Andy Saunders joined Creation in 1992 as a press officer and remained with the label until the end. He now runs a company called Velocity PR and we caught up with him to ask him about the old Creation days and his current activities.
If we could start at the beginning if that’s ok, what did you do before you joined Creation?
When I left college I started off working in the warehouse of Pacific Records (a small London based record importer) in 1987, got moved up to sales before eventually becoming export manager there. I then moved to Conifer Records (a small classical label) as export manager in 1989 before going on to become label manager at Roadrunner Records in 1990 .Roadrunner fired me and I joined Creation as a press officer in 1992.
At what age did you first get into music?
The first single I bought was ‘Daydreamer’ by David Cassidy when I was about 7. The first ‘decent’ (sort of) record I bought was Tonic For The Troops by The BoomTown Rats when I about 12. The record that changed my life though was the Clash’s first album. I got into punk quite young and that pretty much took over my life musically from the age of 13 onwards.
How did you first get involved with Creation? Did you have to apply for the job?
A friend of mine, Mike Smith, who is now a top A&R Director at EMI Publishing knew Alan McGee and heard that Creation were looking for someone for their press department and mentioned it to me. I was unemployed at the time (having got fired by Roadrunner a month previously) and called up Laurence Verfaille who was then Head of Press and she asked me to come in to meet her and Alan. Alan asked me who my favourite bands were (I can’t remember what I said!) and gave me the job there and then. The ‘interview’ lasted about 3 minutes.
Were you a fan of the label before you joined?
Kind of – I liked some of the albums they’d put out but I wasn’t a Creation afficianado or anything. I was just desperately looking for a decent job with a cool company….
Is it true about the tale of you going to the pub with Dick (Green) on your first day and not knowing who he was?
Yeah, Dick’s a very unassuming guy. He asked me if I fancied a beer at the end of my first day and we went to the London Fields pub in Hackney. After a couple of minutes of small talk I asked him what he did at the label and he said “er, I own it…”
What artists were you involved with on the label?
The first record I worked on was ‘Copper Blue’ by Sugar which was a big hit so I got off to a flying start. Pretty soon I was working on Teenage Fanclub, Silverfish, The Boo Radleys, Ride and Swervedriver. Later on I worked with 3 Colours Red, Super Furry Animals, Jesus and Mary Chain and I did all the press for the label and McGee as well.
You apparently had some doubts about Oasis when you first heard them. At what point did they change your opinion?
They were crap when I first saw them, at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton supporting The Verve. The first gig where I thought “Hang on, these guys are amazing” was at the 100 Club when they played with Whiteout. Up ’til then I wasn’t really convinced but I was a big fan after that.
What are your views on the whole Knebworth-era of the label? Was it the high point or the beginning of the end for you?
Both. It was amazing to see that many people in a field watching Oasis and the whole buzz around the band and the label at that point was massive but everybody was under a lot of pressure to deliver and there was a lot of office politics and general tension. I didn’t enjoy that period much to be honest, it had all got out of control and messy. A lot of people acted like arseholes around that time. They know who they are…..
You were given responsibilty for dealing with Kevin Rowland’s My Beauty album. What was that like to work on? (I’m asking this coz despite the bad press, I know people who absolutely love the album)
A nightmare. Kevin was bonkers, an absolute fruitcake. He was still in recovery from years of substance abuse and was really too fragile to handle the pressue of working with a record company in my opinion. I think the album’s crap which is a shame because the concept (covers of songs that helped him in his recovery) was sound and he is one of the great white soul singers of our generation. The media hated that record and it was an uphill battle from day one.
Were you a Dexy’s fan in the 80’s and did you get to see them on the recent tour?
I was a major Dexy’s fan which amplified my disappointment – I couldn’t bear to go and see them on their recent tour, although people told me they were pretty good….
When Alan announced it was the end of the label, did you feel it was the right time for it to end?
Totally – Alan had completely lost interest and without Alan Creation couldn’t exist. He got caned by some people for ending Creation but I admired his honesty even though it left me without a job! We’re still good friends….
You’ve got your own PR company now. Can you tell me a little about that?
I started Velocity Communications in January 2000. Initially I was working out of Alan McGee’s Poptones office in Primrose Hill but I moved to my own place in Hatton Garden, EC1 about 6 months later. We’re now in central London. I kept McGee as a client and did some early Poptones stuff but I wanted to do more corporate PR work rather than just band stuff so I picked up clients like the Telstar Music Group, EMI, Ministry of Sound, Mushroom-Infectious Records etc.
We also did a lot of new media stuff and computer games in the early days. These days we do rock/alternative bands like The Dropkick Murphys and The Bellrays and quite a lot of urban, pop and dance artists like Craig David, Mis-Teeq, Romeo and even The Cheeky Girls! We also look after songwriters like Guy Chambers, Lamont Dozier and Dianne Warren as well as music publishers like Notting Hill Music and Kobalt Music….check out www.velocitypr.co.uk
What are your plans for the future with the company?
At the moment just to survive this particularly turbulent period that music industry as a whole is going through. Long term I’d just like to continue working with great artists and great companies….
Have you had much of a chance to listen to some of the Poptones or Witchita releases?
Absolutely – obviously we’ve worked on some Poptones releases like The Bellrays , Beachbuggy and Captain Soul , of all whom I like a lot and obviously The Hives ‘Your New Favourite Band’ was a great record – Mark Bowen and Dick are building a fantastic label with Wichita. Martin Carr’s ‘Brave Captain’ material was great and I love The Bronx. Wichita is very cool at the moment….
Most of the old Creation gang seem to be doing pretty well. Were you surprised by Alan from 18 Wheeler’s Must Destroy label? Whatever your opinion on The Darkness, they’ve done really well.
Oh yeah, the Darkness is a phenomenon. I’m not a big fan personally but you can’t argue with their success. Ian Johnson who co-owns The Must Destroy label used to work in production at Creation with us and obviously Alan was in 18 Wheeler (or Wheeler 18 as Tony Blair memorably called them!) so it’s great to see two nice blokes doing so well. Just goes to show that if you believe in something enough you can make it happen.
Do you think we can expect some more surprises from anyone who was on the label?
Well, John Andrews our old marketing manager recently wrote a brilliant book about fishing called ‘For Those Left Behind’ which I can definitely recommend and he occasionally appears on Radio 5 Lives fishing programme ‘Fish on 5’ and Paul Quinn, who used to be the drummer in Teenage Fanclub has just released a fantastic solo album as ‘The Primary 5’ – the albums called ‘North Pole’ on his own own Bellbeat Records label.
Finally, do you have a message for the kids today?
Yes – a smile doesn’t cost anything, don’t drop litter and , erm, never eat anything bigger than your head.
Interview: Sept 2003