When Oasis formed in Manchester, England, the Britpop band’s shaggy-haired, parka-swathed, simian-faced frontman, Liam Gallagher, was just 19. Now, a quarter-century later, the 44-year-old’s signature bowl-cut, baggy streetwear, and sullen pout remain, but he finds himself without a band for the first time in his adult life.
“I still want to be in a band. Bands are where it’s at,” he admits, a bit pensively, sitting with Yahoo Music in an L.A. hotel room as he promotes his first official solo album, As You Were, out Oct. 6.
Liam wasn’t always band-less. After Oasis broke up in 2009, following an explosive backstage altercation between famously feuding Gallagher brothers Liam and Noel at the Paris Rock en Seine festival, he wasted no time in forming Beady Eye with all of the members of Oasis not named Noel Gallagher. “It was like all that s*** was going on with Oasis, and I just wanted to stay out on the road,” he explains. “I wanted to stay with my mates that was in Oasis. So we carried it on, really. It’s nice to be in a bubble when the s*** is hitting the fan. So I guess that’s what happened. And then when [Beady Eye] ended, that’s when the s*** hit the fan — with me having no band after 20 years. That’s when it all went a bit dark, as you say.”
There is a certain darkness that permeates Yahoo’s conversation with Liam. Yes, he’s often hilarious, dropping F-bombs in practically every sentence and cracking snarky jokes about Paul McCartney, Bono, and Simon Cowell. (Regarding the latter: When asked if he’d ever judge The X Factor — a £2 million job that Noel turned down a few years back — Liam expresses surprise that his “star-f***er” brother actually rejected the show, then says, “I’d end up f***ing elbowing Cowell in the face. … I know I would be good — I am good on TV, man, I’d be amazing — but I think there’d be a bit of violence going down.”) Yet through it all, Liam appears cagey, weary.
When asked about the Oasis split, which seemed so abrupt after years of the beleaguered group somehow sticking together through countless other tabloid-fodder blowouts, he retorts, “Oh, it was very ‘sudden,’ but it was very planned out. Oh yeah, it was one of the masterminds, man. Like Noel and his management, they definitely planned it. I got left with the s*** sandwich. So that’s the only problem I’ve got with [Noel]; other than that, I think he’s great, he’s a top person, and I love him dearly, but he f***ing threw me under the bus and so did the management team that I was with for 20 years. … Basically like, he wanted to go do a solo career, it was planned out for a long time, and he set a few booby traps for yours truly. And I walked right into ’em. It’s very sad, isn’t it?”
Sad indeed. However, when Beady Eye called it quits in 2013, fans’ hopes for an Oasis comeback sprung anew. But despite his earlier declaration that he misses being in a band, Liam is now focused on his late-in-life solo career, and he flatly says an Oasis reunion “ain’t happening. … Everyone thinks that [Noel and I] are kind of making this little master plan together, but me and him f***ing hate each other. As sad as it is, that’s the way it is. He’s that side of the coin, and I’m that side of the coin. So we have to get back to liking each other as brothers before we start thinking about making music [together]. And that might never happen.”
At least Oasis fans will get a double dose of Gallagher music this fall, when, oddly, the siblings release albums only a month apart. (Noel’s still-untitled third LP with his band, High Flying Birds, is due in November.) Comparisons are inevitable, but Liam appears unconcerned.
“Oh, mate, I don’t care who releases [music the same time as I do], if it’s the Beatles or the Stones or Jimi Hendrix; I feel confident. It ain’t a competition. I’m sure [Noel’s album] will be great. But he don’t know how to rock like me, man. He might be a good songwriter, but he sings like Dolly Parton.”
When Liam isn’t bashing his brother in various expletive-riddled interviews, he often utilizes Twitter to keep their feud going. “Oh, I’m amazing on it,” he laughs, bragging about his Twitter skills. As for his most notorious Twitter insult — that his brother resembles a certain beige, lumpy vegetable — Liam elaborates, “[Noel] looks like a potato in some pictures. I’ve got a few potatoes in the fridge, in the cupboard, and I look at some of the pictures that he takes — they’re pretty similar.”
The past four artistically dormant years, between the release of Beady Eye’s final album and Liam’s As You Were, have been tough for the younger Gallagher, both professionally and personally. “What was going on? Not a lot, man — just f***ing speaking to lawyers in the morning, speaking to them first thing before you go to bed, then first thing in the morning. I was living in lawyer world, which is terrible for anyone,” he grumbles. (He’s referring to a $3 million child-support suit filed by American journalist Liza Ghorbani over their out-of-wedlock daughter, and a divorce battle with his second wife, All Saints’ Nicole Appleton, that ensued after she learned about the Ghorbani affair.) “So music was like way at the background. I weren’t even thinking about being in a band, weren’t even thinking about music.”
However, Liam asserts, “I knew I wouldn’t be away that long — so four years, I needed it off, man, to be true. I needed a bit of time off to mop up a bit of s***. But now that’s all sorted. I’m ready to go again, man, and make up for them four years that were wasted. … I never lost me confidence. I might have just lost me way a bit, but I never, ever doubted me in front of a microphone. I’m a singer. If you put that microphone in front of me, that microphone’s going to get hurt. So I never, ever doubted my ability to sing a song.”
As You Were sounds, basically, like classic Oasis, with Liam’s unmistakably snarling vocals front-and-center on stellar collaborations with Midas-touched songwriters like Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt and Adele/Sia/Kelly Clarkson producer Greg Kurstin. “For What It’s Worth” has the majestic, sweeping quality of “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” “Bold,” the first song Liam wrote when he was emerging from his four-year funk, has the ragged, shuffling acoustic vibe of “Digsy’s Dinner” or “Married With Children.” The driving, dreamy psychedelia of “All I Need and More” could be a lost track from Be Here Now. As for any critics who might bash As You Were for sounding too much like Liam’s past work, he says with a shrug, “Well, what is ‘new music’? Techno is new music — and that’s a pile of s***, innit? Why would I want to go down that road? For me, it’s like food, innit? It’s like your mum’s, your grandma’s recipe. Why change it? If it tastes good, why start f***ing with it? That’s what I see rock ’n’ roll is about: just another batch of songs, done well, sang well, performed well. That’s the way it is. Don’t start mixing it up with all the other nonsense.”
While Liam admits that the friction he had with his brother often resulted in the finest Oasis music — “Oh yeah, without a doubt. I’d never want Oasis getting back together with me and Noel walking onstage holding hands, you know what I mean? It needs a bit of aggro, man. That’s what made our band!” — he now realizes he can conjure that friction on his own. “Ah, it comes from me. I’m the one. I’m still the young man about everything, whether it’s life, or maybe it’s called passion. I still know when we go onstage and that microphone’s there and the guitars are playing, we’ve got to deliver some good stuff,” he proclaims.
And one thing that inspires Liam’s passion these days? “S*** bands, s*** music, other s***,” he answers. “We need s*** music out there, to counteract it. If everyone was great, God, it’d be boring, wouldn’t it? So yeah, bring on the s***ness!”
Liam’s return to the scene, even sans Oasis, has fans looking to him as rock’s one last great hope, the man who can save the flagging rock genre. But Liam, in a rare moment of humility, says, “I don’t think so. I mean, it takes more than one person to sort that out.”
The subject of the state of rock in 2017 gets the singer — who declared, “Tonight, I’m a rock ’n’ roll star” on the first track of Oasis’s debut LP back in ’93, and tells Yahoo, “I’m a rock ’n’ roll star every day, and the day before, and the day after” — almost more fired up than when he’s griping about his estranged sibling. “Rock ’n’ roll is a bit of a bad word in England at the moment,” he sighs. “You say it, and it’s like, ‘What, that thing from 50 years ago?’ It’s never not been cool; it’s always cool in my world, you know what I mean, whether I’m making music or not. … It’s always been good to me, and I’ve never let it down, ever.
“There’s a lot of so called rock ’n’ roll bands — and they know who they are — in England that are banging on about ‘saving rock ’n’ roll,’ and I think they’re wearing guitars like it’s some kind of jewelry. You got to plug the f***ing thing in, man, and turn it up, and make a racket with it! So that’s what we’re doing, or what I’m doing, or what we’re doing, or whatever. So yeah, man, I’m here to sort of shine a light on the fakes. … I think a lot of kids these days don’t even own instruments. … People have got to close the laptops and use it for emails, and pick up an instrument and learn it, and go play it in a s***ty garage with your mates.”
Liam is proud that his recent solo rock ’n’ roll revues, where he’s performed both As You Were songs and Oasis favorites, have drawn enthusiastic fans of all ages. “A lot of young people down there, not many bald heads down the front,” he notes. “Everyone’s got a head of hair down the front, which is good!” And he thinks that’s a sign that the world is ready for the return of real rock. “There’s a lot of young people out there that’s just sick of the bollocks. They’re sick of watered-down rock stars. … I think they’re sick of being entertained, all this fake entertainment. … Come to [my] gig and have a good time, jump up and down, punch your f***ing mate in the face, throw beer on your head, listen to the tunes, and have a release from your daily life.”
On the subject of rock concerts, with coinciding album releases, the two Gallagher brothers will likely be touring around the same time — but Liam isn’t worried about that, either. “If you want to hear Oasis songs done in their true form, come and see me. If you want to hear Dolly Parton versions, go and see [Noel],” he quips.
So, according to Liam, Noel Gallagher sounds like Dolly Parton and looks like a potato? “Yeah, a Dolly Parton potato,” he chuckles softly, getting in the last word and the last laugh. “Dolly Potato.”