They were the self-proclaimed biggest band in the world during much of the 90s but what now for Oasis? Noel Gallagher talks to

RUSSELL BAILLIE

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If you didn't think much of Oasis last time round - on their flop of a last album Be Here Now or the New Zealand shows of a fraught Australasian tour that followed - you're in good company.



Noel Gallagher didn't think much of them either.

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It's near the end of a highly enjoyable, surprisingly thoughtful chinwag with the cleaned-up, living in the country, just become a Dad for the first time, elder of the brothers Gallagher. We hit upon what recollections, if any, he might have of Oasis Down Under.



"Oh it was horrible," he admits. "The singer was constantly drunk on stage. It had taken us six years to get there and I just think that we blew it when we got there and that was basically was down to the singer.



"It was horrible mate. It was worse than that. Don't make no bones about it man. We were a disgrace and that is all down to Liam and he knows that and the rest of the band know that and if we ever get out there again, it will be a damn sight better next time, but there you go. People wanted the Sex Pistols and we gave it to them."



So can we take that as an apology to those folks who bought tickets to the whole fiasco?



"Well I am apologising on behalf of the singer," replies Noel, his tongue heading toward his cheek. "I thought I was marvellous, personally."



And while we're the subject of singers, how is that famously fiery sibling relationship these days, on a scale of one to 10?



"Seven and a half. It's usually about five. When he's sober it's usually about seven and a half and that is about as good as it gets. When he's drunk it's five to three but he's sort of laying off the booze a bit these days which makes it easier for everybody to get on."



A level-headed Liam? Sure must confuse people ...



"Not least of all him."



And those are his famous last words before Noel shifts on to the next interview, all part of the early global campaign for new album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (see sidebar), the evidence of which can already be seen in magazine racks worldwide. There's Liam Gallagher's "world exclusive interview" in the December issue of Q. There's December cover stories of NME and Melody Maker about the brief live debut in America of the band's new line-up (the plodding Bonehead and Guigsy quit, replaced by guitarist Gem and bassist Andy Bell who both have a bit of form, musician-wise).



There's Noel going song-by-song in the January 25 Melody Maker which also offers the first of a four-part history of the band. And there are Noel and Liam, snapped and interviewed separately in the British edition of February's GQ magazine but wearing not a lot on its cover. Over eight pages inside is Liam's missus, actress Patsy Kensit. Well, she might have a movie coming out (she used to be in films didn't she?) but she could just be doing her bit for the lads, like.



It seems all part of a certain desperation in the air about the new album. That is, will it be the Great Comeback or a further stumble for the group who revelled, beer on their breath and odd powders up their nostrils, in the title "the biggest band in the world." Gallagher employs the phrase unprompted when talking about Be Here Now. How living up to that notion put pressure on that record: "It showed in the lack of creativity in the album. Nobody wanted to take any chances because we were the biggest band in the world. Like 'do we really want to go about deconstructing the myth of the band or shall we really be a bit lazy and reinforce the stereotypes?' as it were."



But were you ever really the biggest band in the world? While the headline count over the years might say so, the other numbers don't quite.



"Well biggest English band in the world. We've done our bit for British music. The six months after [second album] Morning Glory leading up to the big gig at Knebworth, we were the biggest band in the world, even if it was for six months, and no one can ever take that away from us. I've got the records and the news files to prove that.



"We're still the biggest band of our generation and that is all that matters, really. Whether we go on to sell another 20 million records, or another five million records over the next 10 years is irrelevant to me - I've got my swimming pool and I've got my mansion. I have my Rolls Royce, I don't care. Ha!"



An automotive aside. We've seen pictures of the Noel's Roller. It is a peculiar, ugly, shade of brown. Someone has to ask why.



"I don't know why. I am obsessed with the colour brown. It's a weird thing. It's probably because I am very earthy."



Earthy and positively homely by the sounds of it. Not only is that mansion a country house with its own studio, he says he's off the drugs he once famously said he took as some would have a cup of tea. Noel Gallagher's rock-star ways could be undergoing a dose of maturity. "Yeah I was never quite comfortable with being a rock star anyway ... "



Oh, really?



"I'm more focused now and I've got a lot of shit out of my life and I've been through all that thing about growing up. From the age of 21 to 30 was a massive great big bender for me. It was fantastic at the time but it came to the point, at the end of the last tour which was, like, two years ago, which was like: 'I've done all that now and I want to go and do something else.'



"I moved out of London, moved out to the country, got my own recording studio for the first time ever, and it was devoting more time to me and my music as opposed to the personality you read in the paper. I would always go to every single party because that is what that I felt rock stars should be - out from Monday to Thursday drinking.



"Yeah, Liam still does it for all of us. I tend to devote more time to the thing which makes me happy most, which is playing the guitar and writing songs."



Gallagher senior says the new album was long in the writing - "I was writing for about six months and I finished writing the album about four times before I finished it" - and Be Here Now's failure actually eased he pressures upon its making. "There was a sense of freedom I thought that maybe people were thinking 'all right they've lost it now' and it was really good. It relieved the pressure. It was like I am just going to write this one for me and if no one seems that interested, then that's fine by me."



But how then will he judge the success or otherwise of Giants?



"I've already judged it in that the it's the best I could have done at that point. Be Here Now is not the best I could have done. That became obvious a month after.



"I don't know how to define success in terms of sales or critical acclaim. If it gets critical acclaim and sells 200,000 copies, will that be success? Or if it gets panned by the critics and sells 18 million albums, is that success? I don't really know any more.



"As long as I've still got the enthusiasm to go back into the studio again it's a successful album because it hasn't finished the band off. It's simple as that for me."