First Published March 2019
OFFALY ‘OASIS’ FOR DRUMMING LEGEND
Once upon a time in Ireland, there was a late-night music video show called No Disco, which for many – myself included – was the gateway that first lead to the discovery of bands like Radiohead, the Smashing Pumkins, and of course, The Frames from here at home. It was also the first place I ever remember hearing Oasis, those majestic Mancunian maestros who went on to shape and define the musical landscape for a generation. Their debut album, Definitely Maybe, which contained would-be pop/rock classics like Live Forever, Cigarettes & Alcohol, and Supersonic, became the fastest selling debut album in the U.K. at the time of its release back in 1994. Tony McCarroll was part of the original Oasis line-up, and drummed on that iconic album.
Now, twenty-five years on, Tony – a man with connections to the Faithful County that very few might even know of – is going on a tour of his own, sharing his story of his time in the band that would go on to become the biggest in the world.
I had the pleasure of spending a morning in conversation with Tony recently. We began by talking about his forthcoming tour, Oasis – The Truth, which will feature a screening of the Supersonic documentary, followed by a Q & A session with Tony, a spoken word performance from Manchester poet Arrgh Kid, and finally a DJ set from Tony himself. I wondered how and when the idea to do a show like this, and in this way, first came about?
“Through my friend, John McFadden. I was over in Offaly last summer, and I knew that John had strong connections in the music industry in Dublin. So I was just sayin’ to him, ‘Ya know what? I want to get out and celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘Definitely Maybe’ this year.’ I asked John did he know any contacts, agents or promoters who might be able to help out with DJ-ing, so I could get out and do a couple of DJ gigs. John suggested Mark at AMA Music Agency. I phoned Mark and he was like, ‘Jesus, this is fate!’, because he’d only just listened to my audio-book [Oasis – The Truth: My Life As Oasis’s Drummer]. It was only within the two weeks before that that he’d listened to it, randomly. That was without even any prompting from John. So with a bit of choice language later [laughs], Mark said, ‘You’ll be doin’ a lot more than DJ-ing, cos’ it’s quite a big year!’ And hence it’s turned into Q & A’s, podcasting, the DJ-ing, meet-and-greets. And it’s going really, really well. That’s where it all stemmed from.”
Does it feel like it’s been twenty-five years since Definitely Maybe?
“Noooo! Oh my God, that’s just flown by. it makes me feel old, without a doubt, yeah [laughs].”
Is there any connection still there between Tony and the rest of the guys in the original Oasis line-up; Noel and Liam, Paul Arthurs, and Paul McGuigan?
“I wouldn’t say that we’d be on the phones to each other. Cos’ we haven’t even got each other’s phone numbers! [laughs]. At the moment, there’s no relationship with Paul McGuigan or Noel. But I saw Liam at the Supersonic premiere in Manchester, and he made a lot of time for me there, to be honest. He ended up getting us a table on our own, off at the side so we could have a chat, and we sat for about fifteen, twenty minutes. All normal, general sort of things, like how’s your mother and that. It was the Liam I knew, that’s what I will say. As for Bonehead, whenever we meet it’s the same with him, it’s all hugs and kisses. But I do hope that one day the lot of us, in one form or another, can solve issues, meet in the middle, and at least say hello. I’ve got a lot of love and respect still for them all.”
With the tour having such a teasing and tantalising name as Oasis – The Truth, did Tony feel the need to give any of the others a heads-up that it was going to happen?
“No, no. What’s out there is already out there in the book, ya know. For me, this is a celebration, really. It’s a chance to meet fans out there. I know Liam and Noel are doing something this year on the music end, but nobody else from the band is doing anything like this, so I thought I’d give it a go. So no, I didn’t feel the need to do that. I want it to be a celebration.”
With Oasis, everybody was aware of the Gallagher’s Irish roots. But Tony has some, too. And literally right in the heart of the country at that, with family in Kinnity and around Shinrone and Athlone as well.
“My mother is from Kinnity in Offaly, my dad is from Tyrone. I’ve got a great affinity with Offaly. We were sent there every summer holiday for the six weeks. We got involved in farming life, country life, with my uncle Patsy. There was a time there when my dad got a contract in Ireland, I think I was nine years of age, so we decided to go over and actually live in Ireland for a couple of years. I attended school in Offaly, in Kinnity. And believe it or not, I’ve been playing drums so long that I think – well, not that I even was a drummer at that stage – but my first TV appearance was on Play School on the BBC, I don’t know if you remember that? It would have been the equivalent to Bosco or something in Ireland. And I f*&king hate Bosco! [laughs]. Anyway, so yeah, I’ve been playing the drums since I was a child. But my actual first public, rehearsed gig, believe it or not, was in Kinnity Parish Hall! The headmaster at the time, Mr. Dooley, realised that I was playing drums, and had a lad called Seamus Bradley, who’s still in Kinnity, playing tin whistle. I mean, it must have been the most ridiculous set-up you’d ever see [laughs]. But, I can say, with my hand on my heart, that was my first rehearsed, public gig. And in was in Kinnity. And I’m happy to say that.”
It sounds very much like Tony still has a great affection for Offaly…
“I LOVE OFFALY. I love it. Unfortunately, we did have to move back to England after two years. I didn’t want to go back. I wasn’t eating for a week over it! [laughs]. I loved the country life, farming life, living off the land, fishing, hunting. And that is still me. When I go over there, that’s all I want to do. And luckily I’ve got my cousins over there so I can dip my toes back in, as they say.”
How important was – or is – Tony‘s Irish background to him? Would it play a big part in his life?
“I would actually say, that never-mind me, it’s actually very important to the band Oasis. We were all brought up in massive Irish households, and music was a massive thing in our house. Big Tom, Philomena Begley, you name it, they were all on the record player when we were growing up. That’s for sure for me, and I’m very sure it would have been for the Gallaghers. And that would definitely have influenced us. Irish music was a massive influence on us. And I loved it. There was times where there’d be weddings in Ireland and I’d be thrust up at six or seven years of ages to play the drums! I’ve got some pictures like that here and there.”
If Tony was drumming at six or seven, it must always have been a very natural thing for him. Did he always know he was a drummer?
“Yeah, it was something I always really enjoyed doing, and I was addicted to it, if anything. It started at two or three years of age, and eventually following marching bands on the streets when I’d hear them coming for miles, the snare drum was just pleasing to my ear. Me mam would buy me toy drum-kits come Christmas, but they’d never last! They’d be battered in two or three weeks [laughs]. I think I was eight years of age when I got my first real kit. Not that I’ve got much better since [laughs].”
Oasis began as five young lads who just wanted to be rock stars together. Eventually, would Tony agree that what seemed to happen, was some individuals in the band became more concerned with being bigger rock stars than other individuals in the band? And that’s where the trouble was?
“Yeah. I mean, you know what, we were a very hard-working band. There’d be three or four days on, and then one day off. But the rest of that time you’d be travelling. You were stuck on a bus together, lads in their early twenties. There was lots of…er, ‘enjoyment’ we’ll refer to it as [laughs], going on on the bus, be it drinking or whatever else. But it did get moody. You were under each other’s feet all the time. It’s well publicised about my relationship with Noel, but believe me, there was plenty of ding-dongs and arguements going on on the bus. But it was like brothers in Oasis. There’d be a ding-dong, but then you’d be on stage and it would be forgotten about. And then onto the next party! But I suppose it got too much after a while. Certain relationships were not retrievable.”