Ever since Oasis finally imploded in 2009, Noel Gallagher’s kept pretty busy. First returning with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ self-titled debut in 2011, it would be four years before Gallagher came back with Chasing Yesterday, but he’s been working on music fairly constantly amidst touring consistently. There was the abandoned collaboration album with Amorphous Androgynous, and now, two years after Chasing Yesterday, Gallagher is about to unveil Who Built The Moon?, an album he worked on concurrently with Chasing Yesterday. While the spaced-out moments on Chasing Yesterday already marked some new territory for Gallagher, Who Built The Moon? has garnered divided fan reactions and barbs from his brother Liam for its more overtly psychedelic approach, which finds Gallagher pushing further in directions hinted at on albums like its predecessor and Oasis’ swan song Dig Out Your Soul.
It’s also notable since Gallagher worked with producer David Holmes — who has ventured into producing in the past but is often known for his electronic albums or soundtrack work. The partnership pushed Gallagher out of his comfort zone, changing up the whole way he approached songwriting. Rather than coming in with finished music and refining it during recording, Gallagher wrote everything in the studio under Holmes’ supervision and influence. The end result can definitely be felt in the different directions and sonic decisions that dominate Who Built The Moon?, whether in the textural opener “Fort Knox” or the underwater chorus of “It’s A Beautiful World” or the psych flourishes of lead single “Holy Mountain.”
And, of course, anytime a Gallagher releases music, there’s the tradition of, let’s say, fairly active press cycles. We’ve already been along that ride with Liam’s comeback solo debut earlier this year, and ever since Noel’s been creeping up towards his release, there has been a steady flow of quotes from the brothers about each other, Oasis, and their respective albums. Understandably but perhaps unfairly, that’s almost as much a part of any new Gallagher record as the music itself. So, on the occasion of Who Built The Moon?, we decided to talk to one of the most quotable and best interviewees of our time once again. A week before Who Built The Moon? is set to enter the world, I met up with Noel to talk about his new music, Liam, the music landscape of 2017, and which pop mastermind he’d love to work with.
STEREOGUM: The big angle with Who Built The Moon? is that it’s a bit more experimental and psychedelic for you. Part of that came out of working with David Holmes. How did you two meet and decide to collaborate?
NOEL GALLAGHER: I met him by chance at a festival on my first solo tour. He introduced himself, we were in my dressing room with Primal Scream. I was like, “Oh, fuck, I’ve got all your records” and we got to talking. Then when it came to doing Chasing Yesterday, I’d done all of what I thought were the demos, and I called him and said, “You fancy getting involved in this?” He came to London and I played him the songs and he said “They all sound finished.” I went, “Well I’ve only just fucking started.” He said “That’s not the way I work, I want to be there at the genesis, so I can’t get involved in this record. Go and finish that record off.” I said, “Well, I still wouldn’t mind making a record with you though.” He said, “We can do that if you want.”
I was working on both records at the same time. I would do a couple of weeks on Chasing Yesterday, then fly to his place in Northern Ireland and do a bit of work on Who Built The Moon?, come back, went away on tour. It just came about by that chance meeting, really. Ordinarily, I would’ve finished Chasing Yesterday, gone on tour, be sitting there now just writing the next album the way I’ve always written it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of thing, d’you know what I mean?
STEREOGUM: You wrote in the studio more this time.
GALLAGHER: I had nothing. He said, “Do not write anything at home, I don’t want to hear a thing you did at home, I want to be there so that when we get the starting point I can point you in a different direction.”
STEREOGUM: At one point there was that collaboration you were working on with Amorphous Androgynous that was being talked about in similar terms, more experimental and psychedelic. Does any of Who Built The Moon? have roots in that?
GALLAGHER: No. The thing with the Amorphous thing was…when you read things about this record, the word “psychedelic” pops up. I think the Amorphous one didn’t have as good of songs, and it was a bit too psychedelic for its own good. I had already written the songs for the Amorphous thing and they were psychedelicizing the songs. Whereas this was being written in the studio, the songs are being born out of this thing. That’s the main difference. But, if I was to work with Amorphous again, I’d take this process and do it with them. I think that’s what they would’ve preferred to do. So the reason that didn’t work out, I’d say, was possibly 60-70 percent my fault.
STEREOGUM: Who Built The Moon? is coming out at a time where you’ve just turned 50 and Be Here Now just turned 20. Last time we spoke, Chasing Yesterday was coming out right around the time (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? was turning 20. Do these milestones affect you at all? You just said if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but did you feel compelled to mix it up in this context?
GALLAGHER: Oh, no, the age thing…I’ve been working on this record since the day Lou Reed died. I was fucking 46 when I started this record. Being 50 was way off in the distance. It may well be [a factor] next time. But this is the last record of my 40s, the way I see it.
STEREOGUM: Did you feel any differently about Be Here Now’s 20th anniversary coming around vs. the two classics preceding it?
GALLAGHER: Well, no…the only time I look back is when I’m onstage and I’m playing a specific song from the ‘90s. I think it’s good to look back from time to time but not to go back. I look back when I’m playing the songs. Morning Glory turning 20…it is what it is. Be Here Now turning 20…I’m afraid that’s the world we live in, it’s built around nostalgia, isn’t it? That’s partly because there’s nothing new that’s of any lasting quality. Definitely Maybe will be 30 soon and then that’ll come up and there’ll be another fucking round of that shit going on again. If I was sitting at home struggling as an artist and I was having to talk about it, it might be different. But as I’m moving forward, it’s like, I don’t mind talking about it. It’s a thing I did.
STEREOGUM: Well, despite you not seeing lasting quality in newer stuff, was there anything you came across this year that did stick with you?
GALLAGHER: Not albums. No fucking way. I like certain tracks here and there. I don’t think it’s been a particularly great year. I could be wrong, I’m thinking off the top of my head here. Usually years with seven in them are fucking great – ’57, ’67, ’87, and ’97. Two thousand and seven probably wasn’t great, but 2017 has been really fucking quiet. “Fade” by Kanye was fucking great. Was that this year?
STEREOGUM: That was last year now.
GALLAGHER: That was last year, was it? The only thing that I’ve been remotely…going on tour with U2 was probably the best thing.
STEREOGUM: What do you think of their new album?
GALLAGHER: I think it’s good. There’s a track called “The Showman,” one of their best-ever songs. Fucking unbelievable. You know, I get to hear these four years in advance, tiny little demoes, and they’re always called something else. But that song, yeah, “The Showman.” Wish I’d written it, put it that way.
STEREOGUM: Do you have any thoughts on Taylor Swift’s comeback?
GALLAGHER: No. I don’t know anyone in my life who’s a fan. I’m not sure how she’s gotten to where she’s gotten. How’s that happened?
STEREOGUM: Well, a lot of people love her music but part of it is business savvy.
GALLAGHER: A lot of these young pop stars are now. They’re more about the brand. They’re very aware of how they put themselves out in the digital age and that kind of thing.
STEREOGUM: I’m sure that’s weird, coming from the rockstar life of the ‘90s.
GALLAGHER: It’s weird for a 50-year-old guy to see it, but I’ve got a 17-year-old daughter. She can’t believe we lived the way we lived. She’s like, “Are you fucking idiotic?” And we were like, “Well, yeah.” So, for the young’uns, [Swift] and Ed Sheeran and all that mob, that’s just the way they do things. If we’re going to discuss the musical notes, forget it. It’s not for me. She seems like a nice kid, though, right?
STEREOGUM: Yeah — well, a lot of people perceive a malicious undercurrent there.
GALLAGHER: She could’ve made her way in Oasis, then. [laughs]
STEREOGUM: You mentioned Kanye. Are you a Kendrick Lamar fan as well?
GALLAGHER: No, don’t know anything about him. I know Bono’s into him. Jay-Z, Kanye…I’ll tell you who I think is a fucking genius and I’d work with him in an instant. Pharrell. He had that run of songs, “Get Lucky” and “Happy” and “Freedom.” Fucking hell. And he writes it all himself.
STEREOGUM: You’d want him to produce a Noel Gallagher album?
GALLAGHER: He came to me once, at the height of “Get Lucky.” He was a huge Oasis fan. I met him at an awards ceremony during “Get Lucky,” the biggest fucking song of the last 20 years, and he said, “When you’re ready, give me a call, we’ll do something.” Of course my wife’s going “Fucking call him!” But I’d work with him for-fucking-sure. We’ve got a lot of mutual friends and I’ve met him a couple times. He’s a dude, man. I fucking love him.
STEREOGUM: How about your guy Morrissey and his new album.
GALLAGHER: Yeah, yeah. There’s a track on his album called “All The Young People Must Fall In Love.” It’s great. He can do no wrong in my eyes. His stuff ebbs and flows. For every “Irish Blood, English Heart,” there’s something where you’re going “Hmm, don’t know about that.” But you hear “Spent The Day In Bed” and it’s just wow. I love him. He’s a saint to me.
STEREOGUM: Have you listened to your brother’s record?
GALLAGHER: I’ve heard “Wall Of Glass” and the rock ‘n’ roll classic that sounds like Adele. “For What It’s Worth,” I believe it’s called. I’m not a fan. That thing, that sound, is a bit old hat to me. But I do believe it’s better than Oasis, is what I’m reading. I heard two old grannies discussing it in a hat shop. They were saying it’s better than the Beatles.
STEREOGUM: Do you get sick of this back and forth between you two in the press? You know, like the scissors and potato thing?
GALLAGHER: Yeah, yeah. Oh, the scissors thing. Oh, I don’t give a fuck about that. If I had to live my life in reaction to what someone else was doing…I’m not the kind of person who lives that way, I’m not reactionary. I get on with my own thing. If other people want to react to that, then wow, how sad, d’you know what I mean? It gets slightly tedious being asked about it all the time.
STEREOGUM: I would imagine.
GALLAGHER: But I understand it. The whole thing is kinda driven by social media and I’m not that person.
STEREOGUM: He did have that quote this year where he said, amongst other things that were sort of contradictory —
GALLAGHER: Contradictory? No way.
STEREOGUM: He said “I miss being in a band with my brother.”
GALLAGHER: He knows for a fact that Oasis are not getting back together. That gives him immunity to play the victim card to Oasis fans, which I don’t care about. “I would do it for you guys, but it’s him,” that kinda thing. Maybe one day I’ll call his bluff and see the color drain out of his fucking face. He knows it’s not going to happen and he tends to play to the gallery a little bit, all the 15 year olds who had never seen us. It’s like…if that’s the way you want to live your life…if he misses being in a band — he was in a band, wasn’t he?
STEREOGUM: Well there was Beady Eye.
GALLAGHER: I think he ditched those guys to go solo because it was financially better for him. I’ve got two of those guys in my band. The tales that they happen to tell would make your toes curl. [laughs]
STEREOGUM: Do you know Steve Earle? He called you the most overrated songwriter in pop history this year.
GALLAGHER: I’ve heard of his name. Yeah. I’d probably tend to agree with him. I do get a lot of adulation and it makes me uncomfortable. But Steve Earle should enjoy what’s left of his fucking hairdo. D’you know what I mean? Yeah, just enjoy what’s left of his hairdo and write a decent chorus.
STEREOGUM: You mentioned Oasis fans and Liam playing to that crowd or whatever. You’ve also mentioned welcoming the divisiveness of your new record. Which, to be honest, I’m surprised by — it sounds different, but it’s connected to past works.
GALLAGHER: Especially the last one.
STEREOGUM: And if you go back to Dig Out Your Soul you can see germs of this. And you went in this direction for Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, in a different context. Has it actually been very divisive?
GALLAGHER: I think so. I don’t have social media, my daughter will come in from school and say “Fucking hell, look at this.” I think, clearly, there’s been another generation of Oasis fans spawned who are teenagers who have got a different take on it. Because like you say, I don’t remember anyone listening to “The Right Stuff” and “Riverman” and “AKA…What A Life!” and “Ballad Of The Mighty I” and “Gas Panic!” and “Go Let It Out” and going “The fucking hell is going on here?” I don’t remember that. I could only surmise that there must be this generation of young kids who’ve come through and have got this vision of what Oasis was supposed to be because someone else is doing it.
STEREOGUM: Like young British bands?
GALLAGHER: Well, Liam’s doing that thing. For them. Good luck to them all. I’m a bit bemused by it all. They seem to take ownership of what you are, and it’s sorta like…”Oh, this is not going to be fun for you from now on then.” But you can’t be even remotely interested in what fans might want, because I ultimately believe that when they hear this record they’ll fucking love it. They just don’t know it yet. I get it, though. There’s a French girl playing the scissors. I get it. To a certain demographic of Oasis fans, that might be unacceptable.
STEREOGUM: The funny thing to me about that is if you go back to the ’60s psychedelic stuff you’re drawing on —
GALLAGHER: I’ll tell you what is interesting, is that these people are supposed to idolize John Lennon. I guarantee you that their grandparents booed Bob Dylan. I guarantee you that their grandparents drove John Lennon into the arms of America because of his “weird Japanese bird.” It’s nothing new. I’m not for one minute comparing myself to Bob Dylan or John Lennon. But on a very much lower fucking level, it’s that kind of thing.
STEREOGUM: Do you keep up with pop culture much outside of music? Do you have time to go to the movies?
GALLAGHER: The last film I went to see was, probably, I took my kids to see Rogue One, the Star Wars thing. The last time I went to the pictures before that, believe it or not, was to see The Wolf Of Wall Street, which fucking blew me away. One of the greatest films of all time. I kinda watch movies at home. Somebody came up to me in the cinema once. I’m watching a film and I’m sitting at the aisle so when the lights come up I can get out. Somebody’s leaving before the movie’s over and they see me and go, “What are you doing here?” I was like, “Sorry?” “What are you doing here?” “I’m watching the fucking film.” No, I’m waiting for a fucking taxi. What the fuck? You’re away so often, by the time you get off tour or being away in New York for a couple of days, it’s like…there’s so much to catch up on. And television is so amazing these days.
STEREOGUM: What’ve you been watching?
GALLAGHER: The Jinx, Making A Murderer, the Amanda Knox thing — I like things like that, factual things that are stranger than fiction. The Wire, watched it at least three times. Breaking Bad. Narcos, fucking hell.
STEREOGUM: Oh, yeah, your 50th birthday had the Narcos theme.
GALLAGHER: Yeah, that was a little private joke. My friends do liken me to Pablo Escobar. [laughs] That’s what that was. It wasn’t a Pablo Escobar-themed party. It was a private joke that got out of hand.
STEREOGUM: Did the party live up to it?
GALLAGHER: Oh, absolutely. Not in that sense, but it was a fucking great party.
Who Built The Moon? is out 11/24 on Sour Mash. Pre-order it here.