There was too much chaos and drugs and all that kind of thing. And I met her just at the right time – I'd given up drugs, my first marriage had pretty much broken down and there she was. Of all the fucking places, in Ibiza. You're supposed to have one-night stands in Ibiza, you're not supposed to get a girlfriend, far less a wife, far less two fucking children.
She can be a bit of a ditherer. She changes her mind mid-sentence. Then again, that's like most women though, isn't it? Dithering fuckers.
She's very funny and it goes without saying that she's gorgeous and all that. Yeah, she's top, man. She is great. And I'm looking forward to getting home today because she's going to have the fear. It's one of my favourite parts of having a relationship, is when she has the fear because I'll pounce on her like a lion – and I don't mean sexually. I'll stoke the fear for a good four or five hours before she goes to bed. And I'll be just looking at her going, "You looked like you'd exploded out of your knickers when you got in this morning." Mentally breaking her down. I'm such a cunt.
By sheer definition, every songwriter is a romantic. But all my efforts in that department go into songwriting. If I ever found myself walking down the street with flowers, I'd have a moment of clarity and I'd have to take them back to the garage: "Can I swap this for a Starbar, please?"
All the PR I do for that woman, I didn't even get a fucking birthday present last time. Fucking hell! She pulls out that one: "But you've got everything! How many more effects pedals can I buy you?" One more! One fucking more will do. One more! The amount of times she'll say to me, "You couldn't give us a fucking rub there?" "No! Go to a fucking spa! I'm not massaging any fucker."
She's bad cop. I'm good cop. I'd let my kids get away with murder. Sara's a bit more of a stickler for the rules. I'd let them have ice cream for breakfast. And liquorice for lunch and sit round watching telly all day. Because it's like, you're away most of the time and you can't be coming home and then laying down the law. The kids'll just think, "Who's this cunt?" I tell my kids a lot: "You lucky fuckers."
My daughter, who comes from a broken marriage, she works in TV now, she's very fucking into it. I was quite lucky with music, I latched onto something that I loved and I became obsessed with it. If those two lads find that thing then it's just up to me to steer them, guide them towards it. But I'm not going to overthink it, either. I mean, they'll probably both end up working for me. Donovan'll be the tour manager and Sonny will be head of security. I'd love that.
The amount of rock stars' kids that make something of themselves you could probably count on one hand. We'll find out, I guess. But if my lads never lift a finger for the rest of their lives, on my deathbed I'll say to them, "Fucking good on you."
7 | "The bottle's going to be a massive toe"
I'll tell you what's wrong. Fame's wasted on these cunts today. Bar Kanye. You watch him on the MTV Awards and you think, "You can fucking stay, you're alright."
Does anybody give a fuck about what any of these current pop stars are up to? Who gives a shit what fucking One Direction do? Cocksuckers, all of them in rehab by the time they're 30. Who gives a shit what Ellie Goulding is up to? Really? Adele, what? Blows my fucking mind. It blows my fucking mind. Nobody cares! Fame's wasted on them, with their fucking in-ear monitors and their electronic cigarettes. And their fragrances that they're bringing out for Christmas. You fucking dicks.
My fragrance? Oh it's coming, it's coming. Toe-Rag it's going to be called. And the bottle's going to be a massive toe.
There are no rock'n'roll people anymore. What people think of as rock'n'roll now is you can buy The Rolling Stones' 1972 tour T-shirt in Topman.
This new generation of rock stars, they look great: Alex Turner, Miles Kane, the guys from Royal Blood. They've got the fucking skinny jeans and the boots, and all that eyeliner. I've got a cat that's more rock'n'roll than all of them put together. Pigeons? Rips their fucking heads off.
I go back to this: fame is fucking wasted on these people. The new generation of rock stars, when have they ever said anything that made you laugh? When have they ever said anything you remember? People say, "They're interesting." Interesting! That's a word that's crept in to music: "Yeah, man. Have you heard the new Skrillex record?" "No." "Yeah, man. It's really interesting." I don't want interesting! Rock'n'roll's not about that. To me, it's about fucking utter gobshites just being fucking headcases. Well, not headcases. But what I want, genuinely, is somebody with a fucking drug habit, who's not Pete Doherty. Do you know what I mean?
Record companies now can sell a billion Ed Sheeran downloads tomorrow morning. They don't want someone like Ian Brown in their offices, or Liam, or Bobby Gillespie, or Richard Ashcroft, or me. They want professionals. That's what it's become now.
I guaran-fucking-tee you this: The Stone Roses never mentioned "career" in any band meetings. Ever. Or Primal Scream, or The Verve. Oasis certainly never mentioned it. I bet it's mentioned a lot by managers and agents now: "Don't do that, it's bad for your career." "What? Fuck off!" Like when we went to the Brits and we'd won all those awards and we didn't play. The head of the Brits said, "This'll ruin your career." Fucking, wow. I say to the guy, "Do you know how high I am? You know who's going to ruin my career? Me, not you. Bell-end. More Champagne. Fuck off."
Ten years ago, I said we'd be the last. I just felt it. I felt that story, the poor boys done good, which was retold from Elvis through The Beatles – we won't mention The Stones because they're posh kids – Sex Pistols, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, I felt at the time we were the end. And I've been proved right. And I don't like that. I mean I love being proved right but not in that case.
I get this from little spotty fucking herberts with guitars, all the time, "Oh, it's really difficult. Everyone's always going on about there are no great bands but there is." My argument is this: are you fucking telling me that somewhere out there, undiscovered by the record industry, is the greatest band in the world? With all the amount of exposure that you can get by clicking on your own phone? Fuck off.
Rock'n'roll is all about freedom and honesty. Freedom of thought, freedom of expression. You have a duty to be honest.
Somebody said to me, "Have you been to Saint Laurent recently?" Which I have, by the way. And I was like, "No, why?" "Oh, you should, their new collection is so rock'n'roll." And I was like, "Do you even know what that means? You mean it's clothes rock stars would wear?" "Well, yeah." "And what are they?" "Well, you know, it's just…" "Well, I'm a rock star. And I'm wearing these fucking clothes."
Harry Styles has got nothing to say for himself – nothing. "You alright, mate?" "Uhhh." That's it.
It's no coincidence that all the big people from the Nineties lasted. I've been in festivals all summer – every one of them has been headlined by someone from the Nineties. That's why Kate Moss has transcended eras. No one's taken her place.
Everybody's out to please The Guardian. And that's the wrong attitude. I know people who live for their reviews. I once asked somebody how their new album was going, they said, "Fucking great. I've only got one bad review." Who gives a fuck? "Only got one bad review." Fucking hell, really? Shit, Jesus. Here's your second.
You're not seriously telling me that anyone is going to be listening to Foals in 12 years. Is anybody going to be fucking begging for Hot Chip to get back together in 22 years? I don't fucking think so.
8 | "You can't download spirit"
I'm never going to sell out Wembley Stadium on my own. Oasis could do 15 nights at the drop of a fucking hat but that's not what drives me now. I'm driven to make what I do now the best that it can be.
I won't say a word to an audience for two hours if I can't be fucking bothered. If you don't like it then don't come next time.
The gig will never die because you can't download it. You can't download spirit. And, so, for the likes of me who persevered from an early age to play the fucking guitar and write songs and practice and practice and practice, I'll be fine. God help fucking Zayn Malik.
Money is like drugs. What drugs do to you is whatever you are in your core, they just magnify. If you're depressed, drugs will magnify that. If you're a worrier, drugs will magnify that. If you're paranoid, drugs will magnify that. Same with money. Now, I'm none of those things. I'm a party person. I live in the fucking moment. I have no conscience. I don't fucking care. I look after me and my family. That's it. So money is fucking great. And do you know what the best thing about it is? I earned every fucking penny. I didn't win it in the lottery. If I hadn't have written those songs, I wouldn't be where I am today. That's the bottom line. So, I fucking enjoy it as much as I can.
One of the things my missus says, "You're a fucking bizarre individual." She says, "You just don't give a fuck, do you?"
People are wary about what they say now, for fear of social media. I pity people who fucking practice in the court of public opinion. When people would interview me I didn't give a fuck. And it wasn't studied not-giving-a-fuck. [Mimsy voice] "Oh no, I don't give a fuck." I genuinely didn't care what people thought and I still to this day don't care what people think of me. There's a bit of my brain that's missing.
Chris Martin is a friend of mine. That fucking guy can write a tune. And he's hilarious, by the way. We were out one night having dinner, me and my missus, him and his missus, and he ended up banging his hand on the table, shouting at me: "Why do you think it's so cool not to give a fuck?" Because he does give a fuck. About everything. I might have been making some disparaging comment about fucking Madonna or someone, and he was like, "I just can't believe you can be like that." And I was like, "Fucking believe it, man, because I can't believe you can be like that."
Every ludicrous thing I've ever said, I accepted the consequences because I don't think I've ever said, "Oh, it was taken out of context, that." Fucking wankers say that.
I don't believe in God. I don't believe there's an all-seeing Somebody guiding the universe because if there was, clearly, there wouldn't be such a thing as Isis. And I don't mean the Bob Dylan song. In that sense, I'm a man of science. The Big Bang, that all sounds a lot more plausible to me.
How do I explain my success? I think that the people see something in what I do and what we did that maybe we still don't see. I've had people outside crying. Still to this day, crying. And I still don't understand that. So, I think people put something onto us that they wanted to see in themselves.
It's nice to do things like this from time to time because I never really talk about it with anybody else. Nobody else was there. I'm the last man standing.
When I talk to Weller, he's just slagging people off because he just fucking hates everyone. Bono, though, he's great at summing things up. He said to me, "As long as your shit's great, you don't have to be." I thought, "That's so true. I don't have to be anything other than myself, as long as the songs are great. And if the songs are great, no one's really fucking interested about me so I can just do what the hell I want."
When you make mistakes is when you think that it's you that's great and that anything you do must be great by definition, because it's you who's doing it. Not true. I learned that lesson very fucking quickly.
I don't chase it anymore. I used to write constantly. Weller said to me one night, "Look, just don't." It went away from him for years. I said, "How'd you deal with that?" He said, "Just don't chase it. If it's going to come back it'll come back. And if it doesn't come back, would you be happy if you never wrote another song?" I think if I never wrote another song I could look back and think that some of the songs that I wrote really made a difference. They didn't change the world but they made a difference to people. People fucking love those songs. So I would be happy.
Retiring? I don't know what I'd do. It's quite sad, really. I don't have anything else that I'm remotely interested in other than music and football and my family. And that's it.
I'm proud of three things, maybe four things. To get to this age and not have dyed my hair is a major achievement. No earrings. No tattoos. And no motorbike.
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