SWEARING IT was for good, Noel Gallagher quit Oasis in 2009. His current band, High Flying Birds, is the next logical step for the consummate Britpop composer. By phone from Germany, Gallagher spoke with the Mercury. This conversation has been edited and condensed for publication; read the complete version right here.
MERCURY: How do you find touring in the US—especially outside of New York or LA, in places like Portland?
NOEL GALLAGHER: When I first went to America, in my early 20s, I didn't like it. There were too many rules for me. You couldn't smoke here and you couldn't drink there, you couldn't cross the road there. I thought it was a lot of unnecessary bullshit. I must say, the older that I've gotten, the more I've really connected with it in some way. It's a much slower pace of life than what I'm used to, living in a big city like London.
After almost 20 years in Oasis, how did it feel to start fresh?
I'm not one of the world's great thinkers. I don't overthink any situation I'm ever in. I didn't go into rehearsals, or try to put a band together thinking, "Oh wow, what's this going to be like? It's not Oasis. What's it going to be? How are these people going to be and what are they going to wear? What are they gonna fucking eat? What if one of 'em's a fucking vegetarian?" I just put the band together and we did it. Once it's done, I'll take stock.
Tastes have changed since Oasis broke. What do you make of today's popular music?
When was the last truly great band to appear from either of our countries? Don't mention Oasis—that's a given. I'm struggling to think of one great band that will come out of the digital age. It's all about personality and celebrity now. The biggest stars in the world are all singular people like Rihanna and Lady Gaga, fucking all that mob.
I base all my thoughts on record sales and charts. There are great bands playing in pubs—but who gives a fuck about those? Guitar music as a force for being the biggest shit in the world is fucking over for now. My battleground is the charts, and guitar music at the top of the charts is virtually nonexistent unless you fucking count Green Day, which nobody should.
Why put such stake in the charts?
Because that's what counts. Popular culture is what counts. Who wants to be a cult band? Fuck that. There are 1,000 great records written a day that nobody owns. I still think bands should aim to be the Beatles, not fucking Pavement.
For doing a Coke ad in 2005, you called Jack White "Zorro on doughnuts." What are your views on licensing today?
My music has been used in adverts, yeah. That's just the name of the game now, I'm afraid. I wouldn't be that pig-headed or stubborn to die poor with my principles intact. Fuck that.
You're 45. How has your music changed as you've gotten older?
It's becoming more considered, I think, and less vague and more direct. But I've got to say: As I get older, I don't think I've got a lot of music left. I don't think I've got a lot left in the tank, either physically or artistically. I wouldn't put the guitar in the case and be like, "Well, I used to be a musician, now I'm a full-time farmer." But making records, artist statements, it's a big fucking deal. It's not something that you should enter into lightly.
Where is your relationship with your brother Liam?
Well, I've seen him recently. I saw him for the first time in about two years at a party after the Olympics in London. He did his usual thing: He kind of insulted me as he walked past. And that was that. There's no change there.
Do you care what happens to Liam's band, Beady Eye?
Well, I hope that they come good on their claim to being the biggest band in the world in the next five years. I really, really do. It'll fucking stop people asking me about an Oasis reformation.