Liam Gallagher: ‘Rock’n’roll saved my life’

Liam Gallagher: ‘Rock’n’roll saved my life’

It’s easy to forget how good Liam Gallagher is at his job. Being a rock’n’roll star is what he does.

When I arrive at the photographer’s studio where he’s having his picture taken, he is in full work mode: meaning, he’s standing stock still, looking hard and handsome in a bright cagoule. No accessories, no silly moves. He just puts his arms out wide, in a “let’s ’ave it then” pose, and that’s it, job done. Liam Gallagher is a stone cold genius at being Liam Gallagher.

I’ve brought my dog and he spends the first few minutes fussing over it. He’s had a couple of dogs himself, he says. His youngest son, Gene, once got one while he was away on tour: Gene plonked it on his bed when he got back. It was a tiny sausage dog. “What’s his name?” asked Liam, still dozy. “Sparkle,” said his son. “And I went, ‘No it’s fucking not,’” says Gallagher. “I ain’t going out with a dog that big round the heath, going, ‘Sparkle! Sparkle!’ Not a chance.” The dog’s name was changed to Ruby. Gallagher’s funny. When he tells a story, he jumps up from his chair, acts it out, gives it full effect.

For the past three or four years, Gallagher has been out of sight. Since Beady Eye split, he’s been working his way through his divorce from his wife of six years, Nicole Appleton, as well as a court case around the amount of child maintenance he should pay to Rolling Stone journalist Liza Ghorbani (his one-night stand with her and resulting baby the reason for his split with Appleton).

“I was in lawyer world,” he says, “which was, I’ll just say for the record, all my own doing. But it was just lawyer here, lawyer fucking there, just surrounded, in a world of ghouls who were on the take and not trying to make the situation any better.”

The situation was made harder because he wasn’t in a band. Gallagher had been in a working band – first Oasis, then Beady Eye – for 23 years. “The breakdown never really happened before. The real comedown of Oasis happened after Beady Eye. I didn’t want to do it any more. I went nuts for a bit. And I was already nuts.” For a while, he seriously considered living in Spain – “giving it the Sexy Beast” – with his new girlfriend, Debbie Gwyther. But he didn’t want to leave Lennon and Gene, his teenage sons, both London-based.

Is he a tough dad?

“Well, when it comes to drugs, I haven’t got a leg to stand on, but I’d prefer it if they didn’t do anything,” he says. “Weed’s all right, but even that’s fucking stupid. I say, ‘Who are you buying it off? Don’t be buying it off idiots. And don’t be smoking all different shit, like that spice stuff.’ I speak to my kids on a daily basis and I’m not one of those uptight fathers – everything is open round our way. We can talk about anything. Girls, boys, whatever. I’m like, ‘Is there anything you want to tell me? Anything to do with your sexuality?’ You know, I don’t give a fuck about that, you are what you are. There’s nothing that’s out of bounds.”

Gallagher and Gwyther will be moving into a new place soon, he says, but for the moment they’re renting “a fucking penthouse, the views are mega”. He says this is what helped him out of his nuts period: the light in the mornings, the sense of a new day. “Without sounding like a hippy, that was when all these songs were coming. The light sorted me out.”

Because now he’s back, with a solo album, As You Were, and new single, the resolutely Liam-sounding Wall of Glass. Gallagher insists that he’s a singer rather than a songwriter, but he started writing songs again and was snapped up by Warners when he’d only written four. For As You Were, he worked with a couple of producers and songwriters, including Greg Kurstin (Peaches, Lily Allen, Adele) in LA. But it was London producer Dan Grech, who’s worked with the Vaccines and Tom Odell, who he collaborated with on most of the album. “I’ll play him a tune very badly and he’ll go, ‘Yeah, I get where you’re coming from’ and get the acoustics down and away we go.” Though he didn’t work with a band in the studio, he has one all sorted for his gigs: Kasabian’s Jay Mehler, Drew McConnell from Babyshambles, plus guitarist Mike Moore, who, along with drummer Dan MacDougall, had been coming into the studio to help on the album. Oasis fans should note that Gallagher says they will be playing six old songs, probably D’You Know What I Mean, Rockin’ Chair, Slide Away, Be Here Now, Rock’n’Roll Star and Morning Glory.

His first gig as a solo artist was at the Ritz Manchester, and all the profits went to the families of the victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist bomb. “I’m a Mancunian,” he says, “always will be. When I heard about the attack I was devastated, and then angry that shit like this is happening all over the world. The gig was amazing, a lot of young people. I enjoyed it but it was very emotional. I just wanted people know that if we all come together we’re untouchable.”

And for the rest of the tour?

“I just want to have a bit of a rumble with the audience. Vocally and with the lyrics and the attitude and the music and the guitars, man. They’re there to be shook, do you know what I mean? They’re not there to fucking stand around.” He likes the connection with the fans, he says. He thrives on it. He rarely gets grief from anyone who recognises him. And he’s up for our readers’ questions. “Yeah, I am. Just do it. Go for it, I’ll answer anything you like. Nothing’s gonna bother me. I’m happy. I like myself.” 

 Readers’ questions…

What’s something people can take from your new album? (Amy @timeofnow)
It’s all been done before, my record. I hope I’m just doing it a little bit better. I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m just giving it a new polish. Good songs, great vocals, good words… I hope people enjoy it, don’t scratch their heads too much. Jump up and down. There’s a bit of Bowie on it, but not like Harry Styles… It’s proper, man. There’s a song called Paper Crown, which is like Five Years. Not like mad Bowie. What else is on it? There’s a lot of Street Fighting Man… It sounds good, man.

What would count as success at this stage in your career? A No 1? (Glenn Bateman)
I want to go on tour, that’s what I want to do. If the record doesn’t go anywhere, playing gigs don’t happen and I just want to get out and play some gigs, man, instead of all the drama. People don’t realise that I’m a good singer and I actually dig music, I’m passionate about it, I want to get back out doing what I do. I’m not arsed about a No 1 record. If it gets big, it gets big. If it gets small, it gets small. I’ve been big, I’ve been small, so I know. I’m prepared for whatever comes.

Why did you decide to end Beady Eye when they seemed to be going in a very interesting direction? (Jonathan Green)
The last album we put out, that was the first album I’ve ever put out in America when we only did one gig for it. That got under my skin. We got asked to do Coachella, but apparently we couldn’t afford to go out there. I was like: “I’ll pay for us to go out there and once we’re out there we’ll do some gigs.” Gem had hurt his head and I’d had my divorce, but the best place to be is on the road… Anyway, there were no gigs going down. So I thought to myself: “Maybe it’s just not happening, maybe it’s just not connecting.” And then Andy got a call that he was gonna do his Ride thing, which was fine, but I thought: “You know what, I’m not sitting around.” So I went: “Tell you what, go and do Ride and I think we should just call it a day.”

How do you get switched on to new music these days and what, apart from your own stuff, do you listen to? (Mia Vrachmis)
I don’t even listen to music, to be brutally honest. I listen to the radio, like mad fucking… what’s it called, classical music. I’ll have that on, you know? Just Classic FM in the background. My stereo’s all over the shop… I’m moving house again before I go on tour so I’ll get it set up. I’ve got a record collection, some at my mam’s house, some in storage. As soon as CDs came in, I lost interest in new music, man. And when it became all iPods and all that shit, it went out the window.

Do you have to work harder to look after your voice now you’re in your 40s and what have you stopped doing? (Dorian Rees)
I haven’t stopped anything! I drink a lot of funky drinks… I have this apple cider vinegar, the one that everyone bangs on about. Apparently, it’s great for everything. Mam has it for arthritis and it’s really good for her. So I have vinegar, some honey and then I have some turmeric, some cayenne pepper, a squirt of lemon, hot water, stir it round and drink it. It’s really good for when you get a hoarse voice. I’ve got a thyroid problem – Hashimoto’s disease – so I can get a really hoarse voice. It makes you tired and your bones are creaky, but you have this drink and it makes you a bit Jumping Jack Flash. It’s very fucking boring, it doesn’t get you pissed, but you can have other stuff as well.

What’s your approach to songwriting? (Aman Adlakha)
I just get my guitar, man, and I play it. I play the simplest song in the world, maybe I do bass lines, just to get a rhythm, and then I get a melody and I tape it on my phone and I get a couple of lines and I freak myself out and have to go for a walk because they’re fucking brilliant. And then I come back and it’s still there and do a bit more. I do it in stages.

Do you believe producers such as Simon Cowell are destroying music? (Tom Houghton)
No, I don’t. All these guitar bands moaning about pop music – you’ve got a guitar, you know how to write a song, go and do it and stop whingeing. Fuck the charts. They’ve always been shit, who cares? I’ll tell you what Simon Cowell did ruin, he ruined Top of the Pops and the Christmas No 1. But if you’re a rock’n’roll man, or a guitar band, you can’t be blaming people. You’d want to do it more, wouldn’t you? You’d want to counteract it. That’s what I’m here for. No one seems to be counteracting the bullshit any more. All the cool people are the bullshit. I’m not gonna get into names, but they know who they fucking are. I hate them fuckers that make dance records one year because it’s trendy and then as soon as they get a whiff of guitar music coming back they get the guitars out. You’ve got to be one or the other. If you’ve got a guitar, plug it in, turn it up and play it loud or fuck off.

Do you ever see Oasis reforming? Do you have a relationship with Noel or are you guys completely no contact? (Pedro.m.r.monteiro)
No contact. I can’t see it happening. Never say never, I guess, but at the moment, if I get up and running on this solo thing, it certainly won’t happen for a bit. Because there have been plenty of times that it could have happened and it should have happened and it didn’t. I’d like it to happen, because I miss him and I miss the band and I miss the fans and I miss singing them songs. But it’s in the lap of the gods, not Noel Gallagher, as much as he’d like to think he’s a bit of a god, but he ain’t… Cos I’ve seen him coming for years. He thought that I was going to be down and out, and then he’d turn round and say: “Sorry about this, lads, but I’m going to have to put my wicked solo career on hold because I need to help my brother out.” But I ain’t fucking poor. I’m still standing. No. It ain’t happening, mate. When I think about it, being in a band with him bores the death out of me. He’s changed, as a person. He’s not someone I want to be in a band with. He’s part of the establishment.

If someone was to make a drama featuring Oasis, who should play you, Noel and Alan McGee? (Ilovelamp)
Someone’s doing that at the moment, apparently! Well, maybe not a drama, but someone’s doing a film on McGee and Creation Records and they’ve asked if Lennon, my son, would play me in two scenes. One at the [London venue] Water Rats and one at a party at Noel’s. He’s not up for it. I said: “Why aren’t you, you little shit, you said you were up for acting?” So now, the other one, the 15-year-old, he’s going: “I’ll do it, Dad.” They’re having a bit of a fight about who’s going to do it. Then get [Noel’s daughter] Anais as Noel. And who can play Alan McGee? Louis Walsh.

What’s a day in the life of Liam Gallagher? (Andy Stocks)
I get up very early, man, five o’clock. I go for a run at six, just to have a bit of discipline. No music, I just run. Chase the squirrels. I’m the kind of guy that, when I see geese, I go: “All right, geezers?” and I think that’s hilarious. And they’re just looking at me going: “Like I haven’t heard that one before, you prick.” And then I bring back the lovely Deborah her coffee at seven, then I get the kid [Gene] up for school – he’s been living with me for the last couple of months. He’s doing his GCSEs. I said: “Look, don’t even bother asking me how it is because I ain’t got a fucking clue. But don’t worry about it.” I’m like: “Look at me – I didn’t get any GCSEs and I’m a successful fashion icon and designer, I’m a No 1 rock’n’roll star. Tell your fucking teacher that.” Anyway, I get him up, get him some breakfast, he gets on a bus, then I come back, in the bath, and then up and out. Just waiting for Debbie to entertain me all day. I’m like her dog. I’m like: “Will you take me for walkies?”

What’s the worst thing about middle age? (ISeeTea)
I don’t know, I don’t have a problem about getting older. I’m 44. No, I haven’t had Botox. Not a chance, mate. The wrinklier the better, man. Bring it on for Keith Richards. I want to look battered. I’ve got to do my running, man – for the mental state as well, but yes, you’ve got to look trim… I guess the worst thing about getting middle aged is you can’t wear some of the clothes that you used to wear years ago, like trainers. I mean, you can wear them with shorts, but if I put them on with a pair of jeans I just go: “Leave it out.” So I’ve got to get my suede boots on.

If your younger self moved in next door to you, would you be tempted to sell the house? (zii000)
No. Not at all, mate, I’d love it! Why not? I’m a character and characters, that’s what it’s about, man. I’d just knock a wall through. Let’s all live together, isn’t that right?

Are you going to vote Labour? (DrSHWilkinson)
I don’t vote. I’m not interested in politics. I did vote when I was young but I haven’t voted since I was like 18 or 19. And I know there are people out there who’ll go: “Well, if you don’t vote, you haven’t got anything to moan about.” I ain’t fucking moaning! I pay my taxes, I look after my kids, I look after my mam. I’m not interested in politics. I watch prime minister’s questions every now and again, though. I like it! Where they’re in the House of Commons, where they all just go like that, rahrahyahyah. I find it funny. I’ve taped it, like a right sad cunt, as well sometimes… I want to know what would happen if no one voted. If no one voted for any of the cunts. What would happen then? Maybe we should think about that.

How much do you think growing up in a family with an abusive father has affected relationships within and outside your family? (Amanda)
God, I don’t know, man. I guess there’s the old one where you go: “Look, I’m never going to be like him”, but I have been like him. Not in a violent way, just… relationships, doing things I shouldn’t have done. So that carried through, but I’m not blaming him for it, it’s my doing. But abusive? No, not abusive, man. I’m straight up with the kids, I’m like: “Look, you’ve got to get up for school, mate, come on.” But I’m pretty chilled. I’m cool. I don’t even know what it was like to have a dad, really, so I wouldn’t know if he was a good one or a bad one. But I never lacked a crack round the head or a bollocking. Because my mam would do that. There are some mams out there that are just drips, but she’s Irish. I think she did both roles.

Do you still use recreational drugs? (usefulmirage)
Not as much as I used to. I don’t drink as much as I used to. Don’t smoke weed; bores the shit out of me. I smoke cigarettes but not a load – last week I didn’t smoke any! I’ve got a bit of discipline. But yeah, every now and then, it depends what’s going on. I know for a fact I shouldn’t because they’re shit at the moment. It’s like Ashcroft said, they just don’t work any more.

How do you think you’ll be remembered 30 years from now? (Nat Rush)
Someone who came and fucking had it and didn’t turn into a dickhead.

Have you ever fallen in a hole? (Peter Robinson
Yeah, especially on ket [ketamine]. Took me ages to get out. I’ve fallen in a ket hole and a real hole. I used to dig holes in Manchester, just before I joined Oasis. I dug up half of Manchester: Piccadilly Gardens, Market Street… So I lived in a hole actually, for quite a bit.

You did a salmon stir-fry recipe during an interview in 2008 and it went down a treat. Have you got any other recipes? (Borbokis2)
God. I made a stir-fry once and I thought I was like some super-chef. I haven’t done it since. Debbie’s a good cook though. I hate cooking. Cooking can fuck right off. I can’t believe that Noel Fielding’s doing that programme [The Great British Bake Off]. He’s obviously fucking bored.

Watching the football on Fox, they kept referring to Man City as “the Citizens”. Do you often say to your pals: “Come on, chaps, let’s go and watch the Citizens”? (elephantwoman)
No. Never. It’s: “Come on, chaps, let’s go and watch the fucking mighty Blues.”

How involved are you with your fashion label, Pretty Green, these days? (pete2ndbest)
I still do a little bit. I pop in there once a month just to make sure it’s all good. The stuff they do is more for the kids I think, it’s tight fitting, and that’s not for me. We’re trying to develop a white label at the moment, which is more my size, my style. The majority of it I leave to Pat Salter, who does all the designing. That fashion thing, it’s like a collection every fucking minute… I went to see one the other day and it’s for 2019. I’m like: “I haven’t seen the 2017 one yet.” But I get a proper buzz off it. While I wasn’t doing any music, it was important. Because it’s still creating. And they’re mint clothes, man.

Do you still advocate dressing from the ground up? (Mark Saunders)
Without a doubt. I mean, you’ve got to be a lunatic if you put your jacket on first, right? I think once you’ve got your shoes, it all just falls into place.

 Celebrity questions…

Caitlin Moran, columnist: Have you ever tried to cut your own hair? Who is your hair inspiration?
Oh, yeah. I only do the fringe, man, because I’m not into fringes. I have either a long fringe or I have no fringe. I hate the in-between thing, like that dick out of Dumb and Dumber. As soon as it gets a little bit Dumb and Dumber, I get the scissors and I just go like that [demonstrates]. Keith Richards had a top haircut, man. I’ve got pictures on my phone. When it was really long and he had the Elvis glasses on and the leather jacket. Who else had good hair? Bruce Lee had great hair. Brian Jones had great hair. Brian Jones’s pageboy, that was the bollocks. George Harrison. Ian Brown. Who else? Jesus had a good haircut.

Vincent Kompany, Manchester City captain: I’ve called the Etihad Stadium home for the last nine years, but you were brought up going to Maine Road to watch City. What are your favourite memories of our old ground?
Yes Vincent, first things first: good to have you back, you’ve been massively missed. My Maine Road memories – and there are quite a few – but it’s gotta be when City battered United 5-1 and when Oasis played two gigs there in the 90s. To play at the ground of the football club you’ve supported all your life is without doubt the icing on the cake. It’s downhill after that – even Knebworth doesn’t come close. Anyway, stay cool, stay fit, enjoy your summer and let’s go win the treble next season.

Ian Rankin, writer: If you and Noel hadn’t got Oasis going, what would you both be doing now?
I dread to think. All my mates… There are a few of my mates that ain’t here no more, through drugs. There are a few that are in the nick. So I think… I wouldn’t have got a proper job because I’m not that clever with that stuff. So I’d have been digging [working as a labourer] or dead or really badly into drugs, which would obviously lead to being dead. Rock’n’roll saved my life. And I am forever in debt. I am forever in debt to rock’n’roll and I would never, ever think of doing another form of music. Ever.

Lady Leshurr, rapper: Would you do a song with a grime artist? If yes, who?
Well, there’s been chat about doing one with… is it Skepta? My kids are all over it. Gene and that, they listen to all of it. Because apparently Skepta wears Pretty Green and I was going: “Get him what he wants.” He looks a bit odd, doesn’t he? I don’t know what grime stars look like, but all these ones with the gold fucking chains everywhere… Is he a Virgo? I read somewhere he’s a Virgo. It’s not really important, I mean, you’re born when you’re born, aren’t you? But if he’s a Virgo then he’s obviously pretty cool.

Mary Anne Hobbs, DJ: Are you happy?
Yeah, very happy. I’m happy as I could be. I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. I don’t sit and dwell on things. I’m pretty fucking placid. I’m sure people wouldn’t believe that, but shit happens, I deal with it and then I move on. I think I’ve got ADHD, I like to keep moving, man.

Carol Morley, fim-maker: If you were to live your life over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, man. I wouldn’t change a thing, because it’s been mega in the scheme of things. It all happens for a reason and the more you sit around and worry about it… You’ll end up in the nuthouse. I’ve made massive mistakes when it comes to my relationships – and they were mistakes, I don’t give a fuck what their camp says, they were complete and utter mistakes… So, maybe rein it in on the drugs and drink, but, you know, like I say, it happens, dunnit? And I’ve apologised and we move on, man.

Emma Jane Unsworth, writer: Do you feel Mancunian, English, British or European?
I’m definitely English. My mam and dad are Irish, I’ve got Irish blood, but my culture, my English culture, is running right through my veins. The clothes, the fashion, the music, the football, boxing. I’m sorry about that, Irish, I love youse, and I have fun going over there, but I class myself as very English. And my heart is in Manchester, without a doubt, always will be, even though I’m in London. My kids are here, it’s easier for me here. It got a bit hard when the Oasis thing was kicking off. Down here is like, there’s more space, more famous people… I don’t get bothered here because famous people are 10 a penny.

Irvine Welsh, writer: If you could sing in a fantasy band, what would be your dream line-up?
I would have loved to have been in the Pistols. I’d have kicked out Johnny Rotten – he’d have gone. Get out, Gooner. Paul Cook’s fucking mega. Steve Jones is the man. Sid Vicious, turn his bass down but he still fucking killed. But Rotten would have gone, I’m sorry. I can do Johnny Rotten in my sleep.