The new documentary Liam Gallagher: As It Was doesn’t shy away from the tumultuous times experienced by the Oasis frontman during the last decade.
From the final fallout with Noel in Paris in 2009, to Liam’s new group Beady Eye disbanding and his decision to forge a solo career, director Charlie Lightening has been there every step of the way, including the homecoming gig in 2017, shortly after the Manchester bombing, and the One Love Manchester concert that followed.
The Mancunian filmmaker, who’s worked with the likes of Jamiroquai and Kylie Minogue, and is currently filming Paul McCartney on tour, talks about capturing Liam’s lesser-known sensitive side, filming memorable moments in the city and how mum Peggy, who still lives in Burnage, keeps Liam grounded.
How did the film come about?
I knew Liam through Oasis and then I went to meet Beady Eye to talk about doing a video and it just sort of begun there. It’s not like we set out to do a film, it’s just what happened, with the end of Beady Eye and the implosion of everything and then there was four years of him not really doing anything, but we saw a lot of each other and hung out as friends. And then Supersonic [the 2015 Oasis documentary] happened and people had interest in him again. We then followed him going on to make the album and at that point you’re thinking, ‘This could be a really amazing film’. We’ve been through a real journey together.
It’s not your typical music documentary is it?
It’s so much more universal than that. This is a human story documentary. The thing is with Liam Gallagher, even if you haven’t heard of Oasis or aren’t a fan, you know who Liam Gallagher is and you’ve got an opinion about him. I think that would make this film engaging to anybody. Even if you don’t like him, you should watch this, just to see what he’s really like. It’s just a human story about a guy who has been though all this madness and come out the other side of it and he’s still here.
Do you think people will be surprised to see a softer side to him?
That’s what he’s like. It’s not like you’re turning to manufacture that. He’s hilarious to hang out with. He’s a joker and there’s a real sensitive, caring side to him. He’s just real and I guess that’s his mum Peggy’s side of him. He’s not showbiz at all, he hates that side of it all. Like his mum says, ‘Liam’s always been Liam’ and I think a lot the aggro maybe came from a side that, like anybody, if you think someone’s trying to attack you or get something on you, you get your back up. He’s been very honest with regards to how it is and what it is. You get a bit older; life goes on. It’s just part of the journey, isn’t it?
Can you tell us a little about filming in Peggy’s house with Liam?
Peggy’s just lovely. You can see the dynamic of it all, how Peggy’s properly looked after them and has been there for them. It’s the same house in Burnage she’s lived in for years. They’ve tried to buy her bigger houses and for her to move out the area but she’s like, ‘Why do I want to move? These are all my friends and the people I know.’ And I think that realness is what grounds the brothers.
Was it important to get Liam’s thoughts on Noel, and how things stand between them?
We couldn’t have done the film without any of that stuff in there, but it’s not done in a tabloid way. It could have been done very differently. It could have been less sensitive. I say to him when we’re in his old room at Peggy’s, ‘It’s a bit of a shame you’re not speaking to him’ and he’s like, ‘It is but it’s not the Waltons’. It’s their thing to sort out and that’s way more important than Oasis getting back together.
What was it like to film Liam’s homecoming gig at the Ritz Manchester?
That was the first concert in Manchester after the bomb had gone off, so the atmosphere was just intensified a hundred-fold. All the energy and atmosphere was just insane. There was this sense of defiance. Liam said, ‘I want to have 22 candles on stage for the people who died and I’m going to come out for the encore and sing Live Forever but do it acapella and sing it with the audience’. It was amazing, but we couldn’t show it in the film because Noel wouldn’t allow us to use any of the music. And then Liam doing it at the One Love charity concert in June, we weren’t allowed to show it.
Did it bother you that you couldn’t use Oasis music?
You’re thinking, ‘Oh s**t, is that going to affect the film?’ but that’s the thing, there’s no Oasis music in the whole of the film, not one track, which seems crazy if you’re making a documentary about Liam Gallagher, but I don’t think you miss it. Or even notice. And that’s the edit team doing a cracking job of putting it together and making it filmic.
What was Liam’s take on the final edit?
He liked it, luckily! Anytime you show a film about somebody’s life to somebody, you’re apprehensive because of how they will see themselves. It’s like someone taking a picture of you and showing it to you, you always have an opinion on it. But it’s not sensationalised, not tabloid, it is what it is and he’s real and true in it and I’m not trying to dish the dirt on anything. You’re just trying to tell the story how it is.
Has Liam said what he hopes people will take from the film?
I don’t think he’s arsed! Do you know what I mean? He’s Liam Gallagher. He’s sort of not bothered really. And I think you can see that about his personality in the film. It’s not like he’s not bothered in a negative way, but he’s not done it to make people like him better. I’ll tell you the truth, I’ve not had long conversations with him about the film. It’s just like ‘yeah, cool’. He’s been making his album and that’s what’s more important to him. He’s a musician, he’s not a film star and he’s going back out on tour soon.
Are you feeling nervous ahead of the release?
Yes and no but we’re not being contrived or trying to better something. Everything in there is just honest. It’s someone holding their hands up and saying, ‘This is me; this is what I’m like’ and you can’t knock anybody for that. If you watch it on 6th June, Liam’s going to do a live performance at the end of the film, which will be beamed into cinemas, which is going to be a real event.
Do you consider it a love letter to Manchester?
Yeah, I love Manchester and I’m proud of where I come from. Growing up here, that was the thing that was mega about Oasis, they were just lads having it, and when I moved down to London to go to college, it gave you a certain swagger. When we were filming the opening drone shot for As It Was, I’ve never seen Manchester look more like a Hollywood skyline. I was just like, ‘Wow, look at that’. I hold this city very dearly, like Liam does. It’s where you’re from, it’s who you are. I think if you’re Mancunian, it’s in you, isn’t it?
Liam Gallagher: As It Was is released on Thursday 6th June.