Brace Yourself: Mr Liam Gallagher Has Something To Say
Exactly a decade since Oasis split, the Britpop icon talks politics, parenthood and parkas
A month before the release of his second solo album, Mr Liam Gallagher is sitting in the corner of Café Rouge in Highgate – an establishment that, to be clear, he chose for this interview – talking about his recent success. “I’m surprised someone with a mouth like me is still getting away with it. I thought only posh boys got on the radio,” he says with a smirk, eyes glowering beneath his mod-meets-punk haircut. “I’m suspicious of it. I’m looking at the bigger picture and thinking, ‘Am I being allowed to come back to the party because the country is on its f***ing arse, and I’m keeping the working classes in check?’”
The ex-Oasis frontman might be turning 47 this month, but he is as mischievous as ever. And he still knows how to wear a three-quarter length jacket better than anyone (today: Stone Island). If you’ve seen the seminal Oasis documentary Supersonic – which charts the meteoric rise of one of the most successful bands in British history – you will be reminded of just how stylish Mr Gallagher has proved himself to be over the years. If he’s not channelling Mr John Lennon in round glasses and a sheepskin jacket, he’s making a Manchester City manager coat look cool. “It’s like, if you take me out, there’d be a f***ing riot,” he continues. [Adopts a well-spoken accent] “‘Who was that scally in the 1990s? Him with the eyebrows. Not Noel, the miserable little f***er. Liam? The lairy one who’s always drinking and smoking and telling everyone to f*** off. Is he still around? Get him out because the oiks are getting a bit restless. We need cool heads at this time.’”
Perhaps Mr Gallagher might consider heeding this advice. The week before we are due to meet him, his brother Noel tweeted a screenshot of a message (“Tell your step-mam to be careful”) sent by Mr Gallagher to Noel’s daughter, Anaïs, in response to some uncomplimentary comments made by Noel’s wife on Instagram.
What was all that about, then?
“He said I threatened his wife,” says Mr Gallagher. “I didn’t threaten his wife. If you threaten someone you have to say, ‘If you do this, this is gonna happen.’ I probably shouldn’t have brought Anaïs into it, and I apologise. [Noel’s wife] called me fat, which hurt my feelings. I have a belly, it’s well paid for, but I’m not fat. Then he [Noel] hung himself by slagging off Scotland. Good luck gigging in Scotland by the way, our kid.”
You get the impression Mr Gallagher would gladly spend our time together talking about annoying his brother. Their relationship has been well-documented over the years, and with Noel recently letting rip in an interview with The Guardian, it seems to be at an all-time low. A decade to the month since Oasis sensationally split, Liam’s feelings about how things ended remain raw (“I got stitched up”), but he would welcome a reunion. “It’s not about the money. I don't drive cars. I don’t buy Rolexes. But I’ve got enough parkas that I could whip out and still blow people’s minds.” He is well aware, however, that it’s not a realistic proposition, and, in typical fashion, takes the opportunity to twist the knife. “I don’t think [Noel] has got it in him anymore,” he says. And anyway, “his missus might not like the music. It’s a bit ‘laddy’. It might be too working class for them.”
But, he is here to discuss matters other than spats. His new album Why Me? Why Not. will be released on 20 September. He also recently starred in the documentary As It Was, which centres on his comeback as a solo artist after years spent in the wilderness recovering from the 2014 split of his band Beady Eye and a protracted divorce from Ms Nicole Appleton. When it doesn’t feel like a press exercise, As It Was is often moving and (because the protagonist is Mr Liam Gallagher) entertaining. It presents a man who is more at peace with himself, someone who is, to some extent, moving on.
Mr Gallagher may dwell on elements of his past in music, but he is justifiably confident and upbeat about his future solo career. He has the platinum-selling debut As You Were under his belt for starters. And, co-written with hit-makers Messrs Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, Why Me? Why Not. is a meaty, rousing, yet often introspective album of Beatles-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. If his sold-out November tour is anything to go by, people are hungry for it. “It sounds fresh to me,” he says of his album, which also nods to Pink Floyd and Messrs David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. “I don’t get all that ‘nostalgia’ stuff. It’s just a formula that was mastered in the 1960s and 1970s. Why not do it in 2019? If that was a crime, we wouldn’t be having Sunday roasts, would we? People say get out of your comfort zone. F*** off! I’m comfortable here. Why would you want to go around riding a race bike with a really sharp saddle? Get yourself a comfortable seat mate and enjoy your life! You don’t wanna be stressing at my age…”
The new documentary touches on this theme. Here is a man who, approaching 50, has matured somewhat and is relishing his new priorities. “Not too much though. I’m not a priest,” he adds. “I’m still a silly c*** who likes winding people up, but these days, I haven’t got the energy.” The film shows him focusing more on his family. We see him on jaunts with his daughter Molly, 22, who he only met for the first time in 2018, and his two sons, Gene, 18, and Lennon, 19 – from two previous marriages. He talks about his love for his girlfriend (who is also his manager), Ms Debbie Gwyther, too. (The pair announced their engagement earlier this week.) “She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, as well as my kids and that,” he says. “She doesn’t let me play up, which is what I need. I needed to have my head shook and get back out doing [music]. She’s not obsessed with the fame and the Gucci parties. We don’t hang out with a so-called celebrity crew. I’m glad she’s not like, ‘Can we go to this bar and meet Matthew f***ing Dahonnacay?’ or whatever his name is… Dahoocanny? She’s like, ‘Let’s just stay in and watch Love Island and chill out.’ She’s never gonna be like, ‘Matthew Cahoocanny is in town – let’s go and stalk him with a selfie…’ Unlike some people’s f***ing wives.”
Nights out might have looked a little different in the past – he has often been pictured with fellow celebrities and model types. Now though, he shuns this world. “Because it’s full of c***s. I remember the 1990s and it was full of c***s back then. Now it’s full of c***s who want your picture with a phone camera. But now the drugs have got worse, so it’s full of c***s with cameras and shit drugs.” In an age where everyone has a smartphone, a Twitter account and a reason to be offended, the smallest indiscretion can be broadcast around the world in an instant. It has, arguably, contributed to a more sanitised music world – especially stark when viewed in juxtaposition with the hedonism embodied by Oasis and Britpop. Mr Gallagher says it’s impossible to be in a “proper” rock ‘n’ roll band these days without getting “cut off, chopped down”. Which is one of the reasons such an unapologetic figure remains a refreshing presence in contemporary culture.
“If I want to act up, I’ll act up,” says Mr Gallagher, ever defiant. “But my kids are at that age where they’re like, ‘Come on, Dad, you’re being a dick.’ I got it out of my system and I’m glad I did. Any rock ‘n’ roll star worth their salt having an early night, going to Picasso museums and all that needs putting down. People should be out having shenanigans. And if someone put a camera in my face when I was 20, I’d eat it. It shouldn’t stop the fun. But now, I’m kinda chilled.” So, how does he spend his time, then? “I get up at 6.00am if I’ve not been out on the booze. Go for a run about 7.00am. Come back, chill, go for some lunch with Debbie, go to the pub. Nothing really. We don’t go hiking or anything. We don’t go to museums… I’ll Google it if I want.”
He’s interested in politics insofar as he thinks politicians are robber barons (or “money-sucking MPs” as he puts it in “The River”, a track from the new album) and aren’t doing enough to combat knife crime. “I have teenage kids who are out and about,” he says. “And then you hear that dude [the mayor of London] saying ‘Oh, London’s open for trade.’ Who gives a f*** about selling a couple of bananas or fish or some wood? That can wait. Get the youth sorted out!” If he were Prime Minister, his platform would be clear: “I’d legalise drugs because they are shocking these days. Improve the quality and make some money out of it. Get the Peruvian back. ‘Cos at the moment, I’m not enjoying the quality of the drugs.”
But, er, back to those kids of his. “You’ve got to listen to what they’ve got to say,” he says, after a rare pause. “I’ve done quite a few things over the years and they can come and speak to me. I’m not daft – they’re going to enjoy the fruits of life. I’m more mates with them than anything. I’m just like, ‘Be cool with me and I’ll be cool with you.’ They’re good kids to be fair, their mams did something right.”
He knows something about mothers who did right. Born in Longsight, inner city Manchester, Mr Gallagher grew up in nearby Burnage with two brothers, brought up by a single Irish mother – Peggie – whom he clearly adores. She features in As It Was and appeared alongside him on Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox. Despite now living in upmarket Highgate in London (Sir Ray Davies and Mr Jude Law are neighbours), he is, as you might expect, still very proud of his roots. “[My younger son] Gene was disappointed when he saw my place [in Burnage],” says Mr Gallagher, smiling. “He said, ‘Is that your house? I thought you were a scally!’ I was like, ‘I am a f***ing scally!’ He was like, ‘That looks like a posh house.’ And I said, ‘Yeah ‘cos my mam made it look nice.’ He said, ‘I’m not sure about you, Dad.’ And I said, ‘I’m not as posh as you, you little prick. Going to private school and going to St Tropez on your holidays every six months. I’m not too sure about you, you little f***er.’” He bursts into laughter.
Considering his upbeat mindset – and the fact he has reconciled with other family members – might he consider patching things up with Noel? “That’s not happening,” he says, immediately. “I’ve got better things to be doing than worry about what he’s thinking. He knows where I’m at. I need to get on with my life, get back doing music, and look after my crew.”
“I’m not looking for a knighthood,” he continues. “People must think I’m trying to get a part in EastEnders or summat. I don’t give a f***. I’m a rock star. I've got a few kids and I took a few drugs in the 1990s – shock horror. Shoot me. I do exactly what it says on the tin.”
And with that, he’s out of his chair and off to persuade Debbie to go for a lunchtime pint.