Photography by Philip Cosores
It’s easy to pull out the superlatives when it comes to band frontmen: charismatic, enigmatic, tortured, larger than life. But while Liam Gallagher might fit the bill as much as anyone, the 45-year-old singer and recent solo artist still possesses the ability to catch you off-guard. Not by his wardrobe, which permanently includes a large jacket regardless of the weather. And certainly not by language, which is punctuated by as many stray “fucks” and “do you know what I means” as anyone would hope for, backed with a genuine fire rather than old bastard anger. No, Gallagher is surprising for everything that isn’t present in soundbites or stray tweets. In person, he’s kind, generous, and genuinely excited to be talking about music. There isn’t any topic that won’t interest him, even the war-torn relationship that often finds him joyfully jabbing his brother, ex-bandmate, and if you believe him, potato, Noel.
When we meet in a beach-side Santa Monica hotel room, you’d never know Gallagher had spent a day out of his former glory. Healthier than ever, clearheaded, and focused on a project that begrudgingly finds him shedding the comforts of a traditional rock band, there’s a surprising easiness that comes in chatting with him. At times, it’s even difficult to see him as Liam Gallagher, the man who sang “Wonderwall” and simultaneously dragged a beloved Creation Records band into suburban wedding territory. He’d be just as home as an entertaining stranger you’d find yourself lucky to cross paths with at your neighborhood bar.
“I don’t hide away who I am,” Gallagher says, hardly ever pausing to think about the next words out of his mouth. “I’m me in the supermarket, the same clothes, the same haircut, the same shades on, when I’m fucking gardening or picking the kids up from school, or dropping ’em off. I’m the same, there’s no double-life, I am what I am.”
As Gallagher prepares to release his debut solo album, As You Were, on October 6th, being himself is all that fans can ask for. Whether chatting about the future of rock and roll, a distain for electronic music, or the chances of an Oasis reunion, there is never the sense that he’s speaking through a filter. In a sense, he’s so old-school that it’s refreshing.
The trendy thing right now is to get a bunch of your famous buds together, post some pictures from the studio on Instagram, and start a supergroup. Deliberately, you’re going solo. Why?
Cause anyone that would be in a supergroup or that would have anything to do with a supergroup are all solo. There’s far too many solo stars out there for my liking and not enough bands. I’m doing this cause I have to. I’d much prefer to be in a band.
I assume you know a laundry list of people that you could have called to start something, though.
I know a few, but they’re all in bands. Or solo. The ideal ones would be the guys out of the Stone Roses. I think they just split up, so that would be good. [Richard] Ashcroft would be good. There’s a lot of people out there, but the majority of them are all doing their own thing. But, if they wanna do one, give us a shout. I’ll do it. But, I’d have to be the singer. I’m down with it, but I’m not gonna fucking stand there and do tambourine. I need to be on the fucking mic, man.
So, is this the start of a solo career with more albums under your own name? Or, is this just a one-off solo thing due to circumstance?
One record at a time, man. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 20 years — to fucking enjoy it and be in the moment. The last couple things, I got caught up in the bubble, and it just passes you by, and you go, “Well, what the fuck happened there?” So, this time, one record at a time, and I guess we’ll see how it goes. You gotta live in the now, man, cause it’s precious. As you get older, every day is fuckin’… You gotta wear it, you know what I mean? Thinking about the future, fuck that shit. It’s like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” So, we made this record, it’s sounding good, got a load of gigs to do, and they’re gonna be fucking great. I’m feeling good about it, so we’ll see what happens at the end of the tour.
Take me back to the beginning of this whole thing. How did you end up writing songs with Adele producer Greg Kurstin and Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt?
So, I was in the house pouting about and not doing anything, bored out of my fucking mind, had a lot of lawyers going on, personal stuff going on, and that was just fucking, “How much do you want, you cunt?” [motions in another direction] “How much do you want?” So, I had four years of fucking lawyer hell, and that wasn’t good. Music was not on the top of my list. One day I got up in the morning and got my guitar, and I thought, “You can fucking help me out.” I wrote a song called “Bold”, wrote another one immediately after called “When I’m in Need”, played it for a few friends, and they went, “Oh, they’re really good, let’s speak to someone.”
I was kinda just going, “These are just songs, I don’t think I can be asked to get a band or whatever,” and I said, “I don’t wanna be solo because, that’s just fucking … I prefer to be in a band.” Played it to a guy at our record company, Warner, and he went, “Look, they’re good, you want a record deal?” I said, “Well, why not?” He says, “You got any more songs?” I says, “No, that’s all I got at the moment, but I’ll get some.” And he says, “Would you be interested in writing with some people?” and I says, “Yea, cool, I’ve never done it before, so it’s not gonna kill me, is it?”
So, I flew out to LA, met Greg Kurstin, Andrew Wyatt was there, we had three days in his studio, and we wrote “Wall of Glass”, “Come Back to Me”, and a song called “Paper Crown”, I think, just in three days. So, it was good. It was a piece of piss. It was a good transition, you know what I mean?
You have one of the most iconic voices from the ’90s…
Well, in England anyway. Maybe a bit over the world. America didn’t really take to us that much, but I get by around the world. My voice is alright. I did a good job in the ’90s and all that.
And with such a recognizable voice and the rise of electronic music while you were away, I’m curious if anyone hit you up to get on a track. I know you did one with The Prodigy back in the day.
And Death in Vegas. There might have a been a few people, but I wouldn’t do that again anyway. Guitar music, man, needs a fucking kick up the ass. I’m not a big dance music fan, I did it with The Prodigy ’cause I know Liam Howlett. He was my brother-in-law for a bit and they’re alright, and I did it with Death in Vegas ’cause I like the tune, and that one had a lot of guitars on it. But dance music can fuck right off as far as I’m concerned. Whatever rock and roll is, that’s me, man.
Don’t you think rock and roll is an attitude, though? A guy like Skrillex makes stuff that’s easily as aggressive as any rock song.
Never heard him. Heard of the name. But I’m in no rush to be doing stuff like that.
How do we save rock and roll then? Or revive it? We’re at a point where people are calling Jack White the last rock star.
Well I don’t know about all that. They say that, though. Everyone is the last fuckin’ rock star. Fuck off, you know what I mean? There’s loads man, they’re fucking everywhere, they just need to shake their fucking heads. There’s a lot of so-called rock and roll bands that wear guitars around their neck like its a piece of jewelry. Plug the cunt in and turn the fucker up. And then the singer has to give a bit if it’s not loud enough. You’re not pushing any singer if you’re playing really quietly.
What I’ve done, we’ve got lots of guitars on [the record] and it’s happening, but rock and roll has always been in round my way. And, it’s not a bad word. Universally now it seems like when you mention rock and roll, people go “What, that shit from 50 years ago?” It’s always been in round my way. It’s never been out of step.
What would you say to this next generation, though, the next crop of kids making tunes?
They need to fucking learn how to play guitars, don’t they, and put the computers down. You can’t make rock and roll on a laptop.
Oasis has a massive back catalog, and you’re playing some choice cuts on this tour. Did you go back and listen to get re-acquainted? How did those songs find their way into the set?
Nah, I don’t need to do that. I’ve got them on the top, any given time. But, we’ve got a new band, don’t we, so, no one really wants to come see a gig full of new songs. I don’t want to play a fucking gig full of new songs. I don’t care how good the new songs are, it takes time for people to get acquainted. If they’re working their ass off seven days a week to pay however much it is to get into a gig, they’re gonna get some old classic Oasis songs. You’re there to be entertained, aren’t you? Oasis songs, they’re mine just as much as they’re Noel’s, I feel. Some other people, they might go, “Oh, you didn’t write them,” but I fucking sang ’em and I fuckin’ brought ‘em up. So playing them is really natural to me. We start off with some Oasis songs, get everyone’s attention, then we drop some new ones, so it’s a mix.
You’re playing “Wonderwall”. That sort of surprised me.
Yea, I fell out of love with that song a bit ago. I never quite liked the drumbeat on it [makes drum sounds with his mouth] a bit too funky for me. So, we don’t do it that way. We just do it with a shaker and an acoustic guitar and a voice, and we let the crowd sing and it sounds fucking good like that. Gotta give ‘em what they want. No point in biting your nose off to spite your face. Going to a concert these days is not as carefree as it used to be. You don’t know if you’re gonna get your fucking head blown off or if shit’s gonna happen cause there’s loads of fucking crazy cunts in the world.
Do you think that makes music more important than ever?
Yea, without a doubt. It’s always important, and the world will go to shit, but music hopefully won’t. If it’s in the right fucking hands.
Some people say the worse off the world is, the better the music.
If the world fucking goes down, I guess we go down with it, so we gotta fucking balance it out, haven’t we? I just keep an eye on both things. We’ll see how it goes, man. I can’t wait to play some gigs out here.
Yeah, you’re playing Cal Jam here in the states. Dave Grohl said you were his Glastonbury highlight.
I’ve met Dave a few times. We played with them in England a bit. I like Foo Fighters. They do exactly what it says on the tin. Worldwide and all. Good band, they got some good songs. The drummer’s cool, I like his solo stuff. “Range Rover Bitch”, that’s a fucking tune. We have crossed paths, but that’s why I can’t wait for this California Jam thing, ’cause it’s always just been like, “How’s it going? See you later.” At least this time, it’ll be like, shoot some shit and have a couple of drinks and see where we end up, you know what I mean?
We all follow you on Twitter. What do you think would have happened if you’d had it at your peak in the ’90s?
I’d be saying the same shit, man. I’ve not changed one bit. I do run and all that, and I certainly have a drink as well. I’ve got work today, so there’s no point in me coming in here drunk and shit. I’ve got shit to do and that. But once this is all done, you might find me over there in a little bar having a little drinky poo and that. You gotta look after yourself when you get 45. Running is good for my head, and before the gig, I get a good night’s kip these days, man. The gig’s the most important thing, but after the gig, who fucking wants it, bring it on.
Do you ever listen to Oasis?
Not a lot, I hear it on the radio quite a bit and that, but I certainly don’t sit down and listen to Oasis. I feel very proud of it. I think we’ve done a good job, man, and we’ve moved a lot of people. And we mean a lot to people even now that we’re not playing. There’s a lot of generations that have missed out on seeing us, but they come to the gigs and they like it. It’s an important part of my … I’m never gonna get away from it, and I don’t wanna get away from it. I am the man in Oasis and I fucking love it.
Is it different being solo? Do you worry people won’t accept it? I know you’ve talked about Beady Eye not exactly being what people wanted.
That’s why it’s not really a band, it’s my name. They’re always gonna want Oasis songs, and I’m always gonna give it to them. It’s not a weight or a burden on my shoulder, I fucking love that band and I’m ready … if the band got back tomorrow, I’d be the first there, you know what I mean? So, I’m not holding things up and I’m not desperate to get the band back. If the band happened, it happens, but it’d have to be … it’s not about the check and it’s not about money, it’s about me and our kid getting back to being brothers, and if we ever do that and we like each other again, inevitably the next step would be to go on tour and make some music.
But, people are digging what I’m doing. Whether they’re not digging it as much as fucking Oasis, you can’t ram it down people’s throats. To force someone to go listen to my fucking new tune man, that’s not how I work and that’s not how music works. They dig it or they don’t. And if they dig Oasis more than they wanna dig this, that’s fucking cool, too. Because guess what, I’m down with that shit, too, you know what I mean? I’m not gonna sit there and go awww they fucking don’t like my new music. I don’t give a shit. If they do, they do, and if they don’t, they don’t. At least they like something I fucking did. Whether it was in the ’90s or it was now doesn’t matter to me, ’cause I can do anything. I can do this or the ’90s shit.
Last year’s documentary Supersonic chronicled the rise of Oasis, but it cuts off at Knebworth. Are we ever gonna get a part two?
It shoulda gone all the way, but that woulda been a long fucking night. I guess it cuts off at Knebworth because that was the defining moment. But I had some good times after that, you know what I mean? And we had some bad times as well. And we had some bad times leading up to Knewbworth. We might do the next bit, who knows, there’s not much talk about it, but certainly not shying away from the shit times. The shit times were just as good as the good times? I was on the doll doing fuck all, so the shit times were good as well. I’ve got no problem with the shit times, man.
Last question: Do you know who Banksy is?
Oh, no. Is it you? I heard it’s that geezer out of Massive Attack. Nah, I don’t know who he is, man. To be fucking fair, I actually don’t fucking care. I’ve heard it’s loads of people, Theresa May and shit, I’ve heard it’s her. I’ve heard it’s Jesus as well. Is it you? I bet it’s you, isn’t it?