Liam Gallagher & Andy Bell - NME - 6th April 2002
Break out the Boddingtons, steam clean that kagoul: Oasis are back. It's been quite a wait. It may be 18 months since the last campaign petered out, tellingly, with the best-forgotten'Sunday Morning Call', but 2002 finds the group re-invigorated and back to their belligerent best. This isn't the bloated coke-rock Oasis of 'Be Here Now' (Number Two in America, and still talked about as a flop) or the mix'n'match hotchpotch of 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' (Number 54 in America, not talked about at all) but a gleaming, streamlined Oasis Mk II, about to rip the drudgery out of Brit rock and start a rock'n'roll renaissance not seen since, erm, Oasis.
Yawn. You've heard it all before, right? Well, check out the promo produced by long-term video wunderkind Wiz for new single, 'The Hindu Tmes'. Be gone, untucked flowery shirts and putrid paisley visuals! Here the band are dressed in Droog-ish matching black leather, playing live in a monochrome fantasy land staffed by gun-toting dominatrixes, where neon signs flash the words 'pills' and 'bombs' and the band slurp on take-outs from the Korova Milk Bar. Phew. It's Clockwork Oasis. A 21st-century noise. No wonder Wiz describes it as, "The video all Oasis fans want to see".
All of this welded to the best numbskull rock riff they've mined since '(What's The Story) Morning Glory?'. And that's before you even get to the lyrics. This is a song - if you've just been teleported in from Mars-which has a chorus which goes "God gave me soul/You know I'll rock'n'roll". Kiss would sing it, but at least you wouldn't be able to see them blush under all that make-up. Oasis couldn't give a fook. Don't take our word for it. Turn on the radio. D'ya know what I mean?
William John Paul Gallagher certainly does. Today, we find him sitting in a dimly-lit bar a minute's swagger from the band's Marylebone offices and everything about him is in place.
The double-glazed hooded stare?
The tornado of wired mannerisms and immaculate Mancunian street-suss?
The now-permanent smoke-screen shades perched below that mod-ish thatch known to hairdressers the nation over as 'the Liam'?
And last, but by no means least, that sandpaper'n'liquorice drawl...
"Me fookin' drinking is having some strange side effects!" he suddenly exclaims catapulting himself out of his chair in a blur of leather'n'Burberry to illustrate his point. "I can drink like a god but I'm pukin' up a lot these days. I went out with Richard Ashcroft in the week. Fookin' straight in there, ten minutes into the session, and I had to say to him, 'Get out the fucking way!' Next thing it's (mimes spectacular barfing motion), it's fookin','Yeeuuuurgh!' I'm puking up all over him."
Bandmates Alan White and Andy Bell, sitting nearby and modelling matching hangovers, fall about laughing. They may be in the company of, lest we forget,.the greatest singer the country has produced in the last 20 years, a millionaire at 23 and the public face of a band that has sold 34 million albums in a chaotic ten-year trajectory but right now he's just being, y'know, Liam.
"We're going out a lot as a band at the moment and that's great," he enthuses. "And if I wasn't in a band I'd be doing it anyway. Probably worse, because there wouldn't be some c- waiting for me to take my photo and put me in the papers the next morning."
He allows himself a grin. They may have called time on laddism, but seemingly the lock-in rolls on. And Liam doesn't just know the owner. He is the owner. The trio have been out on the tiles for the last three nights, but seeing as it's Wednesday afternoon, it seems pointless to end there. Having met up with Ian Brown already this week ("He's colossal, but he's off his fookin' tits, man! ") tonight the beneficiaries of Oasis' roving hospitality are to be Travis.
Liam's a big fan. "I fookin' love those guys," he roars, leaping to his feet once more, before declaring with an evil grin, "I'm gonna teach Dougie how to swear tonight: 'How's it goin', Dougie? Still happy? Surely someone's pissed you off; you've been touring around the world for the last fookin' two years! You must have got the arse with summat! "' He adopts the scholarly air of someone putting Dougie from Travis through a Teaching Swearing As A Foreign Language course. "It's 'fuck off', it's 'shit'," he intones, voice slowly rising until it reaches a full-on Manc roar, "it's 'whore', it's 'c-', it's EUUUURRRGGH!"
The band collapse with laughter. Life in Oasis is still the same old soap opera isn't it, Liam?
"Course it fuckin' is. I'm Jack, our kid's Vera. Alan's fookin' Beppe from EastEnders. Gem's Boycie from Only Fools And Horses and Andy Bell's fookin' Neil from The Young Ones!" There's a nagging thought, though, that perhaps it's high time it wasn't. That now more than ever Oasis have got to get serious and prove they're still worth the attention of a nation. It's time to deliver, and - as we said at the start-so far the signs are good. Their fifth studio album will be called, heroically, 'Heathen Chemistry'. And if they're not quite under new management, then at least they've turned into a co-op. The sessions started a year and a half ago when Liam, Gem, Andy, Alan and Johnny Marr (they share managers) booked a studio for ten days and, in a Noel-free zone, came up with a bunch of demos which, according to Andy Bell, "sounded like 'The White Album"'.
As well as 'The Hindu Tmes', the finished LP will include Gem's fearsome Stooges-like thrash 'Hung In A Bad Place' -as heard at the recent Watford and London Royal Albert Hall shows-a strident blues howler called 'Force Of Nature' sung by Noel (complete with the chorus, "I'm smoking all my stash/Burning all my cash') and a further pair of Noel- penned tracks entitled 'Little By Little' and 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out'. There are also three songs written by Liam.
Yes, you read that right. Three songs. Forget the jibes about Oasis being Noel Gallagher's solo project, Liam's finally coming into his own, but why the wait?"If I could have written them before I would have," he shrugs. "But I was too busy singing, being the frontman or whatever it is that I am. I was just too busy getting off me tits and singing songs. I had no time to pick up a guitar because I was too wasted or running around causing chaos. So I took a step back and thought, 'Right, I want to make music."'
Did it come easy?
"Born On A Different Cloud' came well easy. I just did that at the piano. I had three different parts and these guys helped me put it together. It's pretty spacey. It goes into a chant. It's a Manc odyssey. 'Songbird' came easy too. I just came into the studio playing it on two strings."
Andy intervenes. He's aware that Liam's interpretation of the word 'easy' isn't the average one.
"Basically, how it works is this. He comes into the studio and strums an acoustic guitar every day for six months, and he'll be singing without any words, just going 'la la la'over and over again. Then eventually the words start to come and he's got a line or two. And then, after about a year, he's got the song."
Liam: "I'm fookin' slow, man. I'll be a solo artist by the time I'm 901"
Having been afforded a sneak preview of 'Songbird' in the offices of the Big Brother label prior to our meeting, it's a pleasure to report that it's a gem, an acoustic love song laced with a barbed wire melody built for hearing on summer lawns at midnight. For the cynics who criticised Liam's solo songwriting debut 'Little James' for its 'Plasticine/tambourine' rhymes and neglected to notice its sucker-punchline "We weren't meant to be grown ups", it's payback time - not so much one in the eye as a fully-fledged shiner. People are gonna be surprised.
"I like beautiful things," says Liam. "It's not all dark in Liam World. I take me shades off every now and again and have a look at the world and see some nice things."
Andy: "That's what I like about Oasis at the moment. For me, even looking at it still as a fan, they're back to being what they're best at, being uplifting..."
The fans certainly seem to agree. Between July 5 and 7, Finsbury Park in London will host a three-day Oasis festival. With the band having sold 80,000 tickets within an hour of them going on sale, it's clear that as brand loyalty goes, theirs isn't one that's in decline. If anything, the opposite's true. Was it a deliberate move to come back with a bang?
Liam: "Well, if you've got a load of people who want to see ya, you've got to invite everyone round your house and put a party on. You've got to be a good host and that's what we are. These are the fastest-selling gigs we've ever done. They're gonna be mega... (Pounding fist on table) We are gonna fookin' have it at those gigs, because the kids deserve it, for still being with us."
What does he put their continuing appeal down to?
"We've never been about a career, that's what matters. And I know where we're at. I know it's not what it used to be, but we still matter to people. I still want to be the biggest, of course I do - playing to 80,000 people in America - but in ten years' time we'll still be here, still fookin' rockin' and putting on shows. That's what counts. We're still more important than U2 or REM or anyone..."
The Charlatans are an understandable support act, but quite a few people there won't have heard of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
"Black Rebel are my favourite band out of all the ones that are coming out. I like that Swedish lot, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, too killer tunes, right up my street-but Black Rebel are just fookin' rockin'. 1 like 'em, because nobody dares do rock'n'roll. No-one's got the balls to do it. I'm not really mithered about anyone else." That's certainly true. When NME asks whether The Strokes' 'Last Nite' video was an influence on Oasis' latest celluloid offering, Liam dismisses them with a swish of his hand: "Listen, the only reason The Strokes do a fookin' video in fookin' black and white is because they look like a bunch of spotty little idiots in colour." In fact, Liam seems remarkably unconcerned about the competition all round. As far as he's concerned, rock'n'roll's lost its danger.
"Too fookin' right," he explodes for about the millionth time this afternoon. "There just doesn't seem to be any angry music out there at the moment and it boggles me because life's still shit, doesn't matter how much money you've got in the bank. There's still some c- pissing you off. "(Sings) 'Daddy was an alcoholic'. What a bunch of miserable, moaning tuckers..."
Do acts like So Solid Crew provide that necessary rock'n'roll thrill these days?
Andy: "Well, I can understand kids at school probably talk about them, that they provide that element of notoriety. But I think there's room for guitar bands to do that as well."
Liam: "The music's not dangerous though, is it? That's what I'm saying. I've got a mic and it's more dangerous than his gun... (A pause) I don't mind So Solid, though. I just like the idea of a bunch of fookin' oiks running around causing chaos. But anyone else? I don't see The Strokes as dangerous, or The Hives. Fookin' hell! They remind me of the fookin' Monkees! The Strokes the best band in America? Well, it's about fookin' time they had a decent band there. They're not remotely dangerous."
Compared to who, Oasis?
"Too fookin' right, man. I'm more dangerous than any c-. Put me in a room with any of these young fookin' bands today. They wouldn't fookin' walk out alive, and I'd put money on it. And then they can come and see me in ten years' time and I'll still be having it."
Are there any rock stars who do stand the test of time?
Liam: "John Lydon is cool. I saw him at this awards thing and he said he'd never seen such a bunch of wankers on one stage. And he was right. Now if I'd been up there then I would have had to have a word. But he's probably one of the cleverest men in the game. He's still fighting."
And Keith Richards?
"I don't think we'd get on somehow. He thinks he's the only guy who's ever drunk or taken drugs in his life, the only man who's ever swore or stumbled. And y'know, I've done it with the best of 'em. They (The Rolling Stones) don't do anything.Make a record, you lazy bastards!"
Oasis might be on the verge of getting serious again, but with Liam around you can never be too sure how long that's going to last. There's only so much music he can talk about and before long, the conversation has taken a definite turn for the surreal. First up, Mastermind. Liam, it seems, has been invited on.
"Fookin' seriously, man," he declares, shaking his head and dragging himself back to some resemblance of normal service. "They want me to go on and answer questions about Manchester City. Now it's not gonna look good for me, is it? Sitting in some fookin' black chair while some c- makes me look like an idiot!" He's started so he'll finish. From here, we move on to Pop Idol.
Liam: "Listen, I've got something to say about that. People voting for their fookin' favourite band is a load of wank. It's a con. It either happens or it don't. That show is like diarrhoea. It's like sitting on the toilet all day and then (grimaces) something comes out. Then before you know it there's a fookin' flood. You ought to see my TV, it's covered in spit 'cos I got that close to it going, ' (Mimes head an inch from the screen, incandescent with fury as Will Young croons 'Evergreen') YOU... FUCKING... C-!"'
Then to his attitude to flying post-September 11...
"I've been on plenty of planes since then. All it means is that now the forms we have to fill in to go there are 20 pages longer. Anyway, I reckon they've got it all wrong. I know who fookin' did it. It was the Scream. I'm gonna send a letter to President Bush telling him who did it: Scottish c-. Havin' it large. Skinny fooker Gillespie."
Onto the Queen's forthcoming Golden Jubilee.
"Big-eared bunch of c-s! I don't give a fook about'em. They should get rid of the Queen's head on the ten pound note, course they should. If they put anyone's head on the new money, put mine on it. That or Prince Charles with a strap-on! Thinking about it though, I might gatecrash that party. No, took it. I think I'll be having a rather large shit that day."
And then off to the World Cup.
"We were in the studio the other day and someone was saying 'Little By Little' will be the anthem for when England beat Argentina and I was like, 'Piss off!' It'll be 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' coming out as a single and them lot crying their cocks off in Japan, getting stuffed by some c- about eight-nil. And then catching the next fookin' plane home. 'Cos that's what's gonna happen. Everyone thinks England are gonna win the World Cup but no way. Y'know, if we do, fair play to 'em. But there's too many fookin' Man United players in that team for it to be winning the World Cup."
We're on a roll. But suddenly, just as Liam is about to launch into outer space, we're interrupted. Brrmg! Brrrrng! It's girlfriend Nicole. The milkman's just arrived and it's four o'fookin' clock in the afternoon.
Liam: "What time does he call this? I want me milk and me eggs and me oranges at eight o'clock in the morning like everyone else!"
Maybe he thinks, because it's you, you won't mind.
Liam: "No way, man. I don't have to be in a band but I do it when I'm meant to, so why shouldn't he?"
If God organised a roll call of the all-time rock greats upstairs in the VIP enclosure beyond the pearly gates you know who'd get the call -Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain. But right in the middle of them, having bagged in with a day-pass, you'd find Liam Gallagher, elbowing them out of the way, making sure they knew some real talent was there. In a Brit rock world that's descended into an apologetic mess in his absence, he's needed more than ever. Right, Liam?
But he's gone, striding up the stairs to the bar, off to mastermind another grand night out. Off to flick another V-sign at, er, the status quo. God gave him soul, for sure. But the point is, he is rock'n'roll.