Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #135. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Twenty-five years on from Oasis’s breakthrough album, what does it mean to be Liam Gallagher? Australian Guitar’s Emily Swanson heads straight to the source to find out.
For all you’ve heard about Liam Gallagher, he’s quick to own up to his weaknesses. Everyone knows he was in the seminal British rock group Oasis – he’s just not the one who wrote “Live Forever” or “Wonderwall”, nor is he the one who delivered the psychedelic solo that rips through the latter half of “Champagne Supernova”. He’s a man who’s “said a lot of s*** over the years and meant every word”. But to many he quite simply is Oasis and all they stood for. It’s why his first solo album, 2017’s As You Were, was able to reach platinum status in the UK. It’s why he’s announced secondary shows on his nationwide Australian headline tour this December. It’s why we’re so damn interested to see what he does next.
“It’s good to work with some people who know what they’re doing,” Gallagher says. “I obviously don’t know what I’m doing, so I pick well.”
For the second time, he’s teamed up with prolific pop producer Greg Kurstin and Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt, seemingly picking up where the As You Were sessions left off. His second album under his own name, Why Me? Why Not. (named, unsurprisingly, for two John Lennon artworks he happens to own) is a classic slab of rock ‘n’ roll from the man who’s immortalised himself as a rock ‘n’ roll star. Gallagher and his team certainly know their way around a hook.
“We started off with [lead single] ‘Shockwave’ and we thought ‘Right, let’s go’ and it sort of all fell into place. It was the three of us just sitting around getting it done, d’you know what I mean?”
Gallagher uses the phrase “D’you know what I mean?” like the rest of us use punctuation. Both as a pause and a sentence end, he seems almost loath to offer up a thought without checking that we’re following him.
“And there’s no egos, man,” he continues. “We know what we’re there for and we get it done and we get out. A song is a song – it depends what energy you pump into it. We’re not making prog‐rock here, or jazz, it’s simple. We’re not spending hours on drum solos and drum sounds, d’you know what I mean? It’s pretty quick moving, which is the way I like it. Towards the end of Oasis it was like we were trying to cure cancer, it was like, ‘Oh come onnnn. It sounds good, put it out.’”
Lines like this really do roll off his tongue.
The day of our interview falls just shy of a decade on from Oasis’s famous split. On the night of 2009’s Rock en Seine festival in Paris, a backstage fight began with Liam hurling a plum at brother Noel and culminated with a smashed guitar, the band’s second cancelled festival slot in a week, and Noel walking out for good. If you ask him, Noel will tell you Liam barged into the room wielding one of his guitars “like an axe” and almost took his face off.
“It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight,” Noel wrote on the band’s website, adding that he couldn’t go on working with Liam a day longer.
Rumours of a split had been circulating for months but they were born from contempt that had been brewing for years. Long gone were the days of Knebworth, a fabled two‐day concert in 1996 which saw a record‐breaking 2.5 million people apply for tickets to see the band at what ended up being an era‐defining peak (some 250,000 were successful).
Our collective fascination with the Gallaghers is an enduring one. It’s the reason headlines like “Why Noel Gallagher Hates Liam: The Story Behind Rock’s Fiercest Feud” still appear decades after the brothers’ antics first dominated tabloids. When you look at the lyrics on his new album, you get the sense that their relationship is rarely far from Liam’s thoughts. When they’re not trading barbs in the media (LG’s a fiend for a 280‐character limit), that energy is flowing over into the music. Opening track “Shockwave”, with its glam rock stomp, is steeped in betrayal (“You sold me right up the river”, “You’re a snake/You’re a weasel”) while the boppy “One Of Us” reflects on past glories and simpler times (“Act like you don’t remember/You said we’d live forever/Who do you think you’re kiddin’?”). It’s here that Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sneaks into the mix on guitar while Gallagher’s 18‐year‐old son, Gene, gets a taste of the family business playing the bongos.
Hell hasn’t frozen over yet so at this stage “getting the Big O back together” still seems like a stretch, but Why Me? Why Not. sees the younger Gallagher operating with a renewed sense of vigour and the most exciting Oasis‐adjacent set of tunes the world’s heard in years.
As It Was, a new documentary released in the weeks prior to Why Me? Why Not. (which goes to great lengths to detail the singer’s triumphant return as a solo artist), paints a picture of a man taking stock of his life and getting his act together. He’s (mostly) nipped late nights in the bud, he’s consciously looking out for his vocal cords on tour, and he’s cut back on cigarettes and alcohol. At one point he even jokes that he’s down to two grams of coke before he goes on stage of a night (“I used to do eight”).
The film’s directors suggest that the demise of Beady Eye, Gallagher’s short‐lived Oasis follow‐up that fizzled out before it ever really started to cook, was the first time the frontman failed. Has his career post‐Oasis played a part in humbling him?
“I think life in general has sort of humbled me a little bit. But not too much, d’you know what I mean? I am thankful for everything I’ve got, but I also think I deserve a lot more.
“Without sounding morbid, I’ve probably got 20 years left on this planet, or 30 – that’s if I’m lucky,” he reasons. “I just wanna have a good life and try and stay out of trouble. I’ve done my time with rock ‘n’ roll; I’ve had my 20 years of chaos. It’s time for someone else to pick up the mantle and cause a bit of disturbance.”
It seems a difficult task to pinpoint who Liam Gallagher is beyond the drama the British press helped perpetuate and subsequently fed on for years. Despite being someone who’s quipped that he’d be God if he weren’t a musician, Gallagher finds it baffling that people think he’s arrogant.
“Where did people get that from? Where people come round and go, ‘Oh yeah, we read about you that you’re really arrogant and you’re cocky’. I’m like, ‘Ha... what the F***?’ They’ve made something up of me, whatever that is. I’m certainly not what the press write about. I don’t know who the f*** that geezer is.”
According to him, the man we see on stage, leaning into the mic with his arms pressed behind his back, stretching out the vowels on words like sunsheeeeiiiiiine, is as close to the real deal as you’re ever likely to get.
“See I know a lot of people that go on stage and they act it out, they play the part, then they come off stage and they’re different people. I’m the same person that I am on stage as I am off stage which I think is part of the appeal,” he says. “For me to walk on stage and just be me is f***in’ easy and it’s a blessing, man. Not in disguise, it’s beautiful. If all you’ve gotta be is yourself then f***in’ hell, that’s easy, innit?
“The main thing is not getting caught up in the bulls***, d’you know what I mean?”
Friday December 6th - Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane QLD
Saturday December 7th - Fairgrounds Festival, Berry NSW
Monday December 9th - Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Wednesday December 11th - Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne VIC
Saturday December 14th - Bird In Hand, Adelaide SA
Tuesday December 17th - Arts Centre, Fremantle WA
Wednesday December 18th - Arts Centre, Fremantle WA
Friday December 20th - Spark Arena, Auckland NZ