“It’s Kind of Illegal for Two Brothers to Make Love”: Our 2005 Feature on Oasis’ Noel and Liam Gallagher
Sibling ribaldry or crazy kinship? On the heels of the strongest Oasis album in years, Noel and Liam Gallagher share their deep thoughts on ill communication, Sir Mick Jagger, and the threat from South Korea (who knew?).
This article originally appeared in the June 2005 issue of Spin.
Time has not always favored Noel Gallagher, 37, and his brother Liam, 32. Once the sneering, Charlied-up kings of Cool Britannia, their sluggish third album, Be Here Now, stopped their U.S. campaign cold in 1997. Soon Radiohead and later Coldplay usurped them as cross-Atlantic conquerors. Both 2000’s Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and 2002’s Heathen Chemistry had patches of brilliance, but neither delivered on Oasis’ increasingly self-parodic claim to be “the best band in the world.”
Still, the Gallaghers have stuck around long enough, and now, per basic showbiz doctrine, they’ve attained an odd respectability. Once dismissed by critics as derivative Beatlemaniac thugs, in 2005 Oasis are downright influential. Jet, who are supporting them on a current U.S. tour, sold two million albums last year, in part by ripping off Oasis ripping off the Fab Four (look at “Look What You’ve Done”).
Weathering in-flight scuffles, car crashes, fisticuffs with photographers and drunken Italians, Liam’s stormy marriage to actress (and serial rock-star poacher) Patsy Kensit, verbal dustups with Blur, all-nighters with Kate Moss, not to mention the loss of “Bonehead,” “Guigsy,” and every original member not named Gallagher, has finally given Oasis a Stones-like definition. Fatherhood seems to have given them perspective (Liam has three children, one with second wife Nicole Appleton, formerly of U.K. pop group All Saints; Noel has a daughter with ex-wife Meg Mathews). Their just-released sixth album, Don’t Believe the Truth, contains 11 smashing Oasis songs (see review on page 103) and arrives just in time for the Britpop renais-sance. Suddenly Oasis are selling out arenas; this, despite the fact that their last U.S. hit, “Champagne Supernova,” is nine years old.
Oasis have remained a going concern through the bleary years for the same reason they were once such a pop-cult phenomenon: They’ve always been more than just a rock band. Oasis (who now include guitarist Gem Archer, bassist Andy Bell, and drummer Zak Starkey) are a rock philosophy. If you’re mad for it, then have it. If it gets in your way, you gotta roll with it. If it still doesn’t get out of your way, give it a good kicking. One day, some inspired publisher will recognize Noel and Liam as great English thinkers, heirs to Darwin and Swift and Wilde and Morrissey. Until then, our compendium of Gallagherian wit and wisdom, culled over the course of two conversations on life, art, and the joys of going back to bed after breakfast, will have to do.
LIAM: Noel and I don’t speak to each other. That’s probably best. We see each other, but I’ve got nothing to say to him. He’s got nothing to say to me. We make music and that’s it. Or we have the odd drink together and that’s it. That’s the way I like it. He’s totally different from me; I’m totally different from him. He’s got different views; I’ve got different views. But there’s a difference between disagreements and hating each other. Me and him are cool. We’re brothers. We’re never gonna split up. We’re fucking family.
NOEL: Well, let’s see. I’ve seen him today and it was great. And the day before that was great. It could all fall apart. Any moment.
LIAM: Rock’n’roll for me, ten years ago, was going out and getting fucking hammered and not really caring about the music because someone else was taking care of it. Now I’m writing music. I feel a bit more…what’s the word? I don’t know, responsible? A good song to me has got a lot of balls for the start of it, you know what I mean? And it’s got a strong melody. It’s not so much the words. I’m not a wordy person. I find it hard writing words. When I do write lyrics, I write about love. I write about God. I write about me. I write about him. I write about them. I write about us, man. I write about life, you know? Sometimes it’s shit and sometimes it’s good. I don’t write anything too fucking deep, hopefully.
NOEL: We kind of write songs about the mundane things in life, like having nothing to do or queuing up for a pint of milk.
“I’m not the likes of Mick Jagger, man. I don’t think singers who start off singing should play guitar. It looks f***ing stupid.” —LIAM
NOEL: I’ve personally rediscovered the spark—to actually write songs again, instead of trying to sum up the meaning of life in five minutes. We’ll leave that to Coldplay. They kind of do that better than anybody else.
LIAM: Every now and again I’ll go out and fucking fall over, make a tit of myself. But the joy in my life—I just stay in and play the guitar, man.
NOEL: I meet kids who are, like, 15. And I go, “How the fuck are you into Oasis?” And they all say, [Oasis’ debut album] “Definitely Maybe.” “But you were like five when it came out.” And they go, “Yeah, but me older brother, we used to all sit around and listen to it when Mom and Dad had gone out.” And I think that’s probably why the renewed interest in the band is happening at the minute.
LIAM: It’s great, man, that people are still interested in us. But it’s great that I’m still interested in me.
NOEL: I used to meet guys back in the ’90s who were 15, who had just started bands because of Oasis. And now I meet guys who are 25, who sold a million records because of Oasis. It makes me feel pretty good.
LIAM: It’s good that the band is still interested in fucking playing. Because if you’re not, then you can’t make other people be interested in you.
NOEL: Everything off Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory has aged quite well. You never get tired of playing “Champagne Supernova,” “Morning Glory,” “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Live Forever,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.” They’re standards for us, really.
LIAM: Was “Cigarettes and Alcohol” just “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” by T. Rex? Oh, totally!
NOEL: Britpop was absolute madness. After our third record [Be Here Now], I was on a bit of a creative slide. It’s not as if I was really enthusiastic about songwriting; the records weren’t selling, and I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t give a fuck. I’d kind of had enough. It gets a bit boring trying to direct the band on your own. I mean, it’s all right when you’re 21 and you’ve got no baggage except the clothes in your fucking suitcase and your guitar, and you’re into sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and you’re living it. You live, breathe, and eat music. It was a great time in my life, but there comes a point when you’re like, I can’t fucking do it anymore.
LIAM: I don’t have a bad word to say about Be Here Now. The only person who’s got a problem with it is Noel. He wrote it, so then it’s his problem. I couldn’t give a fuck whether people liked it or not, to tell you the truth.
NOEL: If you bought it on the day it came out and listened to it, I’d have thought it was fucking mind-bending too. But it really doesn’t stand up now. The songs are too long, and the lyrics are fucking appalling. The clue to the album is in the title—you had to be there, really. It was all about that fucking week that it came out.
LIAM: People are always going on about “Oh, you’ve failed America.” I’ve never failed anything in my entire life. I got out of the bedroom when I was a young fucking lad, and I’m in a great fucking band. And now we’re playing at Madison Square Garden [on June 22]. I’m gobsmacked!
NOEL: When we sold out Madison Square Garden [in February, an hour after tickets went on sale], everyone was kind of “Woo, yeah! Fucking hell! Wow!” And I was like, “We haven’t done the gig yet. So everybody needs to calm the fuck down and celebrate in the dressing room afterward.”
LIAM: When I was 21, going over to America freaked me out because it was too big. It was just too much. L.A. was, like, “Fucking hell, what’s all this?” But now I’m starting to like it.
“We were in L.A. for two months recording the record. Did I pick up any Southern California habits? Going back to bed after breakfast was something I go into.” —NOEL
LIAM: Being in a band, it’s easy. It’s hard being out of a band and to have to fucking work for a living. This is a fucking bubble. Singing songs, man, taking drugs, doing your gigs, having a drink, you know what I mean? It’s like being on holiday. Constantly.
NOEL: I was at a gig the other night. I went to see Razorlight. We got there early. There’s nobody in the VIP bar yet. It’s just me and my girlfriend. And we’re feeling pretty fucking stupid. So I say, “Let’s go upstairs to the [venue’s] bar just to see what’s happening.” She was going, “It’s going to be full of fucking kids.” I was like, “Fuck it.” And so we go, and this gang of girls—teenagers—turned around and saw me, and one of them went, “Wow! You’re like the coolest man ever.” Which is a really cool thing to say, until I thought, “‘Man’? That’s what people say to their dads. When did I become a man? I was a fuck-ing lad when I set off for this gig.”
LIAM: Rock’n’roll keeps you young in your soul and in your mind. I don’t know about the rest of it. I suppose it can age your body.
NOEL: We’re not the likes of Eric Clapton and Sir Elton John and Sir Fucking Paul McCartney, as much as I love him. Or Sir Mick Jagger. We all got invited to Buckingham Palace last summer for something or other, but we wouldn’t go. Royalty—they’re not from a world I can comprehend. I don’t know where they come from or what they do or what their role is in life or who the fuck they think they are.
“As soon as you get to 30, the hangovers take a little bit longer to shift, you know what I mean?” —LIAM
NOEL: Nobody in the band does the big bad drugs anymore. Nobody’s absolutely fucking whacked out on fucking powder all the time. It just got fucking boring to me. And all the people who surrounded us at the time were just boring, boring, boring. Yeah, we still stay out drinking and partying. But instead of staying out until seven in the morning when you have a gig that night, we probably go to bed at a more reasonable hour. But we’re not in our slippers and pipes.
LIAM: I’m rocking at the moment. It’s good.
NOEL: Some Polish radio station played the new single nyla”1, and now it’s been leaked. It’s not the end of the world. It happens to all the big bands. But you get these phone calls going, “They played the single in Poland!” You’re just like, “Great!” And everybody’s going, “No, it’s not great.” “Well, what’s not great about it?” “Well, now it’s on the Internet!” And I said, “I don’t give a fuck about that.” That’s not my domain. I don’t even know what the Internet is. I don’t have a computer, so it doesn’t concern me. I don’t understand the corporate record system anymore. You give them an album, and six months later you’re still waiting for it to come out. When it’s finished, get it out as soon as possible. Put it in the fucking shops within the week. It can be done that way. Now you’ve got to wait for your slot because fucking Anastasia has a record coming out. Fucking big deal. That really set the world on fire, didn’t it?
LIAM: Don’t Believe the Truth—don’t know what the title means. It’s a pothead thing, innit? Potheads, man—I don’t know. I’m sure it’s got some sort of strange meaning. But I like it.
NOEL: I watch a lot of news programs. And around about the time of the war in Iraq and the U.S. presidential campaign, there was a lot of misinformation out on the airwaves, Fox News being the biggest culprit, I would think. And you sit and watch it, and think, “I don’t know whether I believe any of this.” Because when there is an incident that happens, whether it be weapons of mass destruction or what, you immediately get the line from the news company, and then you get the conspiracy theories, and they all sound plausible to me. Let’s take, for instance, the assassination of Kennedy. It’s quite plausible to me that Lee Harvey Oswald could have shot him with those three bullets. But then it’s also plausible that the CIA could have taken him out. It’s also very plausible that Castro could have taken him out. So you just sit there and think, “Well, I don’t know what to believe anymore.” Then there’s all the stuff that’s going on with Afghanistan and Iraq, and they’re going to invade Iran and then it’s South Korea, and George Bush lied to the United Nations about the weapons of mass destruction. And you just think, “I don’t know what to believe anymore.” The title is not meant to be perceived as “Don’t believe the political truth.” There’s only one truth, I think, and that’s your personal truth, and that’s what you should believe.
LIAM: Am I still the walrus? I’m not the walrus. The walrus was Noel, whaddinnit? I’m me, man.
“Last time we went to the States, I was involved in a car crash. Maybe this time we’ll be blessed, and it will all be great, and we can all go home and go, ‘Woo hoo! F***ing great tour.'” —NOEL
LIAM: Everyone thinks I’m an arrogant cunt. When you get to speak to me, it’s a different thing. But I’m no good at going onstage and telling people I love them. I’m there to sing songs. I’m not there to show big love. I’d prefer to do that one-on-one. When I don’t speak, people might take that as being a bit of an arrogant twat, but that’s just the way I am.
NOEL: Liam’s gotten all religious. It’s quite disturbing. He thinks he’s Abel for some weird reason. He wrote a new song called “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel.” I thought it was A-b-l-e, but when he wrote it down, it was “Abel.” And I thought, “Right, so you think you’re Abel. That must make me Cain. Doesn’t Cain kill Abel?” But then the first line of that song is “You could be my lover.” I’m not too sure about that. That’s illegal, innit? It’s kind of illegal for two brothers to make love. It’s certainly frowned upon.