The greatest rock star of the past 25 years is ready to take on the world again. Here, in his first ever Music Week interview, Liam Gallagher pulls no punches as he dishes the dirt on the music biz, going solo and - yes - Oasis…
If Liam Gallagher was the Muhammad Ali of Britpop, then this is his Rumble In The Jungle. On the ropes after the relative failure of his post-Oasis band Beady Eye, the legendary frontman regrouped to land his own knockout combination.
Gallagher’s eagerly-anticipated solo debut LP, As You Were, has just dropped and is rocketing towards the top of the charts, while his December UK arena tour is already sold out, putting the seal on 2017’s most glorious comeback. “I’m feeling good mate, feeling good. Not feeling nervous, not feeling super confident, just feeling very zen,” says Gallagher, speaking to Music Week in Berlin. “It would be nice to be No.1 but I’ll take anything. Just because it’s No.3 or No.5 doesn’t mean that this is a bad record and I’ll wash my hands of it, and then I’ll never want fucking anything to do with it ever again. It’ll still be fucking close to my heart, but it would be nice to be No.1.”
Unquestionably the best British rock star of his generation (for people of a certain age, Gallagher is the best ever), his journey back to the top has been an arduous one since Beady Eye went out with a whimper in 2014. While his bandmates Andy Bell rejoined Ride, and Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock resurfaced as part of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Liam effectively disappeared from public view. Yet having dismissed talk of going solo because he’s “not a cunt”, Gallagher performed an about-turn in August 2016, signing to Warner Bros Records UK (and later Warner/Chappell for publishing). The singer’s girlfriend Debbie Gwyther linked up with UROK to handle his day-to-day management, while Coda Agency’s Alex Hardee was drafted in to guide his live career.
“Warner were the ones who plucked me out of obscurity and said, ‘Do you want a record deal?,” states Gallagher. “And I said, ‘Well, yeah man, I need to get back in there. I’ve got a few tunes with me that I think could be made great if I get in the studio’. So without a doubt, it means a lot.”
“Iconic artists like Liam don’t come along very often and they don’t grow on trees,” says Warner Bros UK president Phil Christie. “It’s a rare and special opportunity and I was very keen to grab it.”
Iconic artists like Liam don’t come along very often
Gallagher penned six songs on As You Were by himself (Bold/When I’m In Need/You Better Run/I Get By/Universal Gleam/I’ve All I Need) and shared duties on the others with heavyweight writers Greg Kurstin, Andrew Wyatt, Simon Aldred, Andrew Sidney Fox and Michael Tighe. The subsequent campaign has been nothing short of sensational, with the 45-year-old reborn as a cultural, relevant icon for the digital age.
“Everyone knows who Liam is, but I didn’t want to take anything for granted,” explains Christie. “I felt like there was a job to do in terms of positioning. I wanted people to realise how great the music was and that required two singles [Wall Of Glass/For What It’s Worth] into the album and a couple of instant grats [Chinatown/Greedy Soul]. Also, we wanted to give him a proper festival run across the summer and so those were the bookends of our campaign.
“He’s such a headline-maker that a throwaway comment in interviews can grab the limelight, which is fantastic because it gives us coverage. But against that, we’ve got to keep bringing the conversation back to the music. We’re looking for a way to keep him talking about his music over the next six to nine months.
“I want to still be in the game at Christmas and beyond, so we’re going to have a really healthy week one and the goal is to kick on from there and keep selling all the way through.”
Where many of his ‘90s foes have ignored the social media revolution, Gallagher has mastered it. His Twitter slogan As You Were was adopted as the album’s title (it was originally called Bold) and he has amassed 2.3 million followers. He follows precisely no one. “I don’t like Twitter,” he insists in his inimitable Mancunian growl, untamed by two decades of London living. “It’s a way of staying in touch with the real people, but I wouldn’t say I like it. I like Man City; I like to put a few people in their place; I like to shine a light on a few situations that arise every now and again.”
A recent BBC video of the singer blaming the decline of record sales for him having to make his own brew went viral. “In the ‘90s I had about four people [making tea],” he deadpanned. “Now you’ve got to do it yourself these days because these fucking little smartarses download fucking tunes for nish. Then they wonder why there’s no real rock’n’roll stars around.” The priceless 36-second clip was classic Gallagher: hilarious, sweary and – in amongst the lolz– a genuinely incisive take on modern music economics.
“I don’t think much about [streaming], there’s nothing you can do about it,” he tells Music Week. “It’s the way of the world. All you can do is go in and do your bit.”
“Liam is never anyone but himself and in a marketplace where we talk about the need for authenticity, I can’t think of an artist who is more authentic and true to themselves than Liam,” points out Christie. “That’s really what carries itself throughout his social media, his interviews and his music, ultimately.”
Ah yes, the music. Blistering comeback track Wall Of Glass is Gallagher’s best in years and is the highest charting rock single (No.21) of 2017 to date, with sales of 144,051. Two other As You Were tracks were also under consideration for the lead single, reveals Gallagher.
“There was another one called Come Back To Me, but it was a bit obvious because of the title,” he recalls. “And then maybe Greedy Soul - I always thought that could’ve come out of the traps. But I think Wall Of Glass is the one, man, it’s done well.”
The singer performed the track during his surprise appearance at June’s One Love Manchester benefit concert, clad in an outrageous bright orange parka. Gallagher went beyond the call of duty to attend, flying in immediately after a slot at Germany’s Rock im Park.
“I was honoured to go there and play for the beautiful people of Manchester in their time of need,” he says, adding: “It didn’t change anything - there are still cunts going out killing people - but it was nice to show a bit of empathy.”
I was honoured to go there and play for the beautiful people of Manchester
As one of Manchester City’s most famous fans, Gallagher can’t contain his glee at the ‘‘As You Were LG X’ billboard installed outside Old Trafford, home of hated rivals Manchester United, in Man City blue.
“I get asked a lot of times, what is rock’n’roll?,” he says. “Well you can stick your fucking records and your middle-eights up your arse - that poster defines rock’n’roll – that’s what it’s all about.”
The former Oasis star played a string of European festival dates across the summer, including Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds, and heads out on his first solo UK arena tour in December. Tickets sold out within minutes, exceeding even Gallagher’s expectations.
“At the time I was like, ‘I’m not doing arenas, let’s turn it down a bit and do Brixton Academy or something like that’, so I’m absolutely blown away by it man,” he says. “We could have been greedy and done loads of nights but it’s not about the money, it’s about doing it and leaving people wanting more.
“I know for a fact that I can still shake a room, I fucking know I can, so they’re gonna get fucking shook man.”
A headline slot at the Snowbombing festival (“Rock’n’roll on ice!”) in Austria has already been confirmed for 2018 and, from the outside at least, solo life seems to be suiting Peggy Gallagher’s youngest son down to the ground. But don’t believe the truth.
“I didn’t even want to fucking go solo,” he snarls. “I mean, I’m glad that we’ve got an album out and I’m playing gigs and all that, but I never ever, ever wanted [to go solo]. I’m proud of every minute I was in Oasis, even the bad times. We shouldn’t have split up, we still should be together today.”
With Noel, Donald Trump and the future of rock’n’roll all in the firing line, strap yourselves in for a Music Week interview like no other. As you were…
Given how well things are going right now, do you wish you’d gone solo straight after Oasis split?
“No, because I don’t even want to do this mate. I owed it to everyone in the band to keep the show on the road, do you know what I mean? So we did Beady Eye for a bit, which kept us out of the house, but then that just sort of fizzled away and I needed a bit of time to get away and sort my head out.
"I’m where I’m meant to be right now so I’m quite happy doing what I’m doing, but it’s certainly never been at the top of my list to go fucking solo. I’m about being in a band me.”
Why do you think there aren’t as many bands breaking through as there used to be?
“I don’t know, man. With the social climate and that, there are a lot of things to be pissed off about so there should be a lot of bands out there smashing it. Maybe they’re too busy on their phones?”
Who’s been the best rock star since you came along?
“My shadow. You tell me - who do you think?”
Pete Doherty, maybe?
“He’s not a rock star though is he? I don’t know what he is, but he shied away from all that. There’s a lot of people that think ‘rock star’ is a dirty word these days. ‘Ooh, I’m not rock’n’roll, I’m a poet’. Fuck off mate, when you joined a band when you were 17/18, you wanted to be like Keith Moon and Keith Richards. People like that piss me off. I’ve heard our kid turn round and go, ‘Oh I’m not a rock star’. Yeah, you can fucking say that again mate. I’m proud to be one and I do exactly what it says on the fucking tin.”
Speaking of your kid, he’s also got a new album coming out next month…
“He’s got to do his thing, I do my thing - I’m sure it’s really good. Noel’s a good songwriter man.”
We had Blur versus Oasis in 1995, would you ever put a record out on the same day as Noel?
“Well I would, for the craic, why not? Fucking too right I would. Come on, let’s have it, let’s get in the fucking ring and have a little ding-dong, whether it’s me and my brother or someone else. But I think everyone’s all a bit sheepish. Everyone’s too careerist man, they’re all just going, ‘I could put a foot wrong and people won’t like me’, but that’s what it’s a-fucking-bout as far as I’m concerned.”
Did you know Wall Of Glass is the highest charting rock single in the UK Top 40 this year?
“There we fucking go! The worm might have turned. You know what I mean? If that boots down the doors and starts the [rock’n’roll] comeback, that’ll do me. In three or four years there could be loads of bands smashing it again and if it’s to do with something like [Wall Of Glass] then that would be nice. I’d have that over a No.1 any day.”
One of the things that’s noticeable about your gigs is the number of teenagers in attendance. Why do you think you’re connecting with the younger generation?
“Maybe I’m kind of on their level. I’m constantly hearing fucking fanboys going, ‘He needs to grow up’. I don’t need to fucking grow up; I need to grow down mate. I’m having a good time and maybe the people that come to see me don’t give a fuck, just like I don’t.”
You became incredibly famous at a young age, did that not drive you a bit crazy?
“People say that but I wasn’t like fucking Donnie Osmond or Michael Jackson, I still knew what I was doing. But no man, I’d had my moments before I joined a band anyway, so I think that set me in good stead. I never had any wobbles with the fame side of it. I take it with a pinch of salt. The way I see it, I haven’t got two heads - I’m me whether I’m on stage or in Sainsbury’s. The people that have different personas, they’re the ones to watch out for. They crumble because they don’t know who they are.”
After the BRITs last year, you tweeted: ‘Music in the UK has been abducted by massive cunts.’ Who was that aimed at?
Cool. Are you surprised at how the music business has changed since you last released an album in 2013?
“I don’t really get involved with the business side of it, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to get back to where it was. Listen, I can only speak from where I am. Now that we’ve sold out our tour I think it’s in a healthy place, but I can’t speak for other people. As for the charts, I don’t really listen to them. There’s not enough guitar-oriented music in there for my liking. But as for the business side, I don’t really get involved. I just live my life and when it’s 9pm I go on [stage] and fucking give it as much I can.”
Did you know the biggest selling debut solo artist of 2016 was Bradley Walsh?
“I’m having him! He’s cool man. I like him. I haven’t got a problem with that because he’s not a real musician, he’s just having a little singsong. I’ve not heard it and that but I like him, I think he’s all right. He doesn’t take himself seriously, like myself.”
How highly do you rate yourself as a songwriter?
“I’m getting better man. If I keep on practicing I reckon I’ll be good. I spent 20 years just being a rock’n’roll star, drinking and fucking having it, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. But I don’t class myself as a songwriter; I class myself as a singer. As long as I can keep that show on the road I think I’ll be all right. I’m not one of those people that go, ‘If I never write another song I need to fucking find the nearest bridge and jump off it’. I don’t give a fuck if I write another song again, someone else can write it for me. I’m about singing.”
What are your thoughts on co-writing this album?
“I liked it. It was good; it was easy. We got together in a house for three days. We wrote and recorded three songs very quickly and I liked that. It was in and out, and I haven’t seen them since.”
You performed on Later… the other week and there’s a new BBC music show, Sounds Like Friday Night, starting this month. Is there enough live music on TV?
“There should be more man. Top Of The Pops, they should bring that back, fucking miss that mate. It’s like taking Match Of The Day off the fucking box. You can’t take Match Of The Day off and you can’t take Top Of The Pops off, they’re institutions, you know what I mean? How about taking the fucking news off?”
What do you think of Donald Trump?
“He’s not in my world man. He’s a lunatic isn’t he? But I don’t know any fucking world leader that’s not off his tits.”
Do you think there’ll ever be another band as big as Oasis?
“I’m sure there will be one day, yeah, I’d like to think so. But we weren’t the biggest band in the world; U2 and Coldplay - they’re bigger than Oasis. It’s not about how big you are; it’s about the impact you have. There’ll always be big bands, but I don’t think there’ll be anyone that didn’t give a fuck as much as Oasis and be that big.”
It’s a year since you told Q that you believe ‘Oasis will sail again’. Do you stand by that statement?
“I think… one day man. I’m not sure when, but I think it will do because I know how people with egos work. Once they get a bit dinted, their heads go, you know what I mean? One day our kid will slowly start coming down to earth. It’s all in his hands - as soon as he gets a bit of a whack or things aren’t going too well, he’ll roll out the Oasis cards, without a doubt. So I’d love it man, but I’m certainly not sat outside his house with a box of chocolates and violins going, ‘Please, please’. I’m quite happy doing this. It’s going really well.”