The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot these days.
When used to describe everyday things like the sandwich you had for lunch or that game you watched on TV last night, the word loses all meaning. Homer’s Odyssey is an epic poem, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an epic film, and Oasis was definitely an epic band, there’s no maybe about it.
The new documentary Supersonic tells the story of Oasis’ meteoric rise, from poor kids forming a band in Manchester in 1993 to becoming the biggest band in the world by 1996. It arrives on the 20th anniversary of a pair of sold out gigs they played at Knebworth to a quarter million people, an event that bookends the film. I was only about 12 at this time, when Oasis was at their peak. It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I realized how much they embodied everything I love about rock and roll. They’re about having a good time, being young, not giving a shit what anyone thinks of you, and every once in a while, getting extremely soulful.
There were many factors that led to my late discovery of this band, but I distinctly remember having my interest piqued by a VH1 Behind the Music special I saw on them. Many people don’t realize the fascinating story and dynamics behind Oasis. They confuse Liam and Noel, yet proper fans know it’s their opposing personalities and inherent differences that both made the band great and eventually caused their downfall. Supersonic does an excellent job telling the story of their childhood and the crazy years where Liam’s swagger combined with Noel’s inability to write a bad song made them a worldwide phenomenon.
Despite a production time of less than a year (to meet the Knebworth anniversary), the filmmakers unearthed a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage, photos, and audio clips, while also recording hours of new interviews with the brothers, bandmates, family, and other collaborators. According to director Mat Whitecross, who recorded about 40 hours of new interviews with Noel and Liam (separately of course, they still haven’t spoken since the band split in 2009), their first cut was about 8 hours. Gone are the sections about the Beatles connection, their relationships with contemporaries like The Stone Roses and Blur, pranks the band played on Liam, other scrapes and gigs like Maine Road, and the aftermath of Knebworth, because as Noel told Whitecross, the film shouldn’t be any longer than the greatest hits. The result is a thorough and thoughtful look at the most interesting part of the band’s history.
I could go on about my love of the last great stadium band and how the Internet killed the rock star, a point the documentary also touches on, but let’s get to the hook: my chat with “our kid” Liam Gallagher and Supersonic director Mat Whitecross. It goes without saying that this interview does contain some NSFW language.
Dork Shelf: I know you hear this all the time but I’m a massive, massive Oasis fan. I even read Tony McCarroll’s book, which I’m sure you don’t hear often.
Liam Gallagher: Is it any good?
DS: It was alright, this doc does a much better job telling the whole story. Watching the film, how much of this do you actually remember?
LG: I remember it in dribs and drabs, d’ya know what I mean? I’m not fucking Keith Richards, I didn’t do all that shit, but I can’t remember everything. I remember bits and bobs.
DS: Was there anything in it in particular that surprised you?
LG: When I found out they were doing film I thought good luck with finding footage that people haven’t seen because I think it’s all been seen. Back in those days, it’s not like it was the 60’s, but every time there was a camera brought out we’d sort of go ‘put that shit away, what’re ya doing?’ I was surprised that there was some cunt around sneaking about taking pictures and filming us.
DS: Who was allowed to do that?
LG: I think that was Tim Abbott (managing director at Creation Records), he was the one who was doing most of it. Sneaky little fucker.
DS: Mat, what was your relationship to Oasis before the documentary? Were you a fan?
Mat Whitecross: Yeah they were my band growing up. I had the poster on the wall, I had the albums and I went to see them but the first time I saw them was on the third album so I missed Knebworth and I missed those early gigs. This was just a way of travelling back in time and experiencing it.
DS: Even though you missed those early days, I feel like every Oasis fan has an Oasis story, do you have a personal memory from an Oasis show that sticks out?
MW: The third time I saw them I remember just feeling the energy and the connection between the band and the crowd. It was unbelievable. I’d never seen anything like that where you turned up at a gig and if the band decided to pack up halfway through the crowd would have just carried on singing. I’d never felt that before. I went to a lot, after a while you get into scrapes and stuff. At some of the bigger gigs there’d be a contingent of people looking for a fight and getting absolutely wasted, that used to wind me up a bit.
LG: That would be my lot. [laughs]
DS: I caught the last show Oasis did in Toronto, the one where Noel was attacked on stage by one of your lot.
LG: Yeah he’s still fucking milking it mate.
DS: Liam, what would you say is the biggest myth or misconception about Oasis?
LG: I don’t know… I think we wore our hearts on our sleeve. I guess there’s one that Noel’s the talented one and I’m not. That’s a big one.
DS: Are you sentimental at all about this era? Did you keep any souvenirs?
LG: Oasis stuff? Nah.
DS: What about Beatles or Stones?
LG: Yeah I’ve got loads of that stuff. I’ve got lots of Beatles stuff, Jimi Hendrix, got loads of Bob Marley shit, pictures, stuff like that.
MW: Noel said at one point, I don’t know if it’s true or not, he said as a present he bought you a set of beads that were John Lennon’s…
LG: Yeah I’ve still got them.
MW: He said you smashed open the thing because you wanted to wear ’em and he lost it.
LG: They were beads that he wore when he met the Maharishi. They were in a glass case like what you get platinum albums in, I thought fuck that man they’re not staying in there, so I smashed it open and put ‘em around me neck.
DS: Speaking of other bands, I felt like there was a notable absence of talking about influences like The Beatles or contemporaries like Blur, Mat can you speak a little to that decision?
MW: We had a section on The Beatles and we had a section on the Stone Roses and the whole Blur thing, but there was just no time for it really. You can take the Oasis/ Blur thing out without losing too much information about what the band was. In this country a lot of people know that incident very well, it didn’t change the trajectory of their journey that much. As far as The Beatles, I always felt like, yeah you love that band but it wasn’t like you were aping their tunes. I wouldn’t pull apart any Oasis song and go “that’s a Beatles song”, maybe some of the instrumentation on “Whatever”, but I always got a bit confused by that.
LG: We definitely had our own sound but it was a classic sound. It’s too easy innit to turn around go you’re either a shitty Beatles or a good Beatles. It’s because we talked about it. I always thought we were a bit punky as well early on, d’ya know what I mean?
DS: Yeah, a bit of the Sex Pistols.
LG: Yeah we had a bit of the Pistols goin’ on in us.
DS: Knebworth is portrayed as the beginning of the end, Bonehead said you should have broke up then. Do you remember having any feelings like that?
LG: When you look back it, it was the pinnacle, hindsight is great and all that shite. Me personally, at that time, it was like right, we’re doing Knebworth, fuckin’ hell well what’s next? Anyone who was there or any band member who turns around and goes “this is it”, is full of shit, d’ya know I mean? The way I see it, it was like alright we’re doing Knebworth then fuckin’ hell we could be doing the Moon in a year, anything is possible. Anyone who sits there with that negative thing from the band going “oh we should of split up that day” can fuck off as far as I’m concerned. Not a chance. My idea was Knebworth today, the Moon tomorrow. We obviously didn’t make it to the Moon, obviously they were right and it was a slow fall after that, but there ya go.
DS: Was there one song in particular that you looked forward to singing every night?
LG: “Rock ’n’ roll Star” got the party started, “Live Forever” was always beautiful, “Champagne Supernova”… I liked ‘em all mate to be fair. “Wonderwall” started to do me head in after a bit because it got so popular, d’ya know what I mean? But when we played it well it was good. I liked ‘em all, I gave it my 100% all the time.
DS: What was your mum’s reaction when she watched the film?
LG: She hasn’t seen it yet. We’re going to her house in Manchester next week to watch it, I have to buy her a DVD player first though, she doesn’t have one.
D Films has made a proper event of Supersonic by screening it one night only across Canada. This Thursday, October 27 Canadian Oasis fans will congregate in cinemas for a jolt of electric nostalgia. Screenings will be held in the following cities:
Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Halifax, Victoria, Fredericton, Saint John, St. John’s, Moncton, Windsor, Waterloo, Guelph, London, Kingston, Niagara Falls, Ancaster, Barrie, Oakville, Peterborough, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Oshawa, Ste. Foy, Laval