The Man Who Would Be King
Liam Gallagher can do anything better than anyone else. Just ask him.
Story by Eddie Brannan / Photography by Phil Knott
To be totally, brutally honest with you, there really isn’t a great deal of difference between one Liam Gallagher interview and another. Just poke around on Google and YouTube for a few moments to see what I mean. His persona is usually a predictable mix of cocky, belligerent, amusing, honest, sardonic, boastful, defensive and adamant. He’s the fucking man, and everything he does is better than every fucking thing else. Got it?
His fans, of course, lap it up. During our brief and much-interrupted conversation (he was on a boat at Cannes, drifting in and out of cell phone range) he managed to work his way through all of those modes in something like seven minutes flat, before we lost phone contact altogether. Subsequent demands from the Gallagher camp were that any follow-up interviews needed to be ten minutes long and conducted at 7 a.m., New York time. Presumably mid-day in the UK is when Gallagher’s day gets started, and he didn’t want to interrupt his work, which is fair enough, when one considers the pressure of anticipation surrounding his new project, the oddly monickered Beady Eye. The new band, which naturally Gallagher describes as “the best fucking band in the world,” is pretty much the same as his last best fucking band in the world, Oasis (in its final lineup), except for the fact that it doesn’t include his brother Noel, regarded by most as the creative driving force behind that group.
Noel Gallagher quit Oasis in August of 2009, when his perennial personal problems with his younger brother got too much for him. The pair has bickered on and off stage, in public and in private, since the band’s inception in 1991. Nonetheless they loom large over the British music scene, with over 70 million records sold, and many of their songs having reached anthem status. But the first five years of the 21st century were marred by personnel changes, lackluster performances, and infighting. A successful 26-country world tour in 2005 seemed to draw a line under that period, however, and their seventh album, Dig Out Your Soul, was released in October of 2008 and went to number one in the UK and number five on the US Billboard 200. Subsequent awards, releases and tours confirmed their resurgence (Q magazine’s readers recently voted Liam Gallagher the best frontman in rock), until a backstage fracas moments before a 2009 show in Paris led to the older Gallagher’s departure and the end (for now, at least) of Oasis, and the beginning of the project that came to be known as Beady Eye.
Beady Eye consists of Andy Bell (guitar), Gem Archer, Chris Sharrock (Gallagher’s Oasis bandmates) and new member Jeff Wootton on bass. Gallagher describes their sound as having influences of T Rex and David Bowie, a heavier, more psychedelic approach than stripped down Oasis, and at time of going to press the band are in the studio with legendary producer Steve Lillywhite. (Insiders tell us the sound is more pure pop than those claimed influences suggest, however.) Gallagher’s enthusiasm for the project is, if couched in unsurprising hyperbole, at least tangibly sincere. “I approach [Beady Eye] the same exact way I approach every other band. We get out there and make it fucking happen. If something’s not happening we get back in the ring. As far as I’m concerned Liam Gallagher is still king, and the people who play around me are kings.” He also says that Bell “thinks he’s Jimmy fucking Hendrix” (in a good way, presumably) and his emphasis that the band’s focus will be on the songs is interesting, given that Oasis’ signal strength was Noel Gallagher’s songwriting. The first evidence will be revealed, apparently, with a single in October. We shall see.
In other Liam Gallagher news: a clothing line. Pretty Green (named for the song by The Jam, not for any particular eco-friendliness) is a line he has launched with tailor Nick Holland, whose own line Holland Esquire runs to dandy-ish suits and shirtings. Pretty Green is more casual, with polo and button down shirts, parka jackets, hats and desert boots. Nothing is revolutionary about the collection. It’s built around your basic mod classics, filtered through the vague football casual aesthetic of Gallagher himself. “Football, music and clothing were always my main passions,” he said during our chat. “Up until I was 18 I only cared about football, then I cared about music and clothes. I don’t like the clothes that people wear today, so I did me own line because I can.”
“But I’m over the clothing line now. I’m into film,” he goes on. He has recently secured the film rights to The Longest Cocktail Party, Richard DiLello’s insider account of the wild years of The Beatles Apple record label, and the dissolution of The Beatles as a band. He has a film production company, In 1 Productions, but no details were forthcoming from our interview, other than, in response to my trite question asking how it would compare to that other accounting of the north of England’s musical history, that it would be “nothing fucking whatsoever like 24-Hour Party People.”
In fact, the most tantalizing remark he made was in reaction to the then-recent news that the British government was to be shared by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, with the leaders of both jointly sharing power. “Them two clowns in Number 10 [Downing Street, the seat of power], I give them six months and I’ll be in after them, you know what I mean?” he declares. I ask him if he means he’s going to run for office, and while it’s clear that he absolutely is not, his cocky, belligerent, amusing, honest, sardonic, boastful, defensive and adamant persona won’t let him admit that anything is beyond him. “I could get that country up and fucking cooking. Course I could.”