Interview: Liam Gallagher

Dan Cairns 6 July 2022

The motor-mouth is facing a big birthday—but he can’t stop baiting his brother Noel and stoking hopes of an Oasis reunion

To avoid filling this article with asterisks to denote swear words, it will help if you assume that every fifth or sixth word from Liam Gallagher’s mouth during the hour I spent with him began with an F.

Only the US singer Kelis has come close for potty-mouthed prolixity in my two decades of interviewing music stars.

In other respects, though, Gallagher has mellowed. At a restaurant near his home in Highgate, north London, the former (and, definitely maybe, future) Oasis frontman sips a cappuccino with no sugar.

He may just be back from a sun break he describes as such a heavy “seven-day bender” that he needs another holiday, but the days of dedicated, 24/7 hedonism are over.

Don't look back in anger

The star once synonymous with chaos and carnage reaches his half-century in September—and readily admits that he can’t hack it any more.

“That voice [in my head], which used to be very distant, saying, ‘Go to bed. You’re not going out tonight,’ is now very loud. Years ago it would have been like,” he says, cupping his ear: “‘You what? I beg your f***ing pardon?’ These days it’s, ‘Chill out. You’ve had your share.’ And I’m listening to that voice a lot more… I don’t want to feel s**t any more.

"Or break any more hearts. I’m nearly 50, I want to have good times, not s**t times. I’d love to get off my t**s all the time, but I can’t handle it. And bills have to be paid.”

"I’m nearly 50, I want to have good times, not s**t times. I’d love to get off my t**s all the time, but I can’t handle it"

He is, he says, increasingly aware of the destruction his past behaviour left in its wake. Two marriages—to the actress and singer Patsy Kensit in 1997, to All Saints’ Nicole Appleton in 2008—and two divorces; infidelities; four children, one of whom Gallagher met for the first time when she was 19; hefty alimony payments; his continuing feud with elder brother Noel.

Things had to change. “I’ve been humbled, I’ve lost a few things, marriage break-ups and all that. You’ve just got to look in the mirror and remember that. There’s things I’m not proud of, I’ve messed up and done some stupid stuff.”

Gallagher’s success as a solo artist may not have silenced the clamour for an Oasis reunion, but it’s clearly given the singer a confidence boost.

He is scathing about the Downing Street parties, in a very Liam way. “You can imagine Putin sitting there thinking, Call that a party? ABBA and a cheese board? We’re a laughing stock.”

Life after Noel

Oasis pictured just before their performance at Knebworth, 1996Oasis were supported by The Chemical Brothers, The Charlatans, The Prodigy and more nineties stars at Knebworth, 1996

His first two solo albums, As You Were (2017) and Why Me? Why Not (2019), both topped charts, and his third, C’mon You Know, came out in May.

Seven days after its release he will play the first of two sold-out, 80,000-capacity shows at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire—the setting for Oasis’s crowning moment in 1996. There are further stadium dates in Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast.

The choice of Knebworth might have been designed to goad Noel. Does Gallagher think his success bothers his brother? “Look, it’s got to, hasn’t it? I’m sure deep down he’s happy, he’s not all bad. But there’s going to be a bit of, the f***er’s out and about again.

"If he was doing Knebworth I’d be livid. I don’t care how much money you’ve got, how many houses you’ve got, how many celebrity mates, when you get home you’d be sitting there thinking, f***er. But the geezer’s got many faces, so he can hide behind one of them.”

When Noel walked out on Oasis in 2009, after a fateful argument with his brother shortly before they were due on stage in France, Gallagher was distraught.

“I thought we’d be the Stones, doing it until the day we died," he says. "We might have had a break, gone off and done our own thing, and then got back on it. For it to implode like that was disastrous. I went off the rails a bit when it happened, because it was the thing that glued my life together.”

"I thought we’d be the Stones, doing it until the day we died"

Gallagher took the remaining members of the band with him and formed Beady Eye, a band that never quite clicked with fans. He remembers that period vividly, he says—staring into the abyss and struggling not to be sucked into it.

“Beady Eye wasn’t happening, Noel’s thing [Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds] was taking off, my marriage was breaking up, I had a kid in New York. I thought, I’m in the s**t here.

"I had to knuckle down, get my head together, sort my private life out. I thought, I’m either going to end up sitting in the pub all day, not a pot to p**s in and having ruined lots of people’s lives, or I can sort out my napper [Manc for ‘head’].”

He says he hasn’t seen Noel in years. “He just seems like a different person. It’s like he’s been abducted.”

The last time was when they bumped into each other while watching their beloved Manchester City.

“He was there with his crew, I was with mine. We’d been drinking and he hadn’t because he was on a health kick. I remember coughing and he shrank back.” He imitates Noel cowering and whimpering. “I thought, What the f**k, man?

“But you know I love him. We split up nearly 13 years ago. It’s ridiculous. We can go on about whose fault it is, but he’s his own man. If he really wanted to get in contact, for my mum’s sake, he could do it, but he obviously doesn’t want to. There are only so many olive branches you can offer.”

I’m not sure you would describe Gallagher’s regular pops at Noel on Twitter as olive branches, but who knows what may have gone on behind the scenes.

Gallagher says their mother, Peggy, 75, whom he speaks to every day, is “sad about it, but she knows it is what it is. We just don’t get on. I still feel that he threw me under this bus, and he thinks I did.

"He doesn’t want to know because he doesn’t want to have to deal with the emotions. It would be nice to go out for a beer and all that, but there you go.”

Finding his voice with (and without) Oasis

Liam, Noel—who is five years Liam’s senior—and the eldest brother, Paul, grew up in a semi in Burnage that Peggy escaped to after leaving their “violent, alcoholic” father, who would regularly beat Noel and Paul.

As a teenager, Gallagher was a streetwise scally who barely gave music a thought, until a head injury changed everything. “Paul was into music, Noel was too, I was just the little f***er playing out in the street and being a little s**t.”

Then, one day when he was in his mid-teens, “We were having a smoke by the bike shed, I was speaking to one of my mates’ sisters, and the next minute about 15 lads from another school come running down the hill, all hooded up. This lad runs over with a hammer and whacks me on the head. I woke up in the hospital, blood everywhere.”

Overnight, Gallagher says, his priorities changed; music ambushed him, the performer gene kicked in. “All of a sudden everything clicked. It was like the Bisto kid where you see the smell.”

On C’mon You Know, Gallagher has again worked with the songwriters and producers Andrew Wyatt and Greg Kurstin.

He co-wrote the album’s first single, “Everything’s Electric”—which he performed during February’s Brit awards ceremony—with Kurstin and Dave Grohl, ex-Nirvana, who also drums on the track.

Other collaborators include Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend.

"If it doesn’t take off, and people go, ‘I’m not sure about this, it’s a bit weird’, we can blame it on the virus and go back to the classic stuff"

Although the album isn’t short of songs that will please Oasis diehards, it’s a lot more experimental than its predecessors.

Alongside predictable echoes of the Beatles and the Stones there are psychedelic wig-outs, a children’s choir, traces of T Rex, Hendrix, Arthur Brown and Mark E Smith, even outbreaks of dub, ska and florid chamber pop.

“It’s a bit peculiar in places,” Gallagher concedes, “which is good: 80 per cent madness and 20 per cent classic.

"If you’re going to start doing stuff like that on your third album, it helps if there’s a bit of COVID about. Because if it doesn’t take off, and people go,I’m not sure about this, it’s a bit weird’, we can blame it on the virus and go back to the classic stuff.”

Gallagher’s Twitter digs at Noel have lessened of late and, with two notable anniversaries—Definitely Maybe’s 30th in 2024, and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? reaching the same milestone a year later—coming down the tracks, there is fresh speculation that he and Noel will bury the hatchet to celebrate one or the other of them.

There are rumoured to be offers in the hundreds of millions of pounds for a reunion tour. “I’d love Oasis to get back together,” Gallagher says. “If it happens, it happens. But I’m quite happy doing this.”

So that’s a “maybe”, then? Mr Motormouth is suddenly and uncharacteristically gnomic. “We should never have split up, but we did, and this is where we’re at.” Quite where that “this” is remains to be seen.

Read more: Jarvis Cocker: I remember

Read more: Ten artists and bands that inspired The Beatles

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter