“If you take the title out of context, it does seem nostalgic,” Noel Gallagher confesses about the title of his new album, Chasing Yesterday. “But it comes from a lyric. The line is, ‘Let’s stop chasing yesterday.’ That’s the opposite of being nostalgic.”
The origin of the title, in fact, had a hasty birth.
“I’d kind of put off coming up with a title,” Gallagher says. “Eventually, one of the girls in my office said, ‘We need a title for the album today at 3.’ It was, like, ten past one, and I was hungover. So I quickly scanned through some of the lyrics on the record and that kinda jumped out. I wasn’t thinking that out of context ‘chasing yesterday’ would make me seem nostalgic. But then, it’s given me something to talk about in interviews.”
Of course Noel Gallagher has never been at a loss for words when it comes to the press. In fact, in the weeks leading up to our interview he took on the sad state of the UK pop charts, branding anything that reached number one “automatically shit”, blamed Twitter for the current crop of “boring” rock bands, and perhaps most famously said “I can’t live in a world where Ed Sheeran sells out Wembley Stadium.”
“No one wants to talk about the music, though,” Gallagher says by way of defending himself when I bring up his recent headline-making. Then, over the course of a fast-paced hour-plus long interview, the man they called The Chief during his days with Britpop megastars Oasis, and I talk about nothing but music.
His songwriting and recording processes, working with Johnny Marr and Paul Weller, and both Chasing Yesterday and its predecessor Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, are all explored.
When I last spoke with Gallagher, he was new to being a frontman. “Talk to me in a few weeks and maybe I’ll tell you I’ve made a huge mistake,” Gallagher told me in 2011, not long before his first solo album and tour was launched.
But Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was a huge success, selling more than 2.5 million copies, and the tour to support it moved quickly from theaters to arenas, expanding to nearly 18 months in duration in the process.
The producer of High Flying Birds, longtime collaborator Dave Sardy, put it in perspective.
“There’s never a problem getting what you want,” he said of working with Gallagher, as well as his former band Oasis, for whom Sardy mixed 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth and co-produced 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul. “Noel always brings 170% to the table. I think that in a situation where you have somebody like that as the leader of your band, that was one of the great things about working with Oasis. When things were running properly as a band, they would all bring far more than you could believe was possible. Noel, especially, and I established a kind of working relationship that wasn’t based on one of us just saying, ‘Sure, whatever you say!’ and giving each other thumbs up. It was an actual level of seeing how much better we could get. That process continued into the last record.”
That relationship was evident on High Flying Birds, an instant classic by any standard, with highlights like If I Had A Gun and The Death Of You And Me sitting comfortably next to any of Gallagher’s best songs from his years in Oasis.
“He’s non-stop,” Sardy told me. “You can’t imagine it. Guys will say, ‘Oh yeah, we had 45 songs to pick from.’ Noel really does, at all times, and usually new ones. And they’re at a high quality. Even if the song isn’t finished, or it’s kind of like an unfinished great idea, every demo will just sound hard to beat. Noel’s songs are to him like messages in a bottle and, from my perspective, he’s not always ready to send a message out. Sometimes he has songs written, but most of the songs on (the first solo record) I watched him write and rewrite. It’s a lesson to any young songwriter.”
Noel knows how to have a career. He doesn’t warm up. He writes music.
“When you’re going to do a take with him, he sits down and starts writing, practicing, and working on the song for an hour and a half before he’s ready to run a take. It sounds ludicrously straightforward and simple, but I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve met or people I’ve worked with who don’t get that that is what you are supposed to do with your time. Work out some songs!”