Alan McGee: “The music industry doesn’t want young indie rock ‘n’ roll. The culture is so different”
As the founder of Creation Records, Alan McGee launched the careers of Oasis, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Super Furry Animals. Now, McGee is starting to do it again – with several 7″ vinyl releases on his latest venture Creation 23 selling out.
As the label celebrates its second anniversary with six monthly singles by hot new talent, McGee tells NME why indie might not have a future, the reasons socially-distanced gigs don’t work, the latest on his Creation Stories biopic and why he wants to sign “cocky young fuckers” again.
Happy anniversary to Creation 23. Does it feel like two years since you started a record label again?
“It does, but Creation 23 isn’t my central focus, as I manage bands and my movie is coming out. It’s a bit old to be having a hobby, but that’s kinda what Creation 23 is. But I’m aware that something will come along which will sell a lot of records, and then it won’t be a hobby. I’m not doing Creation 23 for the money, and that’s when it happens. When I’m not thinking about cash is when I walk in and find Oasis or My Bloody Valentine. I’m not overthinking it.”
Creation 23 has generally focused on 7″ singles. How does the buzz feel when one of the singles like Shambolics or The K’s has sold out?
“It’s great, but we’ve stopped doing 7″s for now. Most of the pressing plants are shut and, in these strange times, who’s got £7.99 to buy a 7″ single? Putting singles online instead, I can run the label from my iPhone. It makes it like old-school Creation, turning releases round fucking fast.”
What was the inspiration behind releasing one single a month for six months, starting with The Clockworks and Cat SFX?
“Most people aren’t putting records out, so let’s give people some new music. Coronavirus is obviously horrible, but I can’t be a hypocrite, I’ve enjoyed the pandemic. In early April, I walked five miles from my house into the West End, thinking someone would arrest me for going outside. When I wasn’t, I realised I could keep myself to myself and it could still be fun. For me personally, lockdown has been alright. It’s quite a good time to release new songs.”
What can you tell us about the success of ‘Can I Speak To A Manager’ by The Clockworks?
“In the ’80s or ’90s, that song would be a huge hit. The band sent me a message on Instagram, saying: ‘McGee: We’re the punk rock version of The Streets’. I thought: ‘Cocky little fuckers! Right, I’m interested’. I like working with ballsy people, and they’re little hustlers. It’s the same with Cat SFX – in a different time, she’d be a punk hero. She has strong opinions about everything: she’ll have controversial views on the milkman. You’ve got to love people like that, those are the best people.”
Why aren’t other labels falling over themselves to sign acts like those?
“The Clockworks and Shambolics are 10/10 bands, but I’m picking them up from Instagram. You’ve got to accept that the music industry and media don’t want young, punky indie rock n’ roll bands. They just don’t. That makes it easier for me, as the quality I’m signing up is incredible. I don’t know if it will ever change, because the culture is just so different now. There are other people doing great stuff. The new bands network This Feeling is wonderful. I don’t know if there’s a happy ending for the industry if it stops putting out records by hungry indie punk rock ‘n’ roll bands. But I’m not trying to change anything, I’m just doing it because I like doing it.”
What’s the latest with the Creation Stories film?
“It’s literally getting finished this week. They’re just trying to work out how to release it. I want them to just bang it online. Get it on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Sky, because who’s going to the fucking cinema now? They should forget a cinema release, no-one’s going to go. The film looks great, I think it’s going to be really good.”
Home creator Rufus Jones recently joined the cast. Who does he play?
“I don’t know! I’m no good at knowing who actors are. I was on set, shooting the shit with Thomas Turgoose, who’s a curious wee guy like me. I thought he was some lucky kid getting his break in my film. I looked him up a few minutes after, and saw Thomas has got a serious career and 100,000 followers. We’re good friends now, he’s a funny dude.”
How does it feel to see some of Creation’s cult acts portrayed in the film alongside Oasis and Primal Scream?
“It’s wonderful that Television Personalities are in it. Mel Raido is genius playing Ed Ball from the Personalities: like Ed, he’s cool as fuck. Ed’s solo song ‘The Mill Hill Self Hate Club’ is on the film’s soundtrack, and that’s one of the great lost Creation singles. Their singer Dan Treacy has been very ill and is in a care home. I talk to him on Zoom every couple of weeks. I’m hoping I can take the film to show Dan, when people are allowed into his care home.”
What do you think when you see Ewen Bremner playing you?
“Ewen is brilliant, but it’s not really me. Everything about me is written up in a particular way, and I’m just not that dramatic a guy anymore. I haven’t been for 25 years. But it’s a movie, so you’ve got to go along with it. And the film is hilarious. It’s Irvine Welsh writing it, so of course it is.
You manage Shaun Ryder, Glasvegas and Cast. What are they up to?
“I’m just trying to get on with it, now they can’t do shows. Black Grape, Glasvegas and Cast all have tours booked in for early spring, but I don’t know if they’ll happen. Glasvegas have new music at the end of the year and I’m sorting book deals and skateboard deals for Shaun, that sort of bollocks. I can’t say what they are, but Shaun is being asked to do a lot of brilliant collaborations too. I’m also just about to take on managing The View, which should be great.”
If you don’t know if your tours will really happen, do you think socially-distanced gigs could be the answer?
“No. The whole point of rock ‘n’ roll is the community aspect. You go to the gig, sing the songs with your pals and get a bit pissed. Or not, depending on what your poison is. Where we’re at at the moment is a very long way from that happening. The halfway house stuff, it’s not the same.”
Just before lockdown, you did a Q&A tour with IDLES singer Joe Talbot. What was that like?
“Joe is one of the greats. He blew my mind, as he has such an empathy with everybody. I knew Idles are a brilliant band. Idles, Fontaines DC and Shame are fucking great. But I’d never met Joe or anybody that knew him until I got asked if I’d like to interview him on tour. I just wasn’t prepared for just how good a guy Joe is; he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met in rock n” roll in a long time.”
You turn 60 in September. How much of a milestone does that feel?
“In my head, I’m still a ginger punk-rocker from Glasgow and that’s what I’m always going to be. I’ve never had a particularly high opinion of myself, and being old is irrelevant because I’m still into music. My role models are the managers, like Seymour Stein, Andrew Loog Oldham, Malcolm McLaren and Tony Wilson. Seymour is my role model more than anyone else, and he’s still running music at 78. That’s how I want to be until the very end: still into bands and still putting music out.”
‘Doom Generation’ by Cat SFX is out now on Creation 23. ‘Can I Speak To A Manager?’ by The Clockworks is out on August 14. Singles by Shambolics, Charlie Clark, Belowsky and Sister Psychosis will follow every month until December.