Noel Gallagher - Guitar World - July 2001
Oasis' impeccable, Beatles-inspired songcraft placed them at the vanguard of the Nineties Britpop explosion. They penetrated American culture with picture-perfect singles like "Supersonic," "Live Forever," and "Wonderwall," and are currently in the studio with a retooled line-up, hard at work on a follow-up to their excellent 2000 album, "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants." And while Oasis are Beatles-esque, the Black Crowes excel at their own brand of Stones/Faces-influenced, early Seventies blues rock, with a dash of Allman Brothers-style southern boogie that reflects the Crowes' Atlanta, Georgia roots. They've found a new degree of loose-limbed freedom on their latest release, "Lions."
So, in a sense, the Oasis/Crowes tour embodies the quintessential rock dialect - Beatles and Stones, pop and blues, melody and grit, lager and ganja. Then there's the sibling rivalry issue - another grand old rock tradition. The Black Crowes is co-fronted by singer Chris Robinson and his brother, guitarist Rich Robinson. Oasis is co-helmed, by guitarist and principal songwriter Noel Gallagher and his singing sibling, Liam Gallagher.
Let's just say that fraternal harmony has never been a strong suit for either family. Drunken public fisticuffs and raging torrents of verbal abuse have kept the press busy on both sides of the Atlantic. Liam Gallagher has a history of walking out on concert tours, leaving Noel to busk on without him, inwardly contemplating the sin of Cain. So there's an element of risk involved here. And risk is an essential ingredient in all great rock. The Crowes/Oasis tour is a celebration of the messy mongrel eclecticism that is rock's true spirit - a throwback to the glory days of when you could see the Who, Otis Redding, Joan Baez and Ravi Shankar on the same concert bill and nobody worried about corporate crap like demographics or sending a mixed message to the marketplace. The tour also serves as a reminder that all of rock's greatest eras have been periods of maximum respect, admiration and musical dialog between American and English bands.
Anglo American relations were certainly in good form on a recent rainy morning in London, when Noel and Liam Gallagher dropped by Scala, a grimy old theater turned rock venue where the Black Crowes were set to play that evening at a release party for "Lions." There were plenty of hugs, and handshakes as the Robinson brothers greeted the Gallagher boys. Liam Gallagher asked after Chris Robinson's missus, actress Kate Hudson, commending her recent performance in Cameron Crowe's rock film, "Almost Famous.""Good film, innit?" Liam beamed. "Yeah, it's pretty cool," Chris grinned. "Innocent, man."
Liam is the former husband of fetching British screen star Patsy Kensit. Which led to the inevitable question: Why do rock singers end up pairing off with actresses so often?"They're all fuckin' good shags, man!" Liam promptly observed. And for once, the motor-mouthed Chris Robinson fell silent. After a few embarrassed moments he finally drawled, "Well, I'm not gonna disagree with that. You should ask them why they're with us. I don't know if they'd say we were good shags."
Valiantly trying to steer the conversation back to music, Noel praised the "Almost Famous" soundtrack album, singling out Simon and Garfunkel's late-Sixties opus, "America" for special notice."It's the American 'Day in the Life,' innit?"High praise, indeed, from rock's most notorious Beatlemaniac.
Liam and Rich eventually drifted off to other parts of the venue, leaving Noel and Chris to settle down in an upstairs lounge for a good, long chat. Digging into a baggie containing about an ounce of marijuana, Chris extracted an inch and a half roach and fired it up. Noel crisply unwrapped a fresh packet of Benson and Hedges. America and Britain's cultural exchange was about to enter a brand new phase.
Guitar World - When did you two guys first meet?
Noel Gallagher - Well, it's a funny story. I met them at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, where they were playing a gig. I'd only known them about five minutes, and I collapsed in their dressing room. I was a bit the worse for wear, drinking. And then the next time I met them was in New York, at one of our gigs.
Chris Robinson - It was a much clearer meeting the second time! You guys had a job to do. I mean you always get more hammered at someone else's gig. You don't have to do anything.
GW - How did you get the idea to tour together?
ROBINSON - It came up that Oasis wanted to get back into the States, and we wanted to get out on the road. I think it's a perfect match. Two guitar based rock and roll bands where the two lead singers and two lead guitarists are also the main songwriters and also just happen to be brothers! We're also throwing Spacehog on the bill, and their lead singer and guitarist are brothers too.
GALLAGHER - Our manager or someone mentioned to us, "Fancy going on tour with the Black Crowes?" And the light came on. It was like, "Fuck man, we've been going 10 years, why didn't we think of this sooner?"
GW- Who's headlining? Oasis or the Crowes?
GALLAGHER - Well, it's co-headlining. But I mean we're going on first, so we can get trashed and watch them. We sat down with the managers and went, "Who's gonna close the show?" And all of our band went "They are!"
ROBINSON - I imagine that two or three days into the tour, one communal room will get set up backstage, with amps, a drum kit and a keyboard. We'll do some jammin'!
GALLAGHER - Yeah. We always bring a Porta-studio on the road. We're always writing in the dressing room. 'Cause there's fuck-all else to do. And another thing I'm looking forward to is going to radio stations and people not saying to me, "Well, tell us about your new record."
ROBINSON - I know what you mean. When this idea first came up, there were some people who said, "I don't get it." Whenever that happens, you immediately know you're on to something.
GALLAGHER - People say, "Oasis doesn't have an album to promote. What's going to happen when you back to America again next year to promote your new album?" Well, fuck the shit. That shit'll take care of itself when the time comes. We're not doing this for any reason other that the fact that we're all Black Crowes fans and we all love playing. Who wouldn't go?
GW - Both of your bands are conscious of rock history. Oasis reflects the English rock tradition in a similar way that the Black Crowes reflect American rock tradition.
GALLAGHER - Well, we're both bands that are constantly playing records backstage. And once you've listened to as many records as these two bands have, you end up sounding like your record collection. I'm not ashamed about it at all.
GW- Beatles or Stones?
GALLAGHER - Obviously I'm really immersed in the Beatles, but I only recently started reading Mick Jagger's lyrics.
ROBINSON - I mean, I'd have to go with the Beatles, definitely, just for the record making. But the Stones, to me, are more of a BAND band. A rock and roll band. Whereas the Beatles just stand as this entity.
GW - Clash or Sex Pistols?
ROBINSON - Clash for me.
GALLAGHER - I dunno, I was too young for that anyway. But the one record you had to have was "Never Mind the Bollocks," by the Sex Pistols. I mean, even my mum had it, and she was about 40 when it came out.
GW- Hendrix or Jeff Beck?
GALLAGHER - Hendrix.
ROBINSON - Definitely. Although Jeff Beck, man
GALLAGHER - Good guitar player.
ROBINSON - But somebody that great should enjoy playing more.
GALLAGHER - The thing about Jimi was he appealed to the whole fuckin' counterculture thing in America at that time. He spoke to everyone. Jeff Beck is great and all that. But put it this way: If Jeff Beck would have played "God Save the Queen" on his guitar at the Isle of Wight, it wouldn't have meant fuckin' jack shit. But when Hendrix played "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, it meant something.
ROBINSON - I just think Jimi's music is so deep. It's from the deepest, darkest Africa and goes to outer space. And it includes every kind of music - classical, everything. I think music is a collective part of who we are as a species. It's probably in our genetic code somewhere. Why else would it be around for so long?
GALLAGHER - And why would people that make music be famous and so respected if it didn't mean anything?
ROBINSON - Back in the day - with native music, Moroccan music and stuff - if someone was ill, they'd start playing music. They'd play for six days straight, and for some reason the person wouldn't be ill anymore.
GALLAGHER - Obviously, I wasn't around back then, but in tribal times, music would accompany every single facet of life. You were born to music. You went through your education with music, and you died to music. It was part of your fuckin' life.
ROBINSON - I listen to music constantly, whenever I'm not playing guitar. When I was a kid I went to sleep with the radio on.
GALLAGHER - Me too, and woke up with it. And when I go see a band play live, if I come out feeling like I want to go do a gig myself, that's when I'll say, "Fuckin' great band, man." Whereas with some bands I just say, "Okay, that was cool, but I just wanna go home now."
ROBINSON - These days, it seems like people in our industry don't really even enjoy playing music anymore. And you know what? Their records sound that way. It sounds like a fuckin' chore to them.
GALLAGHER - Whereas you listen to T.Rex records; they're having a fuckin' party playing "Bang a Gong." You know it, man. You can almost reach out and touch that. You shut your eyes and they're all there in the studio with feather boas and Flying V's. There's too much pressure put on people these days to be successful. They'll write a song and then they'll rewrite it, and rewrite it. And the record company says, "Well , you have to change that bit." Fuck that!
ROBINSON - I mean, we all want to be successful, but I'm not prepared to make uncool records in order to be successful. And that's really what's asked of you sometimes. I doubt if anyone would ever admit it, but it's definitely a subtext of every conversation you've ever had with those people.
GALLAGHER - Absolutely. It's hard to have a relationship with them. It's like, "Just sign the fuckin' checks. I'll give you the record, but I don't want to be your friend."
GW- So is rock dead? Has the corporate mentality finally killed it off?
ROBINSON - Obviously not.
GALLAGHER - When the tickets went on sale for this tour, I was prepared for the answer to that question. And after two weeks, it was clear that rock is emphatically not dead. Because there's thousands and thousands of people all over some of the major and not so major American cities who are paying money to come and see two rock and roll bands. To people who buy Britney Spears and Limp Bizkit records, yeah, rock is dead. But what would they know in the first place? Do you think a person who buys a Limp Bizkit record has ever heard fuckin' Elvis Presley? I would doubt it very much.
GW - Not only are the two of you in bands with your brothers, you've also tended not to get along with your brothers very well in the past.
ROBINSON - You're talking to the two oldest here. So let's just say our brothers haven't gotten along with us. I don't know about you, Noel, but I'm always right. My brother doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about half the time.
GALLAGHER - Mine too. I'd have to agree with that.
ROBINSON - I love him more than anything, but he just talks shit all the time.
GALLAGHER - But when you're on tour, you can take great strength from the fact that one of your family is going to be there when you wake up - whether you're getting on with him or not. At least there are two people on the bus who know each other inside and out. Because with a lot of bands, it's five guys who've only known each other five or six years. They aren't really willing to argue over the important stuff. Whereas me and Liam just go at it. If anybody leaves the bus, that's fine too. If things have to be said, they have to be said. It's as simple as that.
ROBINSON - I know what you're saying. For all the fights me and Rich have had - and there have been some bad ones - at the end of the day, he's still your brother. The band can break up, the Black Crowes may go away, but Rich and I, and our music together, will always be there. The two of us have gone through something that not a lot of people get to go through, being in a band like this. It's something very intense that happens to your lives, and you did it with your own blood.
GALLAGHER - The two of you were together before you met the other guys in the band, and you were trying to convince your parents that it was the right thing to do.
GW - What if Liam walks out on this tour?
GALLAGHER - He won't. I know he won't. None of us will. The only reason that anyone's ever walked out on a tour is because you come in from doing six hours of press in a day and then you do a soundcheck and your brother turns up drunk. Then he goes onstage that night and he can't fuckin' sing. And you think, You know what? I'm gonna go fucking sit on a beach for two weeks until he gets his head together. But it's not gonna be like that on this tour, I can tell you that.
GW - Different vibe this time?
GALLAGHER - It's because we want to do it. It is the first time ever we've not been shoved up the fucking steps of the plane by someone going, "The record's out next week; you have to go and tour." And you're going, "But I wanna go watch the football!" This time we're saying, "When are we leaving? I can't wait." And at the end, everybody's gonna be saying, "What, there's only three gigs left?"
ROBINSON - And I think it's gonna be a proper rock and roll show every night. All the bass players wear their basses around their waist. Not down by their ankles. That's how you can gauge we're all in out thirties.