After a controversial career as the brashest frontman in music, Liam Gallagher is back to remind us why he’s the last true rock’n'roll star.
After a controversial career as the brashest frontman in music, Liam Gallagher is finally going solo. Now, having learned some life lessons the hard way, he’s back to remind us why he’s the last true rock’n'roll star.
Liam Gallagher wakes at five every morning and runs across London’s Hampstead Heath, just as the light’s breaking and there isn’t a soul in sight. Otherwise it feels like a bomb has gone off in his head.
“Everything gets scrambled,” he says. “I’m like a neurotic housewife.”
Today, thankfully, is not one of those days. Despite spending the past week performing at European festivals, feeling like he’s being shot out of a canon, the singer’s routine has been successfully reset.
“I am feeling fucking rampant!” he says with a mischievous cackle, sitting in the garden of a brasserie in Highgate, near where he lives. Dressed in a green jacket, brown shorts and boat shoes, the 44-year-old projects an air of impenetrable self-confidence. He’s friendly and good-humoured – nothing is deemed off-limits – but there’s a steeliness to his conviction.
It’s hard to tell whether this is embedded in his character or a way of psyching himself up for a major turning point in his career. October sees the release of Liam’s debut solo album, As You Were, 26 years after starting Oasis and four years after disbanding Beady Eye (formed with the rest of Oasis, minus his brother Noel, a day after the band broke up in 2009).
The period in-between has been marred with personal upheaval. There’s been a divorce and a child support battle: a blur of lawyers and claustrophobic boredom. Meanwhile Liam and Noel have maintained their feud, no longer speaking to each other. But now it’s time for a new challenge.
As the frontman of Oasis, Liam believed that true greatness required more than anthemic songs. The hedonism, the controversy, the carefree attitude all helped to elevate the music – and Liam personified it better than anyone else.
He also timed it perfectly. After years of acid house and grunge, the mid-90s charts needed a different kind of swagger. Oasis seized that opportunity to become arguably the biggest band in the world.
The landscape, however, has long since shifted. Liam may be the greatest living rock icon (“Others have said it and I do believe they’re not fucking wrong”) but he also may be the last.
Music moves in cycles and, at some point, DJs became the new rock stars. “Did they?” Liam says in mock surprise, his bushy eyebrows narrowing. “Not in my world, they haven’t. What, Calvin fuckin’ Harris? The most boring fucking person? Fuck off, mate… I’ll tell you what they’ve become: the new accountants!”
New music feels bland, he goes on, because it’s awash with spineless careerists. No one’s falling out of clubs, no one’s running their mouth off. And that means there’s no competition.
“I think people are starting to realise what they’ve been missing,” he says, grinning cheekily. “Someone who’s completely 100 per cent into it; someone who doesn’t bullshit people or stand for bullshit.”
This, it turns out, is the perfect primer for everything that follows. Sufficiently fired up, Liam thunders through the conversation, his blue eyes piercing every question with a look that says, ‘Let’s have it then. What’s next?’
Do you feel like you’re putting yourself on the line by recording under your own name?
Listen, there are going to be people who don’t like me, full-stop. ‘He’s a cunt. Fuck off.’ I can work with that because I give as good as I get.
There’ll be some critics who like it and some people who just put the fuckin’ boot in. That doesn’t matter. As long as the fans like it, we’ll make another record. If they don’t, there’s no point in me doin’ it.
With the Beady Eye albums, it was just that people weren’t listening or maybe things didn’t connect for whatever reason. Maybe it was too soon after Oasis or the line-up was too similar. Maybe it just wasn’t fucking good enough. But I think people will respond to this differently.
If the question means, ‘Are you nervous?’ Not one fuckin’ bit. I’m confident. Fuck everyone else. This is a good record.
Was there a moment, career-wise, where you thought, ‘Is this it?’
Yeah. When Beady Eye split up, I could’ve knocked music on the head. It was like, ‘Fuck it. I’ve got a lot of shit goin’ on in me head. I haven’t got a band. I can’t be arsed lookin’ for a new one.’
I had never done that. I joined The Rain, which were my mates, 20-something years ago. That turned into Oasis. Then Beady Eye was just sort of Oasis, so the thought of having to go lookin’ for bandmates filled me with dread.
‘Do I really wanna be Liam Gallagher? Can I be arsed with the bullshit that goes with it? Maybe it’s time to walk away and not do anything.’ Then I got bored.
At what point in the boredom did you think, ‘Right, I can’t do this anymore’?
Every day was just an absolute nightmare. I didn’t have anything to do. Being an early riser meant my day was done and dusted by nine o’clock in the morning. There’s only so much guitar you can play, so much shit TV you can watch.
My missus was out at work; my kids were at school. You end up just going to the pub. Boredom will kill you, man.
Were you afraid of becoming irrelevant?
I’ll never be irrelevant. There might be a point where I don’t sell records or people have had enough of my shit, which is fine. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone trying to force their music down people’s necks. You certainly won’t catch me on Lorraine Kelly tryin’ to sell a record.
[smacks hands together] It’s all written in the fuckin’ stars, mate. I know for a fact there’s a place for Liam Gallagher in this fuckin’ world. Without a fuckin’ doubt. That’s not me being a big-headed cunt. There just isn’t anyone else doin’ what I do.
What mistakes have turned out to be the making of you?
Mistakes? I don’t think I’ve made any.
You’ve no regrets?
No. Everything happens for a fuckin’ reason, man. Everything. I regret hurting a few people along the way, but that’s life. It happens to butchers, it happens to forests, it happens to chocolate makers and it happens to rock’n’roll stars. But I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made.
Even when you were going through all the shit of the last few years, there must have been times when you thought, ‘I’ve made a difficult situation for myself here.’
Yeah. Oh, I’ll never blame anyone else. But no regrets, really. I’ve made it up to all the people that matter. We move on. You can’t apologise for the rest of your life. And I won’t. I’ll say it once and you either take it or you don’t.
Do you find it hard to say sorry?
No, it’s easy. I’ll even put it to a tune. [laughs]
‘Bold’ is a proper song. What was going through your mind when you wrote it?
[Thinks over the lyrics] ‘Gonna take you off my list of to-dos…’ You’re ticking all the dickheads off, you know what I mean? When the divorce was goin’ down, a lot of friends or people who were with me when I had a band… It’s that old thing where they’re not there when you need them.
When it’s all goin’ good, when there are drinks to be drunk, they’ve got their arm ’round you. But they scarper when the shit hits the fan. Not that I needed them anyway.
[continues reciting lyrics] ‘Yes, I’ve been bold; I didn’t do what I was told.’ That speaks for itself. You know what you’re getting with me.
Do you feel like an artist needs to have some conflict going on in their life to say something worthwhile?
I do feel the best songs come out of people who have really lived, without a doubt. If everything’s rosy all the time, you’re just going to be fuckin’ James Blunt or whatever. You need a bit of shit goin’ down, you know what I mean?
But I don’t ever think, ‘I’m going to write a song about my divorce.’ If I wrote a song about Noel, it would turn out shite.
Whatever’s going on [internally] has to come out at some point, but you can’t force it and I’m careful about what I put out there. I come back to a song many, many times to make sure I’m not giving too much away.
What’s the one thing that people always get wrong about you?
[quickly] That I’m a diva. I’m far fucking from it. Far from a diva.
Well, at the height of Oasis you stayed at a hotel in my hometown – Bray, just outside of Dublin – because supposedly your reputation for wrecking the place meant that nowhere in the capital would take you. So how do you get to that point?
Oh god, I don’t remember that. There’s a few rooms that have been smashed up, yeah, but I don’t think I’d do it in Dublin. I’ve got too much respect for the Irish. Fuck that. My mam would go fucking ape shit. [in Irish accent] ‘The fuckin’ state of ye.’
Not havin’ that, mate. I might have been staying in different hotels because me and Our Kid [Noel] were arguing but it certainly wasn’t because of… nah.
My friend’s boss once went up to you in a pub and asked, ‘Are you Liam Gallagher?’ And you replied, ‘No, I just dress like him so I can tell cunts like you to fuck off.’
[laughs] I don’t know about that either. It sounds like me, doesn’t it? If I said that, maybe I am a fucking G. Maybe it’s true what they say, man. [laughs] But no, no. It’s a good one, though. I’ll use that.
In the Oasis documentary Supersonic, your mum says that you being born stole the limelight off Noel…
Yeah, it always happens that way. If you’re the middle child, you think you’ve got it made. Then ta-dah! Up pops the new boy and it all goes a little bit dark around your way, doesn’t it? You’re just like… [sticks up two fingers smugly]
But what about your older brother Paul? What’s his relationship like with both of you?
I don’t think he speaks to Noel that much because he wasn’t lighting fireworks and sending him chocolates when he released his second album – and Noel wants a marching drum beat. So I think he fell out with him there but me and Paul are good. We’re in reality. I was in a band with Noel. That wasn’t reality, so whatever relationship I’ve had with him has been in a bubble.
I’ve heard that you’re both always ringing your mum and asking after each other…
I ring her every single day; twice, three times a day. And every now and again I will go, ‘Have you heard from the little fella?’ She’ll say yeah and I’ll go, ‘Is he walkin’ yet?’ She’ll go, ‘Stop it.’ [laughs]
I think he rang the other day asking when my album is out. He’s a bit nosey about what I’m doing. He’ll come across in the press like he doesn’t even know I exist. But deep down, the guy has got the jitters, man. He’s rattled.
But is it not a pain in the arse for your mother to be the go-between? Would she not say, ‘Just talk to each other’?
Yeah, of course. She’s not happy about it at all. I think she just washes her hands of it at this point. I’ve got kids and when they don’t get on, it’s upsetting, so I’m sure it’s hard but what can you do?
He doesn’t like me; I don’t like him. I don’t like his mates; he doesn’t like my mates. I don’t like what he’s become; he doesn’t like what I’ve not become. It’s not happening in our world at the moment.
Oasis ain’t gettin’ back together. He’s taken a left turn and I’m still taking the path we were meant to go down. As far as I’m concerned, he’s turned into a corporate gobshite. I don’t know if I could be in a band with him and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be in one with me either.
He knows there’d be shade over him. He knows he’d stand out like a sore fucking thumb because I am absolutely keeping it one hundred per cent real. He’d just look like some fucking Tory boy next to me.
Getting Oasis back together now would only be for the money; it wouldn’t be for love. And as far as I’m concerned, it meant more than just getting a cheque. I don’t need the money and I’m sure he doesn’t either, so it stays put until we both come to an agreement that we like each other. At the moment we fucking do not get on.
What if in 20 years you look back and think, ‘If only one of us had just picked up the phone’?
I know but it doesn’t matter. It’s not like we’re some little band. In 20 years, if we get back together or if one of us ain’t here, we’ve still got what we did. It’s not like there’s anything left to do.
We fuckin’ turned the heads of a generation. We played some great gigs, did some great records. It’d be nice to do it all again because people want it – a new generation – but I certainly wouldn’t sit back and go, ‘Fuckin’ hell, if only…’
We weren’t massive in America and it would have been nice, I guess, to slay them. But it doesn’t matter. I only cared about being big in England. The main reason to get Oasis back together is for me and Noel to rebuild our relationship, for real, and to actually be honest about it.
I’m sure a lot of people want to see us reunited for that: to put our shit aside and become mates again… as much as they want to jump up and down and scream stupid lyrics at each other. But life doesn’t work like that sometimes, does it?
You’ve said it pisses you off that some Oasis fans think the band no longer exists because of you. Why?
It pisses me off because I was, and still am, Oasis through and through. The way the band ended was very planned out. Don’t believe for one minute that it just happened like that [following a fight before a gig in Paris].
Ignition [the band’s management] and Noel Gallagher thought, ‘How the fuck do we get out of this one so we can go solo without causing an uproar? We’ll blame knob-head over there who’s having too much to drink.’
So you feel like you walked into that?
Without a fucking doubt, mate. They knew what they were doing. Our Kid having little meetings with Paul Weller. ‘How did you get out of The Jam?’ And with Johnny Marr. ‘How did you get out of one of the biggest bands in the country?’ It was all marked out and dickhead here walked right into it, which is fine. There’s no time limit on the truth coming out. People are clocking it now anyway.
I certainly didn’t ruin Oasis. I fucking love Oasis. Why would I want to split it up? It proper fuckin’ riles me, that. But real Oasis fans haven’t picked sides. They’re just like, ‘Fuckin’ hell, them two.’ [rolls eyes]
I’ve always struggled with my temper a bit. As I get older, I’ve been able to reign it in but I can still be quite impatient…
Good! Good for you, man.
No, but I don’t want that…
Oh, right. I love it. I love having my beautiful, full-on feelings when I’m a big soppy cunt and I love having a fucking temper that just appears in three seconds. It’s how you bring it back down, though, how you balance it.
I fucking love it. If someone looks at me the wrong way… [glares intimidatingly] I definitely know how to reign it in but you’ve got to be angry too, mate. It’s good for ya… Don’t look back in anger, my fucking arse!
If one of your son’s friends asked you for advice, what’s the one thing you would urge them never to do?
I mean you’ve got to walk your own path in life, ain’t ya? I haven’t got a leg to stand on, mate. I can’t be givin’ advice because I’ve done everything; maybe it was wrong and maybe it was right.
My advice is, ‘Don’t ask for advice.’ Just live your life and see what happens. That’s what real rock’n’roll is all about, d’you know what I mean? It’s not just about how you get in the shit, it’s about how you get out of it.
As You Were is out 6 October via Warner Bros/Parlophone Records.