The last great rock ‘n’ roll star in Britain is in the room. And he is – to borrow a phrase – ’aving it.
Bounding up the stairs of a rehearsal studio opposite HMP Pentonville in north London, Liam Gallagher is all barely suppressed energy – pulling at a cigarette, his finger jabbing, jaw jutting and piercing blue eyes unwavering.
And he’s not afraid to spring a surprise, either.
“I would reform Oasis,” he says, speaking, as he does about everything, with absolute, unshakeable conviction. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not desperate to. But if it was right, I’d do it. I’d do it for nothing, I’d do it for the music.”
Pause. Eye contact. Drag on the cigarette. Matter-of-fact finger point.
“I don’t think we’d get another album out. I don’t think I could work with Our Kid again – I don’t think he’d work with me again.
“But to do a tour for an anniversary thing, I’m up for that. I’d do a tour, I’d be up for the tour. Why f**king not, man? But afterwards, I’d definitely go back to Beady Eye cos I’m all about chilling and harmony right now.”
Now 40, Liam is at once exactly as you’d expect, yet also not what you’d expect at all. Yes, he’s every inch the mad-for-it Mancunian force of nature, whose face – that belligerent jaw, those menacing eyes, that much-copied (never bettered) hair – came to dominate the culture of a whole generation. The swagger is still untouchable, the aggression still perfectly channelled. He owns the space around him. Nineteen years after Oasis’ debut album Definitely Maybe definitively changed Britain’s musical landscape forever, Liam remains a complete one-off.
Watching his post-Oasis band Beady Eye rehearsing songs from their new album, BE, is to see a group fully immersed in their own power, with a singer at least as committed as he ever was. Though they’re effectively playing to an audience of one, the intensity doesn’t drop for a second. Liam still approaches the microphone like he’s going to physically assault it, still spits out every syllable of every lyric like his life depends upon it.
And yet – he’s also polite, funny and smarter than he gets credit for. Charming, even. Later, at the MF photo shoot, he’s all handshakes and backslaps and “f**kin’ nice one”s to everyone from the editor to the boy who delivered the bacon butties.
While the rest of the band – guitarists Andy Bell and Gem Archer and new bassist Jay Mehler, freshly joined from Kasabian (drummer Chris Sharrock is absent today) – are reserved, chatting among themselves, content to fade into the background, Liam works the room.
“Oi, Mr Fabulous!” he shouts. “You smoke, or what? You want a cigarette?”
Mr MF, Liam. Technically this is MF magazine. Fabulous is for the ladies.
“Yeah, but ‘Mr MF’ sounds s**t. Mr Fabulous – that’s a f**kin’ name, man. Mr F**kin’ Fabulous. That’s who you are.”
We’re not quite sure if he means it or he’s taking the mickey. Which is Liam all over.
Gem and Andy are well-used to this, of course. Before Beady Eye, they were both members of Oasis, along with drummer Chris (“What’s the difference between Oasis and Beady Eye?” asks Andy. “About 20 per cent, I’d say.”). But it’s telling that after the spectacular implosion of that band in 2009, it was Liam they followed, and not his older brother, Noel, 46.
Beady Eye were born from the ashes of Oasis and if their first album, 2011’s Different Gear, Still Speeding, sounded like it, this time around there’s a different feeling in the air. The band are more relaxed: in the post-Noel era, songwriting duties are shared between Liam, Andy and Gem, and they’re happy to admit they prefer it that way.
“When something works,” says Gem, “it works because we all make it work. And when it doesn’t work, we keep at it until it does.”
There’s another advantage to having a personality like Liam in the band, of course.
“We get the best of both worlds,” says Andy. “One night, we could be playing an arena in front of thousands, then the next day I’ll walk into HMV and nobody will recognise me...”
“Unless it was an HMV next to the arena, maybe,” chips in Gem.
“Or I was hanging out by the ‘O’ section. Which of course I do. A lot,” Andy replies.
Nevertheless, the spectre of Noel hangs over everything Beady Eye do. You can’t help thinking, no matter what they say, Big Brother is watching.
So, Liam, how are things different for you now?
All our songs are our songs. There’s no one telling me what to do. And nothing on the album that I don’t like.
Does that mean there were Oasis songs you didn’t like?
Well, I was just sort of given those Oasis songs and told to sing them, and mostly I’d go: “Yeah, all right, it’s a good song.” There might be some bits where you’re not sure and you say: “You know what, I don’t know about that bit there...” But all that happens then is you just get the f**king Hitler tut. You’re like: “That bit there, what about taking that out?” and it’s just: “You, f**k off and sing it.” But then, that’s life. We did all right with that formula so, I can’t complain, right? I guess after Oasis there was a part of us that thought: “Right, f**k that, he’s left, they all think we’re gonna go work in f**king Sainsbury’s.” But the truth is, we just wanted to keep rocking.
And what did you think of the Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album?
I haven’t listened to it. I’ve heard what’s been on the radio and some of it’s all right. I didn’t like that What A Life! tune, that’s just ridiculous. I don’t know what the f**k he was on. I’m glad that he wrote that on his solo album. I don’t think I could have borne that at a f**king Oasis gig, f**king hell. Would it sound better if I was singing it? That song would sound s**t, full stop. I wouldn’t go near it. Some of the others would have sounded great though. The Death of You And Me, Everybody’s On The Run – I’d have nailed them all, man.
Has there been any reconciliation?
I see Noel at Manchester City matches every now and then, but that’s it. We’re not speaking. I don’t really see his kids [Anais, 13, Donovan, five, and Sonny, two], he doesn’t see mine [Molly, 15, Lennon, 13, and Gene, 11] that much, either. My mum’s not happy, but that’s life, know what I mean? We don’t get on, we’re two different people. It is what it is. It’s not the f**king Brady Bunch.
But if there were to be an Oasis reunion, you’d have to start talking again at some point, right? And there’s no doubting the public appetite for it...
Yeah, I can go with that. We shouldn’t have split up in the first place. We should have weathered the storm, know what I mean? And that’s why I think Noel just wanted out. We’d had bigger arguments about bigger things and carried on, but I think Noel had done his time. I think he’d stumbled on a batch of songs that he thought were amazing and he wanted to do it all himself. That’s basically it in a nutshell. He’ll sit there and say: “Oh, this was thrust upon me and we’re all in it together, I didn’t want to be a frontman...” B******s. You always did, mate. He wanted to be a frontman for a long time. He auditioned to be a frontman for the Inspiral Carpets [in 1989]. So if you’ve got that bug, it doesn’t go away, know what I mean? He just didn’t have the balls to sack me.
So if not the High Flying Birds, what have you been listening to? Daft Punk?
F**k that. Nothing. I don’t listen to any music at the moment. I don’t need music to inspire me. I’m inspired by life, know what I mean? If you’re living life, you’re inspired. Anyway, there’s nothing good out there, man. Oh, I’ll tell you what I like – that Bruno Mars song. The ballad-y one [When I Was Your Man]. That’s a f**king good song, that.
Really? You’ll be confessing to a secret love of One Direction next!
Well at least Harry Styles is having a good time, right? And that’s part and parcel of it. You want your rock ‘n’ roll stars to have a good time. When I see Harry out and about having it I think: “Go on, lad.” The music’s s**t, but at least he’s living it. It’s equally important as writing a good song. If you write a good song and you’re just a stiff and a square then you can just f**k off in my book.
Excuse us for saying so, but that doesn’t sound like a grown-up, responsible 40-year-old father of three speaking...
Listen, 40 is the new 13 as far as I’m concerned. What is a grown-up anyway? If it means becoming a f**king square, then not a chance. Rock ’n’ roll stars never grow up and if they do they’ve been f**king faking it, man. You’ve got to have some fun. You’ve got to live your life to make the music interesting. You’ve got to get up to some mad f**king scrapes. You gotta experience things.
The latest “mad scrape” reportedly involved being ejected from a London pub for drunkenly attempting to, ahem, ride a dog.
F**k man, I dunno where they got that from. I was at a pub and we’re having a drink and I don’t remember much about a dog. People say to me: “Liam, you’re p**sed,” and I’m like: “Yeah, that’s what you do, when you have a drink.” And at some point, if you have too many, it starts getting hold of you and you start getting a bit wheeyyyy... But where’s the dog, man? Show me the f**king dog. But I like the story. It’s a funny story. There’s been a few recently. What was that one about the gardens? The Garden Centre? What’s it f**king called? The Chelsea Garden Show? Chelsea Flower Show, that’s it. The story was that I’d applied for tickets and I was gonna f**king go there and f**king have it cos I love... flowers. Apparently. Obviously someone’s taken acid before writing that one. I don’t get upset, man. They can say what they want, as long as it’s not malicious. It’s all part of the game, I let them get on with it. I know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to sing great songs and write great music. I’ve got a role to look f**king cool. And that’s exactly as I want it. I’m not doing it for anyone else, I’m doing it for me. I’m a f**king rock ‘n’ roll star – it’s my duty. And that’s how I like it.
With the second Beady Eye record released this week, is it fair to say you’re excited about music again?
I always get excited about a record, me. I love being in a band, that’s my gig, that’s what I do, that’s what I live for. But this is different – it’s something we’ve never done before, either in Beady Eye or Oasis. We’ve gone through a door with this record. Know what I mean? We’ve gone through the f**king door and we’ve f**king stayed for lunch. We’ve not gone: “Oh I’ll have a bit of that,” and then f**ked off. We’re like: “F**king hell, it’s nice in here, innit?” We’ve hung about for lunch. Maybe the next album we’ll stay and have dinner too, know what I mean?
To be honest, we’re not sure we do know exactly what Liam means, but we get the idea. And if there is a Liam-shaped hole in rock ‘n’ roll at the moment, despite the best efforts of Mr Styles, then any return to form by the modern master of having it large has to be welcomed. Whether with a reformed Oasis or a newly energised Beady Eye.
Meanwhile, after another round of handshakes, backslaps and exhortations to “stay f**king fabulous,” Liam Gallagher has one last piece of wisdom to dispense to us.
“Once you’re in, you’re in, man,” he says, referring to the rock ‘n’ roll game. “You can’t give up. Never. Once you’re in, you’re f**king in for good.”
Pictures of the band from the article can be found here.