As co-founder, president and public face of Creation Records, Alan McGee is responsible for bringing an impressive array of acts into public consciousness: Oasis, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, The Telescopes, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Felt, Super Furry Animals, The Boo Radleys, The House Of Love, Adorable, Heavy Stereo, just to name a few.
Since folding Creation in 1999, McGee has been less involved in the music business. He headed the Poptones label for a time, giving The Hives their international break and has also managed The Libertines, Mogwai and The Charlatans.
McGee and Creation’s story has been told in the new documentary Upside Down. Now an avid painter and reader of texts by Aleister Crowley and Peter J Carroll, McGee is heading to Australia to speak at this year’s Bigsound event in Brisbane. Before he touches down next week, FL talked to the man behind ‘the biggest band in the world’ about the legacy he has left behind.
Although you’re not really involved in the music business much now, it still seems to keep you quite busy?
I’ve kind of got a busy couple of months. I’m on holiday at the moment in Spain with Geldof up a mountain in Spain. But I’ll be off next week to Japan with the Primals to play in an aircraft hangar to 18,000 people. Then I’m coming back to Spain for a couple of weeks, then I have a week in England and then I’m coming down to Brisbane. I’ve never actually been to Australia. I’m coming down to give this talk and I think I’m gonna do a DJ gig and maybe some sort of private party. Then I’ll come back via Tokyo to play a gig then I’ll come back too England.
So you’re only coming to Brisbane?
If some promoter says “Come and do three or four shows”, I’ll come and do it but there doesn’t seem to be any demand. I DJ for fun. The promoters from Bigsound said “Come and give a talk about the music business”. I was only really in the music business for really only 20 years. Creation was less than 20 years. It was from ‘83 to ‘99. I suppose by definition, it defines me because I had the biggest group in the world but it was only about 16 years of my life. I’m a 50-year-old man now. I don’t mind talking war stories. Even though I managed The Libertines, found Glasvegas, found The Hives, managed Mogwai, did some stuff like that; I’d actually moved into property and I made more money out of property than I ever did out of music, funnily enough. Then I’ve started painting and stuff. I suppose, ultimately, Oasis/Creation defines me in a way that people know who I am. In the way that I am as a human being, having my kid, she’s ten and doing all the other thinsg I’m doing now, that sort of defines me.
I still feel if I’m on some sort of journey and I don’t really feel like it’s all to do with music, it’s just a journey that I’m on and I don’t know where I’m going with it but I just keep going.
I suppose you’re also known from Creation because of the groups you signed and the impact they made and continue to?.
I remember when Creation were first starting out, people perceived us as some sort of ‘60s retro label. Now, in retrospect, people are seeing me as some sort of visionary genius. Some guy that found all these amazing bands. But the thing is, people don’t understand it, nobody’s a genius. I signed some great bands, they made me look good. It’s as simple as that in one sentence. You’re only ever as good as the bands you find and I found some good bands.
I did Creation for a few years and we lived a dream. We wanted to have the biggest group in the world. We wanted to merge punk rock and psychedelia. We succeeded. I suppose there is a few moments; like I wish we’d stopped in ‘96 after Knebworth, which is well-documented. But in truth I think Creation was a success. It was good and it started me off into a world of business, in a funny way.
I love the idea of psychedelic punk rock. Where did that come from?
That came from a band called the TV Personalities that made me realise I could put a record out because they had a label called Wham, run by Dan Treacey. For the first couple of years, we were kind of a bad rip-off of Wham Records until we put out the first Jesus and Mary Chain record. We became ourselves, as you do if you stick at something long enough. But the idea of merging punk rock and psychedelia was a TV Personalities thing. It felt like it was where we were coming from. Also Joe Foster was in the TV Personalities and Ed Ball was in the TV Personalities so obviously we were very influenced by that.