- 21 Sep 22
As Liam Gallagher celebrates his 50th birthday, we're revisiting a classic interview...
Originally published in Hot Press in 2000.
In the last issue of Hot Press, Noel Gallagher said his piece – this time out it's brother Liam's chance to shoot from the lip, as only he can, on love, life, OASIS and the whole damn thing. Interview: GEORGE BYRNE.
Liam Gallagher: "Alright, send in the leprechaun!"
George Byrne: "I heard that, you Manc wanker!"
It's always nice to begin an interview with an exchange of pleasantries. But just in case anyone thinks that Liam Gallagher is in full-on Evil Liam/Rock Monster mode, let me point out that it's just past noon in London's Halcyon Hotel, we've shaken hands 30 minutes previously and, following his stint with a Belgian journalist, he knows damn well I'm within earshot. As they say on all the best quiz shows and in all the worst card-games, I'll play!
Liam looks fantastic - pure, 100% straight from central casting Rock Star - and, despite what his brother Noel claimed in the last issue of Hot Press, is not wearing sunglasses. After a second bout of handshaking and a good-humoured click of beer bottles, Liam graciously accepts the gift of a Shamrock Rovers bobble-hat for his baby son Lennon. Then he sits back - or rather leans forward, rarely breaking eye-contact at all - to speak frankly about fatherhood, his marriage to Patsy Kensit, life in the fast lane, the recent departure of original Oasis members Bonehead and Guigsy (eagle-eyed readers may notice some discrepancies between Liam and Noel's respective version of events), the recent birth of Noel and Meg Matthews' daughter Anais, the punchability of photographers, Meg's infamous Sunday Times column - and finally, the one you've all been waiting for, the revelation of this one-time Blizzard Boy's nostril of choice. Today, Liam Gallagher settles all family business.
So how has fatherhood been treating you?
It couldn't be better, man. The baby's cool, he's a Caesarean baby and they're the stress-free ones. There was none of that fuckin' pushing and shit, they just sliced the missus open and popped him out. He's in bed at eight o'clock and up at half-seven every morning. He sleeps right through. It's mega, I'm doing the fuckin' lot - champion nappy changer me, man!
Your mother Peggy must be delighted with two grandchildren in such a short space of time - especially with Noel and Meg having a girl to complete the set.
Oh, it's so good they didn't have a boy. If he'd have had a boy I'd just have gone, fuck, not all this again! I know for a fact I'd have been coming back from the studio and going 'His dad gave me a bit of grief today so when you're playing football with him tomorrow, go for his leg. Forget the ball!' Good job it's a girl, but everyone's happy and it's good to have something other than music in your life, because it can all get a bit squashed.
It did get a bit intense for you, didn't it?
I love music, don't get me wrong, but I love kids - and it's only right, y'know, to share the stuff that I've got with my kid and my wife. I can afford one. I wouldn't have had one if I'd no money, because it wouldn't be right. I had a bit of a shit upbringing myself and I wouldn't want to do that to anyone else. My mam's buzzing. She's not arsed about me anymore - it's all Lennon.
Has it changed the way you feel about life?
Yeah, but it's still early days yet. As soon as they're born the big change comes. You're not the most important person in the world anymore. As soon as the baby pops out that's over - he's the most important person in the world. As for everything else, I'm still the same, I think. I've got to be a bit more responsible. Just a little bit.
You're just about to release the first song you've written - 'Little James'. Do you think people will be surprised at that side to you?
Maybe, but they should have known that anyway. For anyone to go onstage and sing songs to people, for anyone that wants to be in a band and put their arse on the line, you must have a side to you that's in love with people in general. I sing for me, sure, but I'm also singing for them. So if they think I haven't got that loving side in me, then they must be fucking robots.
It seemed to me that the song would have sounded a lot more effective if the arrangement had been a bit sparser. Were you totally happy with the way it turned out?
I wanted to do it more stripped down, but Noel came back and said 'Well, it needs the band if it's gonna be an Oasis song'. If you're a solo artist then you can say exactly what way you want a song to be done, but I don't wanna be, so it had to become an Oasis song. It had to have that big sound around it, to fit in with the other songs.
Have you written many more songs since that one?
I've got about eight that I think are pretty nice and odd. But I don't wanna be a solo artist so if they're gonna go on an album then they've gotta have an Oasis sound -that's the way it is. I really like 'Little James', it's a song I wanted to write, it's an honest song. That's it.
Did the departure of Bonehead and Guigsy after the recording of the album come as a shock to you?
Yeah, totally. We were recording and Bonehead finished his parts, so he went home to move house. We went 'Fine' and then got a call a few weeks later saying he wasn't coming back. He didn't speak to us, he got the manager to do it. Until then I thought everything was sweet so we asked the manager 'Well, what's up with him?' The story was that he didn't want to be in the band anymore, so we went 'Fuck it! Leave him for a week or two to let him sort out whatever's up with him'. We had an album to make and, don't forget, we'd had two years off to exorcise our fucking demons and shit, to get our bollocks together. This was costing us a lot of money, recording down in France, get on with it. I mean, there's lots of things that piss me off but I know that when I've got to go to work, I've got to go to work.
So you carried on working?
We just kept going with the album. I reckoned he'd sort himself out, but when it came to doing the cover he still wasn't having any of it so that was the end of it. (Breaks eye-contact for the only time in the interview) It was sad, in a way, that maybe we'd grown so apart that he couldn't speak to us about whatever was going on in his head - but, y'know, if you don't wanna be in a band then you don't wanna be in a band. Maybe he didn't wanna tour, but that's the way it is with us. We make an album and we've gotta tour it - that's what it's all about and that's what it's been about since the day we started the band. If he wanted to be in a studio band then he was in the wrong fucking band. I don't want that, I'd be bored out of my fucking head.
So, with Bonehead's departure dealt with, it must have been a double whammy for Guigsy to announce he was quitting so shortly after?
No, I knew that'd happen. I was waiting for that. The thing that came as a shock was Bonehead. I knew Guigsy'd follow big time, because that's the way they work.
Were you hurt that Bonehead didn't speak to you directly instead of going through an intermediary?
Hurt is probably the wrong word because I'm a big boy - but it pissed me off, yeah. I was worried for a while about how he was gonna be but then thought 'Fuck it, we've got to carry on and keep the ship afloat here'. We've got something to look forward to now whereas I think Oasis had got where it was meant to go with those five members. We'd done the two Knebworths and all that, so something had to give.
Once you'd reached that level, playing to 250,000 people over two gigs, did you think 'It'll be hard to top this'?
Definitely. I mean, what do you do next time? Four or five Knebworths? No-one can do that. Jesus Christ couldn't do that, man. My thing was to join a band and do as many albums as we were signed for. Out of that we got three big ones - including one absolutely massive one with Morning Glory - and got to do those Knebworths. And that to me was all I ever wanted, y'know what I mean? But once you get to do those huge gigs and have the big albums, what do we do? You'd go mad trying to beat that.
So what's the alternative?
You've just got to sit down and concentrate on making better music. And that's it. You can't keep playing bigger gigs all the time. That was a dream come true but anyone in their right mind knows you can't do that every night; you've got to come down to a reasonable level. I want to do smaller gigs, just get in there and blow the fucking roof off some small gaff. I want to get back into Punk Rock gigs, with a couple of big ones now and again.
Is it possible that one of the reasons for Bonehead and Guigsy leaving was down to the amount of attention that centred on yourself and Noel? With the pair of you living in London and your partners Patsy and Meg celebrities in their own right, you really were living in a goldfish bowl.
It's still like that. I wish I was them. I'm sure there were times when they wished they were me, but - believe you me - I'd have swapped places. Sometimes I wished I could have had the wedge they had, and still be able to walk down the street. But you are what you are and that's the way it is. In any band, the singer and the songwriter are always gonna get the most attention, and if you're brothers with a bit of fucking lip on, you'll get that much more. I never went out of my way to get more attention than them - that's just the way it happened.
So was Oasis a democratic set-up?
As far as I was concerned the five of us were equal. When we went into the studio or onstage, or were just sitting down drinking, we were a gang. Me and Noel never set out this plan that it'd be just the two of us in the spotlight, so if that was their problem then that was their problem - fuck it! I was on the same wage as they were as well, Noel gets the most 'cos he writes the songs, which is only right - he's the one who stays up all night doing the graft while I'm down the pub giving it loads and talking bollocks. It annoyed me when some people suggested that the reason they left was because of money. I'm on the same money as Alan White and he was the last one in, so all that money thing was complete fucking bollocks. Life goes on.
When the whole tabloid frenzy kicked off around 1995, the 'Liam Gallagher punches photographer' story quickly became a stand-by - but I noticed most of these incidents happened when you were leaving nightclubs as opposed to going into them.
It's when people are in my face - and I'll do that until the day I die. I don't smack people for no reason, I'm not like that. I know that because of what I do, people are gonna want to take pictures, and I don't mind that so long as they're (gestures) over there. But if they're pushing me and pushing the people I'm with, then I don't care who they are, I'll slap 'em. I didn't join a band to be pushed about by some twat with a camera. If they've got zoom lenses and are stood across the road, fine, but when they're in my fucking face then I'll given 'em a slap. I'm sure they'd react the same way if I pushed them. And I'll do that until they drag me into my grave. I'll be slapping 'em when they're taking pictures of my tomb, man. It'll be like the end of Carrie! I liked the way I used 'tomb'. Good word, 'tomb'!
When Meg was writing her weekly social diary in the Sunday Times, did that lead to Noel getting any grief from within the band?
That pissed me off. I never mentioned it to him - I felt it wasn't my place - but I had the hump big time, to tell you the truth. You don't need a journalist in the family, do you? I had the needle, definitely. She's got him, she's married to Noel Gallagher. These people write shit about us all the time so you don't need to be getting a wage off 'em, do you? Whether it's going to charity or not. You make your money from your music, not by taking it off a fucking slagrag. I never mentioned it but, yeah, I had the needle. There you go.
Patsy is a celebrity in her own right, so is it a case of you ever having to ask her not to mention certain subjects in interviews - especially bearing in mind the recent Beckham underwear revelations from Posh?
No, she's got a brain. That's the beautiful thing about her, so I don't ever need to worry about that at all. And I don't wear her knickers anyway! She's a good woman and she knows this business inside out. She's been involved since she was a child so she knows the score. I'm lucky.
The band's tours of America have been a bit troublesome, with various walkouts down the years. Do you feel that you've let yourselves down as a band by not giving it your best shot?
Maybe. There wasn't some big plan for America - same as there wasn't a plan in England, we just did it on our own terms. Maybe the record company might have had one, but from day one the way I've been is that if I'm not in the right frame of mind to tour, then I'm going home. America is a five-week tour - minimum - being on a bus with your mates, so obviously there are going to be arguments. I was well up for breaking America big time but the way I see it is that it's got to be on our terms, and it wasn't like that. I had trouble at home, with my house and stuff. My family didn't have a house to live in and I wasn't going to tour around America for a record company, or the fucking band, to make shitloads of money when my wife and my stepson haven't got a place to live. That was the end of it. Music can suck my arse, America can suck my arse and Oasis can suck my arse when my family ain't got nowhere to live.
Would it be safe to say that those wouldn't have been your priorities when you started out?
Well, there's no point in getting married if you're not gonna pull through and be responsible. I took on a stepson because I wanted to, because I love my wife and I've gotta look out for them before I look out for me and the band. I'd like a proper crack at America, sure, but it wasn't written in the stars, as they say.
America's only as important as anywhere else as far as I'm concerned. The only reason we went there in the first place was because people bought the records. That's the same reason we play in England and in Ireland. If no one buys the records then what's the fucking point in going there? We're alright in America, they like us there, not in the same way as they go for U2 - but we do okay. We'll see, but I won't lose sleep over it.
Do you think you're still as hungry as you were before Definitely Maybe came out?
Definitely. I don't care what anybody says about money or Gucci or this fucking celebrity bollocks. Rock'n'roll is in my soul until the day I die, and I love it! And I'm mad for it! It'd be rude to treat this band like some fucking money-making scheme, because people just know when your heart's not in it. With Oasis, you don't know what's gonna happen. It's chaotic. You either get this mad, mental, fucking pounding music or else it's bollocks because we're too tired from touring. I've had two years off and I'm fucking mad for it!
But isn't it true that you've changed?
People seem to think that we've changed because of all the money, that we became too big. That was the whole fucking point. We wanted to be a BIG band. Anyone who starts a band wants to sell shitloads of records. If they say otherwise, they're wankers. Everyone's seen the videos of The Beatles getting off the plane in New York and you want that within the frame of your own band. No one's ever gonna get that big again - they changed the fucking world, man - and I know we're second division compared to that. But that'll do me.
I've had the lifestyle, I've sussed it out, I've seen it and I went for it. Went for it fucking big time. I've done it and I don't wanna do it anymore. The lifestyle's second for me now, whereas before it was probably more important than the music. I kinda knew the music was always there but getting off my head was more important. You just grow up and get a bit more sensible. I don't wanna be Keith Richards, I don't wanna be some cabbage sitting there when my kid's fifteen and daddy's going (uncanny Keef impression) 'I'll tell you about the fucking gig at Knebworth' and all that bollocks. I still wanna have a bit of clout. I still wanna look alright.
Looking back, do you feel that you were ever in danger of becoming a casualty?
Nah, I always knew I wouldn't. I know my limit. I have been a bit of a casualty, I have got caught up in some nonsense that I shouldn't have. But I was young. I still am young but I'm thinking a bit straighter now and I've learned to love music again. For four years we didn't have a minute and were off our heads most of the time, but now I've had two years off to see what's what. What do I love? I don't love the TV, that pisses me off, had enough of that. I don't love hanging out with celebrities, they do my fucking head in. Why am I sitting in this nice house in London with all these nice things around me? Through music, and now I wanna get that back. This time I won't be so easily led.
Finally, when the band were in a blizzard of coke, which was your favourite nostril?
You mean which is still my favourite nostril? Are we talking power nostril here? The left, definitely the left. The right's the supersub. The left starts the match, does the full ninety minutes then the right comes in for extra-time and penalties!