Alan McGee is in his den, the large room he keeps as his office at his home in Wales. The room has memorabilia from his past life as Head of Creation Records, when he was manager of the most successful bands on the planet. On the walls and desk are photographs and posters, papers, drawings, his signature hat and glasses. On the floor discs (packaged away), shoes, surrounded by small towers and pyramids of books on the occult, Crowley, Spare, philosophy and music. McGee has lived in Wales since he quit the music business almost a decade ago, but instead of a quiet pastoral life, he is busier now than he has ever been.
‘There’s a lot of stuff going on, Paul,’ McGee says, counting off a list with his fingers. ‘There’s the film Kubricks with Dean, which you know about. I’m in the middle of suing the News of the World, and that’s going to come to court early June next year, with Hugh Grant and a few others. There’s the book, my autobiography which we might call “McGee”, but weirdly, Harry Mulligan, who I’m writing it with, wants to call it “You Cannae Push Yer Granny Aff A Bus”, which I think is funny. It’s the story of how you come from Glasgow, from Mount Florida, next to Hampden and end up in Rock ‘n’ Roll for nearly thirty years, from 23 to the age I am now.’
McGee hardly looks into to his forties, but he recently celebrated his 52nd birthday, a quiet event with his family and friends. At age when most people are thinking of winding down, McGee is about to make his return to the Music Industry with a new Record Label.
Last week the NME reported on McGee’s return to the music business. It was a small coup for the magazine to break the news, but that isn’t exactly how it happened, as McGee explains.
‘They pieced together this interview, bless them, and it was a great interview, except I didn’t do it. The NME just pieced it together.’
Rather than being pissed, McGee finds it funny.
‘The only way people knew that interview was in the magazine was someone did a JPEG on the internet and then everyone passed it around via Facebook. Nobody buys the NME. The problem is the journalists that work there think people read their magazine, but the ABCs are 23,500.
‘No one has any bigger say or lesser say than anyone else. And that’s how it should be.
‘The NME is not the only game in town. I love the NME, don’t get me wrong, I think they thought I was coming back and doing another big Creation thing, but you can’t create the past. Create the future don’t recreate the past.’
So, what brought McGee back to his first love and how is he going to create the future?
‘My Japanese friend Takashi Yano, he had dug me out of Wales, and he brought me on over to Japan to DJ some Primals, and that kind of stuff and I’d known him before, and we became really good friends, and then one day he just said, ‘Look I want you to do this Tokyo Rocks Festival.’ I’d never done a rock festival before, but because it was Takashi, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do this with you.’ I sat down with him, and I found this is fucking enjoyable.’ McGee gives a joyous laugh. ‘I mean every fucker’s been trying to get me back into the music business, and I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ And Takashi has come along and said do a Rock Festival, and we spent a few months kicking about with each other in the summer, checking out bands, and putting the bills together.’
Who’s on the bill?
‘I can’t tell you who they are, they’ll be announced, Paul, they’re names you’ll know, big names.’
The excitement McGee felt over curating Tokyo Rocks made him reassess what he wanted to do with his life.
‘I suddenly realized I’d got my itch back for music. It was kind of like being good at something and then forgetting you are good at it, do you know what I mean? I suddenly realized I was good at it, good at talking to the bands, talking to people, and I’d forgotten I was good at, and I am still good at it.
‘Music hadn’t been a part of my life. I’d been busy with bringing up my little girl and living in Wales, and just living my life, it wasn’t Rock ‘n; Roll, you know. But suddenly it all seemed to fall into place.
‘At first, we thought of calling it Creation, but then you know, I was never that sold on the name Creation anyway. But what became apparent, when we started talking about starting a new label, the thing is you have to find a new way of doing it.
‘The reason we didn’t call it Creation is because, this label is going to be so different with what we’re going to do. Creation was a moment and a time. Maybe the attitude is similar in certain ways, but this is a model that has to work today, and has to work for everybody. Creation worked for everybody and this has to work for everybody, but you can’t use that 1990’s business model for 2013.
‘It sounds a bit crazy, but what we’ve got to do is re-invent the wheel.
‘We want a new way of doing things, we want to work in a kind of partnership with people, which works for everyone involved.
‘I mean we all have different ideas. I’ve got definite ideas what I want to do. There are a lot of new bands I like and that really interest me. I love Pete McLeod, Gun Club Cemetery, this guy Chris Pattemore, who comes form Hay-on-Wye.
‘I’m really interested in doing new stuff, but I’d also like to get a couple of established acts, and not the ones everyone expects who worked with Creation.
‘So, what I’m saying is, yes, we want to have a new label, and yes, we are having meetings with lawyers and people, but this is something we’re working on, that’s moving a long at its own pace. It’s evolving, and to get it right, to get so it works for everyone involved, we can’t force it, we can’t make happen fast, we have to get it right.’
McGee knows setting up a new business structure that works fairly for all is not going to be easy.
‘The music business has changed, it’s not just about record sales alone. The world’s changed. Think back to 1990s, and you and me were probably just getting our heads around computers, and look at us today. Everything is available at your fingertips today. And a music label must work with that, you know.
‘Everything has changed and that’s exciting. I’ve never been afraid of change, I can embrace change, and I’m up for making this new label something really different, and original. But we have to find a way to do it that is compatible for everyone. Find a way to do it that we’re into, that the bands and musicians are into. I think we can do it, I think we can find a way for new bands and established bands.’
There’s a great passion and urgency when McGee speaks. He sees the growth of bland, soulless music destroying what was once a healthy indigenous music culture, running in tandem with the failure of British politics to bring about any real social or political change. The country is still in the hands of a tiny, privileged minority. And as for the wealth of music only a few bands, clubs and DJs are keeping that passion alive.
‘There’s a real malaise of dumbing things right down. People don’t have a choice. It’s a bit like the political system in this country, there’s no fucking choice. There’s no real alternative, no real possibility of change. And something has to be done about that, you know.
‘There are a few people who are flying the flag that actually make you believe that music matters. There’s still a few of the small bands, like you’ve got your Pete McLeods, your believers, your Gun Club Cemetery, your Chris Pattemores, and your Chris Grants up in Liverpool, these are your believers, and I’ll always go with the believers. Fuck the cynics. Fuck the Guardian. Fuck them. I’d rather go with people who believe that music matters and that we can make a difference.
‘You know, that have spunk in their bollocks. Everybody is so wet, so passive, so scared, that you can’t say this you can’t say that, and that’s where it all went wrong.
‘Look I’m a 52-year-old bloke and it would be too snide and too lazy for me to pick on any of these bands, but there is so much music out there that is so fucking passive, it’s like what you play to sedate people. Maybe that’s me showing my age, but I was in Italy, in Bologna, at the weekend, and I saw Noel [Gallagher] and this is not because he’s my friend, but his band played and there were 4,000 people, 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds, all singing Oasis songs back at Noel in between tracks. Music still means something. Even rock and roll can still mean something. And that passion for music gives me hope.
‘Win or lose, at least you’ve gone your own route.’
So, where is Alan’s new unnamed record label going to be based.
‘I bought this chapel in Wales, it’s an amazing chapel. The only things that are for sale in Wales are pubs and chapels. Because nobody goes to church and nobody can afford to go to the pub.
‘I bought the chapel in Talgarth and that is going to be the base for whatever we do. It’s going to be in Talgarth, South Wales.
‘But first let’s get the movies, the book and Tokyo Rocks all finished.’
2013 is going to be a busy year for Alan McGee.
Previously on Dangerous Minds