In many ways, it smacked of the old boy-who-cried-’Wolf!’ yarn. Mouthy Mancunian siblings Noel and Liam Gallagher — the guitarist and vocalist of legendary Britpop combo Oasis, respectively — had gotten into so many knock-down, drag-out scraps, and walked out on each other mid-tour so many times that it was starting to feel routine. All part of their colorful, always-controversial rock-star shtick. So seriously — what ill omens could one more backstage dust-up portend? The brothers always shook hands, went back to their respective corners, and came out swinging, making punchy, pugnacious Oasis anthems again.
Appearing: Saturday, June 18th at Metro in Chicago.
But not this time.
This time was different. In August 2009, at Paris’ huge Rock En Seine Festival, an altercation broke out between the Gallaghers that quickly escalated into Liam reportedly smashing Noel’s guitar. With one minute to showtime, before a crowd of 30,000, it was announced that Oasis would not be performing that night. Or ever again: Noel, finally fed up with such shenanigans, had quit his own platinum-selling band, for good this time.
The rock world collectively shrugged, rolled its eyes, and muttered, “Whatever — we’ll se how long this separation lasts.” But it turned out to be the real deal. Noel has soldiered on with an as-yet-unreleased solo album. And Liam? After much conjecture about his own possible solo foray, he made an announcement that he and the remaining members of Oasis — guitarist Gem Archer, bassist Andy Bell, and drummer Chris Sharrock — would be continuing under the banner of Beady Eye, and recording their debut at London’s swank RAK Studios with top-flight producer Steve Lillywhite. No joke — Bell even switched back to the six-string he used to wield in his previous outfits, Ride and Hurricane #1.
And believe it or not, the feud still goes on. Even though Beady Eye just issued a rollicking, Oasis-edged bow aptly dubbed Different Gear, Still Speeding. Noel? “Nah, I haven’t spoken to him,” his kid brother sniffs, disdainfully. “We’ve got nothing to say to each other.” But what about the line in the new anthem “Kill For A Dream,” wherein he somberly sings lines like, “I’m here if you wanna call”? Is he expressing any regrets? “No,” he responds, flatly. “It was written before that, and I think Andy wrote that. And I’m sure he’s had some personal shit going down, too, but you’d have to ask him. So it was actually written before [the breakup], and it’s got nothing to do with Noel.”
While Gallagher may sound cold and unforgiving, in truth he’s been staying so busy, he can afford to keep sibling rivalry on the back burner for months, maybe even years. He’s successfully launched his own posh clothing company, Pretty Green, which has two different thematic labels: black, featuring classic English tailoring; and Green, for more casual wear. And he’s hawking the whole mod-fashionable gamut, from Clark’s-inspired desert boots to parkas, polo shirts, and safari jackets. “And it’s going all right, mate, it’s doing well,” he says of his empire. “I’ve got three shops now, too — one on Carnaby Street, one in Manchester, one in Glasgow. And we’re gonna have one in New York and one in Japan coming soon. New York is opening really soon, like in June or something.”
Is Liam living the Derek Zoolander life now? Attending fashion shows or partying with all the big-name designers? He guffaws. “I don’t get involved in it. Just like the music business. I don’t get involved in that, either — I just do my thing and get out. If you have to start hanging out with [fashion snobs]? No deal! Just like the music business. Do I go and hang out with the fucking head of Sony? No. I don’t.”
Actually, Beady Eye isn’t inked to Columbia or its corporate parent Sony, as Oasis once was. They’ve formed their own label called — wait for it — Beady Eye Records, distributed in the States by cutting-edge (and fairly Anglophile) imprint Dangerbird. How did they arrive at such an unusual moniker? “Well, we tried a few names, but they’d all been taken,” Gallagher sighs. Like Cat’s Eyes, which happened to be the moniker of Horrors frontman Faris Badwan’s spooky new duo. “But I dunno — you’ve gotta call yourself something, and that was the name that everyone was kinda buzzing about. And it means being aware of things, keeping an eye on things, and not letting things get out of your hands.”
Duly noted. But ultimately, the usually egocentric Gallagher — who was, in fact, just named The Greatest Frontman Of All Time by Britain’s music bible Q Magazine — has been munching some humble pie to arrive at Beady Eye. “I couldn’t have done a solo record — it’s not in my nature,” he confesses. “I can’t even play an instrument — I’m not a solo guy, so I wouldn’t do it even if I could. I need to be in a band — I need a bevy of other people around me, d’ya know what I mean? I enjoy being in a band.”
Once the post-Oasis decision was made, what plan of attack did the musicians come up with? Archer — who’s sitting in on the interview with Gallagher — picks up the tale. “We didn’t sit around thinking about it,” he recalls. “We just kinda had a little plan to take some time off, because we had a mega-long, 13-month tour. And then we thought, ‘Well, we ain’t hangin’ up our guitars just yet — there’s too much to do!’ So it took about a week to get in the studio and start demoing, and then it just kinda grew. And grew and grew. Simple as that, man. And before you know it, you’ve got six tunes. Then you have a break for Christmas, and before you know it you’ve got 10 tunes, then it’s 13. Then you go into the studio, and it’s kinda just done itself — all we’ve got to do is just turn up!”
The writing on all 13 cuts is credited to Gallagher/Archer/Bell. No hotdogging, no glory hounds, no time for sergeants. As Archer sees it, “We came together as a band massively on putting flesh on the bones of the demos, d’ya know what I mean? Andy would have just a Dictaphone demo, with just a voice on a cassette. And Liam will probably just play it on a guitar in front of ya. So then, as a band, we massively got involved in making it, making it fully formed. And that’s even down to the drumbeat. Or, Is it gonna be guitars, is it gonna be piano? Is it gonna be fast? Where’s the key gonna be? So with everything, we were all involved in that. And then the production, too.”
In fact, Beady Eye even argued with the veteran Lillywhite over key production points. On “The Roller” — a decidedly Lennon-ish slab of slapback that feels like “All You Need Is Love,” rewritten sideways — he tried to steer the band away from a Beatles-school sound. “We wanted to try some double tracking on the vocals, for that Lennon thing — we wanted to try it because we really like that Lennon sound,” says Archer. “But Steve? He was dead-set against it.”
“So that’s all us, that is, man — that Lennon vibe!” Gallagher chimes in, proudly. Naturally, John Lennon was always one of his stylistic idols, an influence you can still hear reverberating through his nasal vocals today. Archer — who penned the lyrics — adds that the track is about “being bulletproof, not letting life crack ya. I mean, we all get cracked. But sometimes, it’s good to have a mate who’s bulletproof, isn’t it? And then they can sort you out. And maybe he’s ‘The Roller.’”
Another bluesy jangler is titled ‘Beatles And Stones.’ But in retrospect, your average archive-combing young rock fan probably doesn’t understand why you’d ever have to choose one over the other. “Me neither!” barks Gallagher. “That’s why it’s called ‘Beatles And Stones’ — I wrote it, but it’s not about The Beatles and it’s not about The Stones, exactly. It’s more about wanting to stand the test of time. I mean, I want our music to still sound great in 20 or 30 years’ time.”
– Tom Lanham
For the complete story, grab the April issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.
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