Liam Gallagher makes no bones about the fact that he’s making the best of a bad lot: He never wanted Oasis to break up — that’s down to brother Noel Gallagher — and if he had his way, he wouldn’t be recording and touring as a solo act. So it’s no surprise that his first solo album, “As You Were,” has him sounding, well, as he was, before the last of the great Brit-pop bands went down in flames.
He’s also hitting the U.S. with a mixture of solo and Oasis material, including a Saturday stop at Cal Jam in California. Gallagher talked with Variety about the new album and why it took him so long to truly go solo after his old band called it quits in 2009 during a recent stop in L.A.
At the first solo show you did this year, you said, “Normal business has resumed.” Does it feel more like a resumption than a restart?
It doesn’t feel like a reinvention. The music is still pretty much what I do—it’s still guitar, rock and roll, Beatle-y, melodies, good songs and a bit of punk vibe, you know, a bit of Pistols in there. It’s not a dance record. And if you come to one of my gigs, it’s loud and it’s f—ing having it. It sounds like the f—ing Stooges in places.
So if someone said, ”This sounds like an Oasis record,” you wouldn’t take it as an insult.
Not at f—ing all, man. Same with Morrissey. Morrissey always kept the Smiths sound. Smart move. And why should you change your sound? Johnny Marr went off and did electronica and all that, and I get it; people want to do new things and remove themselves from (their former bands). I don’t. I f—ing love Oasis. I had 20 years in that band, and I f—ing lived and breathed every single moment of it. So if people turn around and go “It sounds like Oasis,” that’s a f—ing compliment, and one that I cherish. We didn’t go out of our way to say, “Let’s make an Oasis-sounding record.” It sort of just happened. But I am Oasis. Oasis is where it’s at for me.
There aren’t a lot of people trying to make rock and roll with a classic sound like you are, nowadays — not many even making the attempt, much less achieving it.
Well, yeah, maybe because they can’t. A lot of kids these days are trying to make rock and roll on laptops, and it ain’t going to happen, mate. You have to buy an instrument and learn it and you go in the garage with your mates and sweat it out and learn your trade. But rock and roll’s a bit of a dirty word these days, especially in England. Rock and roll’s been good to me. It saved me from all sorts of shit, so I’ll be good to it. I’ll never let rock and roll down. and if I’m living in the past, then so f—ing be it. I don’t care, man. I know for a fact I can move people better than some little dick with a keyboard.
Even as recently as less than two years ago, when fans asked if you were going to make a solo album, you tweeted back, “Solo record—are you f—ing tripping, dickhead? I’m not a c—.” And then, not very much later…
About five minutes later!
You turned around and tweeted, “I’m a c—.”
Well, I never really wanted to go solo. I still find it all a bit peculiar, having my name above the door, even though that’s just the way it’s got to be. To go back and start another band, we’ve done that with Beady Eye, and it’s always going to get compared to Oasis. I don’t fancy that. And at the time, going around trying to get guitarists and drummers, I just wasn’t in the headspace for it. But going solo… I still find it a bit odd. I’d much prefer to be in a band. I’d much prefer being in Oasis. I liked having the lads around and having a laugh. But that’s not to be, so solo it is. But it still felt kind of like a band, making the record, even though it wasn’t toward the end when we really got a band together.
Was there any aspect of watching the documentary about Oasis, “Supersonic,” or participating in it that maybe stirred some feelings in you that maybe you thought, “I need to get out there and do this thing, whether it’s solo or not”?
Yeah, totally, man. When I did “Supersonic,” that was good. (I thought), I need to sing songs. I’m a musician. I’m a vocalist more than anything, more than a songwriter. I had four years just sitting at home. I was like: morning on the phone to a lawyer; eating lunch on a phone to a lawyer; yhe last person I’d speak to in the middle of the f—ing night was a lawyer, and they’d be going, “I’ll see you in the morning.” So there was a lot of personal stuff going on that I had to get sorted out before I could even think about music. [Gallagher and his wife Nicole Appleton divorced in 2014, after it was revealed he had had a child with another woman.] It was just personal shit, which is my own doing and all that, and I get it. So I just had to get me personal stuff sorted out and get a relationship back with me kid and get me life sorted out. It was four years of (being caught up in) shit in that time. I knew I’d get back in it at some point, but I just needed a bit of a break.
When people heard about the solo album, they may have wondered, what are the songwriting credits going to be? (Noel was the primary writer for Oasis.) Even in the “Supersonic” documentary, you said that you did not have the impulse to put pen to paper as part of being a rocker. It was a performing urge.
And I still feel that. I still feel like a rock and roll singer more than a musician or a songwriter. I mean, I come up with a few songs, and I wrote most of the album, but I need a bit of help, man. I can write my little f—ing “Greedy Souls” and I can write “Bold” (two of four songs on the album on which he receives solo writing credit), but I think I need a bit of help with the bigger songs. So there’s Greg Kurstin, there’s Andrew Wyatt, and a guy called Simon Aldred, who we did “For What It’s Worth” with. I’m down with it, man.
People expect a very defiant attitude out of you. There’s plenty of that here. But “For What It’s Worth” is something you’ve described as a very penitent love song.
I think it’s one of the great songs I’ve sung on, ever. I’ve pissed off a lot of people and I’ve hurt a lot of people. And I’d like to dedicate this song to them. And that’s it — and we move on. I’m not gonna keep saying “sorry” for the rest of me life. It happened. I’ve not killed anyone. It’s to everyone in the universe who I’ve pissed off or let down. but it’s certainly not just about Noel or anyone. It could be about my kids, my mum, my ex-missus, anyone. It’s about a lot of people.
Do you have any feeling about what people want out of you as far as your attitude now, like “We want him to be humbled” or “No, we want him to be cocky and keep that swagger forever”?
It depends what you’re country you’re in. I mean, in England… The kids down in the front, they don’t (want vulnerability from) me… When I go on stage, man, I don’t give a flying f— about record companies, press, or dickheads who f—ing have got a f—ing problem with me. When I go on there, it’s war. It’s ultimate f—ing rock and roll, whatever that is. I’m not there to be apologetic. I can do it through the music. But I’m not gonna be on the stage saying “I’m sorry.” And I can say “I’m sorry” with a bit of aggression as well. I’m not going to be buying people chocolate and roses and stuff. I’m already humbled. You learn your lesson through life, but I don’t need to be told it. I know it. I know the mistakes I’ve made.
People say “last of the rock stars” for you. Is that how you feel? It’s been a bit of a dying breed since the late ’90s.
Maybe last of the real stars, you know what I mean? I wouldn’t say… I mean, I kind of get it as a compliment and all that, but I kind of sort of go, “Leave that out, man.” But I just think I’m pretty aware of my heart on my sleeve. What I’m doing is a piece of piss. Everyone should be doing it. When I go on stage, I don’t like to have a chat and see how your day has been. I guess you could call it crowd interaction, but I’ve never been like that. I just want to f—ing sing the songs and try move someone down in the front, or in the back, some young kid – I want them to see that I mean it. I don’t really want to go, “Oh, how are your kids? Did you put your dishwasher on?” And all that Bono stuff and all that preacher-y stuff and “Let’s save the world” — I’m fine with it, but not at a rock gig, not at a rock and roll show. After the gig, we can have a chat about all that stuff, but when we’re on that stage, you want to get the music stirred.
When you were coming back this year at your first gigs in Europe, did that feel the same as always – like “Nothing’s changed, I’m where I belong”?
The world changes. Because going to a concert now, you don’t know if you’re going to come out of there alive. And if people are spending hardcore money and putting their lives on the line to come to a concert, they need to get the real f—ing deal. I take preparation) a bit more serious. Before a gig, it’s like bed ways, get up in the morning 100 percent, go for a run, prepare for it like a fight, like a boxer, and try and give ‘em the best gig you can. Because concerts these days are not as carefree. There’s a lot of shit going on in the world.
In your sets, you’re mixing old and new material, and you’re singing things like “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which Noel sang in Oasis. I saw you tweeting, “I can sing that better than anybody.”
Well, I’ve sung it in the shower a few times, and I should have f—ing sang it anyway. But that was Noel trying to get his little moment. He does a great job, but mate, I have f—ing pissed that song standing on my head. But I did it for the people that were killed (at a benefit in Manchester for the victims of the terrorist attack there). I don’t think I’d do it again. Maybe. But I’m doing “Wonderwall,” “Be Here Now”—which I’m loving doing— and “Rock and Roll Star”… They’re my songs as much as they’re Noel’s, as far as I’m concerned, whether I wrote them or not. I took them out and I brought them up. so if you’re gonna start a gig, you’ve got to start a gig with “Rock and Roll Star,” followed swiftly by “Morning Glory,” and then you’ve got people’s attention. I could say people work hard and they’ve paid money to come and see you. I’ve not going to not give ‘em what they want. If I go see Paul Weller and he plays all his new stuff, I’m like, “Aw, come on man, f—ing hell, play one of the f—ing Jam tunes!” Ninety-nine percent of the audience are just going [arms folded], and then when you [go into] “Town Called Malice,” everyone goes up. Can he not f—ing see that? I know people want to get away from that. I don’t want to get away from it. I am Oasis. I live and breathe Oasis. I love Oasis. I never wanted it to end. So playing Oasis songs with new songs feels f—ing natural. And the new ones coming after the Oasis songs feel great. If you come to a concert, people are loving “Wall of Glass” and “Bold” and “Chinatown.” It doesn’t dip, so that’s a good sign.
You said that you had a delayed reaction to the Oasis breakup that didn’t come until after you broke up your band Beady Eye, and that woke you up.
Yeah. I think when Oasis broke up, we weren’t ready for it. It’s like someone just turned the lights off, and we went, whoa, whoa, whoa. I feel like Noel had been planning to split the band up just so he could go and do his (solo) thing. As far as I’m concerned, he just threw us under the bus, me and Gem (Archer) and Andy (Bell).. So if someone turns around and goes, “The party’s over,” who the f— are you telling me the party’s over? The party ain’t f—ing over; we’re going to carry on. We didn’t carry on under the name of Oasis, out of respect. We went and started a new band and did two albums, and I thought they were all right; they just didn’t connect. Maybe in hindsight we should have gone home and had our nervous breakdown. But after the Beady Eye thing, that’s when it kind of hit me that for the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have a band. It was like, what the f— do I do now? Maybe I had to do a bit of cold turkey to get my shit together. But I will be making up for lost time, believe you me.
And you feel you’re giving people something they don’t get anywhere else nowadays.
People might call that cocky, but I’d rather have that than some f—ing limp-wristed f—ing drip who wears a guitar around his neck because it goes with his f—ing shoes and it looks like a f—ing necklace.
You’re coming to California for Cal Fest. Anything special about that?
I cannot wait. I’m like a rabid beast for that one. Because it’s nice to go up against American bands. We’ve never done many festivals over in America. It was always in England and that. And it’s not a competition, but it’s nice to go out there and f—ing do your thing and they’re doing their thing, just to see if we’re on the same page or miles apart. And I love the Foo Fighters and I like Dave and I like the drummer and we’ve played with them before. It’s all right doing your own gigs, but it’s just you in it doing your f—ing thing. It’s great to get out and play with someone else.
We Americans can get a little jealous of Glastonbury.
But you have Coachella, don’t you? But it’s fancy, isn’t it?
It might be a little bit more about making the scene and being seen, for some people who go.
Fancy dress. Well, hopefully, (Cal Jam) will be mucky, and we’ll have a f—ing rumble, man. That’s what rock and roll’s about, innit? You shouldn’t be all f—ing nicey. Everything lacks a bit of danger these days. Everything’s a bit too f—ing polite. I’m the f—ing danger, man.