Q Magazine


'This here is what we do. John's playing out of his skin and I’m singing great, and it is what it is… It's not hard making music when you know what you're doing.' – Liam Gallagher

liam gallagher john squire q cover
Source: Tom Oxley

This is the one. Liam Gallagher and John Squire talk exclusively to Q.

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Manchester. So much to answer for.

For the city that has punched so far and so consistently above its musical weight, two bands nonetheless stand out. The impact that first the Stone Roses and then after them Oasis have had on just about every other guitar-bass-drums outfit of the last three decades is immeasurable.

“Before Elvis there was nothing,” said John Lennon. Before the Stone Roses there was the Smiths, New Order, Buzzcocks, Joy Division… but after the Stone Roses there was everything. And in a crowded field of boys with noisy guitars and attitudes, Oasis stood head and shoulders above them all.

What the Stone Roses and then Oasis did above all else was free indie music from its own self-imposed lack of ambition. They reminded the world it was possible to be both cool and popular.

Following the initial explosion of ideas and invention that came in the immediate aftermath of punk, '80s indie bands had (with the exception of the Smiths, the Cure, and a select few others) mostly settled into a kind of haughty insularity, happy to top the indie charts and feature in the NME, content with a John Peel session rather than a Radio 1 playlist, unconcerned about Smash Hits, Top of the Pops, or becoming genuine rock ‘n’ roll stars.

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liam gallagher john squire
Source: Tom Oldham

John Squire and Liam Gallagher: unafraid to be both cool and popular.

The Stone Roses turned that idea on its head. When Ian Brown berated the BBC for being “amateurs” live on air after a power outage cut short their 1989 debut national TV performance, he wasn’t being performatively rebellious. He did it because he wanted the world to see just what the Stone Roses were about. “We’re wasting our time, lads,” he shouted, stalking the stage behind the hapless presenter. After all: what’s the point of being the greatest band in the world if nobody can hear you?

Oasis, of course, never pretended to want to be anything other than the biggest band in the world. Liam said so in just about every interview he gave. So did Noel. The first song on Side A of their debut album was even called “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” (The Stone Roses, of course, began their debut with a song called “I Wanna Be Adored” and ended it with “I Am the Resurrection.”)

And just as the Roses, for a little while at least, fulfilled that boast, so, for a time, did Oasis. That both bands ended in a degree of messiness and recrimination… well, that’s rock ‘n’ roll, right? All plots move deathwards; all the best stories end in chaos.

There were solo careers, other musical projects, even a short-lived Stone Roses reunion. But the two most important bands of the last 35 years, for the most part, remained frozen in time, a perfect reminder of what a band could be, and could mean.

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liam squire oldham
Source: Tom Oldham

'If we'd be putting out something that sounds like f--king Bjork or something, we'd have got f--king lynched, you know what I mean?'

And then, last Christmas, something typically Mancunian happened.

Simultaneous posts on Instagram from Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and Stone Roses guitarist John Squire announced – in typically uncompromising style: “John Squire, without a doubt the best guitarist of his generation and in the world in my opinion,” and, “Liam Gallagher is one of the all-time great rock and roll voices. I put him in the same class as Dylan, Lennon, Jagger and Rotten.”

And before you could say “What the world is waiting for” (and plenty did, to be fair), came the official announcement: the “best guitarist of his generation” and the “all-time great rock and roll voice” were not only making music together – they had a whole album down and ready to go.

And typically, perfectly, the scale of their ambitions – and of their self-belief – remains as sky-high as ever it did. The way Liam Gallagher tells it, it’s simple. And perhaps it is.

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“Listen,” says Liam now, in an exclusive interview with Q. “John's great, I'm great, the Roses were great and Oasis was great, and two of their band members coming together to make a record was always going to excite people.

“I didn't think about Oasis, I didn't think about the Roses. I didn't think about whether it's got to be as good as those bands. There's music coming from both sides, you know what I mean? And this album, it's definitely up there with anything the Roses have done and Oasis have done.

“I'm sure there'll be a few people that are trying to sabotage it, but that's all right, I don't mind that. I think it's something to fight for.”

John Squire is a little more muted in his assessment of the – often feverishly over-excited – anticipation surrounding their coming together. More softly-spoken than his new bandmate, he’s also more considered in his answers – and couches his responses with a deceptive, dry-as-sand, languorous Mancunian wit.

“I don't track that kind of thing,” he says. “I get an inkling of it from the number of people that are starting to follow me on Instagram, and my kids seem to know that there's a buzz around us. I just assumed that everything Liam does get a lot of attention, so I didn't expect this to go under the radar.

“Are you asking do I feel any pressure because of Oasis and the Roses? No, I don't think about that at all. I feel pressure to do a good job, but I always feel that.”

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liam gallagher john squire psychedelic
Source: Tom Oxley

'Liam Gallagher John Squire' is both a 60's-soaked psychedelic gem and a fiercely Mancunian record.

Their new album, titled with no little swagger itself, simply Liam Gallagher John Squire, was released on March 1. That it will crash into the charts at No. 1 is a near-certainty. A short tour this spring sold out within minutes of being announced, and rumors of a Glastonbury slot continue to swirl around social media – fueled in part by Gallagher’s own impish Twitter contributions to the debate.

As for the album itself – it is a guitar record, there’s no getting away from it. It’s also a fiercely, inimitably Mancunian record. It sounds like Liam Gallagher, and it sounds like John Squire. But that is, after all, just what the world was waiting for, right? Both singles released ahead of the album, the psychedelic attack of “Just Another Rainbow” and the sixties-soaked straight-up rock ‘n’ roll of “Mars to Liverpool,” have promised great things. Liam’s voice sounds as urgent and impassioned as the best of his Oasis output, and Squire has reined in the Led Zep-noodling of The Second Coming in favor of the jangling harmonics of the Stone Roses' debut.

Does it capture the pair of them at the height of their powers? That’s a debate that will doubtless rage on endlessly… but given that both are now the wrong side of 50 (and Squire has a decade on Gallagher), also fairly pointlessly. Does it sound like the kind of record you would hope a Liam Gallagher and John Squire collaboration would be? Indisputably, and at times gloriously, yes.

“We had to keep it in the same kind of ballpark,” says Liam. “Imagine if we had done something left-field or really weird? We'd have got f--king stoned to death. If we'd be putting out something that sounds like f--king Bjork or something, we'd have got f--king lynched, you know what I mean?

“We were never going to do a dub reggae f--king record. This here is what we do. John's playing out of his skin and I’m singing great, and it is what it is. I'm sure people have different visions of what we should be doing and all that, but that's their problem. We're always going to make a guitar rock and roll record.”

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John Squire is less combative, but every bit as unequivocal.

“I don't know why this record is so good,” he says. “When I heard the demos back I could have got out at that point and been happy with the project, just to have a shaky demo version of the songs. They were awesome and I couldn’t stop listening to them.

“But [hearing Liam sing] was like getting to the top of a mountain and seeing for miles on the other side. It was a feeling that I'll never forget. I thought the songs were pretty good, but once he'd sung them, it transformed them and I was in awe. I've heard things back and thought, wow, that sounds great or this is rocking, this is trippy, but never like this.”

“They’re really uplifting songs and they deserve me to be at my best,” says Liam. “It’s a good match. We were never gonna get f--king scissor players in and a f--king trombonist. There was none of that nonsense going on. It was never gonna be funky, it was never gonna be weird sh-t. It was always gonna be just the classic kind of thing. And yeah, whatever, it’s all been done before and people will say they’ve have heard it before. Well they’re gonna f--king hear it again, right?

“There’s a lot of people out there that still like this music, it’s just there’s not a lot of it being made at the moment. But you know what? I heard [‘Mars to Liverpool’] on the radio the other day, and it sounded f--king beefier and fatter than all these new kids. It f--king made them all sound like wimps.”

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liam gallagher john squire what the world is waiting for
Source: Tom Oxley

When John Squire first heard Liam sing his songs, he says it was 'like getting to the top of a mountain and seeing for miles on the other side.'

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Liam has talked before of how he was inspired to form a band after sneaking in to the International 2 club in Manchester to see the Stone Roses play as a 16-year-old. If it’s true that you should never meet your heroes, would it not be even more so to make a record with one of your heroes? John Squire says of Liam that he “dreamt about working with him,” but then John Squire never blagged his way into an Oasis gig as a teenager. One hesitates to suggest Liam Gallagher might ever be “overawed”, but…

“Listen, mate, I'm not a f--king sycophant, I'm a fan, you know what I mean?” he says. “And I'm 51 now, so I'm over that. If this was happening when I was 16, then yeah I would probably jump off a f--king bridge, but I'm older now. Yeah, I'm excited to be on stage with John Squire for sure, but all that licking his ear and squeezing his bum and f--king flicking his nipple sh-t? Them days are gone, mate.”

The story of how the pair got together in the first place has been told before, but, like all good stories, bears repeating. And John Squire does have a new, typically laconic take on it.

“We talked about it at the rehearsal [for Squire’s guest slot playing ‘Champagne Supernova’ at Liam’s 2022 Knebworth gigs]. I popped down to London to just run through 'Supernova' and I think Liam opened with, ‘Nice jacket, where's that from?’ It was a similar exchange from me about shoes, I think, and then, ‘So I hear you fancy writing some songs together?’ It was something like that. Very casual. There wasn't any sort of formal sit down, just chats.”

So the same way that you might form a band as a kid? Not like a business arrangement, just an organic coming together – like, let's do it, it'll be a laugh?

“Yeah, that's proven to be true,” he says. “He's really entertaining, he’s fun to be around. Everything seems to go super smooth.”

liam gallagher john squire bw
Source: Tom Oldham

Liam Gallagher: entertaining and fun to be around, some might say.

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Liam’s recollection is a little more forthright.

“I was like, what are you up to? And he was like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m f--king writing some tunes.’ I was going, who’s singing them? And he says, ‘I’m wondering if you’d be up for having a listen, and if you’re up for it, you could do it?’ I said: as long as there’s f--king loads of guitars up there, I’m in. And that was that, basically.”

Every one of the 10 songs on the album was written by Squire in his home studio, mostly while Gallagher was on tour. Somewhat extraordinarily, he admits that until meeting Liam, he hadn’t really considered writing new material at all.

“No, I don't go to that extreme [of writing songs],” he says. “I do play guitar. If I’ve got a little riff that I like, I maybe make a note of it on my phone, but mostly it's just been keeping my hand in and more like a meditation.”

And then one day you just sat down and wrote ten songs?

“Yeah, there were a few things that didn't make it, but there never got to be a song that maybe a verse or a chorus didn't survive until the next morning. But by and large, yeah, it was write a song, send it to Liam, wait for a response. Always positive. That gave me the impetus to go into the next song. So it was pretty much one song after the other and then I stopped myself. There are a few that might make it to the next record that I've not fully finished, but I wanted to give myself enough time to work on the guitar parts.”

q magazine march digital cover  rev
Source: Tom Oxley

Both Liam Gallagher and John Squire have previously been crowned Q Icons.

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The process was that the guitarist would send Liam a demo plus the lyrics, and Liam would send back another version with vocals added. The singer admits he had no problem with simply being told what to do.

“No problem at all because for me he's the better songwriter and he had these songs down,” he says. “It's like they were coming out of the speakers and I was going, ‘Well, that's f--king done. Next one, that one's done.’ I'm more comfortable when I'm just singing anyway. I'm not worrying about having to scrutinize myself and write words and what f--king vision we're going for. He's done it all before man, and he's done it properly. So that was it.”

Liam did, however, send ideas via a kind of “mood board” of YouTube videos of artists and sounds he was inspired by.

“It was sort of like when you go out to your mate's house and you're playing records for each other,” he says. “It wasn't me going, look, can you write a song like this, can you write a song like that? Because I wouldn't do that. I respect him too much.”

“I'm glad it was rapid,” says Squire. “I think it would have been a different record if we'd labored over it.”

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Announcing the tour in January, Gallagher said he wanted to “try to inspire people and make people happy.” Given how he was inspired by the Stone Roses as a teenager, and the number of shaggy-haired boys with guitars subsequently inspired by Oasis, does he feel that, ultimately, passing the baton on is what it’s all about?

“Yeah, 100 percent man, 100 percent make them happy first and then inspire people,” he says. “You know, it’s a f--king sh-t show out there at the moment. So that’s the main thing, really. I’m not doing it for money. Got enough of that. I’m not doing it to be famous. Got enough of that as well. I’m doing it for the right reasons. And I think when you do things for the right reasons, good things happen. It’s an uplifting record and I just can’t wait to f--king bring some sunshine, man.

“I went to see the Roses and then joined a band. John Squire went to see the Clash and he joined a band, and that’s what happens, isn’t it? People get inspired by people, and the day we stop inspiring each other is the day it’s over, and that’s sad.

“So, yeah, hopefully there’ll be some young kids will come to the gigs and see us old farts and go, wow, f--king hell, man, it’s taking these two 50-slash-60-year-olds to f--king get it going again. Like, I need to get it on, I need to get it on. You know what I mean?”

“I actually didn't know the story about Liam going to the International 2, getting in by the skin of his teeth just before we took the stage and then realizing what he wanted to do with his life and then achieving it directly as a result of that show,” says Squire.

“And I had a similar experience with the Clash in ‘77 at the Manchester Apollo. So, yeah, that is part of it, and I guess that's been going on since people first started playing music. There is an element of that passing the baton. So I hope that does happen. There's a lot of guitars sold every year, so people are playing them, even if record companies aren't signing them.”

liam gallagher john squire
Source: Tom Oxley

'There’ll be some young kids will come to the gigs and see us old farts and go, f--king hell, man, it’s taking these two 50-slash-60-year-olds to f--king get it going again. Like, I need to get it on, I need to get it on.'

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If great music changes lives – and it does – then the music of the Stone Roses and Oasis have arguably changed more lives than any other bands in the last 35 years. In an age when pop stars are pressured to be “role models,” media trained, social network savvy, focus group-molded and wary of doing anything that might see them cancelled, the idea of simply getting together with a mate and smashing out some banging rock ‘n’ roll tunes seems both slightly anachronistic… and also wonderfully liberating.

For Liam Gallagher, possibly the last truly great rock ‘n’ roll star of his age, there is no substitute.

“I always wanted to be in a band,” he says. “There’s nothing better than being in a band. I know things happen and people split up and get fed up of each other and all that. But before that happens, it’s the best thing in the world. Going around the world buying clothes, falling out of pubs in f--king Budapest and America and just taking the piss. It’s amazing, man. Doing these gigs in Dallas or Japan or wherever the f--k… Just playing great music. It’s basically a f--king jolly up for 20 years. It's not hard making music when you know what you're doing.”


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