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Thursday, March 26, 2009
Liam Gallagher: Mild at Heart
Former bad boy Liam Gallagher tells Charlie Carter how he's settled down and grown up. Well, mostly ...
By his own admission, Brit-pop superstar Liam Gallagher is a reformed character.
When Oasis visit Hong Kong for a gig next month, gone will be the wild man who was banned from flying with Cathay Pacific for an airborne punch-up on a flight to Perth after their first show in the city in 1997 and in his place will be a calmer, more mature Gallagher who prefers a night indoors to one out on the town.
"I've done my partying," the former hellraiser says. "I like to be with the missus and our kid. We just go round people's houses or they come round to ours."It's a far cry from the young upstart from Manchester who rose to fame in the mid-1990s with a band that blazed bright at the vanguard of a newfound British rock euphoria, the banner-wavers of the Brit-pop sound.
Although there was little new about Oasis' musical style, theirs was the first British pop in a long time that swaggered. Songs such as Wonderwall, Don't Look Back in Anger and Supersonic, although lyrically meaningless, had an ambition about them that ideally suited the times.
Adding to the myth was Liam and his songwriting brother Noel's penchant for fighting and partying. Rarely did a week pass when they weren't splashed over the tabloids for coming to blows in public, making outrageous statements or rumours of rampant drug ta!
Most prominent was their public rivalry with fellow Brit-! poppers Blur, which came to a head in 1995 when both bands released comeback tracks from new albums on the same day in what was billed as the "Brit-pop wars". Oasis lost that battle - Blur's Country House beat the Mancunians' Roll With It to the top spot - but with more than 10 million albums sold, they eventually won the war.
These days, it's Noel who tends to grab the headlines with his carousing. "Noel is out on the piss all the time," Liam says by telephone a day after a gig in Milan, part-way through the band's world tour promoting new album Dig Out Your Soul.
"Him and his missus like hanging out with all the comics and things like that."The suggestion that the younger Gallagher may have gone soft raises a few bristles and sees him regain his cockiness for a moment: "Listen, mate, I'm not teetotal. I have calmed down a little bit without a doubt. But not too much, I hope." And regarding that airline incident, he is resolute: "I don't regret anything," he says. "We did a show and went on the piss, you know what I mean? No one got hurt.
"The Gallaghers' relationship remains one of the oddest in rock. They fight in public, more than once resulting in Noel walking out on the band. Their credibility in the US was wrecked twice when the band cancelled tours after rows, one of which ended with Noel stomping out and a second that saw Liam refusing to leave Britain and instead go flat-hunting in London.
Today, Liam admits the two rarely fraternise outside of the band."We don't go for walks in the park. We don't go for brunches or lunches or whatever," he deadpans in his Mancunian drawl.
"That's the way it is - he's a different person from me, I'm a different person from him. We both live in London and, yeah, I could just go round his house, but I don't want to. I don't feel the need to go round and see my brother's head. And I'm sure it's the same for him."
Guitarist Gem Archer has also noticed a difference in the once-warring Gallaghers."There's a definite maturity that's becoming more apparent," says Gem, who! joined the band 10 years ago. "We've all got kids and we're all in it for the right reasons. It's about the music, not the money or the fame.
"It's not just the Gallaghers who've changed - the band is a whole different proposition from the snarly youngsters who burst on to the scene in the 90s. When they play the AsiaWorld-Arena on April 7, they'll be promoting Dig Out Your Soul, which has won critical acclaim for moving the band away from the so-called Oasis sound of Beatles-influenced melodies with an indie feel.
Archer attributes this to the band's new drummer, Chris Sharrock, who took the stool from Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey, and to the recording process for Soul."This album was a really easy process - from top to bottom in seven weeks," he says. "We didn't demo it, and it takes time to be able to do that. There's a certain amount of telepathy you need to do that."They have even changed their tune regarding old rivals Blur, who have reformed eight years after guitarist Graham Coxon walked out, leaving singer Damon Albarn to front the band.
"I'm happy that they're back together, 'cos then they can hopefully get rid of the Kaiser Chiefs," he says. "Now that I've grown up a little bit and got wiser, I'm happy for them, to be quite honest." He doesn't plan to be at their comeback gigs, though: "I don't think I'll be welcome. Me and Damon are all right, but I just don't want any of their fans getting heavy with me.
"The present tour, as planned, presented Oasis with a few more milestones. One not likely to be achieved, though, will be their first gigs on the mainland. The four-piece had been due to play in Shanghai and Beijing before performing in Hong Kong, but those shows were cancelled. The band say it's because Noel performed at a Tibetan freedom concert several years ago, a charge Beijing denies.
One thing they will achieve, however, is their first all-stadium trek around Britain, playing football grounds such as Wembley. It's a big deal even for! a band that filled Knebworth - a huge venue - for two nights !in 1996, playing to an estimated 500,000 people.
"Initially when we put out the dates, I thought 'I hope someone knows what they're doing here'," says Archer. "And when they all sold by 3pm, it was pretty breathtaking. Playing stadiums is the ultimate buzz. It was a dream when I was in London, busking."Liam is less philosophical: "I play small gigs, I play big gigs, I play really big gigs. It's all the same to me."But one gig he won't be playing is Glastonbury.
Although the band was welcomed at the British festival with open arms early in their career, their last appearance, in 2005, was a shambolic affair marred by a lacklustre performance and jeers from the audience."No, I'm never playing that place again," Liam says. "It's s***. I don't like it, it's full of idiots and paparazzi taking pictures of you when you're out of your head, know what I mean? That's no good. I don't like the sound either, the f***ing sound system is s***."
Oasis Live in Hong Kong, Apr 7, 8pm, AsiaWorld-Arena,!
HK International Airport, Lantau, HK$380-HK$780, HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 2629 6240
Via L4e source: South China Morning Post
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