It’s not that Noel Gallagher is secretive about his songwriting, but the former Oasis bandleader has never particularly enjoyed parsing the ins and outs of his often meticulous work. This time, however, it’s different. He’s just turned a sage-like 50, and for his third effort with his group High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon?, he’s so forthcoming that he’s bordering on effervescent. His health is fine (“I’ve got a bit of a cold, but other than that, I’m feeling fit and good, I must say,” he reports) and his wife Sara and three children are also doing well (or, as he laughingly puts it, “The last time I checked, they were all still alive, so they’re good”). So Who Built the Moon?, he explains, “has some songs that are really joyous experience, and they’re very uplifting, and there are some songs about girls, some songs about how beautiful the world is, and some songs that are cautionary tales—messages to my kids. So I’d say that the overriding experience of it is joy. And hope.”
A lot of words have been tagged to the famously combative Gallagher in his 25 years of making records, from his world-beating Oasis days to his current go-round with High Flying Birds. “Joy” and “hope” aren’t usually among them. So, for the record, his perpetual feud with his bratty kid brother, ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, continues unabated (he recently compared Liam’s new solo foray, As You Were, to Adele singing into a bucket). And his daughter Anais, a model and aspiring filmmaker who’s the new face of Reebok, is now herself embroiled in a Twitter war with Liam’s sons, Gene and Lennon. But there’s no negativity in celebratory Moon anthems like “If Love Is the Law,” the ‘60s-dreamy “She Taught Me How to Fly,” a spooky chain-clanking “Be Careful What You Wish For,” and kickoff single “Holy Mountain,” a horn-and-sax rave-up that captures the unbridled energy of a 1950’s sock hop. “Keep on Reaching” taps a classic R&B vibe, while the title track channels ominous Ennio Morricone riffs. Overall, the record finds Gallagher cutting loose and having fun again like he hasn’t in years—current political climate be damned, as he clarified to Paste.
“I always see the good in everything. Well, okay, actually that’s not true. But I always try to make everything the best that it can be. My glass is always half full. Always. The only bad thing about the world is the people.”
Paste: Throughout this new record, you seem to describe yourself as an outsider, or the other.
Noel Gallagher: Well, I operate outside of the music business, and I don’t have a deal with any record company. So I do what I want in that respect. And I have the ultimate creative freedom, for life. And I couldn’t have made this record if I was on a major label, because somebody would have come down to the studio halfway through recording and said, “Really? This not a Noel Gallagher album, so we’re not going to put it out!” So I try not to get involved in the industry. And once the album is made, you just license it to other people and avoid the music business entirely. My company, Sour Mash, is funded entirely by me and not affiliated with any other label—I pay for that out of my own pocket, out of the fruits of my genius. So I have no desire to be involved in the music business. And all these award shows are only a reflection of the charts, because it’s like nobody’s writing their own music anymore. They go these songwriting farms where they’ll have a personal song shopper who goes in and says, “Can you get me that one in red? And I’ll take that other one in black, and then I’ll take that one, and that one, and that one.” Do ya know what I mean? It’s dire times. Which is what makes this record so revolutionary.
You employed several string players, tin whistle, and a slew of backing vocalists on Who Built the Moon? Plus, Paul Weller added organ to “Holy Mountain” and Johnny Marr played guitar and harmonica to “If Love Is the Law.” Were you starting to get carried away, like Brian Wilson?
Fuckin’ hell—I hate Brian Wilson! And you know what? If there’s a more overrated person in the music business than me, it’s that guy. But these experiments were great. From the minute we started to record “Holy Mountain”—and I came up with the sample that the flute riff is based around—I knew I was doing the right thing. I just knew it. And my producer was even looking at me and saying, “Really? Do ya think?” And I said, “Man, this is going to be the first single! This is rock ‘n’ roll!” I wasn’t worried that I might go too far; I wasn’t in that frame of mind. And I didn’t give a fuck; as long as the songs were great, the rest of it looked after itself. If the essence of the song was there, we pushed it as far as we could go. And I knew that “Holy Mountain” was going to be divisive when it came out—I knew it, and it was. So I was not surprised. But I just think my flame burns a little bit brighter now—I’m at a creative peak. And my band that I started out with six or seven years ago is not the same band that I’m in now. I’ve got different people, and I’ve got girls in the band.
And you have your old Oasis guitarist Gem Archer on board, fresh from Liam’s now-defunct Beady Eye.
Gem is back. Yep. I’ve forgiven him for going to the dark side for a few years, so everything is okay.
Speaking of forgiveness, I just interviewed Liam for Paste, and beneath all the bluster and bravado, he was saying heartwarming things about how he missed being in a band with you, and missed you two just being brothers. It seemed pretty sincere.
ICYMI: Read Paste’s recent interview with Liam Gallagher here.
Well, maybe he should take a deep breath before he presses the “send” button on his Twitter account next time. Don’t you think that was all for your benefit? Well, I do fucking know; it’s more for Oasis’ fans’ benefit, that’s what that is. So I’m afraid I don’t buy it. I don’t fucking buy it, and I don’t care. He’s said too much. So I hope he’s having the shittiest time of his fucking life.
Otherwise, why are you feeling so celebratory?
Well, I’ve always been that way. I always look at the bigger picture. And I always see the good in everything. Well, okay, actually that’s not true. But I always try to make everything the best that it can be. My glass is always half full. Always. The only bad thing about the world is the people.
But don’t you just turn on the news today and shudder?
No. I don’t watch the news. The news is fucking boring. So if the world is going to end, I don’t want to know about it. I don’t want to watch the run-up to it. If the sky is going to catch fire because some little, fat North Korean idiot flies a rocket into it, let it fucking end. I don’t want to know about it. I’d rather be doing something else.
So you have no opinion on Brexit, Trump, even Jeremy Corbyn? You did say that “99 percent of the people are thick as pig shit” when the Brexit vote happened in the UK.
Fuck Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a Communist. And Trump’s a…a…I’m not even going to name him. But they don’t affect my life. Well, Donald Trump, maybe, because his views on the environment are pretty fucking scary, and that will affect my children. But politicians? They’re fucking idiots. They’re economists—that’s all they are. They’re fucking full of shit, and I should know, because I’ve known quite a few of them.