Noel Gallagher has a perhaps not entirely undeserved reputation for being a surly fellow and difficult interview--a rep surely only compounded by his former band Oasis's acrimonious breakup, after he and his famously feuding little brother Liam brawled backstage at Paris's Rock en Seine festival in 2009. But when the Britpop icon recently came by Yahoo! Music, he couldn't have been more pleasant. "It's not so bad doing interviews, innit?" the affable chap shrugged. "They fly you to Los Angeles first-class, you stay in nice hotels, and you go talk about yourself! What's not to like?"
Clearly going solo agrees with the man. The longtime songwriter for Oasis but only occasionally that band's singer, Noel is now going the full-fledged singer-songwriter route with his upcoming and much-awaited solo debut, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, and it's a welcome return to fine form after his two-year hiatus. "I've gotta do something," he laughed. "My wife demanded that I go make a record because I was annoying her: 'When are you going back to work?'"
Well, thank you very much, Mrs. Gallagher, for getting your husband back in the studio. Noel's new album features some of his best work in ages, and--let's just get the inevitable comparison out of the way here--it is far superior to the first album by Liam's new post-Oasis band, Beady Eye. Going it alone seems to be the right decision for Noel right now, despite his occasional misgivings and the public's never-ending demands for an Oasis reunion.
"Regret is maybe too strong a word, because really in hindsight it couldn't have gone on the way it did; there was just too much bad vibes," Noel said of that fateful night in Paris when Oasis disbanded for good. "At first I thought, 'Maybe I've been a bit hasty here,' because we only had two gigs left on the tour; maybe we could have done the two gigs, gone away, got a bit of distance from it, and things might have been different. But then you know, I started in the studio and I enjoyed it, so I don't miss [Oasis] too much."
Speaking about that night when Noel walked away from Oasis for good, after crying wolf many times over their tumultuous decade-and-a-half run, Noel was surprisingly frank. "I'd liken to it when you know when you're about to dump a girl. I don't know what made it any different. We'd had worse fights, worse arguments. I dunno, maybe I just sat there and I thought, 'This has gone on too long.' I can't remember what exactly I was thinking, but it's like, why do people change jobs? You just sit there one day and you think, 'I didn't feel like this yesterday, but I feel like it now. I'm off.'"
Unlike Liam, who later regrouped with ex-Oasis members under the name Beady Eye, Noel decided not to form a new band, and with good reason: "Once you've been in a band like [Oasis], you can't go anywhere with it. You can't start another band and say, 'This time it's gonna be different! We're gonna be less successful!' There's no point in doing that...I've already been in one of the best bands ever, so there's no need to do that."
Showing a surprisingly and rarely seen humble aspect of his outsized persona, Noel expressed some fear about hitting the road without his longtime band. "The live side, even in rehearsals, it was really strange," he confessed. "It's not really gonna hit me until I get onstage, because I haven't got the genetic makeup of a frontman. I haven't got anything to say, I haven't got any new moves, I don't know any jokes. I've just got songs. Frontmen come alive when they come onstage. I've got to wait and see what happens. I'm a bit...I wouldn't say I'm nervous, but I'm trepidatious, if indeed that is a word. I'm not a natural frontman as of yet. But then again, my inner Elvis might take over when I hit the stage!"
However, Oasis fans needn't worry: Noel confirmed to Yahoo! that he and his inner Elvis will be playing a few classic Oasis tunes when he tours this fall. "I don't really consider them anymore to be Oasis songs. They're my songs, I wrote them," he explained. "It's not like I'm Morrissey and I'm taking half of what Johnny Marr done and kind of running away with it, or vice versa. I wrote those songs and all the words and all the melodies and I arranged them all, so they're mine. The end. To save the constant shouting for 'Don't Look Back In Anger,' it's easier just to do it. And I think my new songs are strong enough that they'll stand up alongside the old songs."
He's definitely right about that. Noel's excellent album comes out in October, but you can hear all about it now from the man himself, in this exclusive two-part interview, along with some hilarious chatter about why he won't go on Twitter, how a band called You And Me At Six outed him when he was recording in secret, his upcoming psychedelic side-project with Amorphous Androgynous, what he really thinks of Beady Eye, and whether or not he thinks he is an "icon."