What you see is what you get with Liam Gallagher. At least that’s the image the Mancunian singer has worked hard to portray over the last 25 years. But Liam Gallagher in 2019 is rather a different proposition to Liam Gallagher in 1994. Back then he wanted to be a rock’n’roll star. He quickly achieved his goal and spent the next two decades faithfully adhering to the rock’n’roll lifestyle. Now in middle age, however, and two albums into a successful solo career, Liam is not as brash and self-aggrandising as he once was.
His conversation is still punctuated by an awful lot of F- and C-bombs, mind you, and his anger flares at the mention of his brother Noel’s name. The major difference is that instead of scanning the contemporary music field and labelling everything except for his own work as shithouse, the 47-year-old has recently been cultivating the image of a classicist – a preserver of all things punchy, melodic and guitar-driven.
Helping him in this pursuit are a crack team of songwriters and producers, including Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, known for their work with Sia, Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus. Kurstin and Wyatt handled the bulk of the production on Why Me? Why Not., Liam’s second solo album, released this September.
It’s just two years since Liam’s solo debut, As You Were, which followed an extended break from music after the dissolution of his passable post-Oasis vehicle, Beady Eye. As You Were significantly surpassed the commercial performance of the two Beady Eye records while also receiving stronger critical feedback. Why Me? Why Not. has continued this trend, debuting at #1 in the UK.
Ahead of an Australian tour in December, Music Feeds spoke to Gallagher about the new record, nostalgia, his brother and whether he’s worried about staying relevant.
Music Feeds: Four years separated Beady Eye’s BE and As You Were – the longest wait between albums of your entire career. Were you eager to keep the momentum going after As You Were?
Liam Gallagher: I want to make albums. Even when I was in Oasis I always was the first one going, “let’s make music, let’s get back out there, let’s see what we’ve got.” I get bored easily. And making music is not as hard people tend to think it is. I’ve got a lot of help making music, which I enjoy. We all do it collectively and none of us pull our hair out. We’re not tortured artists – we have fun making it.
MF: As You Were sold more than both Beady Eye records and received stronger critical feedback. Why do you think Beady Eye was such a relative failure?
LG: I think we wrote good songs with Beady Eye as well. I think it might’ve been the name or too soon after Oasis splitting up. But the guys that I’m working with [now], they know how to write tunes. We know how to get them on the radio and stuff. So I’m quite happy with that.
MF: Gem Archer and Andy Bell were both writing a lot of songs for Beady Eye. Do you think that if you’re not working with your brother, working as a solo artist is the next best thing?
LG: Without a doubt. But saying that, it wasn’t working with Noel; we never had a working relationship. He’d go in and hog the fucking studio for weeks and then he’d go, “look, here’s a song, sing it like this,” and I’d get in and I’d make it me own. So we never had much debate about lyrics or melodies or this.
I much prefer to work this way than what I did with Noel because he’d go in and do it all himself and it felt like we were working for him. I much prefer this way. I’ve got a lot more input.
MF: Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt were your main collaborators on the new album. Did you give them any specific directions? Or was it “let’s do more of the same”?
LG: More of the same, but by thinking we were going to do more of the same we ended up doing something slightly a little bit different. But we didn’t go in there with any plans to go, let’s make a psychedelic record or let’s change it up. We just went, no let’s do it again. We just want good fucking songs, but I do feel on this record we have something a little bit different, but accidentally.
MF: It seems it’s all written to specifically suit your personality and fit within the confines of your taste.
LG: They know that I’m not going to be wanting fucking loops or dance beats. It’s going to be just straight-up classic rock’n’roll and that’s what I’ll do always, forever and ever and ever. People might call that boring. I don’t. I dig it. I’m not up for change for the sake it. I don’t enjoy doing that. I like singing good old classic rock’n’roll music or the odd fucking ballad here and there. I’m quite happy in my comfortable zone.
MF: You’ve spent many years preaching the rock’n’roll gospel and adhering to the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but it’s not all about being tough. Melody has always been a central feature of what you do.
LG: For live [shows] I do like getting up there and belting it out like the Pistols or whatever. We’re not all walking around with leather jackets on swigging bottles of Jack Daniel’s – I don’t mean rock’n’roll like that. I mean it has to come from the core. It has to start from the guitar.
MF: Oasis followed the lead of music from the 1960s and 1970s like the Beatles, the Stones, T-Rex, Bowie and so on. There’s a sense that your solo work is nostalgic for the heyday of Oasis.
LG: I just want to reach as many people as possible on the planet. That’s exactly how I felt with Oasis. Therefore you want to make music that gets on the radio. You want to make good music. I wouldn’t sacrifice a tune just to get on the fucking radio. I think the tunes that are on this record that are getting radio play, you’ve got to compromise a little bit, but I don’t think I’ve compromised too much. You want to get heard by as many people on the planet and when you come to the concerts you want to move people. That’s always been the name of the game. Even when we was in Oasis, we wanted to be popular, we wanted to be big. I don’t want to be small.
MF: Is that reflected in your music taste – are you not interested in obscure, underground things?
LG: I think big and I sing big. Bowie wrote some great tunes, The Beatles, the Stones. I’ve got no time to be underground – fuck that shit – and even if I wanted to be underground I can’t be. The genie bottle is open. You might as well just embrace it. But I felt that even when Oasis first started – we wanted to climb the fucking mountain, we wanted to see what was over the other side. We wanted to kiss the sky.
MF: Do you have any worries about people losing interest in what you do?
LG: I had that with Beady Eye. You can only do what you do. If your best ain’t good enough then so be it. I get it, people grow up, people’s priorities change. They’re not just sitting there following people around. They have children, people lose jobs, people lose members of their family. The last thing on their mind is some fucking geezer in a parka putting out records. So I get it, but I’m lucky that I’ve got the love again and people are still coming to my concerts. All I know is I did my best on this record and the last gig I did my best, and that is it.
MF: Is that a guarantee that you’ll be making it count on this Australian tour?
LG: As I do on every fucking Australian tour. I think I’m the only fucker that comes off sweating. Maybe because I’ve got about four jackets on, but even when I was with our kid, he’d come off and there’d be no fucking sweat. I remember looking at him and going, “am I the only one grafting up here or what?”
MF: It’s impossible to listen to your work and not search for clues about your feelings towards Noel. Was that on your mind when working on this album, having something to say to your brother?
LG: No way do I go into the studio and go, “right, let’s put this little lyric in here to freak our kid out.” Fuck that. He knows my opinion of him. It just happens that some lyrics pop in and some people take it a bit more serious than what I do, make a big mountain of it. But our kid knows exactly how I feel about him. Some days I think he’s a cunt and some days I love him. No, I always love him, but he’s a bit of a cunt.
Liam Gallagher will head to Australia this December to headline both NSW’s Fairgrounds Festival and VIC’s Meredith Music Festival, as well as his own headline tour. Dates and details here. Gallagher’s new album Why Me? Why Not? is out now.