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Noel Gallagher and Dave Sardy on the Making of ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’

Written by: Jeff Slate

Photo: Sour Mash Records

Photo: Sour Mash Records

With Chasing Yesterday out next month, Rock Cellar Magazine revisits Noel Gallagher’s first solo outing.

“The great incentive for me is that when you’re working in LA, everybody in England is asleep,” Noel Gallagher tells me during one of our two interviews during the promotion of his first solo album, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, in 2011, of his choice to finish the record in Los Angeles.

“Your phone is dead so you can concentrate, knowing that the world you live in on the other side of the Atlantic, they’re all nice and safe in bed. You’ve spoken to them before they got in bed. The kids are in bed, the wife’s in bed, they’re all in bed. You get a good fucking eight hours stretch of a working day where everybody’s asleep and nobody’s going to be calling you or e-mailing you. So there’s that. There’s also the weather. I love the fucking sunshine. The people out there are very professional. They’ve all got great studios, everything works, and the lifestyle lived out there is… I start work at mid-day, I finish at midnight, and on weekends, I sit on the balcony in Sunset Towers, smoke cigarettes, drink tea, and think, ‘Wow, isn’t this fucking wonderful?’”

noel gallaghers high flying birds album artIn fact, it did turn out wonderfully. Gallagher’s album was a UK #1, and did respective sales globally at a time when the music business was otherwise struggling. But when I first spoke with Gallagher, ahead of the release of the album, he was remarkably unsure of what to expect, as both a solo artist and frontman.

“I had perfected that role,” Gallagher told me of his days in Oasis, during an informal chat at a swanky rooftop party in New York’s SoHo to celebrate the release of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. “I was quite happy to be the guy on the side of the stage, playing guitar and singing the odd song. It’s actually a pain in the arse to have to be up front. Talk to me after a few shows. I might be moaning about how I’ve made a huge mistake.”

But, typically, he was also full of his trademark bravado. “I’m pleased,” he told me of the finished album. “I recorded one song and it was fun and I thought it sounded really good. Then I recorded another and I thought, ‘That’s fucking great, man’. I’m ready to play it to the people.”

Funnily enough, though, even in 2011 Gallagher was already setting his sights on what would become Chasing Yesterday, which is due out March 3rd.

“I never like to hold anything back for fear you might fucking die and your wife take all the glory, you know what I mean? I kind of put it all out there,” he told me.

“There’s nothing of Oasis left in the vaults. But I’ve got a lot of songs knocking around. Come On, It’s All Right’will be on the next album. There’s a track out there called God Help Us All that will be on the next one. I’m working through them slowly. I have to thank people on the Internet really.”

You go on YouTube and find these songs I’ve done at sound checks that people have recorded and put there. I forget about them! I’m just trying to have fun on stage. Twenty minutes to kill, so I’ll fucking sing a new one. I’ve seen a few now, and I think, “Wow, that’s actually a good song. I should finish that off.”

“It’s kind of good in a way. It helps. I’ve rediscovered maybe half a dozen songs I would have ordinarily forgotten about. When I first got a computer, somebody asked if I’d seen all my stuff on there. I hadn’t. So I checked out soundcheck versions of Everybody On The Run, If I Had A Gun (both from his first solo album), and some other unreleased stuff. People had started to finish off the words with what they thought they should be. Management insisted that I had them taken down. I was like, ‘You know what? Those are just gifts!’ If people are that interested in coming along to a soundcheck and risk getting thrown out to do that, fuck it. I don’t mind. People are not that dumb to think that’s the version. It’s not going to spoil anything when If I Had A Gun eventually comes out. I don’t mind that. I find it incredibly flattering to be honest.”

But Gallagher was also circumspect about what he’d accomplished during the sessions for his first solo album.

“I don’t need to be in the studio all the fucking time, you know what I mean?,” he told me. “I’ve got the demos. I won’t forget them. It’s literally a case of time. If I book a studio for six weeks, I get through as much as I can, because I’ve got so many songs. When I get to the end, it’s like okay, that’s it. It’s done.”

The excitement over Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds began with the release of the single The Death Of You And Me. Markedly different from anything Oasis ever attempted, it’s a songwriting and production tour de force, and Gallagher laid much of it’s success to Dave Sardy, whom he had worked with on the last two Oasis albums and who acted as co-producer on High Flying Birds.

“I have to say, when I finally got to the mixing stage, the first thing I mixed was The Death of You and Me and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really fucking great,’” said Gallagher. “I’ve seen songs go from nothing to magic in a couple of days. When The Death of You and Me, for instance, started out it sounded great. When Dave finished, he took it to the area where it’s magic. What you hear now is something quite magical. But we just get on. We have the same interest in music and films and bullshit, and we’ve got the same amount of kids, and our kids are the same age. The guys he surrounds himself with great people and his team are also roundabout the same age. We’ve got the same reference points in life and music. We just all get on.”

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