In the middle of the Highgate branch of Café Rouge on a Monday lunchtime, Liam Gallagher is re-enacting what he calls “the ding-dong”: the infamous 2002 brawl in a Munich hotel bar that led to the loss of his front teeth.We are talking about his apparently impregnable self-confidence, something that seems to mystify even him.
“I dunno where it comes from,” he shrugs, “but I’ve always been a bit of an arrogant cunt, even when I was digging holes for a living in Manchester, sitting there going, ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’ Even the way I dressed to go to work digging holes was fucking cool.” I ask him whether there was ever a moment in his career where he felt startled or overawed by a situation he found himself in.
I was rather expecting some kind of celebrity-related anecdote, perhaps involving one of Gallagher’s pantheon of 60s rock idols, but no: he’s up out of his seat, miming the events that led to the cancellation of Oasis’s German tour, his arrest for bodily harm, trespassing and material damage, and a €50,000 fine. It’s quite a saga, that, in his telling at least, begins with one of Oasis’s roadies “giving some bird the fucking eye and that”, and said lady’s inamorato expressing his displeasure in no uncertain terms.
“I remember we were sitting at a table under a balcony, and our security guard just grabs us by the neck, drags us over the fucking table, and the next minute, there’s a geezer on the balcony drops a fucking glass table on our heads, but the security’s got us out of the way, or it could have fucking killed us. And then it went off, man.”
According to contemporary reports, 80 police officers were called to quell the ensuing melee, which involved both “much of the nightclub furniture being reduced to matchwood” and Liam Gallagher’s front teeth being knocked out. Or perhaps not: Gallagher has formulated a theory that his front teeth were in fact “pulled out with pliers by the fucking German police” while he was unconscious, as retaliation for his part in the fight. “If I was to hit you in the mouth, you’d think you’d have a fat lip, right? I didn’t have a fat lip. I was still fucking whistling while I worked, mate. Here’s what I think happened: it all went down after I kicked a copper at some point in the fucking lobby, I think, because after that I woke up in the fucking nick. So I think they give me a whack over the head in the back of the fucking van and I think they’ve just gone, ‘Fuck you, you cunt’, later on. Because they were pulled out completely perfect. They were going: ‘Oh, as you were coming up the stairs, you tripped and they whacked on there.’ But they’d have broken, wouldn’t they? You don’t fucking have them completely fall out like that. And I woke up in a prison cell, handcuffed, no teeth, but I could still” – he whistles – “and no other marks on me. So I’m going: they fucking ripped them out because I did one of their geezers, that’s what happened there.”
He sits down again. “So that was one time I thought, ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’ Learned my lesson there, mate. Does that answer your question?”
It does, in what has now become clear is characteristic Liam Gallagher style. Like a lot of his answers, it is lengthy, funny, digresses in an unexpected manner, involves both a phenomenal amount of swearing and the speaker repeatedly leaping to his feet to underline various points he is making. Furthermore, it is delivered with a curious, impassioned, poker-faced intensity that seems to be Gallagher’s default mode of speech. For all his repeated claims that he is currently “very zen” – “I’m drinking green tea,” he notes – he talks about everything from Oasis’s back catalogue to his daily morning run as if he is delivering an address designed to rouse a crowd to action. He is, as countless interviewers have noted before, hugely entertaining company, albeit hugely entertaining company of a kind that makes you wonder at the fortitude of his band mates past and present. You do get the feeling that eight weeks on a tour bus with him might jangle your nerves a bit.
Still, bearded, 45 and sporting the kind of feather-cut hairstyle that would – and indeed does – look ridiculous on anyone who isn’t Liam Gallagher, he seems in buoyant mood and with good reason. Conspiracy theory about the German police’s propensity for ad-hoc dental work aside, these are high times for Gallagher. His debut solo album, As You Were, has gone platinum. Its success is testament to the way a plethora of blue-chip songwriters for hire buffed up his songs. “I’ve worked with songwriters all my life,” he says, when the subject is broached. “I came out of the trap singing other people’s songs. It’s not like I started off as a songwriter and then fucking lost my way and needed some help. It feels natural; I don’t give a fuck if they wrote fucking Adele’s song.”
It also comes down to a general lack of what he cheerfully refers to as “fucking meat and veg rock’n’roll” in a world where such things are deeply unfashionable, and one suspects, the enduring myth of Oasis among fans for whom the band’s much-vaunted heyday represents ancient history: a little terrifyingly, we are now as far away from the release of Definitely Maybe as Definitely Maybe was from – to use a suitably Gallagher-esque example – the release of the Beatles’ Let It Be.
Gallagher himself thinks the album’s popularity might be to down to him “sticking to his guns”. He wears a certain intractability like a badge of honour. He didn’t get into music until his mid-teens, found his heroes pretty quickly – the Beatles, the Stone Roses, the Sex Pistols et al – and never really felt the need to find anything else. “My record collection was built. I was done and dusted by the time I was 22. It’s like your football team; I’m never going to fucking change my football team.”
On one level that seems a deeply odd attitude, but perhaps it means he perfectly understands a certain kind of unwavering and oft-mocked music fan: he knows what they want because, almost uniquely among artists, he thinks the same way they do. “I’m not here to change fucking rock’n’roll; I’m here to give people what they want and if that’s boring, so be it. There’s so much change in the world, and especially in the music business, I think it’s nice to know you can rely on me. I like certain things to stay the fucking same.”
Whatever the reason, his recent tour sold out and, a decade after he complained that Oasis were no longer nominated for Brit awards he finds himself nominated for best male solo artist. Alas, the decision to ask him to present an award rather than perform live at the event has, as he puts it, “given me the hump … They can fuck off if they think I’m going to go there and clap some fucking idiot. I’m not going to go: ‘Fucking great, I’m nominated, let’s get down there and do some fucking – what is it people do these days – networking?’ Get down there with your little fucking suit on and put your arm around Stormzy and Rag’n’Bone Man, do all this bollocks? That ain’t me, mate. I’m arsed if I’m going to the Brits. I was arsed the first fucking time around. It doesn’t fucking matter.”
It is all a far cry from 18 months ago, when it was widely assumed that Gallagher’s musical career was over, unless his older brother deigned to reform Oasis, which did not look likely. “Not if all the starving children in the world depended on it,” was among Noel’s more piquant responses to the suggestion. Liam’s post-Oasis band, Beady Eye, had unceremoniously fizzled out after two tepidly received albums: “We weren’t selling any tickets, and I thought: ‘I ain’t fucking doing a third record to be fucking playing the 100 Club, I’d rather do fucking nothing.’ It’s either big or it’s fucking nothing. I’m all or nothing.”
He was mired in what he calls “personal stuff that had to go down” – his divorce from his second wife, Nicole Appleton, and a paternity suit involving the US journalist Liza Ghorbani, with whom he fathered a daughter during a affair – and “doing nothing, just on the phone to lawyers and all that bollocks. Drinking a bit. A bit depressed but not … there’s other people have got it a lot fucking harder. I was still sitting being depressed in a fucking £3m house. But that doesn’t mean anything. I had nothing to do, I was just fucking … het up and all that. Music wasn’t speaking to me and I didn’t see any way back.”
He appeared to have announced his retirement on Twitter, in distinctive style – “Music in the UK has been abducted by massive cunts, thank fuck I got out when I did” – and says he did consider it. What did he plan on doing? “Fuck knows, man. Because I’m not very much without it. You can get into pottery, do you know what I mean? Or become a painter and decorator. I don’t really want to do that. I might be good at it, but you’re always going to have that thing over your head of ‘Liam Gallagher from Oasis’. It’s scary to think about it.”
He credits his partner and manager Debbie Gwyther for “telling me to fucking snap out of all the boozing and miserableness and all that, stop looking at the past and get in the fucking studio”. But a more positive outlook on life and a commercial resurgence does not seem to have altered his attitude to his brother. Throughout it all, he has kept up a constant war of words against Noel, in interviews and via Twitter. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes uncomfortable – as when he accused him of faking tears during a concert for victims of the Manchester bombing – sometimes it seems indefensible, as when he used a homophobic slur against him. “Bum chum? Yeah. But I didn’t mean it in a homophobic kind of way. I’ve got gay friends, hang out with them constantly, 24/7, girls and guys, do you know what I mean? They know I’m not. I know a lot of people go, ‘Well, that’s what you would fucking say’, but I didn’t mean it in the way that people presumed or assumed I meant it.” He looks genuinely abashed. “I shouldn’t say them things. I didn’t know it really upset people, but if it did, I apologise about it.”
But no, he says, he doesn’t think he should lay off Noel for a bit. Not, as I had assumed, because he enjoys getting a rise out of an older brother in the mischievous, needling way common to younger siblings. But because he is genuinely furious about Oasis splitting up. “He did me out, mate, he threw me under the fucking bus, and I won’t forget that. He split the band up and it meant the world to me. Just to further his career. So me having a little pop at him when he fucking needs it, I don’t give a fuck if his missus gets a bit of shit on Twitter, or his fucking kid – welcome to my fucking world. I was getting shit when you threw me under the bus and split the band up. My kids get shit, too. Get off Twitter if you can’t fucking handle it.”
In his version of events, Oasis’s turbulent personal history was deliberately orchestrated throughout by Gallagher Snr. “He wormed his way through that band and used people and sacked people and then fucked us all off at the end for him to further his fucking shitty little cosmic pop career. Sacked the fucking drummer; made it impossible for Bonehead to be in the band; Guigsy left after; Whitey went. But it still weren’t enough. But he didn’t have the bollocks to sack me. One minute I’m there, next minute I’m under the bus, like some fucking drummer. Fuck that, I’m Liam fucking Gallagher, sang my balls off, I’m the voice of that band, and now you want me to just fucking disappear and have a little laugh about it? I don’t fucking think so, mate. I see you in Marylebone, I see you fucking out, you’d better have a fucking security guard with you and you’d better be paying him good money, because you’d better fucking run, mate. That’s how pissed off I am, man, completely.” He smiles. “But apart from that I’m quite happy, do you know what I mean?”
Oddly enough, I do. For all the intensity of his delivery and the ranting on about Noel and the Brits, he does seem happy: chatting proudly about his eldest son Lennon’s ongoing modelling career and encouraging his youngest’s aspirations to be a drummer, cheerfully admitting that he gets on with Gwyther “because she doesn’t take my shit, she’s a bit like my mam”. But then, he says that he has always been at his best when he feels he has something to prove. “Isn’t everybody? We got mollycoddled in Oasis: too much fucking money and too much time on our hands.”
It was the same during Oasis’s early days: he was driven by “angst, whatever that word means”. Certainly, he wasn’t overburdened with other career options. “I couldn’t see myself working in fucking Dixons, couldn’t see myself working in the fucking pub, couldn’t see myself taking orders from any fucking knobhead, I just… If I weren’t in a guitar band, I’d either be selling drugs or I’d be in the nick or I’d be dead, because that’s where a lot of my mates are these days.”
That is why he was never rattled when Oasis got so big so fast. “I was comfortable walking straight into that suit. It didn’t freak me out at all. I always thought I was important from day dot. I felt I was destined for more than digging fucking holes. Success and that, all that stuff, fitted my fucking aroma.” He frowns. “That’s not the word, is it?”
“Persona, that’s it.” He nods. “But it fitted my aroma too.”
The Brit awards will be broadcast live on ITV at 8pm on Wednesday 21 February.