Behind the new exhibit
Epiphone is proud to play a big role in the new exhibition Oasis Chasing the Sun 1993-1997 which honors the 20th anniversary of Oasis debut and covers the entire career of the BritPop heroes. The exhibition's curator, Lawrence Watson, sat down for an interview about the one-of-a-kind show which is loaded with Epiphone guitars and other goodies from the Manchester rocker's career.
The exhibition 'Oasis Chasing the Sun 1993-1997' opened 20 years to the day the first Oasis single 'Supersonic' was released, what do you remember from that time?
I was working with Paul Weller a lot back then, but I remember people had started saying there's this new band that are really kick arse. I'm a bit older than Oasis; my generation is The Jam, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and all those great punk bands. It was said that there's a new band who are grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and it didn't take long to see that they were a proper rock 'n' roll band.
'Chasing the Sun' are lyrics from the Oasis song 'Slide Away', who chose that title for the exhibition?
That was Noel.
The reissue of 'Definitely Maybe' will be released in May to celebrate its 20th anniversary, why do you think that record was so significant for Oasis?
Because it was a great album. It was the beginning.
This is the first ever exhibition dedicated to Oasis, why do you think it was important to launch this project now?
Centenaries. Everybody likes to hang something on centenaries. I didn't have any intention of being involved initially; I did some work with the latter part of the Oasis years and then did all of Noel's solo stuff, High Flying Birds. I did an exhibition in the space we're in at the moment about two and a half years ago, upon the release of High Flying Birds. Noel and the management saw it and really loved it. Then they realized that they were going to have to promote an Oasis album without a band existing or without anybody to promote it and so an exhibition was talked about. They called me and asked whether I would be interested in curating the exhibition for them and I thought it would be a great opportunity. So what I missed out in the early years, I caught up on by trawling through everything!
How would you describe your relationship with the band?
It's sound. I get on well with them all. My relationship with Noel is up to the present day and we're probably going to speak soon about the next High Flying Birds album. I did all the work on the first High Flying Birds record, from the moving imagies to the film that was made. We shot the album cover on a $25 Polaroid camera that I found in a flea market in LA. Noel loves that fact! It was an old 50's/60's Polaroid camera.
How did you put the exhibition together and what was your decision-making process when it came to what made the final cut and what didn't?
Slowly! Very slowly. It was very hard. I had a great group of photographers to go to and we had to shrink it down, because it would have gone on forever. It was tricky to find stuff, because it's 20 years later. Some of the pictures have been seen before and I went for some of the iconic ones -- the Maine Road shot and a few lovely shots from the NME sessions. The real gem though, was that we found a session, the first ever shoot for Creation Records that was done up in Manchester and it was great to find a session that hadn't been used before. There was another photographer who was Oasis' Press Officer. He had been shooting stills while he was on the road with them and his stuff was great. He's not a photographer, but his capturing of the times was brilliant; they're very honest documents of a time. The dressing room shot is one of my favorites of the exhibition; it sums up a time and a place - that's what a good photograph does.
Was there anything that you put forward for the exhibition that the band rejected or anything they wanted to include that you didn't think was quite right?
No, most of them were pretty good. I tried to steer away from all of the obvious shots that had been used before. There's no shots of Liam putting his fingers up in the air; I tried to avoid all the cliches of what you think of Oasis and tried to get people to look at them in the way they should be looked at. They probably wouldn't like to call themselves 'artists', but they are artists in that sense of the word. Music is an art form and they are good at it. They mean a lot - as you see from the exhibition - to a hell of a lot of people. People have got married to them; people have given birth to them! They're an important part of musical history.
Why is the exhibition focused on the period 1993-1997?
They've chosen those years because over the span of this year, they will reissue the first three albums which encapsulate the four years from '93. Which is why I haven't got any pictures in this exhibition! But I will in the next one.
Noel and Liam have a famously tempestuous relationship, allegedly, they haven't even spoken to each other since 2009 -- did they had to have any direct communication with regards to the exhibition?
Not between themselves, but between the management. Noel still has the same management as previously, but when Liam started to form Beady Eye, the working relationship became too difficult to share the same management. It just became a minefield. But Liam did get on board which was brilliant and Bonehead did as well. He supplied his parka jacket (from Glastonbury 2004), the gramophone from 'Be Here Now' and started contributing artifacts which was great. Bonehead was one of the best keepers of memorabilia from the early Oasis years. He has the stained glass window (on the cover of 'Definitely Maybe'), which he moved from his old house to his new house -- he's put it in the door of his new house now. It's great that somebody did, because most of the time you don't realize what value those things have. You never think 20 years ahead, that one day those things will be of value to fans. Like the nicotine-stained inflatable globe that's in there (also on the cover of 'Definitely Maybe'). It was difficult to get people to volunteer to re-inflate that!
Why was it decided to have 'Chasing the Sun' in London rather that Manchester where the band are originally from?
It was because I had a place that I had used before that Noel and the management had seen an exhibition in. It wasn't a slight on Manchester in any way; it was just that we had somewhere that I was familiar with. It will be in Manchester and it will be even bigger to put the books right!
Liam and Bonehead attended the exhibition on the opening night, what were their impressions of it?
They were overwhelmed by it. Liam wanted to come back and see it. It was a weird way to see it; there were 800 people in the room, so you were lucky to see a corner of a picture or a bit of a frame. In the case of Liam - there was someone sticking a camera phone in every orifice of his body! Hopefully he did like it and I hope he'll come back and see it, if not in London again, in Manchester on a quiet day so he can take it all in properly. Bonehead liked it but he was getting mobbed too.
Are there any plans for 'Oasis Chasing the Sun 1993-1997' to open in any other countries?
One of the guys who broke them in America came over last week. It was great, he got very emotional about it and he wants to take it over to New York. On the opening night the CEO of the German/European label came and he wants to take it to Germany. The Japanese saw it and want to take it to Tokyo. So hopefully, fingers crossed, it will be an ongoing living exhibition that goes around the world. It's living so much right now that I was watering the plants in it at 1am in the morning!
What feedback have you received about the exhibition?
Really beautiful. There's hardly been any negative things said about it, it's been really positive.
Last year Liam said that he would be open to an Oasis reunion. From what you know of the band personally, do you think that Oasis will ever get back together to tour and/or record any new material?
Not in the immediate future. But never say never. I'm sure the fans would love that day to come. If Led Zeppelin can get back together, hopefully, one day. When the hatchets have been buried away and the past forgotten.