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Sunday, June 07, 2009
The reformed bad boy of britpop has toned down his lifestyle to early-morning runs, PTA meetings and a career in fashion design
It’s said that rock gods never die, they always smelt like that. Liam Gallagher, though, is immaculately groomed for his Style photoshoot. And — I know this is a rather inappropriate thing to note in the circumstances — his skin looks amazing. With not a make-up artist in sight. “I don’t have manicures or anything. But I’m into male grooming. Why not?” says the former alpha hellraiser. “I splash a bit of water on my d*** every morning, if that’s what you mean.”
Ah, Liam Gallagher. Don’t you just love him? The man who made a whole nation of teenage girls swoon with his swagger, the frontman of not only Oasis, but also of Cool Britannia (as pictured in that iconic cover of Vanity Fair in 1997 with his first wife, Patsy Kensit). As part of Oasis, there were the albums (Definitely, Maybe was the fastest-selling debut ever), the brawls with the paps, the mouthy feuds with rivals (Blur v Oasis lasted for years), and the fights with his brother. And then there were the girls, booze and drug-fuelled nights at brother Noel’s London home, Supernova Heights. Then it all went rather quiet.
Several years on, in a cafe in Brighton, I find Gallagher a different man; he’s here to promote a different venture: his new fashion label, Pretty Green. Gallagher himself could forgive us for laughing, confessing as he does that it isn’t a natural meeting of minds. “Yeah, it’s all a bit silly. They take themselves f***in’ seriously, don’t they?” he says of the fashion lot. “I’ve been to one show — a Versace one. Got really pissed. Got really high. Jumped on the catwalk, took the piss out of them. Nearly got shot. I was with the missus, Patsy. And her, what’s she called?” Donatella.
“Yeah, she was cool, man. But I’d been drinking… And I just got a bit carried away over the whole occasion.” But, as he sagely tells me, “as you get older you smarten up, don’t you?”
The 36-year-old certainly looks smart today, wearing a deep-chocolate mac done all the way up to counter the drizzle, dark soft denim and, following the unofficial men’s “only one statement item” rule, a magnificent pair of “Yves f***in’ Saint Laurent f***in’ ponyskin loafers. I’ve got three pairs of the bastards”.
If today’s model is anything to go by, Gallagher hasn’t only smartened up, he’s grown up, too, in ways that seem a million miles away from the old 1990s model. When we meet outside the Grand Hotel, he rushes to me, hand outstretched. He talks amicably with the out-of-work extras who stumble upon the shoot, and is concerned that the cafe we’re using as a location might be losing business. It’s a conciliatory attitude, extended even to his former rival. “What do I think about Blur re-forming? Fair play to ’em. I absolutely despised them, I thought they were a bunch of pussies. But when you look back, they were actually pretty good. Damon Albarn, I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s all right. You do things when you’re young and you think your shit don’t stink.”
Now he’s older, things are definitely different. He finally married Nicole Appleton, with whom he has been for a decade and for whom he wrote the acoustic ballad Songbird, at Marylebone register office last year, in a ceremony, he quipped, that cost him only £18. And he’s an active dad to Lennon Francis (his son with Kensit, who is 10 this year) and Gene (8 in July). They live in a cottage in Hampstead, “Two-up, two-down. I’m proud of it, but it’s getting a bit tiny for them to have playmates round. Lennon's good at football and very well behaved. Gene’s great at art, but he’s got a bit of the devil in him, that one. He’s a rock star.”
Gallagher says he rises at 6.30am to go running on Hampstead Heath, takes the kids to school and picks them up in the evening. “Then I go to bed a six-thirty at night, ha! School’s one of my big things. Go to the parents’ evenings, yep, sit in those little chairs that it takes you nine hours to get up out of. The headmaster’s called David. He’s a top bloke, a Beatlehead.” Like Paul McCartney, is he insisting on sending them to state schools? “They go to private school. Without a doubt. I don’t feel guilty. My kids deserve to be there as much as a doctor’s. I’m not working-class, I’ve got a massive house in Henley.”
Can this really be Liam Gallagher talking? He is a quasi-divine figure to some — men are in awe of him in a manner they don’t reserve for the Lewis Hamiltons and Jude Laws of this world. Although I have a few of their records, I’m no Oasis homo, but Liam’s world-view is certainly infectious. In difficult situations, in the days to come, I find myself asking, “What would Liam do?” The yawning chasm in the straight male, aged 18 to 40, self-help-book market awaits — How to Be Fookin’ Top, perhaps, or My Bastard Book. If not, then at least Pretty Green means more of Gallagher as a personality rather than iconic front man.
When I catch up with him on the phone a week later, he’s hosting a barbecue at that second home in Henley-on-Thames. “The kids are buzzin’, there’s flying ants everywhere, we’re having margaritas — I’m on my 20th,” he tells me, painting another picture of his and Nic’s domestic bliss. Then he begins to expound upon the joys of interior decor and gardening. “Nic does the cooking and I do the curtains. I’m not into all the modern stuff, I like classic, my house is pretty old-school. I like velvet sofas, quite grand.” And the garden too? “I’m really into pots at the moment. Big f***ing pots. And big concrete owls. I’ve got one called Noel because he’s just a miserable-looking little bastard. And I’ve got, hang on... Nic! What’s that film called with the mole and the windmill? Wind in the Willows. I’ve got a scene of them down in the garden.”
Luckily for him — and us — it isn’t quite all gnomes down the bottom of the garden for Liam Gallagher these days. His latest catch phrase is the very post-credit crunch, “Get on and get it f***in’ done.” Which is what he says he did with the fashion label; a range of modish menswear essentials, it’s directed by Gallagher and tailored by Nick Holland, of Holland Esquire, and, naturally, “was born round a pool in LA”, he relays. “Steve [Allen, his constant companion — and one of the partners in Pretty Green] and I were staying up by the marina. Our Kid and everyone else was down by the beach partying, but I’m tryin’ to stay away from that stuff, I’m really into running at the moment. And I says, I fancy doing some of this stuff. Started off just wanting to make desert boots.”
While these desert boots are currently in production, the first collection boasts polo shirts, hats, scarves, knits and a classic fishtail parka. So far, so Liam Gallagher. Are there not, I ask, enough people going round dressed like him as it is? “I’ve never met one, but I’ve heard they’re around,” he says. “On one of our websites there’s an advert, ‘Buy Oasis-style clothes’. I clicked on it and there’s all these idiots ripping off the clothes I’ve been buying. So I just thought, ‘Right, we’ve got to nail this and do it proper.’”
The range falls into the higher end of what the fashion industry calls its ‘mostly heterosexual’ older lads’ market. It’s not only the clothes that are getting the proper treatment right now, though. This summer, after several years in hiding, Oasis (like old friends Blur) are going on tour again. Gallagher insists he is still pumped at the thought. “The day it isn’t exciting is the day it goes dark.”
Surely he’ll be missing this domestic bliss on tour… right? “It is hard. But I was doing this before. They’ve got their lives to live, they’ve got to go to school, I’ve got to keep them as far away from all this as possible. When we do our concerts they come and all that, and they reap the benefits, and you wonder if it’s good for them to be spoilt, but this is what pays the bills, and I reckon if I was at home all the time I’d do their heads in. Of course I miss ’em, but that’s life.”
At this point, it would be easy to imagine the Oasis tour bus as having organic smoothies in the fridge and the brood constantly on Skype. But, thankfully, just before I go, Liam reminds me that his metamorphosis into a pillar of the Hampstead and Henley communities doesn’t quite extend that far. “For me, the rider’s tequila. There’s no snorting coke off dwarves’ heads though. They’ve all grown up and run off.” Our kid’s still in there. Somewhere.
Via L4E source: timesonline.co.uk
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