In a group of tempestuous temperaments, Gem Archer stands out as the rock in a sea of madness.
He is everyone’s best friend, and is credited for bringing together the individual talents of Oasis Mark II and developing a new sound.
His sole songwriting contribution on ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ is ‘To Be Where There’s Life’, a psychedelic whirl of sitars that evoke the newly lysergic Beatles of ’66, from which the album title was lifted – a tribute, if one was needed, to Archer’s inimitable position in Oasis.
Gem considers every question carefully, then radiates positivity in every answer. He looks like a man who has got the best job in the world, and knows it. He is likeable to the extreme. “It feels special again,” he admits. “We are all 110% into it, and it’s a good feeling, man.”
How does it feel getting ready to kick things off, get the ball rolling again?
Obviously it feels good, man. It feels special again, for a lot of different reasons – we’ve even got a new drummer, so all that, you know? The set feels great… It’s kinda one of those things where it reminds me what I do – playing a loud guitar ticks a lot of my boxes as it were. Can’t wait. The album’s sounding great so I can’t wait to play it.
What are the vibes like in the band at the moment?
Um…vibes? I have seen it better, but I’ve seen it a lot worse – between the boys [the Gallaghers] – but I tell you what, it never stops the music. I don’t think Liam has ever sung better – he’s really on top of it and himself.
The way Noel works is broad brush strokes, man. “Chop that gap out, man, and we’ll have it.”
He’s singing on most of the album, which is good.
Yeah. Well he’s just, you know, I think he’s in a good place.
Is Oasis more of a group effort now?
Without a doubt, man. We’ve been part of this team for ten years now, me and Andy. It’s not one of those things you can walk into and be a team – it has to be earned, it has to be respected. We’re all buzzing off just being… I mean, this is my dream band. All the bands I’ve been in – no disrespect – but some of them, especially the early ones, you know you’re just with the wrong people; when certain people are turning up wearing whatever and then some people are not getting a certain thing… But we are all 110% into it, and for us all to be in the same band, it’s a good feeling, man.
What is your main contribution to the group?
[Long pause] Well, I’m only going off other people’s words, but…I’m fairly solid, if you know what I mean. I don’t have lots of highs and lows, temperament-wise, and I suppose that – I’m saying this now – I’m not the kind of guy who would lose his passport and fuckin’ throw a wobbly, you know what I mean? I’m fairly reliable. My attitude is I try to maintain cruising altitude all the time – just keep it on the right edge of up and down, and so I think that’s kind of handy. I hate questions like that! Fuckin’ hell! (Laughs)
When you bring your songs to the band for consideration, are you intimidated by Noel’s songwriting legacy?
I used to be, but I’ve always had that thing of you can’t price yourself out of the game – you’ve just gotta get over yourself. But now? No, I’m not intimidated; I’m kind of fired up by it in a way. I know that he obviously digs what me and Andy do and what Liam does, and so it’s like kind of…it’s kind of like being on Celebrity Masterchef or something, you know what I mean? “Check out me mashed potato. Is it any good?” “Yeah, and I like your fuckin’ fried eggs as well. In fact, we’ll have your fried eggs but no mashed potato today. That will do me.” I would take it as a great fuckin’ compliment, man, because he’s written some top tunes – a lot of top tunes in fact.
You’ve got one song on the new album – do you usually bring five to the table and settle on one, or how does it work?
It’s different every time, or the three studio albums we’ve done with me and Andy, but with this album there was in fact six home-ish demos. There was a couple on there that were maybe gonna go [on the record], but then Noel wrote a couple of tunes – three or four – that we demoed pretty quickly, and because of that they had a certain vibe, and I could see from that some of my tunes were definitely never gonna make this next stage or whatever. But I did have a couple of bits floating around. So I played him [Noel] ‘To Be Where There’s Life’ when it was just an instrumental, and I went, “Well, I’ve got this,” and he was like, “Ah, that’s more the plot. Have you got any words?” “No.” “Right, get some together.” And there was another song as well, and he rang me going, “And write some words for that one”, cos I’d given him about ten instrumentals as well. We just float stuff around. I finished ‘To Be Where There’s Life’ in one weekend – it all just came – and the other one, I’m still trying to finish it. So that was how we worked that in this instance.
When you’re writing, do you always have Liam in mind to sing it?
No, but subconsciously yeah, in that I have the same kind of range as Liam. Noel has a far higher range, so I couldn’t even begin to think of writing a melody that Noel could reach – he can get way higher than me – and Liam is the singer, so that’s my thing, you know.
How personal or honest can you be in your lyrics when you know you’ll have to give it away?
I actually wrote one song specifically for Liam, but it wasn’t right for this album. But I think it’s a top tune. It was one of the ones that Noel said was one of the good ones out of that bunch, but having to write words over a weekend…I just kinda let them out, don’t worry about it, you know, and hope they’re gonna fly, cos sometimes you write stuff and then you wanna change it a month later. Luckily with this, I didn’t.
Your song sounds as if it’s straight off ‘Revolver’…
You think? Someone else said that, you know, and I don’t get that, man. It’s funny, man. I think you’re not the best judge of your own stuff this close to it.
Sounds like you must have had fun building it up in the studio?
Yeah. My only thing was I just thought we can get away with this without any guitars on it. And Andy kept sort of going, “Well, what about this little melody?” And I was going, “No man, it doesn’t need it. Just a bass line, a sitar and some drums.”
Is that someone playing the sitar?
Yep. Well it’s actually a tamboura. It’s a tamboura in my spare bedroom from the demo. It’s an electronic one that we just set off and let go all the way down, and a live one played by Andy, and a live one played by Noel all mashed together and then just effected and spun up, you know? It’s just a sound, you know, but without it being a guitar.
When Liam hands over his songs he stands back and let you all get on with it. Will you have your say and contribute to your own songs until you’re happy?
Totally. Completely. I kind of know roughly how it should go, and then there will be the odd thing that’s either suggested or changed, and if it’s good it happens and if it’s not it doesn’t. And with ‘To Be Where There’s Life’ there was a little gap towards the end, and Noel went, “You know what? You should just chop that gap down”, and he was so right, because I had like four bars before the actual last lyrics came in, just thinking, ‘A little rest…’ The way Noel works is broad brush strokes, man. “Chop that gap out, man, and we’ll have it.”
And do you have final say as to when the track is complete?
You do, kind of. If it’s your tune there is that thing of, ‘Come on, it’s your tune – what do you think?’ But we all help each other as well. We’re all there at the mix, and we all have to be into it. If there’s anything that really is not making somebody totally into it, then we sort it out.
You mentioned about taking all the guitars out of your song – would you like to experiment further in Oasis, see what you can do?
Without a doubt. Yeah man. I think we should go as far… I mean, we’ve done some stuff that is pretty out there, but there’s the other side of Oasis as well, which is, you know, we’re a rock and roll band. We’re going on tour and we wanna play these songs live, and they’ve gotta sound good in big venues as well as little venues. But, you know, we’ve all got our experimental sides, as I’m sure a lot of bands who have been doing it for as long as we have have. Someday maybe they’ll come out. I love the idea, on this album, of trying to get some of the stuff remixed.
Well Noel gave ‘Falling Down’ to The Chemical Brothers.
Yeah, and as I said that’s part of the trilogy, man, with Noel and them. I like it. Just have fun with it.
There had been talk of various producers coming in on each album, someone like Death In Vegas who were gonna shake things up. Do you think you need someone to come in and shake things up a bit?
No, I don’t, because I think that’s so the wrong move for us. To shake it up, that’s kind of record company speak. We could shake it up if we wanted to, but it’s our thing, man. Nobody does anything for us – we do it.
Is there a pressure from the fans to keep in line with the Oasis sound?
No, I don’t think so. The fans, they’re still there, it’s our audience. We’re not bothered about being bigger, we just wanna be ourselves, and I think that’s why people like us. It was always like that when I was growing up, you know, you’d buy into a thing. And obviously there’d be bands who would go off the scent. You know, like The Who, right? Their golden years, and they were never bigger than around ‘Tommy’, but fuckin’ hell, I would never go home and listen to ‘Tommy’, you know? But their classic songs are still there and The Who still stand for great British rock and roll. Hopefully that’s where we are. Well, undoubtedly we are.
With the best work to come?
We’re not the kind of band…you know bands that go, ‘Oh, I don’t listen to anything when I’m creating because I don’t want it to inform me’
Yeah. It’s all part of the life. It will never be first album stakes again, but I think it sounds pretty fuckin’ damn good for a seventh album or whatever it is.
Which new songs are you most looking forward to getting out and playing live?
‘Falling Down’ is sounding great, ‘I’m Outta Time’ is sounding great, and…what else are we doing? We’re doing my song, ‘To Be Where There’s Life’, and it’s just took on a whole different thing, man.
Are you taking a sitar player on the road with you?
No. Well, I tell you what we’re doing… Richard Fearless [Death In Vegas] remixed it for the extra track, so we’re kinda doing his version live – the remix version, which has guitars on it, so it’s worked out well, man. But also there’s some other stuff in there at the minute, like we’re doing ‘My Big Mouth’, which is…I mean, it’s another one of those that’s got slot into the set-list and you go, “Fuckin’ hell man, how many more?” We’re not doing ‘Live Forever’. There’s a whole list of stuff. We can’t play ’em all.
Talking of ‘My Big Mouth’, lots of our readers asked questions relating to ‘Be Here Now’. As a fan of the band at that time, do you try and push a couple of those songs into the set?
Yeah, I’m always saying. I’d love to do ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ We’ve done it a couple of times, and I think we’re in a good place now where we can play anything actually. I mean, Chris has just slotted in amazingly, and we’ve now got the freedom to play ’em how they work. They don’t have to sound exactly like the record, it’s okay, man.
So there might be a few surprises?
Yeah, well there are already. It’s a good set. We’ll see down the line whether this is the one that remains, but I love playing ‘The Masterplan’ and stuff like that, you know.
What were you and the band listening to around the time of the making of this album?
We listened to…let’s have a think…[Long pause] Who’s that L.A. band – no, they’re from Seattle…Black…? What the fuckin’ hell are they called… I’ll check it out later on. A lot of demoes of bands and [Sex Pistol] Steve Jones’ radio show.
That’s what the album sounds like – a punchy guitar record that hits you immediately. It sounds like you were listening to The Stooges or something then ran into the studio to capture that energy.
Yeah, but I mean, I’m probably over-thinking your question because we all listen to that stuff all the time. We’re not the kind of band…you know bands that go, ‘Oh, I don’t listen to anything when I’m creating because I don’t want it to inform me’, but we’re so not that kind of band. Liam’s always said about U2 that you can’t hear their influences. Now maybe that’s what they want, but it’s not what we want. If it sounds like something, we go, ‘Great!’ We’re not bothered, because it will be alright – it’s the message anyway.
Do you have a favourite time or place to write a song?
I’ve kinda got to be on my own. I couldn’t write one here. It’s gotta be pretty silent and pretty still to finish a song, but the idea can come anywhere, and when the idea comes, I try to get as much of the idea as possible, because it’s really hard to go back to it. I try and do as much as I can in a oner. I mean, we all have to finish stuff off and tighten stuff in and whatever, but yeah, it’s gotta be as much as I can at once…or the idea…you know what I mean? It could even just be a line. And then I’ve gotta be pretty much left to me own devices for a good few hours really.
How much unfinished stuff do you have lying around?
Aww, just too much, man. It pains my bones. It’s never gonna get finished; it’s too late now because there’s always new stuff, you know? Fuck me, man. I’ve got carrier bags of cassettes without labels. And I’m sure there’s some good ideas on them, you know, but you can’t think like that. But I suppose every single creative person has had this, because by definition you’re not organised. If you were, you’d be a fuckin’ graphic designer or something – somebody who’s got it all in order. I don’t know; it’s hard!
What are people’s biggest misconceptions about the Gallaghers?
That they fight all the time. I think that’s a kind of easy press angle that a lot of people just accept – and that Liam is a complete and utter yob. And that Noel is a dictator. They’re all simple little, you know, things that when I get in a cab they’ll go, “Yeah, but, you know…” And you’re like, “Nah man.” Or they will go, “You know what? I drove Liam and he’s really not like what you think he is.” It’s like, “Yeah, he’s alright, isn’t he?” He’s not gonna smash your cab up.
It’s just easier to make something up and have people believe it.
Yeah, just to run that ‘wild man’ thing. Sure, man, there are times when both of them can be what you would think they are, but it’s certainly not like that.
But then anyone can, I suppose.
Of course. Absolutely.
What’s the best thing about being in Oasis?
It’s just freedom, man. It is like our own bubble. That’s what me and andy kinda call it. We don’t have A&R men… This is it, man; this is our world – Oasis world – and we do have freedom, and we get to write songs, record ’em and go round the world – the whole way round the world – just spreading it. And I think it’s a positive thing, man. It really is. I did an interview earlier, and the guy was asking, ‘what’s the most surreal situation you’ve heard Oasis’ music in?’ And the immediate thing was somebody showed me this thing on YouTube, it was some tiny kid playing ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ – he was like seven years old, but he was singing it like Liam, with all that kind of ‘nyyeeeehh’, and it just blew me mind, man. And that’s it, man! That’s a good thing!
We had questions emailed to us from around the world – the most insane personal questions from all ages from all countries. That’s partly the Internet’s fault of course…
It is the Internet, yeah, but, you know, I’m a bit old school… It’s like, alright, Italy, I can see why they get us, but on this acoustic tour that me and Noel did last year, we played in Moscow – we’d never been there before – and we’re doing a B-side, ‘It’s Good To Be Free’, and when he’s singing, “Cos it’s good, it’s good, it’s good to be free”, everybody was singing that at the top of their voices, because it is – and it so translated, man.
Would you like to anything like that acoustic tour again?
Love to, yeah. Love to. Stuff like that, it started out as a charity gig in Camden and we ended up doing L.A. and Tokyo and Australia and Moscow…it was an idea that just went. Fuck man, we get to play music on our terms.
Was joining Oasis everything you expected it to be?
[Long pause] Yes and no. I was trying to come up with a better thing than that, only because it wasn’t all the things I kinda thought – like Liam was just gonna be knocking everyone out and all that. It was a lot more kinda grounded than what I expected.
Did you have to hit the ground running when you joined?
Completely. I mean, fuckin’ hell, first gig, no soundcheck, get up that ramp and get on. It was like that. Just hang on, go for it. There was none of this, ‘Whoah, hang on a second…’ I can’t even remember what we did first, it was just like, ‘Fuck me! Go for it!’ I just expected it to be a little bit… We’re still just boys, you know? We still listen on a boom box in the dressing room.
Who would win in an arm wrestling match between the members of Oasis?
You’ve gotta say that!
Yeah, but I was toying with who would be second. (Laughs)