Interview with Alan McGee

If you don’t know who Alan McGee is then perhaps you’re at the wrong website. When we spoke to him in 2002 he no longer did interviews and had recently launched his Poptones label, the following year he started managing The Libertines.

Why did you decide to set up Creation?

I didn’t want a real job. I never thought I’d get wealthy from it I just wanted to put our records. Creation’s not completely dead though, I still own the Creation Studios, I still manage 5 or 6 artists on Creation Management and then there’s Creation Songs, the publishing company, plus of course there’s Poptones.

With Creation I feel we should have stopped in the mid 90′s. We still put out some great records after this period which I stand by such as ‘Man Don’t Give a Fuck’ by Super Furry Animals, Trashmonk, Arnold, the last two albums by Primal Scream and Teenage Fanclub alongside the Kevin Rowland album which despite the sleeve is a really beautiful album. I still stand by that.

Do you think the hunger went after the massive success, almost as if you’d achieved everything you wanted?

Basically, I needed to go back and start all over gain, which is what I’ve done with Poptones. I’ve started a new publishing company called Heartland. But people knock Poptones for not being successful but we had a Platinum album last year with The Hives and Cosmic Rough Riders went Silver. It took Creation six years to get that far so I’m really pleased with it.

What’s happening with The Cosmic’s at the moment?

They’re making another record without their old singer. I just love bands like The Beach Boys and The Byrds and these guys make records just like they did, so I love it. They come from an estate in Glasgow that I wouldn’t even walk through and it’s great that they can then go from that to Top of The Pops, that’s what I love about doing this.

Did you expect The Hives to take off so quickly?

Well, it just happened, everyone just picked up on them so quickly. They’re so into it though it’s fantastic.

Is there a new Hives album planned?

We’ll have to wait and see. What’s gets me is that people say my career is a fluke yet I’ve discovered about 8 or 9 really successful bands now, yet people say I’ve fluked it. How do you get to sign that many bands which are that successful and just fluke it? Not many people can do that.

If all I wanted was to be successful I could be but I have to believe in the artists. I get offered loads of management deals and regularly turn them down. (We mention the success of the shit Pop Idol acts) I’ve just been offered a singer, who shall remain nameless and I could easily make £200,000 a year from her, but if my hearts not in it I can’t do it.

We do things coz we love music, not many people put 25 to 30 albums out a year and I always feel i’m misrepresented and that’s why I don’t do interviews anymore.

The reason I feel I’m misrepresented is because the English middle classes don’t like someone who’s Scottish and working class havin’ it. I’ve got a lot of bad press for making a few million and the record press don’t like that.

There was talk of you signing Liam (ex-Flowered Up) Maher’s new band Greedy Soul. What happened with that?

We couldn’t agree a deal so we had to let him go. He’s free to do his own thing.

What else is happening with Poptones at the moment?

We’ve just released the new Bellrays single this week and there will be a new Montgolfier Brothers album soon. I don’t really see a lot of difference between Creation and Poptones, although I think the sleeves and the look of the label is much better.

But what’s still true is that for every Hives there’s a Selofane 74, much the same as Creation. But still everyone thinks it’s a flop.

Well I think you’re just trapped under the shadow of Oasis and not that many people understand music enough so they just expect you to pull another Oasis out of the bag.

But then no one else in the last 25 years has found anyone that successful so I certainly won’t find another.

Did you go to the recent Finsbury Park gigs?

No, Andy (Bell) invited me along but I was too busy. It’s great there’s a huge Oasis revival on at the moment.

What do you think of Heathen Chemistry?

I love ‘Stop crying Your Heart Out’. I was with my wife in the car listening to Radio One, which is just shit, and this song came on and I hadn’t heard it before. I didn’t know what it was but I thought it was amazing, then when Liam started singing I thought it was brilliant, I really love it. The rest of the album is good, but that’s fucking amazing.

Especially following ‘Heathen Chemistry’, one concern for all record labels at the moment is the amount of music being downloaded from the internet, does this concern you?

As a publisher it really fucking concerns me yes (Oasis are published by Creation Songs).

I recently tried to buy the old Creation URL and Sony weren’t interested at all. Why do you think that is?

Well I reckon they’re hoping one day we’ll start it up again, and I wouldn’t say no. Maybe when my daughter is 10 and I’ll start the label again, but for now I’m happy concentrating on Poptones. Poptones has got about six really great acts on it that I’m totally committed to. My favourites are definitely The Hives, Cosmic Rough Riders, Ken Stringfellow, Arnold, the Bellrays and Beach Buggy. Despite putting out great records we still get slated so I don’t do interviews.

One posting I get on the site regularly is about Andy Bell being in Oasis. Do you think he’s maybe wasting his talent?

Well, Andy always wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star and now he is. The thing with Andy is he’s a great songwriter and guitarist but he’s not consistent. But that’s maybe my fault by making him put too many records out. But Andy’s like family, he’s like my little brother and I’ll always let him do what he wants, if he wants to put a record out, I’ll release it.

Did you see Ride recent reunion on Channel4?

I didn’t, but Andy told me about it apparently they got shafted didn’t they?

Oh yeh, it was supposed to be him and Mark presenting a show and performing on it, however, they got about two minutes.

Ride, along with Super Furry Animals put out some great records but there were four really great bands on Creation, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Oasis and Teenage Fanclub.

I stated to Andy recently that Oasis should definitely do a version of ‘Step Into My World’ as it was an excellent song that would fit Liam’s vocals.

Oh yeh, it was an amazing song that wouldn’t be out of place in their set. The problem is that it was released as a Hurricane#1 song so they won’t touch it. It’s got a great bass line, fantastic guitars and Alex’s vocals were excellent.

The great thing about Ride and Andy is that they were passionate about their art and wouldn’t compromise on that. There are still some great bands around today that still feel that way. D4 are only 23 and they are just the same, they just care about the music and couldn’t give a shit about chart positions just like The Hives really. They couldn’t care about getting into the charts.

Another band was 3 Colours Red they were great at first. I wasn’t so struck on later stuff like ‘Beautiful Day’. But stuff like ‘Pure’ was amazing’.

They’ve just reformed, would you consider signing them?

Probarly not, I’d like to manage them, but they’ve got a manager already.

Are you going to the Sex Pistols gig this month? Last time you saw them you put an advert in NME.

I will go. I can’t believe some people have called it an embarrassment. I basically took out the advert coz I was gonna write into the NME but the journalists were pissing me off and I know how they change things so I took out the advert coz then they couldn’t change it. I just thought to myself “wot the fuck!”

You’ve recently been running the Death Disco club nights in London, how’s that?

Well I’ve stopped doing that coz I hadn’t been drinking for 6 or 7 years and going to see a band is ok coz I’ll only have a couple, but when I DJ I just guzzle it and thought it was best to stop before I had a drinking problem again. I’ve got two year old so I need to be careful. The thing with me is I believe for anyone to achieve anything they have to be an obsessive and that’s what I am, so if I get into drink again I won’t stop, so I had to. I recently DJ’ed for The Bellrays though and that was good.

You’ve mentioned the NME do you still buy it?

Yeh, I think James Oldham still loves music. But the kids today they all buy Kerrang. NME doesn’t sell too well these days. As we’ve talked about downloading music, kids these days want something for free and they don’t really see that they should have to pay for anything, hence they get their stuff off the internet.

Well, everything you want from the NME you can get off their website anyway, I only use to buy it for the news and now I can get that online so you’re right. Don’t you think NME was much better circa ’88 to ’92?

Well that was the Golden Era for Creation, so yeh. 1991 was the year. We put out Screamadelica, Bandwagonesque and Loveless that year, three fucking amazing albums. Getting back on the Internet side of things, the comments I made in 98 about the Internet destroying record labels is even more true than I ever considered and its come home to roost. I never considered the impact those comments would have.

Do you still long for the old days of folding sleeves yourself?

In many ways that’s what Poptones is. It’s taken it all back to basics.

What about the Sony Compilation a couple of years ago. Did you enjoy that?

I didn’t wanna do that. Dick Green is currently putting together a box set, but I think it’s still too early, especially as I signed the bands. It’s kind of mad but Dick is my friend and I’ll let him do it. We’re also putting out a Boo Radleys compilation.

Really?

That was a joke.

But surely you like ‘Giant Steps?’

Yeh, but it pisses me off how they went from that to ‘Wake Up Boo!’ They saw Oasis have some success and started making records like Sleeper.

We’ve discussed how Oasis put a shadow over everything you’ve done since, one band I think would have been successful if they’d released records before Oasis is Heavy Stereo. How do you feel about them in hindsight?

They put out a great first single, which didn’t do too well in the charts and they couldn’t really focus on the album.

But don’t you think the press attacked them coz the first single didn’t enter the charts at number one, which is what everyone expected after Oasis?

True, but I let them down in many ways. It was just after my breakdown and I couldn’t really help them. But Gem’s a great bloke and I’ve loads of respect for him.

What do you think of Primal Scream these days, do you like the new album?

I like the more song based stuff, but I’m not too struck on the electronic stuff. I’ve only heard seven tracks which I downloaded from Audiogalaxy.

Do you keep in touch with Bobby?

He’s my best friend and I speak to him every day. He’s got the best headspace he’s had in a long time, He’s got a great girlfriend and a little kid now. But the thing with the Primal’s is that they toured too much in the past and when they’re on tour they take drugs you know. But they’re all pretty sorted now.

I’ve known Throb 20 years and for 5 years I didn’t hear from him but now he’s back in touch again, they’re really sorted. But my two favourite bands on the label were definitely Oasis and Primal Scream, there’s not much between them.

All I wanna say really is that I’m 41 now and I’ve been doing music since I was 17, and I’ll be doing it until I’m 65. That’s what annoys me about the bad press Poptones has received, in the UK last year only 28 albums have gone platinum and The Hives was one of those albums.

Finally, have you got a message for the kids today?

Start a record label it’s an amazing experience and you get to meet a lot of cunts.

Interview: July 2002