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Interview: Director Jake Scott discusses ‘Oasis Knebworth 1996’ & working with Liam & Noel Gallagher

We delve into the making of the historic new Oasis documentary.

Oasis Knebworth 1996
Credit: Trafalgar Releasing/Sony

To mark its 25th anniversary, Oasis are finally releasing the coveted footage taken from their record-breaking concerts at Knebworth in the summer of 1996. Director Jake Scott has been tasked with bringing all of the footage together to create Oasis Knebworth 1996 – one of the best musical documentaries ever seen.

The eagerly-awaited ‘Oasis Knebworth 1996’ is in cinemas worldwide from Thursday 23rd September via Trafalgar Releasing. The ‘Oasis Knebworth 1996’ Live Album and DVD/Blu-ray will be released on 19th November via Big Brother Recordings Ltd.

Directed by Grammy Award-nominee Jake Scott, ‘Oasis Knebworth 1996’ celebrates the story of the special relationship between Oasis and their fans that made the largest concert of the ‘90’s possible. It is a story told entirely in the moment through the eyes of the fans who were there, built around extensive and never before seen archive concert and backstage footage from the event, with additional interviews with the band and concert organisers.

Oasis’ two record breaking nights at Knebworth took place on the 10th and 11th August 1996, with over a quarter of a million music fans from all over the world converging on Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire.

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I caught up with Jake to discuss all things Oasis, the task of making the film and his history with Liam and Noel Gallagher.

Check out our 5 star review of Oasis Knebworth 1996

How did you first get involved with the project?

It was during lockdown, and we were twiddling our thumbs on what we are going to do. I’d just seen Supersonic (the Mat Whitecross documentary on Oasis) and really enjoyed it. I’d made the video for (What’s The Story) Morning Glory actually, so they were already familiar with me. I don’t think I was necessarily first and foremost in the minds really, but there was a nice serendipity to it. So I said ‘Yeah – let’s have a look at what you’ve got. They had 80 hours of footage’, which Dick Carruthers shot – something like 16-17 cameras. So I had a look at that. The sound recording off the desk was incredible… they always knew they were going to release a live record with it. It was just a matter of time, and the 25th anniversary seemed like the right anniversary. So I was in the right place at the right time, really.

What was your first experience or recollection of Oasis?

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Well obviously, ‘Definitely Maybe’ was like, …we all knew it right? For me it was the record that stood out from the crowd. Mainly because it was such a pure piece of rock n’ roll you know? There was a punk attitude to it that meant there was so much more to it. It was a searing and exciting, explosive record wasn’t it. So I was already a fan, and I was invited to direct the video for ‘Morning Glory’. And that was my first encounter with them. I was thinking about this the other day, and I remember thinking that I was quite intimidated on the day! I was in awe, and a bit scary and intimidated – but we had a laugh actually! It was a good, fun shoot that – they had the swagger. They were quite cocky and who wouldn’t be? You’re that age and on top of the world! So I remember it being a bit scary, quite exhilarating and I felt honoured to have been asked, you know?

How does the nuts and bolts work in terms of making this documentary and collaborating with the Gallagher brothers?

Well, it was a film largely made in an editing room, and I shot some re-enactments and did some interviews. But it really became about finding the narrative in the story and right from the get-go we agreed that it should be as much about the fans as it was about the band. The story of that weekend was a pivotal story of the mid-90s where the fans were as much a part of the story as Oasis were. Oasis believed so much in their fans, right? And their relationship with the fans has continued, even today. That was first and foremost an important and integral aspect to the film, and in that both Noel and Liam had an ever watchful gaze (laughs) throughout. Until I delivered a cut, they kind of left us alone. And then I screened it for them both separately and they came back with a few thoughts and notes, but nothing much actually.

It’s worth saying – and I think it’s worth saying – all the bollocks around the Blur and Oasis rivalry… there was something that happened that first night (Sat 10th Aug 1996) and there was a little bit of digging at Blur at Knebworth. But actually, they both asked for it to be taken out. It’s funny and it’s irreverent, but they didn’t want any of that to exist in the film. I thought that was interesting, but also nice, you know. I think they have a new-found respect… I think Damon and Noel are actually mates now – so they’ve left that feud far behind. There’s things like that… and the tone of it – Liam’s quite mischievous at times in the film – and that’s brilliant! And you want him to be fun and mischievous and lively right? – he’s everywhere. But they wanted to be very careful about the tone of it. Because they’ve shaken-off that kind of ‘lad’ label that came later. They were a really good rock and roll band – a really good band at their best playing to a massive audience.

In terms of the important fan-element to the film, was it always going to be as you planned it (with re-enactments) or was it ever going to be talking heads etc, where you’d put them directly in the film?

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Good question – I went back and forth on that. I always knew early on, right from the get-go that we should hear from the fans here. Not the 7000 people on the guestlist (which gives you a sense of proportion on the size of the gig). There 2.5 million people that applied for tickets right? It still holds the record I think for British rock and roll history. What we really wanted was to give the viewer two tickets – one for each night – and you’re in the front row, you’re there and you’ve got your mates with you, and that’s what its going to feel like.

We wanted to make it as immersive as possible, so to cut away to somebody that’s maybe in their mid-40s now talking about what a great weekend they had in the mid-90s would sort of take you out of the gig. Because the voices of the fans – they’ve got all of that passion, excitement and spontaneity in the re-telling. You don’t think of their age, you think about them, then and there. And that audience was hovering around the 18-19 year old mark, that was a young crowd, and gender split right down the middle. So ultimately we decided lets do some re-enactments just to detail some of those stories a little bit more and get a little bit closer. And hear from them. Other than Noel, Liam and Bonehead you don’t really want to hear from other people. I thought about it… but you don’t really need to hear what someone like Chris Evans or whoever was on the guestlist thought. The band were the fans and the fans were the band, you know? Noel’s lyrics really gave voice to that generation.

With talking to the fans, was there any revelations that took you by surprise?

I think more than anything, I hoped to find, and I did find, some cathartic stories. Coming-of-age sort of things, rite of passage… and what I was surprised by actually was how much those songs and anthems resonated with people. With that generation… which has continued to this day. It has lasting appeal. My personal moment of surprise was I was sitting there in the editing suite, and we were working on that sequence of ballads that starts with ‘Cast No Shadow’ and then onto ‘The Masterplan’ from the first night. I’d never really though about that song – not that I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a song that I went straight to when listening to Oasis. I was sitting there thinking… this song just went BANG and I thought blimey, this is really good and they really know what they are doing! It was on ‘Cast No Shadow’ that I really feel that, and that’s when I really realised the musicality of those five lads and how well rehearsed they were. They had a job to do, and they were really good at it. That’s what really landed for me… ‘Fuck me, that’s a lot of work to get there’. Especially in the couple of years that they did it.

You mention ‘Cast No Shadow’ – it was packed with emotion, especially with the dedication to Richard Ashcroft…

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Oh yeah, he says ‘Fuckin’ Wigan man!’ doesn’t he? I think that’s the surprise, the sheer emotion. Just how much emotion there is, and how much emotional-value there is for me. And I’m always attracted to that.

Finally, why do you think Oasis are such an important band, not only in terms of British music, but as cultural icons?

First off, they are really, really good! Fantastic songs, amazing… they really were the voice to a generation that until then had felt quite unheard. We were coming out of 18 years of the Conservatives, and post-Thatcher – and I think those things can’t be underestimated. At the time that generation really felt that these boys on the stage are us, they look like us. Maybe not Liam, but then you wanted to be Liam, right? And they weren’t above the audience, they could have walked off that stage and been a part of that audience and gone for a pint with them.

I think the relationships are very important, they held onto their roots, they remembered where they came from and they were unapologetic about it. Five lads from two council estates less than a mile apart, I think.

Oasis will… they’ll live on, I think. That’s one of the great British bands.

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Oasis Knebworth 1996 is in cinemas from Thursday 23rd September 2021.

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