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Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Liam Gallagher Speaks: "Oasis is No Longer"
Oasis is dead and buried but Liam Gallagher has a new gig. Just don’t call it fashion
Backstage, Paris, pre-Oasis gig, August 28, 2009. Noel and Liam, those Gallagher brothers, have yet another spectacular row. Noel reportedly smashes Liam’s guitar (which had been given to him by his wife Nicole, née Appleton). The show is cancelled.
This is drama, but surely not particularly out-of-the-ordinary drama — after all, the Gallagher brothers, defining members of the defining British band of the past 20 years, have been rowing since they were toddlers. Fraternal aggro is programmed into their DNA. It turns out, though, that this spat is, for Noel at least, an Oasis-killer. Shortly afterwards he formally exits the biggest British band since the Beatles. He posts this explanation: “People will write and say what they like but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
Liam — the only Gallagher still in Oasis — has so far kept shtoom about that bust-up and the future of his band. Informed speculation has it that Oasis is not over; that Liam (the lead singer, the charismatic one, the one the fans chant for even if Noel wrote all the big tunes) will carry on.
Liam Gallagher pronounces Oasis dead, over, kaput, when we are more than halfway through a running-late, already-cancelled-once interview that I had expected — given his boorish, hard-to-handle reputation — to be neither enjoyable nor revelatory. Under no circumstances, ran the edict, would Liam be discussing Noel, his brother’s departure from the band, the future of the band, or anything band-sensitive. Get it? This was to be an interview about clothes; Liam’s passion for them and, most of all, his new fashion label Pretty Green, which some have suggested was a factor in Noel’s apoplectic departure.
Yet by the time Liam, barely prompted, answers the question over which fans and music journalists have been angsting, I am already unsure whether Liam’s reputation is entirely justified. First, though, in barely edited Liamese, here is the bit about which Oasis fans will care most.
Liam: “We’ve always had a lot of fun [he means on tour with the band]. I’ve always had a lot of fun [his eyes flash devilishly]. “That’s why it was never hard work for me. It was a joy and it was always a bit of a bummer when the tour ended. You know [he pauses wistfully], it was great. Obviously you’ve got to get back and see the missus and the kids and all that. Nothing lasts for ever. But it was never, ‘Uh, f***, I need to get off the tour because my head’s up my arse’.” [Could he be referring, obliquely, to Noel? Most probably.]
- Oasis is your band. Is it fair to say that this [gestures at rack of Pretty Green autumn/winter 2009 collection] is a solo projection?” (I meant “solo project” but was nervous. He is a bit unsettling.)
Liam: “Well, Oasis is no longer. I think we all know that. So that’s done.”
- You genuinely feel that?
Liam: “Oh, I know. Without a doubt. And it’s a shame but that’s life. We had a good run at it. The thing about Oasis is, no one … we ended Oasis. No one ended it for us. Which was pretty, kind of … cool (the word “cool” is enunciated with venom). I’m thinking of what the next step is musically, which is all my mind’s on.”
Apart, that is, from Pretty Green, the Liam Gallagher collection of clothes and shoes (and more, but that’s for the future) dreamt up one day last November, in mid-tour, when he was sitting by a pool in Los Angeles with Steve Allen, his security man turned man Friday.
Here’s Liam again: “We started talking about clothes — mainly shoes. I’ve got a big thing for shoes and that. And we just got this Pretty Green thing … it happened. We started writing the name and that, wrote it like a Paul Smith [logo] kind of thing. It looked a bit naff, so we put it in a circle — and away we went.”
Last November, perhaps not entirely by coincidence, there had been a swirl of speculation that Noel planned to go solo. Liam (majority shareholder and ultimate boss of Pretty Green) and Steve (its CEO) all but finalised their logo at the poolside and decided to go for it. Nearly a year later, and this month Pretty Green will put out its first full collection, created by the Nottingham-based menswear designer Nick Holland but utterly subject to Liam’s approval. Apparently he sent back 19 prototype T-shirts because they were not the right weight: Liam hates heavy T-shirts.
Just like Oasis’s songs and the Pretty Green logo (reminiscent of the Rubber Soul album cover), there are a lot of Beatles references in the clothes. There is the majorette hat that Liam calls the Lennon and the fantastic heavy melton coat that he calls The Fool on The Hill. Then there are collarless leather jackets in green, black and burgundy, made from super-soft Wagu leather
Liam: “Remember the old Beatles jackets when they had to wear the suits and that? Before they were aware of their own clothes and Brian Epstein used to make them wear them? So I just thought of like that, get rid of the collar and stuff. And that’s basically my kind of take on it. People might not kind of like that kind of thing. But f *** ’em.”
- Well, f*** ’em to a certain extent, perhaps, Liam. But this is a serious concern, isn’t it, not a sideline vanity project? You want people to like the gear and buy the gear and make Pretty Green a business venture?
Liam: “Yeah, but my take on it is the way I took my music thing. You can’t force it down people’s throats. You either dig it or you don’t. I’m not going to cry overnight, worrying if people are going to buy the clothes or not.”
- Well, I suppose you don’t need to (as in, you’re a multimillionaire). He knows what I mean: “I know what you mean but I’m not going to ram it down people’s throats. I think it’s a lot cooler when you go (spreads his arms) ‘there it is’. And you let people decide for themselves, you know what I mean?”
Liam: “I do. So without ramming it down your throats, let’s just say that is an extremely fine collection of clothes for men. Best of all are the jackets — a gorgeous, I-want-it pea coat in stretchy, yielding, wicked British wool and a beautiful slim-cord number that I imagine Peter Sellers would have leapt upon. That Crimea-cut melton is lovely, too: less expensive and more attractive than D&G’s recent version.
This season’s collection is exclusively black and white but next spring the palette gets more adventurous, the musical references broader. That’s when the sea island/cashmere mix knitwear, my favourite element after those jackets, will come into its own. Other bits are rather too Liam — too dress-up — for me, such as the Liamdesigned Paisley Nehru kaftan (very Ringo-ish, very Donovan-esque) and that Lennon hat. But the desert boots — the first thing that Liam decided Pretty Green would produce — are top-notch: simple and tasteful.
Liam is a connoisseur of desert boots. “The Clarks ones are a bit pointy, I’ve always found,” he says. “I wanted to bring a bit of a square toe back in. They come in black, like this” — he waves at the pair on the coffee table between us — “and a dark brown and a camelly colour. But it’s not quite right yet, the camelly colour. It’s too camel.”
Liam talks about, in the long term, opening a Pretty Green shop and “banging out” furniture, art and everything else he loves. “We’re going to be F***ING massive!” For now, though, he is focusing on the clothes.
Pretty Green is no passing fancy, he insists. Could it be a retirement scheme, post-Oasis? After all, Liam is 37 now. I suggest that the label could be the perfect project on which to focus in his rock’n’roll dotage, if he doesn’t fancy doing a Mick Jagger and shaking his hips into his sixties. Liam leaps on that one: “There’ll be no shaking me hips, man! I’ve had 18 years of not shaking any-f***ing-thing!
“If I’m into it, then I’ll do it as long as I can, you know what I mean? Clothes and music are totally the exact same for me. So I’ll be doing music to the day I die and I’ll be doing this till the day I die. Hopefully.”
Liam loves his clothes. We are in a studio in Kentish Town, northwest London, where he has just finished shooting the Pretty Green look book. He is wearing a green parka by the label (accessorised with a Stone Roses badge), his own desert boots (black) and jeans “by a friend of mine”.
He has almost always been into his gear, since he was “ about 13, 14. Even before that. You want to look good. Girls are involved, you know what I mean? I was into the old tracksuits. I used to breakdance years ago, so I was into, like, Tacchini [Sergio] and stuff like that. That was good.” B-boyish? “Well, I never wore silly ’ats and that, turned sideways. I just wore the tracksuit.”
I say that I didn’t know he had an electro heritage. “Yeah, that was the first kind of music I got into, really. It was before gangsta rap. Old electro music. I used to go out with this girl called Gina Armitage, who was a beautiful lady — she’s not alive any more — and we used to just go around with a piece of lino, doing a bit of breakdancing in town, trying to get some money.” Were you good? “Not as good as her. She was good, man.”
Reeling from the “Liam Gallagher: breakdancer” revelation, I bowl him an underarm: Steve mentioned that he, Liam, loves shopping? (Steve also mentioned, though I don’t mention this to Liam, that on tour he has to carry Liam’s shoe bag on his person at all times, after a German hotel made the cataclysmic error of losing it). “Yeah, mate. I just love clothes. I can’t sit in a room. Our Kid used to sit in his hotel room all the time. I haven’t got a f***ing clue what he got up to, probably cross-dressing or summat. But I’d be out. Bags in and that’s it, find out where the shops are.”
That pop at Our Kid — old Noel — is classic Liam shtick. He likes to provoke, whether it’s other bands, the press, politicians, whatever. When I ask about his new house (in Hampstead, northwest London, just up the road from the old one but with more room for his sons Lennon and Gene to roam), he delights in claiming that his wardrobe is bigger than that of Nicole, “the missus”. And how does she feel about that? “She ain’t got much say!” Then he backs off: “I’m only joking. There’s enough (wardrobe) space for the both of us.”
He doesn’t back off, though, when I raise the F-word. Isn’t there a perception that men with a strong interest in fashion are a bit effeminate? Liam: “I can go with that. I’m down with my feminine side, without a f***ing doubt. But I’m not a fashion designer. I’m not into the fashion side of it [he says the word “fashion” with far more bile than he does his favourite F-word]. I’m just into making top clobber that I like. You won’t see me at a f***ing fashion show.
You’ve never been? “A couple of years ago. It was rubbish. They talk a load of shit, don’t they? About nothing. It’s not real.”
There are lots of attractive women in that kind of world, though, I provoke. “If that’s what you’re into, man. If you’re into f***ing chopsticks.”
OK, so if you don’t see yourself as entering the “fashion” world, then the emphasis stays on music? “I just see myself as Liam Gallagher, musician, making some proper clothes for people who think like me.”
- Which is how?
Liam: “I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to just spit it out, I’d like to have a think about that. But someone who is passionate about both, you know what I mean, but not in a f***ing … it’s not going to save the world. It’s not going to cure cancer. It’s just a f***ing quick fix, isn’t it?”
- So you’re not going to oversell it?
Liam: “No, I’m not going to oversell it. And I’m not going to oversell me, either.”
- That’s important, isn’t it?
Liam: “It is to me. The way we are doing this is important to me.”
- Are there misconceptions about you?
Liam: “Yeah. Millions.”
- Would you like to point some out?
Liam: Not really. I’m not arsed, I don’t give a f*** what people think about me, except the people I care for, you know what I mean.”
Hm, I say, what shall we talk about now? We’ve got straight into a lot of serious stuff already.
Liam: “That’s the thing about [my] music. I get to it straight away with lyrics and that. And then I’m stuck and I think, f***, I’ve got to write another f***ing verse and I’ve said everything I want to say in the first verse.”
- Are we done, then?
Liam: “Yeah, 28 minutes. There you go, f***ing perfect!”
He slaps my back. Dictaphone off. And it’s “cheers” and, by the way, you do understand that this interview will have to post-mortem all those recent spits and spats and splits with Noel, despite that PR edict not to talk about it? He knows what I mean.
And then, infuriatingly, he starts to talk about Noel and the break-up. He wants to wait a while before really giving his side of what happened between them. He doesn’t want what he says — his “Oasis headstone” — to be said in anger and irrevocable. He wants the dust to settle. Anyway, it’s not all for the worst, he adds, because Noel can do his thing and I can do mine. I press “record’”.
Liam: “People will be able to buy his records. People will be able to buy our records. So everyone’s happy.”
- And maybe, in time, the relationship (with Noel) will be different? And it won’t be all about the music and the management?
Liam: “Exactly! Exactly! Well, that’s a long way off yet, man, but who knows.”
Liam Gallagher: a semi-scary, tightly wound wind-up merchant — absolutely. But also serious, sensitive, impassioned and, from the look that flitted across his face at the end there, a man who misses his brother. Furthermore, a producer of rocking clobber for men. Who knew?
via L4e / source: Timesonline
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