Liam Gallagher Is Still Here, God Damnit The music legend and former Oasis member sits down with GQ for a long, delightfully profane chat about, well, everything under the sun and more. BY EVE BARLOW October 22, 2019
It’s a mid-October Wednesday in West Hollywood, and Blur's “Girls & Boys” is playing in the lobby of the Sunset Marquis. Considering that Liam Gallagher is about to enter these hallowed halls, whoever is in charge of the playlist this morning is clearly taking the piss. A hit single by Damon Albarn’s Britpop defining band is an almost guaranteed way of creating a scene as the swanky hotel awaits the arrival of the former Oasis frontman (and rival leader to Blur's Albarn). Luckily, when Gallagher struts in—parka zipped up to his eyeballs, a gap between his legs wide enough to pass a football under, and a look on his face that's ready to start a fight—the soundtrack has since moved on. Gallagher looks too busy taking care of business to notice, anyway.
Two nights ago, Gallagher opened the Hollywood Bowl with a six-song set (three Oasis hits, three of his own solo turns) as part of his support slots for mod ancestors The Who. He released a second solo album last month (the no-nonsense titled Why Me? Why Not), alongside a documentary (As It Was) that takes in the past ten years of life, the ones since he and older brother Noel Gallagher got into an infamous bust-up backstage at an Oasis show in Paris, which put the final (we think) pin in the band's career. Young Liam (now 47, but a man who will eternally be the bratty little brother of British rock music) had an identity crisis. He hurriedly banded together Oasis’s remaining members and launched Beady Eye, whose two records failed to connect the way their former band’s had. He divorced his second wife Nicole Appleton, formerly of the band All Saints, and was subsequently hounded by the gutter press who questioned whether or not he would do music again.
For Gallagher, the sea change came with a new love. He fell for Debbie Gwyther, a music manager, and he's since successfully dovetailed into a solo career with two U.K. Number 1 albums. (The couple got engaged last month.) Gallagher has been renting out a villa in Hollywood this past week, enjoying the pool with Gwyther, his two sons—model Lennon, 20, and musician Gene, 18 (both Instagram “famous”)—and a new, third addition to the family, Molly Moorish-Gallagher, 21, a daughter he met last year. According to Blur's “Girls & Boys,” love in the '90s was paranoid. But here, today, it's pretty domestic. Apart from the swearing…
GQ: They were playing “Girls & Boys” by Blur in the lobby earlier, you know. Liam Gallagher: Oh god. I'm not having that tune. That one can fuck off. I'll have “Beetlebum.” “Beetlebum” is a tune. The rest of 'em? I'm not into. That new album that they put out [2013's Magic Whip], there was one on there called “Lonely fuckin"…
“Lonesome Street”? Yeah. That was good. The rest can fuck off.
Do you like that Damon is still around working? Is it comforting? Yeah. I'm not too keen on the Gorillaz. When Blur got back together I was glad that it happened. As you get older you think, “Ah remember them? That was a good little spar we had.” It's like boxers, innit. It's like we're two boxers that are still alive. I never really had a big problem with them anyway. That was Noel. They were just fucking posh boys. That bass player [Alex James] fuckin' drinkin' his red wine onstage. Fuck off!
So Noel was the one with the problem—but is friends with Damon now? Well Noel would do anything for a photograph, won't he? Trying to break the Internet.
How was the Hollywood Bowl for you the other night? You tweeted that the crowd's antics were wild and that they shouldn't shoot their load early before the headliners perform. Yeah yeah, it's obviously sarcasm.
On Sunday night they didn't sing the chorus to “Wonderwall” back when you invited them to. That bother you? Nope. Not one fucking bit. Listen—at least there's fuckin' people there. It's a bit like I'm on fuckin' holiday, d'you know what I mean? If you're coming off there and getting depressed ‘cause no one was jumping around, then you've got the wrong fuckin' gig. I'm digging it, man. The pressure's not on me. It's on The Who. I can just get on there, do what I'm doing, and then get the fuck off.
I don't imagine there are too many bands you'd agree to open for? D'you know what I mean? When The Who ask you if you wanna fuckin' support them, you don't say no. My idea of support is that you don't support a band that are fuckin' worse than you. Unlike some people. If you're gonna support a band, make sure they're fuckin' better than ya.
You ever fancied yourself living the Hollywood lifestyle? Never. Not for me, no way. It's nice coming here but there's too many rules. I got told off to take my fuckin' hat off the other day in the Beverly Hills Hotel after they fuckin' rinsed me 800 quid for a fuckin' club sandwich which was the size of that fuckin' table. And there was two of them. I only wanted one. I swear to God, it was that high! You know with food when you're fuckin' hungry and they bring loads of it? I bit a little into the middle of it like a fuckin' rabbit and I was fuckin' full up, man. I had a pint and the kids had a burger, then we went to the bar for a cocktail, and the geezer's going, “Can you take your hat off?” I was like, “You didn't want me to take me fuckin' hat off when I was fuckin' forking out 800 quid for a fuckin' burger.’ I ain't taking me fuckin' hat off to sit at the bar. I'm going home.
What hat was it? [Points to a bucket hat on the sofa] That fuckin' Gucci one over there. It's fuckin' mental.
Not a hat you should have to take off. Fuckin' exactly. When you wear a hat, you wear a hat, don't ya? It's not an on and off job, is it? You commit, innit. You get fuckin' bedhead and shit. I get it, those were his rules, but fuck it. And nah I couldn't live out here, man. I need all seasons. Plus I don't drive. I guess you can Uber it.
You don't drive? No. That's why I'm still alive. Can you imagine me driving? Nah. “Ey! I can fuckin' drive!” Boom! I'd have killed us all years ago.
You used to smoke weed illegally as a teenager. What do you think of the culture here? My kid's buzzin' off it. Lennon's well into it. He got a big fuckin' cookie at the house. It serves about eight people. He's gonna have it before he gets on the plane home. Sorted. I think it's a good thing. I do that CBD oil, man, ‘cause I got bad legs. They should legalize it in England as well.
It's arthritis you've got, right? Yeah. I've not been diagnosed with it yet but I know it's definitely there ‘cause the last couple of years I've definitely got a little bit more fuckin' sore. But I think it's to do with my thyroid as well.
Do aches and pains and growing older make you value being an onstage performer more? I was never much of a performer, me. I was anti-performance. But maybe that's the problem. All that fuckin' standing still has come back to bite me on the arse. Maybe I should have learned a couple of fuckin' moves to keep it lubricated, d'you know what I mean? I'm sitting there thinking, “Nah man, dancing like fuckin' Mick Jagger? They'll be wanting me to fuckin' start doing high kicks.” And now I can barely even bend down to tie my shoelaces. I'm more punk. I just wanna sing the songs, and look like I'm having the worst time. I want the crowd to fucking love me or hate me. I could never walk onstage and go, “Please love me.” I'm like, “Let's go wind the vaginas up.”
At the beginning of the documentary you say, “I know how great I am and I know how shit I am.” What are your strengths and weaknesses? Strengths are: When I'm in good health and I'm singing no one can touch me. I'm not about singing technique, just fuckin' aggy shit. If you like that, then I piss all over everyone put together. My weaknesses are: finishing off songs, my guitar playing… but that's not my thing, is it? Lyrics, maybe. I party way too much. I've maybe fucked up my voice a bit, but it's pretty aggressive and it sounds alright to me. If you've lost that then you're fucked, aren't ya? It's fuckin' game over.
You said lyrics are hard for you. Why? I don't know. It depends if I'm in the mood. But sometimes I don't say what I think I should be saying. I know I'm not the greatest lyricist ever but I'm not the worst. I find it hard to say what I really fuckin' mean.
But in life you don't seem to have that problem. Egh-fucking-xactly, mate. I don't fuckin' shut up, d'you know what I mean? I'm spilling the beans completely. But when it comes to spilling the beans on an emotional song, I find it hard. Maybe I'm nervous about letting people know the real deal. I should shut the fuck up everywhere else then. It's not like I don't want people to know. They already fuckin' know.
The documentary got into the more tender side of you. As you've gotten older, is it less threatening to show that? The softer side? Nah, I've always been a bit… what's the word? Vulnerable, yeah. I've always been like that. As you get older you think,”'Fuck it.” I've done what I came to do. Oasis is what I came to do. We did it. I'm not saying we should’ve split up. There's still room for more. But if that's it, then I'm quite happy. All I ever wanted to do was be in a fuckin' mega band. It's hard to find another motivation. Even though I just wanna sing songs, make music, be around it, I've got no desire to be fuckin' big again.
After Noel walked out and Oasis split how close were you to hitting rock bottom? It was never rock bottom. I was never skint. Obviously I had a divorce. I knew I'd wriggle my way out of it. I didn't wanna join another band because I'd just come out of [Beady Eye] and it didn't work. I knew I had to do this solo thing, and I was not wanting to do it. Now I'm happy doing it. I like working with people. It's all I've ever wanted: to be part of the process. I never wanted to be the main man.
You didn't? You prefer being on the team? Yeah man. I'll make the tea. You carry on.
Have these ten years allowed you to see how much making music means to you? No, I knew it. Even though I wasn't particularly good at it. Noel was doing that. I'd just sing it and go and fuckin' live the lifestyle, which was fuckin' easy. “Noel, you go sit in a room all night and worry about what rhymes with fuckin' 'shine' and what rhymes with fuckin' 'time'. I'll be off down the bar getting fuckin' on it.” I was comfortable with that.
But I love being in the studio. Even now, looking at a desk I ain't got a fuckin' clue how that works. I never want to become a fuckin' muso. That's too time consuming. All these buttons. Fuck that, man. If I did that it would be taking someone else's work.
Your new album title references two John Lennon pictures, but is the name Why Me? Why Not also about having to prove yourself to people who wonder why you're still here making music? No no no no no. The thing that keeps me going is people, man. People. I'm in tune with them. Even if I don't know who they are. As long as they want me to keep fuckin' singing and I can keep fuckin' do it, I'll be doing it forever. If no one comes to see ya, you gotta knock it on the head. I couldn't give a fuck what anyone in the press says. I'm doing it for us.
The lyrics feel more honest. Yeah. Some of them are. Some of them could be more.
Were you nervous to be more direct about who they're addressing? No, because no one really knows who they're about. People are going on about “Shockwave” being about Noel. [Lyrics: “You're a snake, you're a weasel, you're a pebble in the sea.”] I've met a lot of vaginas in the world, d'you know what I mean?
What qualifies someone as a weasel? The weasel isn't my line actually. I would never call anyone a weasel. I would be a lot more fucking direct. They'd be a vagina. Weasel's not for me, man. There's plenty of snakes out there, though.
What qualifies someone as a snake? Snakes are people who throw their brothers under the bus for the sake of another fuckin' hit record.
“Now That I've Found You” is an ode to your daughter Molly. Is it true that Gene and Lennon were already following her on Instagram before you reconciled? I think so. They kept meeting her out in clubs. Debbie said, “I think you should make this happen because it's gonna get awkward.” So I sat down with the lads. They knew about it. They said, “We thought it would never happen, we can't wait to meet her!” I've always wanted to meet her. It should have happened years ago, but it didn't. Them three get on fuckin' mega. Debbie's been mega with them all.
Is family what keeps you focused? Yeah but they're as bad as me, man. They're fuckin' mad. I go to bed first. They're like, “Oh you staying in today?” I'm like, “Yeah I've got a fuckin' gig tomorrow.” They say, “Aw you're getting old”. I'm like, “If you wanna go out and get pissed, get out. I've gotta behave.”
What's different about having a daughter in your life? She sorta just pulls you up. I wouldn't say it softens ya. Maybe it does a bit. She's a bit like a lad as well. She's not down there doing her hair and all that. She's as bad as them two. She's more hardcore than them. We went out the other night after the Bowl. She and Debbie were gonna go to this party. I was knackered and went home. The two lads had gone home. Her and Debbie came in at fuckin' stupid o'clock the next day, all wet because they'd been in the pool. Family is good. That's the most important thing. Fuck everything else. Once that's nailed, everything is a bonus.
Congratulations to you and Debbie, by the way. Yeah, nice one, man. Can't wait. I'm looking forward to all of our mates being there, my mam, and the kids. Let's see where we end up.
Is there something different about your relationship with Debbie? Why does it work? Yeah. We're living with each other 24/7 and she doesn't let me fuckin' play up. The minute I start drifting or I take the piss, the minute I start being a bit of a diva she says, “You're a dick.” She gives me a head check. She's the best thing, man. She's not chasing fame. She's down to earth.
Your mother Peggy still lives in the house you grew up in Manchester. I know. Won't move. Stubborn, man. Stubborn. Her two mates who lived next door are dead now, and they've sold their houses back to the council so a lot of people come and go. You get there and you're like, “Who the fuck are this lot this week?” She shouldn't live there. Not that it's a bad place.
Do you get emotional when you visit that house and the bedroom you shared with Noel? Yeah, I can't hang about there. It's too much, man. I pop in for a cup of tea and maybe hang out for an hour or two, but I can't. Gotta keep moving. It's a lot.
And Manchester. It's been responsible for so much music, including The 1975 who are arguably becoming the biggest band in the world. [Interrupting] Are they from Manchester? Dunno, must be something in the air, man. I've always tried to put my finger on it but… Are they [from Manchester]?
Does it surprise you? Yeah it fuckin' does.
Do you not rate them? I've never heard them. Not heard one tune. I've seen them on the box and I've heard the titles of their albums. Very long, aren't they? Is it emo music? [Pauses] Well, fuck knows what's going on in Manchester now they come from there. There'll always be good bands from Manchester besides them.
Your Glastonbury performance was epic this year. You said onstage that you were grateful for your Glastonbury “residency” having played twice now and that you were looking to make it a hat-trick. Next year for the 50th? Fuckin' hell, why not? I'll play it again. I'm not arsed about headlining. I've fuckin' done all that. I'll put it out there: I'll play a tent anywhere. A little small gig in a little sweaty tent will do me, man.
At Glastonbury? Yeah, fuckin' too right. That'd be mega. But I'm certainly not arsed about fuckin' headlining or being on another stage. Get me in a fuckin' little moody tent and it's fuckin' sweating, it'll go off.
When you get onstage now and sing that line in “Champagne Supernova”—“How many special people change?”—what does it mean to you? Ah I know what it means. I'd love to fucking write a book about what them lyrics mean to me. I might do that. I think differently to what they mean to Noel. I'd like to do my interpretation of how I sing 'em. How many special change? Probably one: Noel. He definitely changed. And it ain't for the fucking better.
It's very sad that you can't seem to make amends. Well he's surrounded by idiots. That's why. There's no one pushing him that way. I think he's a bit of a dick. Slagging off the country, calling [Scotland] a third world country [ed. note: Noel recently critiqued Scottish performer Lewis Capaldi]. He needs a slap. I can't wait to get down in the crowd there when he announces his next gig in Scotland. I don't miss him ‘cause at the moment he's a fucking tool and I don't wanna hang out with him. I'd end up fuckin' braining him. The old Noel? Any day of the week, I'd be round the house for some fuckin' tea. But the new one? What a dick.
Every night you perform you open with “Rock N Roll Star.” It's been 30 years since that track opened Oasis's debut album. [Interrupting] Has it been 30 years? It still feels the exact same. It's a call-to-arms. “I live my life for the stars that shine”. The stars are the people in the crowd every night, d'you know what I mean? They're the stars, and I'm the fuckin' rock'n'roll geezer in the band. And I love it. I love singing that tune.
For another 30 years? Why fuckin' not, man? Even if I'm in a wheelchair with a walking stick. My walking stick will be mega if I get one. It'll be like a PEZ. And it'll have Noel's head on it. And I'll just keep slapping it like that. With Noel's little grumpy head. I'll give it a good whack. emphasized text