Well, who could have foreseen Liam Gallagher‘s comeback? One person, perhaps: filmmaker Charlie Lightening, who has worked with the frontman since ‘Dig Out Your Soul’, the band’s final album, released in 2008. Oasis split, Liam formed a new band in Beady Eye, who then disbanded and, after a wilderness period, he returned with 2017’s ‘As You Were’, a stellar solo album – his first – that seen went platinum.
This tumultuous decade is explored in ‘As It Was’, Lightening’s documentary about Liam, which also teases the former Oasis singer’s new solo record, to be released later this year. NME spoke to Charlie Lightening about the comeback, the making of the movie, the possibility of an Oasis reunion and how Liam’s album is sounding.
You’ve been with Liam through a lot of ups and downs…
“That’s what’s unique about this film. It’s my story of him over the last 10 years. I just started documenting everything he did, so you’ve got the fall-out from the second Beady Eye record – which I thought was really good but for whatever reason it didn’t work – through to the end of his marriage, the illegitimate child – all of it. Everything hit him at once.”
Did you see the comeback coming?
“When Supersonic came out, there was a bit of a buzz about him. It was like, ‘This could be an amazing film.’ But at that point, no-one could have expected it to have gone the way it’s gone.” People underestimated Liam as a writer – and also, his knowledge of music is amazing.”
What’s brilliant is that he has a lot of younger fans now…
“When he did that show at The Ritz in Manchester after the bombing, the atmosphere was insane. He put 22 candles onstage for the people that died and did ‘Live Forever’ a capella. In some ways the whole country was looking at him – he’s one of the people. He’s still that geezer. That was a real moment – and it was the younger generation being there that got me. I went to his Finsbury Park show and it was young lads in bucket hats and round sunglasses with cans of beer. It’s because there’s no bullshit with him. He’s what he says he is.”
What do you think is the biggest misconception about him?
There’s a softness to him, and there’s a real warmth. Not a lot of people have seen that. When I make a film, I want the audience to see what I see in that person, what I think’s endearing – even if they might have a reputation. There’s no way we could have made it without being honest.”
Last year The Sun ran a photo of Liam and his partner Debbie appearing to have a fight. This fits into timeline of your film, but isn’t included. Did you consider addressing the incident?
“The tabloid side of it wasn’t the really the story; it wasn’t part of what we were trying to do.”
There are some touching scenes where Liam returns to his childhood home and speaks with his mum, Peggy
“That was his idea. Obviously that was something I really wanted to do, but it had to come from him. It’s quite hard to bear your soul, to let someone in. Peggy’s amazing; she’s so welcoming. Loads of people have filmed outside the house but no-one’s even been in. I was nervous.”
Did you give any direction in those scenes?
“Yeah – there are little prompts. In the film we’re in the bedroom Liam shared with Noel, and I say, ‘It’s a shame you don’t talk to your brother, isn’t it?’, and he goes, ‘Look, it’s not The Waltons’.”
He alludes there to the possibility of an Oasis reunion. Would you like to make that documentary?
“Oh, God, who wouldn’t? To have them both on stage, playing those songs, doing what they do… What that band did, it’s like The Beatles. But I don’t know if a reunion would happen. Liam and Noel need to be friends again. On a selfish fan level, you think a reunion be amazing, but on a family and personal level you hope they can sort it out, you know what I mean?”
Does the new album have a similar sound to ‘As You Were’?
“Yeah, a hundred per cent. It’s mega. It’s a continuation. If you look at ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?’, one’s the more punkier one and one’s the bigger one. That’s progression. People aren’t gonna be disappointed with it. I think it’s gonna blow people away.”
What does the first single sound like?
“For me, it’s my favourite solo song from Liam. I think it’s way better than ‘Wall Of Glass’. It hits your harder. [The album] is a continuation of ‘As You Were’ but it’s that bit bigger – if you’re doing something for the second time, you’ve got more confidence behind you. The first single is so catchy. The middle-right on it is just mega and then it goes into a massive chorus.”
Liam once described ‘As You Were’ as “chin-out music”…
“Yeah, that first single is what you’d put on when you go stomping the streets. It’s got a proper stomp to it. You can hear these songs in stadiums. That’s the difference between a ‘Definitely Maybe’ and a ‘Morning Glory’.”
Tell me about the new track you used in the film, ‘Once’…
“It’s amazing. That’s the ‘For What It’s Worth’ [a reflective single from ‘As You Were’] of the album. The lyric is: ‘You only ever get it once.’ You can listen to it and think of the experiences you get in life – you get a second chance but you only get it once. You could hear him singing it to Noel…”
– Liam Gallagher: As It Was is released on June 6