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Now Guigsy deserts Oasis to `spend time with his family'

TO LOSE one band member is unfortunate but to lose two starts to look like carelessness. The line-up of the former Britpop phenomenon known as Oasis is two down in the same number of weeks. Despite this depletion the show will go on, the Gallagher brothers insisted in their own, distinctive style yesterday.

The band's bass player Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan yesterday followed in the footsteps of rhythm guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, abandoning the group just days before the completion of their fourth album. The time, he said, was "opportune" - before the start of a nine-month tour early next year.

With the final founding member of the band gone, there was every reason to think Oasis would now split up. Noel and Liam Gallagher were having none of it, although their efforts to put up a united front were somewhat strained. The third remaining member of the group, Alan White, failed to show up for the press briefing at the Water Rat, a fading London pub venue where the band played their first gig. "He couldn't be arsed to get out of bed," Noel explained.

The Gallagher brothers appear to be going their separate ways, too. Noel has been playing with the group Tailgunner, named after a US porn magazine, and has been devoting more time to collaborative projects with the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Goldie and Beck. Liam has restricted himself to the usual paparazzi confrontations.

But in the words of Liam: "If the Spice Girls can do it, why can't we?"

In the end, the choice of the Water Rat and the mournful faces of band officials marshalling the 60-strong press pack was all Oasis showmanship. Oasis were not splitting. Guigsy and Bonehead had left: "To spend more time with their families".

Noel said: "They've both got kids and there's no point in us kicking the doors in and saying, `Come on, we're going on tour'. You've got to respect their decision. They are family men; it could be us one day."

Liam insisted Oasis could survive the loss of its founders. "No one's bigger than the band. If someone don't want to do it, that's fine," he said.

The first hints of discord emerged in March during the recording sessions.

Despite assertions that Oasis could function without its two remaining founding members, Noel appeared aggrieved. He only learnt that Guigsy was quitting by telephone.

Auditions for two new band members will start after the album is cut next month, prior to touring next March. "They've got to be a tad taller than me, have a nice taste in shoes, have a decent haircut - and not be a Man U fan," said Liam. His brother added: "There might not be a stampede to join the band anyway, we've got a bit of a bad reputation."