by Stephen Tudor
Alan McGee is a self-proclaimed ‘ridiculous human being’ but perhaps it’s his life that veers on the ludicrous. I mean, just how many truly amazing epoch-straddling bands can one person be responsible for?
While his heroes will indelibly be linked with singular genius – McClaren with the Pistols and Loog-Oldham the Stones – the former punk from East Kilbride has shouted the odds for The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, The Libertines, and most memorably, Oasis.
In 35 years of being completely immersed in music he has built up a record label from scratch before selling it for millions mere weeks before bankruptcy, been wooed by a cool-struck prime minister, and become a star of documentary and film.
To quote a song from fellow Glaswegians The Fratellis, the boy done good.
Walking down a corridor to meet McGee at Focus Wales – a celebration of Welsh music where he is due to take part in a Q&A – I’m informed “You’re lucky. Alan’s in a good mood today”.
I fail to hide my disappointment. On bumping into the infamously chippy Creation boss at a bus stop I’d be pleased to find him in a cheery state. But for an interview? I wanted the fireworks, the arsenic-laced bon mots, and most of all the unconcealed derision for pomp and bullshit that is as untamed now as it was when he and compatriot Bobby Gillespie first formed a band from their teenage bedrooms.
Thankfully a sanguine McGee is still infinitely more opinionated than a thousand others at their most belligerent.
It’s quite mobile weirdly. For five years I’ve been living in Wales reading books and watching films and now suddenly I’ve got 359 and I’m starting up Creation management again.
On a certain level it’s (still) brilliant. I don’t mean the music they’re playing on Radio 1 during the day and the commercialisation of music but the kids who are inspired by the 90s bands like the Stone Roses, the Monday. I think it’s really fucking healthy.
There are a lot of good bands who are unsigned.
When I came through in the 80s it was actually really easy to come through. Now they have closed that avenue down whereas they didn’t even take me fucking seriously so there was nobody guarding the back door. So we managed to get in the building. They probably thought we’d get lost in the fire exit so they weren’t even watching us.
On kids of today
I think it must be fucking hard for them man. I’m glad that I’m 53.
At least with the drugs we were taking there was a little bit of history to ecstasy and a lot of history to cocaine and heroin. But they’re old fashioned drugs now. Young kids nowadays aren’t into smack – you’re a bit past it if that’s what you’re into. There are 250 new drugs every fucking year being invented because all they do is change a component to get past the law. So there are all these kinds of smart drugs. And with all these drugs the side-effects what they probably reckon….because they can’t tell yet…is Parkinson’s disease. They don’t really know what these drugs do.
On Cameron’s Britain
It’s fucking weird. What people haven’t worked out post the Olympics is that London is a country. They’ve cleverly not classified themselves as a country but it is. And the rules do not apply. House prices in London have gone through the roof whereas everywhere else they’ve halved. We’ve living in two completely different paradigms.
The Scots are going to fuck off England and why the Welsh haven’t worked it out yet I don’t know.
Westminster despises Scotland utterly since Thatcher and all the governments post that. And I think they have contempt for Wales as well so I don’t know why, if you live here, you’d want to be part of Westminster.
Musically McLaren, Tony Wilson, Andrew Loog Oldham. In life Crowley, Peter J Carroll, Arthur Scargill, Malcolm X…people who basically said ‘fuck you’.
On meeting an 18 year old Alan McGee
Just keep on doing what you’re doing because everybody will tell you that you’re wrong. Succeed and fail on your own judgements.
I’m obsessed to be honest. I’m on Instagram because then I can judge how popular one band is to the next. I’ll put a picture up of Screamadelica next to Definitely Maybe and work out what the ratios are. I use things like that as a litmus test.
Occasionally I’ll do a DJ set and Italy still hasn’t got past the fact that Britpop happened so back in January I was on for ninety minutes in Bologna and the last hour was back to back Oasis records. It’s just for fun really.
I can’t stand it personally. I don’t buy any of it. I live in Hay-on-Wye dude, it’s not as if I’m courting it.
On the importance of events such as Focus Wales
Every town has a Focus Wales if you know what I’m saying. I’ll do them for the Welsh, and I’ll do them for the Scousers because I like Liverpool, and I’ll do them for a mate like John Robb.
The BPI have asked me to do the keynote speech for the past two years. Fuck knows why because they all hate my guts.
On the future
I’m going to London tonight on the six o’clock train. Change at Chester, go to Crewe, and take it as it comes.