The perfect balance of attitude, swagger and raw, rasping vocals, Oasis legend Liam Gallagher is arguably the greatest frontman of his generation. Back in the game and with a debut solo album on the horizon, he sits down with Tom Howard to talk boxing, grime and to ask 'd'you know what I mean?' 172 times. Welcome back, our kid…
In late July 2015, William John Paul Gallagher went on a little holiday to County Mayo in Ireland with his older brother Paul and his eldest son Lennon to visit his mum Peggy, who’s got a house and relatives there. Many pints of Guinness in local pub JJ Finan later, Liam was playing guitar and singing a new song he’d written called ‘Bold’. There’s a video of it on YouTube, which features an old Irish boy shouting, “GO OOON GALLAAAGHEER” in the background.
Like all the best Oasis gigs, it’s a rowdy scene with Liam at the centre of it. “I’ve seen it back a few times, it’s great,” he says, puffing cigs and drinking water on a roof terrace in Soho, London. “A lot of people were moaning, like, ‘Oh, he’s f**king drunk,’ but last time I checked you go to pubs to get f**king drunk. In this day and age you go for a f**king sandwich, or some fish. But I don’t, I go to get drunk. It was a bit rough round the edges, but f**k it.”
Two years later, that song is at the heart of Liam’s new album, which was also called ‘Bold’ until he “kept hearing the word everywhere and went off it”, so he’s changed it to ‘As You Were’. “It’s got that ‘Definitely Maybe’, ‘Be Here Now’ thing,” he says. “It doesn’t mean anything, but it does. It means back in business. Forget about the last four years of nothing and personal b*****ks [he got divorced from Nicole Appleton in 2015], and get back to what I do best, which is singing rock ’n’ roll music.”
‘As You Were’ is full of straight up rock ’n’ roll songs written by Liam, with help from Greg Kurstin (who’s worked with Adele, Beck and Lily Allen), Andrew Wyatt (who’s in Miike Snow and has worked with Carl Barât and Mark Ronson) and Simon Aldred (leader of Bolton indie band Cherry Ghost). The vibe is somewhere between Oasis and Liam’s last band Beady Eye, who split in 2014: tons of energy, flashes of anger and loads of big, bad, loud guitars.
For now, though, the album can wait. For now, Liam’s concentrating on getting himself back on stage and letting that voice out. But not before he’s given some rip-roaring interviews to get this Liam ‘solo artist’ Gallagher thing on the road.
Is going to the pub and serenading the locals what you normally get up to when you visit Ireland?
“I chill around the house, I go to the pub and have the craic, and then I get a b*****king off me mum like [puts on Irish accent], “Stay out the f**king pub.’ Normally I’m good and I keep me head down, but I must’ve been in a good mood that day.”
How did a guitar end up in your hands?
“F**k knows, mate. Guinness.”
Why did you play ‘Bold’ and not, say, ‘Wonderwall’?
Sign up for the newsletter
“I dunno, I just thought… It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, here’s a song, it’s going to be out next year.’ There was no plan to make a record, but if I’d known there was going to be a record I probably wouldn’t have done it. Everyone’s just all cloak and dagger these days, like, ‘I’ve got a new song and you can’t hear it until it’s out.’ At that time I thought, ‘F**k it, it’s a f**king song,’ ya know what I mean?”
You’ve got big songwriters on the album. Greg Kurstin co-wrote ‘Hello’ with Adele. How big do you want this to get?
“I’m not arsed where it goes. I just f**king wanna get back doing what I do, less of the f**king drama. I’ve had four years of f**king private-life bulls**t, which is all my doing, and I want to get back to doing my job, playing rock ’n’ roll to the people who like it. I love it and people can see that. You can tell by that big vein down the side of my neck. I’m not afraid to be big and I’m not afraid to be small. It’s all a piece of p**s.”
Are you into grime? No guitars but lots of energy?
“My kid Gene is bang into Skepta. I like the look of him. He looks a bit odd and kooky. He’s a bit funky.”
There’s a picture of him wearing a Pretty Green [the fashion label founded by Liam] T-shirt.
“Yeah, Gene showed me. Apparently he went in and whacked out five grand. That’s the kind of s**t I’d do. So now he’s welcome to have it for nowt, ’cos it says a lot about someone. I like the little f**king Del Boy hat he’s wearing in that pic, and the round John Lennon beams. He looks cool, man. Odd and cool. I can’t wait to meet him.”
You’d like grime. Grime is dangerous music.
Good for them. Anger’s an energy, mate. It’s where it’s at, man. I’d rather that than some f**king watered-down f**king guitar band.”
Are you still angry?
“I’m not angry at life, like, ‘Oh, my f**king life should have turned out like this.’ I’ve had a f**king great life and still have. I’m just angry at… I dunno, f**k knows. I’ve still got f**king fire in my belly and soon as that microphone is there I’m ready to f**king spit the words out. It’s called passion, I guess, but it could come across as anger. But I’m not angry when I’m out and about, and when I’m with my mates I’m pretty f**king chilled. I’m not walking down a road like that fat f**king geezer out of ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ or whatever. Running chills me out a bit, but it depends. There’s a lot of d**kheads out there. If people are cool, then I’m cool. If there’s d**kheads around, I’ll f**king show me teeth.”
Who’s your competition right now?
“There’s no one out there like me. I’ve nailed it ’cos I’ve got the tunes. If it goes on attitude and aggression then I’ve p**sed it. If it goes on how s**t you are, they win. Because I ain’t s**t.”
Have you heard the new Harry Styles stuff?
“I don’t mind it, man. There’s some interesting bits in it. I mean, I don’t know how it f**king goes, but fair play to him. I’m sure, like, it’s a bigger f**king cost. I’ve got the weight of Oasis still hanging over me and I’m sure I’ll always be that guy from Oasis, so I’m sure he’s carrying an equal weight. If he wants to get out of that pop world and into something with a bit more substance I think that’s a good thing.”
Are you OK with always being the guy from Oasis?
“I f**king love Oasis. I am Oasis. It doesn’t matter who wrote the f**king songs and who f**king sung them, I’m the one that f**king took them for a walk on the wild side. I’ll always be Oasis, man, that’s my f**king first love. I don’t yearn for it, though, like some people go on about. If I yearned for it I’d be sending our kid chocolate, not f**king hate mail.”
Do you listen to Oasis?
“Only when I’m rehearsing it, or if it comes on in a pub or in the car. Turn it up, man.”
When it comes on in a pub, do people come up to you?
“Yeah, man. There’s a lot of love. More so then f**king ever. That’s why I’m not gonna bother about being in a band again. It’s my name now. I’ve joined the f**king d**khead gang, f**king Mr Solo. This is the last chance to dance. I’m not into f**king dance music. It is what it is, but I’m never gonna make a f**king Ian Brown solo record – it’s always gonna be f**king loud guitars, which will also get compared to Oasis. It’s not a band thing, it’s me doing my thing. It’s the last real f**king roll of the dice, but not in a desperate kind of way. It’s just: ‘This is f**king my thing, let’s see what’s going on.’”
What will you do if you roll the dice and it isn’t a six?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I won’t panic or flip out. But I’d be f**king gutted, mate, ’cos I love being in front of that mic, man, with f**king guitars behind me. I’d be f**king devastated, but I’d get over it. You just have to move with the times. It’s like a fighter, innit. If you’re not good enough you’re not good enough.”
You were tweeting about boxer Anthony Joshua at the weekend.
“Mega. Nearly as f**king cool as me.”
What do you like about boxing?
“People getting their f**king heads kicked in.”
Have you always been into boxing?
“I’ve been to a few fights and that, and I know Ricky Hatton and carried his belts in for him in Vegas [in 2008], but I’m not into it myself. I’m far too good-looking for that.”
On May 30 you’re playing live for the first time since November 2014, when you sang ‘My Generation’ with The Who. How’s your voice?
“It’s just like riding a bike, innit.”
Do you have to look after your voice better now?
“I never looked after it in the old days. You’ve just got to be good when it comes to gigging, go easy on the cigs and alcohol. But it can’t all be no fun – I wouldn’t do it if it was. I’m not Aled Jones. It can’t be all work and no f**king play. You’ve just got to pick your moments to let loose.”
Do you practise your stance in front of a mirror?
“I get up at five and do it for an hour every day, just to stay trim.”
But you’ve reined the stance in a bit to protect your vocal chords?
“A little bit. I don’t like singing down, though, to the ground. I see other people doing it and it doesn’t work for me. It needs to be level or a little bit Lemmy. If I sing with my hands in my f**king pockets it’s like going through the motions. But when my hands go behind my back it’s f**king war.”
Are you gonna do Oasis songs straight away [see below], or wait a bit, get everyone into the new tunes first?
“Nah, straight away. Some at the beginning, some in the middle and some at the end.”
Do you go back and watch yourself singing old Oasis songs?
“No, I’m not even listening to them. It’s just straight in.”
Will you ever get bored of having a pop at Noel?
“I’ll always do it ’cos it’s fun. I f**king find it funny anyway. A lot of people tell me to grow up, but I’m not growing up, mate. People go, ‘Behave, 44, behaving like a f**king…’ and all that nonsense,
but just because you’ve turned 40 or 50 doesn’t mean you have to start behaving. I don’t f**king think so. Over my dead body. You spend 20 or 30 years trying to be the most realist person on the planet, then 10 years later everyone wants you to forget about all that and turn into a f**king d**k, pipe and slippers and wearing beige f**king jackets. I don’t f**king think so. I’ve built this f**king thing, I like who I am. I find myself very funny. I know who I am, I know when I’m being out of order and when I’m just doing it for a laugh. I’m never f**king changing. Never.”
‘As You Were’ is out in October. Liam appears at Reading & Leeds festival in August, with more live dates to be announced
Which Oasis songs will Liam do live?
“Every one I’m doing, I’m doing because I like singing it.”
Rock ’N’ Roll Star
D’You Know What I Mean?
“All seven minutes of it. I’m not doing it for the ‘Be Here Now’ anniversary. I couldn’t give a f**k.”
Be Here Now
“Sounds like the Stones. Gonna get a load of brass on it so it sounds f**king filth. ‘Kicking up a storm from the day I was born’ – it’s perfect. It’s got me written all over it.”
“Yeah. I nail that.”
Don’t Look Back In Anger
“Nah. Although I’d f**king nail it. I sing it in the shower every day. It’s amazing.”
Don’t Go Away
“I could p**s that if I wanted to, but not doing it this time.”
I Hope, I Think, I Know
“Too hard to sing.”
Round Are Way
“Not sure. Some are hard to sing these days and I refuse to drop them a key ’cos they end up f**king grungy.”