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Friday, August 21, 2009
Liam Gallagher: It Takes MoreThan Blood to Be My Brother
Other people’s fastidious timekeeping shouldn’t really bother us, but seriously, what the hell kind of a rock n roll star turns up to a photoshoot early? In fact, Liam Gallagher arrives at the Kentish Town studio to meet NME not only early but all on his tod, too. There’s no blustering entourage, no fanfare from gilded, whiskey-swigging cherubim, just Liam, who swaggers breezily across the room, in a way that’s so idiosyncratic, so perfectly Liam, that you could probably get away with flogging courses in it on the merch stands at Oasis gigs.
The distinctive saunter we expected, but the affable pre-shoot natter about the holiday he’s just about to take to Miami with his family knocks us a tad sideways. See, to be in a room with Liam Gallagher is to be in a room with a man who is well aware that he’s one of the coolest things on the planet – but what makes him so unique is that he acts like everyone else there has the potential to be one too. He’s massively self-assured, certainly, but gracious with it. Put simply, Liam Gallagher is not a dick.
Liam is also, of course, set this weekend to headline V Festival for the second time in four years, with what might – OK, almost certainly will – be the last British Oasis shows for some time. That he and Noel have not been getting along of late is no secret (thanks to their respective Internet posts), but while a betting man might have put all his – ahem – pretty green on the older Gallagher going solo, it’s in fact his little brother who’s branched out first. Blame it on the credit crunch, or blame it on a poolside flight of fancy spawned in Los Angeles late last year – we’d advise you to go for the latter – but, as you’re probably aware, Liam has branched out into fashion.
Except, of course, he’d rather you didn’t call it fashion – today he refers to it as the far more utilitarian “clobber”. The name Pretty Green has been lovingly filched from the Jam song of the same name (they didn’t ask Paul Weller’s permission, but he is, apparently, “mad for it”). Under said moniker, Liam has taken it upon himself to put out a line of high quality classics and fastidiously designed blokes’ basics, with a nod to the polished styling of the Quadrophenia mods. Primark it isn’t.
“It’s just natural, innit – you gotta fucking want to look good,” posits Liam, well aware that style and music are closely-related pursuits. “Who wants to look shit?” Well, in the land of Liam, there are obviously quite a lot of folk who settle for just that, including “all that fucking indie horrible smelly lot from Camden”. We ask him to be more specific, expecting to hear the name Doherty trip off his tongue, but he’s keeping his cards close to his chest for the moment. “You know who I mean, all them fucking gypos, rips in the jeans and all that shit.” So what exactly does Liam like? “I like people who look like they’ve had a fucking wash.” We point out that La Roux, who we’ve just shown an unimpressed Liam a picture of wearing a floor-length golden robe, has probably had a wash. “How do you know she’s had a fucking wash with all them fucking curtains on?” he counters.
Back in June a promotional film for Pretty Green appeared online, full of shots of a sharp-looking Liam mooching around Brighton to the soundtrack of hi snarling song “Man Of Misery”. So, who is this man of misery, then? “Ah, it’s me, innit,” he confesses, in a way that verges on the zen-like. You’re a man of misery, we ask, finding it somewhat hard to believe that the sweary, though seemingly contented, chap next to us could have anything to mope about.
“Yeah, all the time.” You seem quite perky, we say. “I am perky, but I have my moments. Every song I write’s about me, man. It’s all about fucking me.”
Now this is where we beg to differ, because as important as Liam is to Liam, someone else is undeniably part of the equation, someone who isn’t even in the room today, but might as well be for the amount of time Liam talks about him.
“I’d love to see our kid wear it,” says Liam, when we ask who he’d like to see sporting some Pretty Green wear. “I gave him some bits and bobs, but I’m sure he threw it in the bin. I only done it to be polite, anyway,” he adds, a touch sulkily. Ah, Noel – we wondered when he’d come up in the conversation. So has your brother told you what he thinks of Pretty Green? “He hasn’t told me what he thinks of anything this year,” admits Liam. “We’ve not got much to say to each other at the moment.”
But you must know him well enough to hazard a guess at what he thinks about it? “Oh, I reckon he fucking loves it and he’s mad jealous of the fact that I fucking pipped him at the post. He’s not gonna say it, though, is he?” You think he’d like to do something similar? “Yeah, fucking right.” What do you think his range would look like? “Pretty Small”, quips Liam, quick as a flash, placing his hands on the ground about 12 inches apart. “What would it look like? It would look like old mans’ gear. He’s got an old man vibe going on, our kid, big woolly jumpers and shit like that and cardigans... Terry Wogan. Val Doonigan shit.”
At 36 years old, Liam has been in Oasis for half his life, so to now embark on a whole new line of business must be rather odd. Obviously not too peculiar, though; it’s hardly like he’s gone and got himself a part-time job answering phones on reception at the Manchester Evening News offices. The worlds of music and fashion have plenty in common but, importantly, neither of them are places for the weak-willed, hence why Liam seems to be relishing the Pretty Green project. Yet what must be weirder than ambling down a new career path is the fact that for the first time since he formed Oasis, he’s pretty much on his own – to all intents and purposes, Pretty Green is Liam Gallagher, solo.
“It’s nice to be able to do it and get involved with it,” begins Liam of branching out on his lonesome, “you know what I mean, without fucking Parker staring down you and fucking giving you dirty looks and tutting.” And there he is again – even though today Liam is well within his rights to have the spotlight all to himself, Noel’s presence looms large, even if, by the sound of their online and Twitter-based war of words, the two brothers detest one another. NME decides to investigate.
Noel’s got his own tour diary going on and he’s been having a few pops at you. “Yeah, I think it’s pretty funny, man.”
Does he ever actually say stuff like that to your face? “No chance.”
Why wouldn’t he? “Because he’s a fucking lightweight and he knows where he’d end up.”
Where would he end up? “On the floor in the NME.”
So he says all that stuff about you and your “man period” and you’re saying stuff back. On Twitter. “Mmm...it’s good, innit?”
Would you say that to his face? “Oh yeah, I’m a lot harder than him... I say it to his face and I say it on Twitter.”
You’re using the Internet as a way to have a conversation. “Yeah, because we don’t travel together, do we... so I never really see him, the only time I see him is onstage and we’re a little busy [at] that time to be fucking scratching each other.”
So you’ve got to use technology... “We don’t have to, we don’t have to, but he says his thing and I’ll...to save the fucking tour imploding...y’know, it’s a lot easier.”
What was the last proper face-to-face conversation you had? “I think it might have been about some fucking shit support band he wanted to play with us and he didn’t ask my permission.”
Who were they? “I’m not telling. So we had a fucking ding-dong in the airport and I think he started crying then – that was it – doesn’t travel with me anymore.”
Do you mind not chatting? He is your brother... “I don’t give a fuck mate. It takes a lot more than blood to be my brother.”
Do you think its going to carry on for the foreseeable future? “Who knows, we just do the gigs and he’ll get out of it and I’ll get out of it and we’ll see what happens. We don’t need to talk, we’re not here to talk. We’re here to make music, play concerts.”
Was there a specific trigger behind the whole not-talking thing? “It just happened. He doesn’t like me and I don’t like him, that’s it. We’re grown men, you know what I mean, and as long as the music... as long as we do the tour, that’s all that matters.”
The tour – a whopping 13-month jaunt across the globe – draws to a close at the end of this month, with V Festival the last UK dates, and it seems it couldn’t have come a moment sooner.
But what happens next? Noel recently commented that the band would all be five years older by the time they make another record. Liam isn’t overly keen on this arrangement. “It it was up to me I’d have six months off and then get straight back in the studio and make records.
That’s what I’m in Oasis for. I’m not here to fucking sit around for five years fucking twiddling my thumbs. We’re not getting any younger, we’ve got the tunes, let’s go and make fucking music.” So, what’s Liam going to do – give it a few months? “Let’s see, let him go home and fucking adjust his bra strap and see.”
But what if said undergarment tinkering doesn’t lead to anything – will Liam have to give Noel a poke if he hears nothing? “I won’t be calling him, man. I’m ready to go – I’ve got my tunes... I’m gonna wait, hear what the manager’s saying and that. I’m up for it, man, I’m ready to go. I could do an album tomorrow.” Liam, you see, has written “shitloads” of “amazing” tracks.
“Loads, mate. I’ve got enough for an album anyway.” Some might say there seems to be a pretty obvious solution to this dilemma – record them solo. Liam’s professed not to want to do a solo music project in the past and today he’s still certain that nothing could convince him, not even his brother calling a half-decade hiatus. “Not interested... I’m in Oasis, I like being in a band.” So if you want to hear Liam’s songs, then you’ll have to be willing to wait, just like Liam. “They’re classics, they’re not trendy or anything,” he explains, “they can come out whenever. They can come out in 20 years, 30 years. They might not ever come out, you know what I mean?”
Sitting next to us in a pair of jeans and the ubiquitous parka, Liam is hardly breaking new ground style-wise. It’s a far cry from the eccentric androgynous flair of an early ‘70s Bowie or even Johnny Rotten in his ripped Vivienne Westwood bondage trousers, but he is just as likely a fashion icon. Why? Because where most celebrated fashion statements in music could only be credibly and successfully sported by their progenitors – think Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special leather jumpsuit, Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier conical bra or Amy Winehouse’s skyscraping beehive – Liam’s look translates. When his style filter down to the masses it doesn’t get any weaker, it gets stronger.
What has always been true about Liam still is – that he could be your brother, your uncle, your rowdy mate with the problem with authority and fondness for effin’ and blindin’ – but, of course he isn’t, because he’s Liam bloody Gallagher. An everyman fashion icon and bloke of the people, his fans wear what he wears and he wears what the fans wear – only the more expensive versions. The male equivalent of Lady Gaga he most certainly is not – the odd leopard-print loafer aside, Gallagher doesn’t do experiementation.
A ‘capsule’ Pretty Green collection is currently available on the website, offering up a selection of monkey jackets, scarves, polo shirts and hats emblazoned with the ‘Rubber Soul’- referencing Pretty Green logo, which is circular because, in Liam’s unquestionable logic, “round things look cooler”. The standout piece from the small first collection is Liam’s own personal fashion pride and joy – the parka. “We started off with the parkas, I’m not into any of these fancy parkas that cost a grand,” Liam explains. At £245, the limited edition Pretty Green version is still more than your average week’s pocket money, but it makes the point of setting the bar high. This is no shonky quality, corner-cutting celebrity sponsored line and, frankly, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Liam’s been working with master tailor Nick Holland and the forthcoming collection boasts a whole host of slick duds, including suede desert boots, made the way Liam likes them – with a square, non-pointy toe.
“They’re just the fucking bollocks, aren’t they?” he says effusively of the mighty desert boot. The range – which is based on a classic black and ivory colour palette – also includes a double-breasted pea coat and ‘60s-style paisley scarves. So, with classy gents pieces of clothing such as these in mind, what should every man have in his wardrobe?
Liam thinks hard... but maybe not too hard. “A blow-up doll.” Um, what about something to wear? He thinks again. “Should have a decent suit, man...” We enquire as who he thinks does a decent suit these days. “I’m not gonna plus anyone now, man, these are the competition.” You see, Pretty Green are going to be putting out a suit, as well, alongside leather jackets, overcoats, Harringtons... there’s even talk of leather sofas – hell, we wouldn’t be surprised if plans were announced for a Pretty Green codpiece.
Things, however, do not bode too well for the possibility of a Pretty Green womenswear range, as we find out when we somewhat naively ask Liam what he likes to see on the ladies. “What do I like to see them wearing? Nothing.” And then when they’re out on the street? “Nothing... naked all the way, man.” Yep, even though he’s using bleedin’ Egyptian cotton on his granddad tops ad cashmere in his polo necks it doesn’t mean that Liam’s gone soft all of a sudden.
While heckling a crowd member at Oasis’ Roundhouse gig in Camden last month, he firmly made his stand on the pointy shoe, and the too-tight jean also got a battering. “I don’t like it, I just don’t like it,” he says determinedly of the fashion menaces. But doesn’t your mate Serge from Kasabian sport that look? “Yeah, but that’s for him,” he reasons, a flicker of a smirk dancing across his face. “I like him ‘cause of other reasons.
He’s been told about the pointy shoes, been told, man.” And what did he say? “He told me to fuck off.” NME wonders if maybe the fella doth protest too much – has Liam ever, we wonder, in the privacy of his own home, tried slipping his feet into something a bit more angular? “No fucking chance... pointy shoes? Nah man – they’re for girls, aren’t they? They’re dangerous, man. Nah, man, they’re fucking not right.”
Hence Pretty Green’s resolutely square-toed boots as well as the straight leg jeans the label are planning, offering an alternative to the skinny style, loathed by Liam. But by far the most intriguing item is the Jedi-style robe the team currently have in development.
“It’s the Elvis vibe,” declares Liam. “It’s when you come offstage, man,” he says, getting up from his chair to demonstrate. “D’ya know what I mean? You just put your fucking coat on, whack it on ad away you go.” What, on top of your clothes? “No man, get a bit naked for a second.”
Nudity, however, is probably not such a good look if you want to nip to down the shops to check out the full Pretty Green line when it’s unleashed into the wild this autumn, especially seeing as it’s going to be stocked in Liam’s favourite shop, the rather fancy Selfridges. In fact, if you get to the London branch early enough, you can often catch Liam browsing the rails before it gets busy, possibly milling with rock n roll tabloid favourites, such as Ronnie Wood and girlfriend Ekaterina Ivanova, just like he did the last time he nipped in with the family. “It’s a happening place, man. We said, ‘Hello’, he introduced me to his new chick – she didn’t really say much, but she seemed alright.”
In terms of clothes, then, it all sounds pleasant enough, but something bigger here is happening – or, more to the point, not happening. Liam’s sitting on an album’s worth of songs, but is putting out shirts and coats instead. And Noel? Well, he seems to be willing enough to put Oasis on the back burner once the current tour is over. Frankly, we’re a touch concerned about the health of the biggest band in Britain, but Liam seems to be taking it in his stride. “For the first time in my life I haven’t got a fucking clue what’s going on with Oasis, you know what I mean? It’s pretty confusing but I’m not gonna freak out about it.”
The band have had their troubles before and rumours of a split rear their ugly head every few years, including at the end of their 2000 European tour as well as when their greatest hits album ‘Stop The Clocks’ was released in 2006. In fact, it was recently reported that bookies have been offering two-to-one odds on Oasis breaking up before the current tour is out. We’re going to be keeping our cash in our pockets for the time being, though, because is Liam’s not panicking, we’re not going to either. Anyway, in terms of Noel’s own particular issues, it sounds like Liam might just have a solution in mind. “Maybe he needs to go away and do his thing – he’s obviously not happy, is he...”
We’re somewhat confused, but heartened to hear the concern and, dare we say it, the tenderness, that suddenly appears in his voice when talking about Noel, which sits in stark contrast to the vitriol he was spitting in his direction earlier. So what is Noel’s thing? “Who knows, man, maybe he needs to go and do his solo record... fucking hell, I don’t know, I really don’t know.” Would you like him to do a solo record? “If it makes him happy, yeah, if it makes him happy.” What do you think it would sound like? “It would sound very civilised, I reckon.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? “Oh, it’s a fucking awful thing – but maybe it’s a good thing for him.” And a good thing for Oasis too? Our fingers are crossed.
Via L4E source: NME Magazine Via Manchester City FC Forum
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