Sat in the Library Room of the Union Club on Greek Street, Liam Gallagher — a lunchtime double espresso down, in a black cagoule, black jeans and purple suede shoes — is showing me the alarm screen on his iPhone.
‘Look at that bad boy,’ he says, holding it in front of my eyes. It reads ‘05:00’, and underneath, ‘ALARM, WAKE UP.’
‘I’m up at five every day,’ he says. ‘And I love it. Leave the house at six. Run ’til seven. I get Gene (his son, 15, with ex-wife Nicole Appleton) up, ’cos he’s living with us at the moment. Get him off to school. Come back. Potter about. Try some jackets on. Try some shoes on. Play the guitar, have lunch. Then do whatever needs doing.’
Today, yesterday and most days for the foreseeable future, ‘whatever needs doing’ is a lot. Downstairs, his girlfriend-slash-manager Debbie Gwyther is waiting for us to finish so they can go to another meeting concerning the launching-any-minute-now solo career he said he would never embark on (‘Solo record are you f***ing tripping d***head? I’m not a c***,’ he tweeted in January 2016; following it up in August with, ‘It’s official: I’m a c***’). Why was he so resistant to the idea?
‘I just don’t want to be tarred with that brush,’ he says. ‘There’s people that are in great bands that have always got their eye on going solo — who we won’t mention, because he’ll get enough f***ing mentions — and they break up great bands because… well, they use little things like, “Oh, we weren’t getting on”. F*** off mate, you had your head turned big-style. This isn’t that. If Oasis started again tomorrow… well, obviously I wouldn’t get back with it because I’m busy with this and I like this and we’ll see where we end up. But I weren’t one of them people that broke a band up to go solo.’
Whatever might have led him to this point, he is now ‘raring to go. Raaaring to go!’ Gallagher is right to be excited because his new music is great. And it ought to be, given that as well as his iconic voice (which sounds as good as ever), it has, aside from a handful of songs he wrote himself (‘Greedy Soul’, ‘BOLD’), been written by serious, professional songwriters. Most notable among these is Greg Kurstin, who co-wrote and produced Adele’s ‘Hello’ and is currently helping some guy called Paul McCartney to finally realise his potential. Gallagher is upfront about the fact that he had nothing to do with these songs — the electric ‘Wall of Glass’; the Elton John-esque ‘Paper Crown’; ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’-sized ballad ‘For What it’s Worth’ — save for singing them and ‘changing a few words and melodies and phrases and stuff’.
Does he worry about how people will perceive him working with professional writers? ‘It is what it is, mate. I didn’t write ‘Live Forever’ but as soon as I sang it, I made it my own. I class myself as a rock ’n’ roll singer who writes the odd tune every now and again. And that is it. I’m not going out saying I’m Bob Dylan. Ideally, you want to do it yourself. But I can’t write those f***ing big songs. I’m limited. My verses are up there, but I just can’t do that next bit. There will be people that go, “Oh, well, you didn’t write half of it”, but the main thing is getting a record done, getting back touring and doing what I do: singing and moving people, rather than sitting at home doing nothing, spouting off on Twitter.’
While Gallagher now has plenty to be getting on with in the hours between midday and bedtime (‘about 9 or 10 o’clock’), a few years ago this was not the case. For a start, his band Beady Eye (which he formed with the other Oasis members the day after Noel walked out following one final fight in Paris in August 2009) went their separate ways in 2014, after two albums (‘It was like a safety blanket, Beady Eye, so I could kind of ignore the [Oasis] break-up’).
‘It was a bitter realisation,’ he says. ‘Right. No band. Don’t want to be in a band. Don’t want to meet loads of new people. And then all the divorce and all the other s*** — it was just grim.’ Gallagher had not one but two long-running, concurrent court cases to contend with. One involving his divorce from Nicole Appleton and the other over maintenance for Gemma, the child he fathered with New York journalist Liza Ghorbani, in 2013. ‘I know it was all my own doing and that,’ he says. ‘But I was just living in ghoul world with f***ing lawyers. Every day. If it wasn’t the divorce lawyer, it was the other lawyer. It was f***ing grim. They just make it worse. They’re not there to make it better. They f***ing strung it out, mate. They definitely know how long a piece of string is.’
While dealing with this he was living in his house in Hampstead, the front door of which opened straight onto the high street. ‘I’d open the door and get mithered to death straight away,’ he says. ‘People going, “Oasis, Oasis, Oasis” in your face, and it’s like you’re in a bad trip. You’re this guy in Oasis, but you’re not doing anything any more. You start going, “Am I a f***ing has-been? Is this it?” And you’re sitting there going, “Well, maybe it is.”’ He was, he says, ‘drinking too much’, and began planning to disappear forever. ‘I was waiting for the divorce to kick in, to see what f***ing pennies they’d throw back at me, and I was out of here. I was gonna go and live in Spain and just chill out, get fit, eat nice, bit of sun on me bones and just f***ing live.’
His saviour, he says, was Gwyther, who used to work for Beady Eye’s management team, and with whom he began a relationship during this time. They moved to a more secluded flat in Highgate: ‘This penthouse where it’s like 360-degree views over Ally Pally, so it was just pure light. And that helped my head a bit.’ He had a long period of ‘just doing nothing: ruining Debbie’s vibe, going, “Come on, let’s go to the pub. F*** work, come and be a f***ing dosser like me!” And then she’d go to work and I’d be sitting at home being Billy No Mates.’ Eventually, though, having written a couple of new songs, she convinced him to start meeting record companies. She suggested songwriters he might use. She introduced him to the producer he would go on to work with, helped him put a new band together and got him to the point he is at now.
Coincidentally, just as all of this was coming together at the end of last year, the Oasis documentary Supersonic came out: a moving account of the band, which traced their story back to the Manchester council house that Liam, Noel and their elder brother Paul shared with their mother Peggy (having escaped from their violent father), through getting a record deal and right up to Oasis’ glory years — culminating in their record-breaking concerts in front of 250,000 people at Knebworth Park in 1996. It did a good job of reminding people what Liam Gallagher was — and is — all about. ‘I guess so,’ he says. ‘But I didn’t need reminding. I met Ricky Gervais the other day on the Heath, and he went, “Oh, I saw Supersonic. I thought you come across really well,” and I went, “As opposed to what, you f***ing little c***? I am the f***ing bollocks, get with it!” And then he walked off.’ He laughs. ‘The only person that come out of it bad was Noel because I think his true colours were shown. But everyone knows that he’s a bit of a c*** and I’m a bit of a c***, but that at the same time we’re both cool.’ Liam did a fair few interviews to promote the documentary. ‘I started caning it around about then. I was going out doing them interviews, walloping it every night, getting carried into lifts and s***.’
Does he regret anything he said? ‘No. Like what?’ Like any of the stuff about Noel? ‘No. Not at f***ng all. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever said about Noel. I think he’s had it easy off me. It’s only sticks and stones, they won’t break his bones. Wait till I bump into the c***. Everything I say is the f***ing truth. I’ve not even dug that deep yet.’
Indeed, a couple of days before we meet, he is back on Twitter, laying into his brother’s collaboration with now-very-much-ex-rival Damon Albarn. A few days after, he is hitting out at Noel’s 50th birthday and its cocaine-themed invites (‘Who the f*** in there rite mind broadcasts there having a cocaine themed party that’s asking for a tug anyways as you were LG x,’ Gallagher wrote on Twitter). ‘There’s loads of people going, “You need to chill out”, or “You need to grow up”, he continues. ‘F*** you, mate. It’s just a wind-up anyway, with Noel, it’s just a bit of fun. He sets himself up for it, doesn’t he? Doing backing vocals for f***ing Gorillaz! Someone needs to come and put me in a f***ing straitjacket! You know that’s getting it.’ Of Twitter in general, he says he loves it, ‘and if no one bothered f***ing re-tweeting it or writing about it, then I’d shut up shop. I only really pipe up if someone’s having a pop. The rest of it is peace and love. I thoroughly chuckle. I want an award for that s***. It’s a sport to me and I want medals for it!’
The one thing about his former band that still bugs him, he says, is that he feels like he has ‘been lumbered with the “You f***ed Oasis” thing. Which I refuse — re-f***ing-fuse! — to have. You ask any of my band members at that time and they’ll tell you different.’
‘It was positioned like that,’ he continues. ‘The good guy and the bad guy. But slowly, the truth will prevail. And without going on about the other fella too much, he’s on another level, him, he’s over there somewhere. I don’t know what world he lives in, and I wouldn’t want to live in it, believe you me, because it seems very bland, and naff, and contrived and just… “What?” He’s like the new Robbie Williams or something. It’s f***ing weird.’
We move on. We talk about the fact that he will be playing a number of Noel-written Oasis classics in his live show (‘Do I go on and play a load of new songs and everyone’s just standing there scratching their heads? No. When the lights go down, it’s party time’). We talk about the (kind of) Oasis-y sounding Harry Styles single. ‘I wouldn’t buy it, but it’s interesting. Imagine what it’s like for him. He’s got a big f***ing weight on his shoulders, and he’s only f***ing young. He’s probably thinking this One Direction thing ain’t for me. People change, so if he wants to do a bit of that, good luck to him.’
We talk about his eldest son Lennon’s move into modelling which, most recently, featured him on the cover of Buffalo Zine wearing a Blur T-shirt. ‘I mean, there’s some s*** that he’s been f***ing wearing…’ he smiles. ‘But listen, he’s earning corn, man. So I’m like that [he slaps hands together]: “Where’s my cut? Them two eyebrows, they’re mine, right? So I want a cut of this f***ing wonga. And the f***ing name Gallagher, I want a cut of that as well!” He’s like, “What d’you mean?” I’m like, “See how much f***ing work you get if you change your name to Lennon Kensit? Zilch! So where’s my cut?” But he’s buzzing. He’s been out in New York the last couple of days just living the life, man.’
And of course we talk about the purpose of Liam Gallagher, 44-year-old rock’n’roll star, in 2017. ‘As far as I’m concerned, whether this album’s a success or not, some c*** has to counteract the bulls***,’ he says. ‘And I’m that f***ing man. Whether it’s Adele or Ed Sheeran — I’m not arsed about them — but half of these bands that call themselves guitar bands, they’re in that mob too. They’re just running amok. These c***s are just getting away with murder: you can’t tell a guitar band from a pop band these days. No one’s cranking it up and having a bit of aggro. They’re all going to the same parties, they’re all f***ing hanging out, they’re all drinking from the same cup, they’re all eating at the same f***ing restaurants, and, dare I say it, they all look the same, and dress the same.
‘Someone needs to counteract that,’ he says. ‘And I’m here to do that.’