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Interview by Taylor Hawkins
Photo by Flint Chaney
Liam Gallagher doesn’t need to introduce himself—he only requires unwavering dedication to rock ‘n’ roll. With debut solo album As You Were, the former Oasis frontman swaggers back into the spotlight for another swing. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins sits down with Gallagher to find out what’s the story.
OK. What can I say? I’ve known Liam for probably about 20 years or so. Happy to say I’ve always been on his good side. I want to keep it that way—ha. I love his voice. A perfect cross between John Lydon and John Lennon. I love the way he can stand up onstage not doing one fucking thing, just looking at people, singing, and still captivate a huge crowd. We had the pleasure of seeing him do this in Seoul, South Korea, a couple months ago, and we were due to go on after him … We were a little scared. Ummm, what else? He’s truly fucking hilarious. Really quick, sharp as a tack. In my eyes, he is truly one of the greatest frontmen of my generation. His new record, As You Were, is definitely a return to form, putting him back where he belongs: at the top. —Taylor Hawkins
Taylor Hawkins: OK, first question. Your voice is so loud and so powerful—everyone’s always like, “Oh, Liam punched this guy” or “Liam said this in the interview” or this, that and the other, you know?
Liam Gallagher: Yeah.
Hawkins: A lot of the light never gets shone on the basic fact that you have a really loud, projecting, powerful fucking rock ’n’ roll voice. Do you warm up before shows, or is it natural?
Gallagher: I don’t take care of it as much as I should do, but I try to get a fucking good night’s sleep. And I lay off the cigs on the day of the gig. I don’t do cocaine before I go on.
Hawkins: Anymore. [Both laugh]
Gallagher: I have a little warm-up, I have a little thing about half an hour before we go on. You know what? I’ve never had any real problems with it, really, man. Fingers crossed. I like to think that I’ve got … I don’t classify myself as a singer—more of a fucking human cello. Some days it works, and some days it doesn’t.
Hawkins: That’s the way it draws, man. Some days it’s magic, and some days it’s tragic.
Gallagher: Fingers crossed, man. I just spend the whole day just going, “Fucking hope it’s there.” And if it’s there, good looks, and if it’s not, fuck it.
Hawkins: Exactly. Dave (Grohl)’s same thing. Dave doesn’t really warm up. He doesn’t really do anything.
Gallagher: He drinks a lot of fucking whiskey, though, doesn’t he?
Hawkins: Fuck, he does, dude. If you go to any vocal coach, they’ll tell you that’s the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do.
Gallagher: When you got onstage the other night and he screamed, the first thing he said was, “If I scream like that, I’d have to have 12 more shots.” [Hysterical laughing from both]
Hawkins: Dave’s a fucking superhero. There’s no question. He’s a fucking superhero.
Gallagher: Animal, man. And he’s got that voice, too.
Hawkins: Oh, fuck yeah. I love his voice. He’s powerful, too, and he’s loud, just like you. I have a thin, little wispy voice, and if I had to sing all set, it’d be done by the end, no question. But you guys both have these loud, projecting, lead-singer voices.
Gallagher: That allows the band a little area as well then, you know what I mean?
Hawkins: Totally. You guys were fucking great that night, dude. It was really, really … We were a little shaky before we went on after we watched you. We were like, “Fuck!”
Gallagher: You always play a bit better when there are people around you who are good, and I mean that.
Hawkins: I think so, too. I mean, for us, it seems like it can go two ways. Either that’s gonna push us up a notch, or we’re gonna get a little “in ourselves” a bit too much. I got some other questions for you. The first question that I came up with is: Is it lonely now, being a solo dude? When you’re the guy … I know you were probably the de facto leader of the band. I know it was a band, but you were probably the leader of the band. But now it’s Liam Gallagher—it’s you. You have a great band, and they play like a band. Is it lonely?
Gallagher: I prefer it being a band, I guess, with all the people I went to school with and all that, because then you know each other inside out, you know what I mean? The new band, we’re getting to know each other slowly but surely. We don’t really hang out that much; we don’t say a lot, but I don’t feel lonely. Man, I’ve got multiple fucking personalities, so there’s a lot going on inside my head. I just chat with myself inside my head, so I’m all right.
Hawkins: Got it, got it. I kinda figured. I would never think to myself, “Oh, Liam’s lonely,” ever. It’s a different thing, when you set out to do a Liam Gallagher tour. It’s a little different. It’s all you in the front and your name is on the bottom of that fucking check, you know?
Gallagher: I say what it is. I say what it is. I’m an indecisive fucking bastard. Someone comes up to me and goes, “I like that … ” I can’t just agree on it and get stuck to it. I’m kinda like, “Oh, what do you fucking think?” I kinda like sharing the bag, you know what I mean? I guess that’s the only pain in the ass. It’s all about you making decisions, which I’m not good at.
Hawkins: If you do another solo record, do you think you’ll do it the way you did this time? Do you think you’ll work with different writers and different musicians and all that?
Gallagher: Yeah, I think so. I mean, the band was put together like that, so it was me, and I called Dan—there’s a producer called Dan (Grech-Marguerat)—and then obviously I did some stuff with Greg Kurstin. At this moment in time, I’ve only got one fucking tune for the next album, so it all depends—if it goes well, people want another one, I guess I’ll do another one, but at the moment there are no fucking new songs. I definitely don’t mind making music. I like working with Greg Kurstin when I write, so definitely, man.
Hawkins: It worked out. I like the way that it’s a different kind of sonic experience you get.
Gallagher: Exactly, man. I trust myself as a singer a lot more than a songwriter, so if I write some, hopefully this time next year … I sort of believe the songs will come, and I think I want these people, I guess.
Hawkins: How important is using the studio to you? Do you get involved? Do you come in there and say, “Oh, I wanna do this, and I want my voice to have this many delays on it.”
Gallagher: I’m not a studio—I don’t really know much about studios. I was always kind of … I know where the fucking “louder button” is. I know where that is. I let the producers do it. I know how to turn me up. I know where that is.
Hawkins: “I wanna turn up my voice right here. Do something like that.” You let those guys do it.
Gallagher: I know where it needs double tracking, definitely. I always sing dry, man. I never add those effects on.
Hawkins: Same with Dave. Dave’s the same way. He likes to hear nothing but his voice.
Gallagher: ’Cause that’s the truth. I want it to sound like when I’m sitting in the room playing the guitar at home. I want it to be kinda like that. The majority of it. I like it dry ’cause you can feel it.
Hawkins: Kind of the rule of thumb I always thought of: If it sounds good just you and an acoustic guitar, then it’s gonna sound good either way. What’s your favorite studio? I don’t know if you care about studios. We love going to different studios, and we find the experience of each studio to kind of lend itself differently to the situation and the recording we pick.
Gallagher: Obviously, I’ve been going to Abbey Road, and that’s all right. The one where I recorded this album in England is called Snap!, a little shithole with one live room and where you record it, and that’s that. It was good, man. I could definitely work there again. There was a place in Richmond by this geezer who wrote, like, “(Simply) The Best” for Tina Turner. And he based it on Abbey Road, so it’s a smaller studio, and that’s got good gear. That’s a good studio. I worked there with Beady Eye. Anywhere that’s got the old gear in it, man.
Hawkins: I sometimes get into the history of studios. A lot of times when I’m in London, I’ll go over to Saint Anne’s Court down in Soho ’cause Trident Studios is there. I love Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and all that, and I just wanted to go stand by the door that he walked into. I don’t know why.
Gallagher: I used to do that. There was one called Olympic Studios where they did “Sympathy For The Devil.” And that was a good studio, but I don’t think that’s there anymore. I think it closed down. And there’s one called Konk—that’s the Kinks—that’s around the corner from my house and is a nice studio.
Hawkins: Is that still there?
Gallagher: That’s still there, yeah.
Hawkins: They did like all their ’70s shit there, didn’t they?
Gallagher: Yeah, and I think the White Stripes did something there as well, years ago. I’m not a studio guy, but I do like chalking big fat lines out on the desk.
Hawkins: Well, there you go. Gotta have a good desk. You can’t do that on a laptop.
Gallagher: Exactly! Exactly!
Hawkins: OK, this is a funny question, Liam, and this is from me to you, and you can say whatever you want. But this is a fun question, and it’s a question only I would ask you. My favorite band of all time, probably if I had to pick one, is the Beatles because they’re just like the Bible to me, you know what I mean? That’s the beginning, you know. That’s everything that came after. Anyway: Do you like Queen?
Gallagher: Do I like Queen? Uh, not really, no. I mean, I get Freddie Mercury has a great voice and all that, and obviously they’ve got some great songs. But I do find them a bit Queen-y. [Hawkins laughs] Listen, they’re a top band and obviously they’ve got great songs, but I dunno, man. Brian May’s guitar sound sounds like he’s got it clogged in his ass.
Hawkins: Poor Brian. I love Brian.
Gallagher: I respect him and all that, but I don’t know, man.
Hawkins: OK, that’s funny. That’s a good one. I like that. OK, next question. What about American bands? What American bands from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s?
Gallagher: Guns N’ Roses. I do like, is it Creedence Clearwater Revival? I like them. He’s got a good voice, that John Fogerty.
Hawkins: Oh fuck, dude, we played with him. He’s fucking loud—he’s like you. He’s just fucking loud.
Gallagher: He’s got a good voice. And obviously Hendrix and all that.
Hawkins: What about when all the ’90s shit was going on, and you guys were getting ready to fight your war over there?
Gallagher: I did like Nirvana, and I liked some of the tunes. Who else was out at the time? I wasn’t a big fan of Pearl Jam.
Gallagher: All the grunge stuff was a bit different for me, I’ll be honest with you. There’s a few bands.
Hawkins: Few songs here and there.
Gallagher: I was kind of caught up in all the old stuff. I was kind of into the Monkees and all that when all that stuff was going down.
Hawkins: Well, it’s like you guys were kind of having your same sort of thing like what was happening in Seattle, in a way. English version.
Gallagher: Exactly. And I like Guns N’ Roses. They’ve got some tunes.
Hawkins: Yeah, they do. And they’re powerful, and they still sound good on the radio today, you know? When you hear fucking “Welcome To The Jungle” or fucking “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” it’s a classic fucking song. When Oasis came out and all these other bands came out at the same time, and the critics they love to use this kind of a word to describe one genre, but there’s nothin’ like it. Do you fucking hate Britpop?
Gallagher: I fucking hate that word, mate. We weren’t fucking pop. To me, I felt it was us and the Verve. We were different scenes, were like a classic rock ’n’ roll band. Britpop to me was Pulp, Menswear, Blur, all these stupid little Camden bands that were all jolly as fuck, you know what I mean? We wanted to play, man. I personally always found that word fucking insulting.
Hawkins: I think it is, too.
Gallagher: The Verve and Oasis—we were thinking way bigger than Britpop. We were a classic rock ’n’ roll band.
Hawkins: I see that. And also, it’s the same thing with grunge. You can’t say Nirvana and Pearl Jam sound anything alike—they’re not the same kind of fucking music, really. Just ’cause of an era. They have to simplify shit.
Gallagher: It’s just fucking journalists, isn’t it? Lazy cunts. I felt like Blur and all that—they were doing like just jolly kind of weird, fucking stupid music. “Champagne Supernova” is a boss fucking tune. They were all jumping about it with their fingers in their ears.