Bassist, January 1998; Oasis of Basses - "Oasis: On Tour Now - Guigsy Tells All"; by Gibson Keddie
Paul 'Guigsy' (prounounced 'Gwigsy' by all in the Oasis entourage to avoid any possible link with Man United's Ryan Giggs) McGuigan is pleased to be back 'out there', hammering out the foundations to the songs of the band he loves. "It was right to take a break when we did, and do the album, but in the last six to eight weeks it was, like, 'let's do something; we've got to do something'. Boredom was kicking in, because playing's what we do; what we're known at. So everyone's really happy with what we're doing; everyone in the band is happy, everyone in the crew is happy - it's almost like we're waiting for something to go wrong," adds Guigsy, wary of the Gallagher Bros' ability to whip up negative hysteria at any given time, whenever a microphone is switched on, a situation for which Radio 1 has already had to action 'damage limitation' against, following a recent controversial live Gallaghers 'interview'.
Though Oasis have effctively gone back to 'provincial' venues, like Exeter and Birmingham's NIA, for the first leg of the British tour, returning to Earl's Court as you read this, Guigsy will certainly have his wish to go back to playing live well and truly fulfilled thanks to an extensive upcoming world tour.
"Europe, then Ireland, and then it's another UK tour. Then it's America, Australia, Japan, everywhere again, really, probably up to the middle of next year. I don't know what we'll do then; probably stop and have a holiday at some stage. Maybe we'll just jam around and play for a bit - we've not done that for a while, other than when we were rehearsing this time. We haven't just played without having a schedule to meet. I don't know what Noel's plans are about writing for the next album, yet. We're just dealing with this at the moment."
Guigsy has recently become the father of a bouncing baby son; it's not going to be easy to stay out on tour for that length of time with a little one growing up fast, but Guigsy has let the experience add to his feelings about the 'lifetie' left for Oasis...
"It won't be easy," Guigsy agrees, about the separation, adding philosophically, "but he gets to get good things because of this lifestyle, and this is what we do. Funnily enough, at the start, everyone expected Oasis to finish within 18 months; even ourselves, originally, because we couldn't see how we could carry on. Now we can't see an end to it; it's turned full circle in that way. For a while it was, any minute they're going to explode/implode, depending oj who was saying it. Now I'm really looking forward, even though I 've got my little one. I'm looking forward to getting out playing again because we're getting better all the time, we really are; playing, everything; we're just getting better all the time. Confidence is back and it's bigger than ever."
America will undoubtedly bring back a few unwelcome memories of the previous tour, which ended in fiasco, much as it had begun., thanks to Liam deciding at the airport, waiting fot the flight out, that he had to find a house to come back to, leaving Noel to handle vocals on the early dates, before the errant brother somewhat disgruntedly rejoined his outfit. Then he shocked MTV audiences by gobbing on-stage at a live televised awards' gig. Noel eventually packed it in early and returned to the UK, with some four high-profile US dates left to play. Amid talk of multi-million law suits for non-appearance, what, exactly, was it like for the remaining three Oasis-ites: Guigsy, guitarist Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs and drummer Alan White, at that time, buffeted by the turbulence of the siblings' bickering?
"When we got back to England, we were freaked by the reaction," explains Guigsy. "It wasn't like the media were telling it like it was. See, we'd already been on that tour for 18 months, with only a couple of breaks, Liam didn't come out first because he didn't have a house, and we did the US gigs with signs up saying Liam wasn't doing it and if anyone wanted their money back, fine, but us four are going to do it. So we just did it, and it was alright, we had a good laugh. I don't know what people thought of it, but very few asked for their money back. Liam came out, but at the end Noel was like, "Look, we need to make some new music. It's all getting a bit stale isn't it?" We all had a chat and agreed; so we said we might as well go home right then. Suddenly, we've split up!" he snorts.
"But we couldn't see where it was going to end, and it came to a head where it was, like, let's just go home. Nothing to do with America; we were just fed up with touring, the endlessness of it for four or five years, then an album and straight back out again. We took a month off to think about everything. Noel went to Mustique, did some demos and sent them to us, and it was the first time we'd ever made usic where we had a bit of time to think about it! Before, I'd take a demo home and play different things to it, but usually it was, get in the studio and Noel might have five or six tunes and he'd write the rest in there. Go in, bash it out, 12 days to record an album - that was the first two albums, but this time it was just a case of stepping back a little bit and taking a little bit slower, and trying to make a better record all round."
Be Here Now
"It seemed like a big production, but only because of the extra instrumentation, really." comments Guigsy on the sound of Be Here Now. To him it's more straightforward. "The drums were still just straight drums, I just played the same old bass line I always play - top string!" he laughs, quietly. "Sometimes there were 12 guitar tracks, and a lot of it was to do with Mike and Paul coming in and some keyboards and things going on, and we also had strings and trombones and stuff. It was still pretty straightforward to do, in that way. And then there was a lot of production just to bring all the levels together, really, with that many instruments going on. I don't really think that we went for too many tricks."
Does sound BIG, though. Guigsy laughs. "Yes. Someone told me the other day that it wasn't as loud as the other albums! Yes, I think it sounds outrageous. It's different to the others, but it's totally Oasis, up front. But in another way it's almost like the band has grown into the parts, a bit, and feels more confident to express their playing, and their attitude to making a record. The first time we didn't know what we were doing, and we had to do it in a rush. Now we all know how the studio works; it's a lot more relaxed and everyone is a lot more confident. Confidence makes you more relaxed. At first, we thought, 'Everyone hates us and we don't care'. Now we know everyone doesn't hate us really, and we do care a little bit!"
"I'm hoping to get a reel-to-reel and some old Roland Space Echo units at home, to get more into that dub sound. Just trying different things out; different guitars, different amplifiers, rigging all sorts of things together just to see what happens. I like to play anything, really, but I like to play a little dub when I'm sat on my own, which I think is a bass player thing when you're at home. There's not a lot you can play on your own, so if you have a nice dub line and you have a nice big spliff, then you can sit there playing that line for about a day, can't you?"
"Lots of (drummer) Whitey's bass drum and snare in my side-fill monitors. Bonehead's that loud these days, I can hear him from behind me, don't need him in the monitors. Liam is loud, too, with all his stuff, I can hear him as well. I have Noel's guitar in front of me, and me in both the front and side-fills, but I'm having to turn the top end up - getting a bit deaf these days. I don't like fizziness, so I take that off. It is getting a bit like a dub session on my side of the stage, with bass, drums and a bit of lead guitar!"
"The set goes by very quickly at the moment, but usually there's a tune that gets me every time. 'D'You Know What I Mean?' does, plus 'Magic Pie', 'Fade In-Out', 'All Around The World', and then coming back on for 'Acquiesce', I just loved that. I was going to smash all my guitars up when we did that, but I saw reason before the end of the tune..."
OASIS - LIVE, HERE, NOW
Taking their cue from mainman Noel, Oasis definitely (maybe) like their sound produced by traditional amplification, though now well beyond the Orange and Hiwatt amps Guigsy used in his previous bass stack. The affable Oasis bassist now stands in front of two Trace Elliott stacks (side by side, two V6 amps above two 1248 cabs each), beautifully finished in pristine Man City blue leathercloth. Noel Gallagher, ever mindful of the 'correct' Oasis gear image, didn't originally rate Trace gear, and told Guigsy to use Ampeg. Guigsy himself had extreme reservations too, as he explains.
"Yes, it's getting a bit big now," is Gigsy's modest assessment of his rig. "Trace has been really good to me. I didn't like the way it looked originally - all that metal grille stuff; too 'hard rock', and that green luminous badge stuff was, like, aargh...I don't think so! So they made it look nice, cloth grilles and Man City colours, which is always going to influence me a little bit...(Yea, City need all the help they can get at the moment - Ed) A few other makers we talked to were saying valves were rubbish, but I really wanted valves, like my old Orange and Hiwatt; Trace were the opposite, saying valves were the way forward. So we had it upgraded a bit, because I'm louder than most people! ("He'd use an action like a bow and arrow if I let him," comments tech, Roger) We had a few problems last year because I had it so loud, the circuitry couldn't take it. So it's all been modified slightly, and it's really good."
For security against blow-ups, there are now two V6 amps on standby behind the main stacks. No DI is used now to put the bass through the PA. Instead, one cab speaker is mic'ed with a Shure SN52. A remote tuner (with muting facility, following Guigsy banging out his tuning up at 20kW between songs at the Maine Road gigs) is utilised, after an American sound engineer discovered that the onboard active tuner-out systems robbed up to 6dB from the power levels when in use. Roger; "You wouldn't notice that during a pub gig, but with us, it was, like, where did the bass sound go?"
For the record, Guigsy has toured with Ampeg SVTs in the past ("blew up 16 of them in a three week tour stint..."), and, at the famous Maine Road gigs, he managed to blow one of the Trace stacks. This man is a bass animal, readers.
"I think I blew three amps at Maine Road, actually. I blew quite a few last year, to be honest, and I got a little grumpy about it, thinking that it shouldn't be blowing up. So they went back and worked on it, and I'm really, really happy about the sound at the moment. And I'm still hoping that I can get lower, that would be nice!"
GUIGSY DIGS DUB
Perhaps, surprisingly, Guigsy is a committed fan of the low, low dub reggae bass tones, as utilised by Family Man Barrett.
"I've always really dug reggae; I don't know many bass players who don't. All the bass players I know, their record collections are about the same - The Beatles and The Who, some funk and some reggae. Family Man and his work with Bob Marley set us on the way to the best bass sound that there has ever been. I don't try to recreate that, because I don't play it the same as him, but I get down there with him; down the low end where he is. Lee Perry has to take a lot of credit for that - as the producer, he got that sound down there."
Guigsy reckons there are three top bassists who have much to offer anyone looking for guidance. "John Entwhistle, Macca, and, yeah, Family Man. If you can get something out of those three, then you'll be doing alright. But, really, there are hundreds, aren't there? There's another 50 you could pick that mean something, but if I can take a bit out of those three, I'll be happy."
THE GUIGSY BASS COLLECTION
The Oasis bass player has recently developed a predilection for early 60s Fender Jazz basses; in particular, 1962/63 versions.
"I've got three now, and that'll do me; so if everyone wants to and buy them, feel free. I knew I'd never find one after I told you about them being my favourites! Mind, I haven't got one with the stack control knobs (1961 first version). Two control knobs, that's all you need, isn't it? I don't know about four.
"I've been chatting to Mani [ex-Stone Roses], who's osing a Ricky 3000. See, we're both only little fellows, so we're always looking at thin necks, with our little hands! I used to play a Telecaster bass, and that was hard work. I've got another one of those Les Paul Triumphs. It's nicer than my other one. (Tech) Roger got that up in Keighley, very cheaply, about 600."
Paul's enthusiasm has turmed him into quite an avid collector, and uses the tours to keep a look out for basses. "In the last 18 months, because all the vintage guitars are disappearing now, any time I come across anything, even if it's not in the greatest shape, a bit beaten up, I've been buying it and having it all nicely set up again. I'm not really bothered about what it looks like, it's what it sounds like, really. Then you get into that place where, if you like it, you need a spare! It starts getting silly after a bit. I'm pretty happy with what I've got; someting for all seasons, with about 25 basses, and they're all nice. I can't see myself playing anything other than the 62 at the moment. It's taken over my life."