I heard this rumor that Oasis will reform. So, I contacted Alan McGee, former head of Creation Records, and present boss of 359 Music, to find out if it was true…
You know it’s summer when they appear. Crowds of youngsters with rucksacks, tents, and crates of beer gathering at train terminals and bus stations. Their faces relieved by the finish of another academic year, and excited by the promise of distant, euterpean delights. This is the season of music festivals across Britain, from the farm fields of Glastonbury, in Somerset, to the disused airfield in Kinross, where T in the Park is held. The television and print media is saturated with these events, sending chipper young presnters to gush and gawp, or disgruntled, older reporters to dig in with all the young things, and send back epistles full of bile.
Some of their ire is understandable, as the festivals have changed so dramatically from their make-do beginnings, into near corporate enterprises. You can also see it with the acts. Once it was bands or artists on their way-up. Nowadays, it’s mainly a showcase of for aged stars to perform their greatest hits.
At T in the Park, the headliners this year were The Killers, Rihanna and the terrifyingly bland Mumford and Sons, who also (unbelievably) headlined at Glastonbury, along with The Arctic Monkeys and, of course, the oldest rockers in town, The Rolling Stones.
McGee didn’t go to any of the Festivals this year. He watched them on TV.
Alan McGee: “I despise Glastonbury because it’s like a middle class festival,” he tells me over the phone. “If you were from Glasgow, and you were going to Glastonbury, you need five-hundred-quid to get there. Who’s got five-hundred-quid to go to a fucking gig?
“I think it’s really middle class, and has little to do with what music should be about.”
I asked McGee about The Stones, the one band Glastonbury organizer, Michael Eavis had tried to book since the festival began in 1970. The Stones took to the Pyramid Stage and, depending on your age, were either electrifying or disappointing relics.
Alan McGee: “I think, to be honest, The Stones are now probably far too old. I love them, don’t get me wrong. When I saw them at Twickenham in 2007, they were only about 63, and they were still tight, they still had it. But hitting 70, they are losing their power now. It’s probably an unfashionable thing to say, because you’re expected to say, ‘Yeah, they’ve still got it.’ I know Bobby [Gillespie], saw them at Hyde Park and he was was raving about them. But for me personally, watching them on the TV, I thought they were losing power.
“The thing is Keith is busking it a bit because he’s got arthritis, and Ronnie’s carrying the whole thing. Keith only really plays offbeat chords, and you can see he’s not on form.”
Rock journalist Charles Shaar Murray summed-up The Stones performance as a magnificent, great ruin, that had to be seen. He also highlighted Mick Taylor’s cameo, which only limned the lack of Keith’s playing. But what about Jagger? His energy is incredible and he often carries the band with him, but at times, I feel that Jagger performs at the audience rather than to them. McGee thought differently.
“I think Mick Jagger is beyond criticism,” he said. “Mick Jagger is the show. He carries it absolutely.
“I think Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood are still tough. Ronnie Wood is playing for both himself and Keith, and Mick, well they need Mick to keep the show going, he’s just bursting.”
Keith does some stuff, “Satisfaction” was good, but I think he’s busking it, and I think we need Mick on stage, because I don’t think Ronnie can do the whole thing, it’s impossible to play all Keith’s parts and his parts.”
Alan McGee is on a wave of success at the moment. He has confirmed his first six signings to his new label 359 Music, and his autobiography Creation Stories, which comes out in November with Pan/MacMillan, is being raved about, and having seen an unedited version I can only agree with the praise. It is also been rumored that Creation Stories is about to be optioned for a feature length film. Indeed, there’s another rumor about Oasis reforming I want ask Alan about. But that can wait. we talked more about festivals and the difference in audiences.
Alan McGee: “I love Scottish audiences, I must admit. Probably biased, but there you go. The only thing that is better than Scottish audiences are Mexican audiences—they’re more mental, believe it or not. I’m not taking the piss, they’re great, but they get that mental that at some gigs they cage in the audience.
“I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails and Placebo both play to 20,000 people in Mexico City, and there is a wire in front of the bands, all the way round. That’s not to keep the band in, that’s to cage in the audience. It’s a bit like the Barrowlands [a famous venue in Glasgow] except it’s not 2,000 people, it’s 20,000 people.”
We started talking about bands reforming and what he thought about The Stone Roses.
Alan McGee: “I asked Pete MacLeod what The Stone Roses were like at Glasgow Green, and Pete said, ‘Apocalypse Now!’ Make of that what you fucking will.
“I said, ‘Are you taking the piss?’ And Pete said, ‘Alan, I had to stop about 4 fights, it was just like Apocalypse Now!’ It was 50,000 people in Glasgow Green, rammed into a small space, and it was just kicking off.
“I absolutely love The Stone Roses. I love Squires guitar playing, he’s the guitarist of his generation. I haven’t seen them yet, I do owe them one. But I’d rather go and see them in Milan. They play to 50,00 in Britain, but in Milan it’s 2,000.”
PG: What do you think about audiences watching concerts through their iPhones?
Alan McGee: “I think we’re living in very weird times. I think Steve Jobs potentially invented technological psychedelia. He took the acid experience he had and invented technology that gives you a psychedelic experience. Terence McKenna has talked about this in Shamans Among The Machines. When I was at the Neil Young gig, the audience, people next to me, were watching Neil Young through their iPhone. I was watching the gig, and everyone else seemed to be viewing it through their iPhones. If you think about that, it’s psychedelic.
“Bobby Gillespie has been going on about this, saying we now live in a sci-fi reality. I think more and more, we are behaving like machines, and think it’s deliberate.
“I came off Facebook and Twitter because I got really annoyed at the amount of shit people posted. I know people who don’t have a job and post a picture every hour on Facebook. Now, they’re not working but they’re job is working for Facebook. It’s such a brilliant way to get people to do your bidding. It’s brilliant social engineering, it’s designed to make you think by posting a picture, or an update, you are actually doing something with your life—but you’re not. We have become this incredibly narcissistic society, where people share pictures of their fucking dinner or their dog, or their fucking cup-of-coffee. And one of the reasons I came off social media six months ago, was people were talking about their psychological problems, which I really don’t want to know about, or they were posting pictures of their dinner, or a cat. The logical extension of this is one day it will be live sex.
“I came off The Matrix or the grid, or whatever you want to call it, because I realized it was designed for people who don’t have anything to do with their lives. It makes people feel happy if their doing something on Facebook or Twitter. And you can tell these people have nothing to do in their lives outside of social media. They all have the same ideas, what they believe in, what they say, and it only reveals how unhappy they are.
“The other thing, when I was on social media everyone argued with me. Since I’ve been of fit, no one argues with me, it’s fucking great! They don’t argue with me because they don’t know how to get hold of me!”
Having announced his first six signings to his new label, 359 Music, I asked Alan to give a brief introduction to his first batch of artists.
Alan McGee: “It’s not Creation. I’m not going to big anybody up, it’s just brilliant to be giving people a chance, and be excited about music, and meeting you know, kids, who are excited about music. Like John Lennon McCullagh, at fifteen, or Tess Parks at 23. It’s great to do that and working with Iain McNay at Cherry Red, he’s 10/10. He’s a the best partner I could have ever hoped for. Iain described 359 as ‘a work in progress,’ and he got it bang on, because that’s what it is.”
PG: So, who are your first signings?
Alan McGee: I met his Dad in Australia, and he came over to me and said, ‘I’m playing in Rotherham.’ I only took the gig because I’d never been to Rotherham, and I’ve been taking the piss out of the pace for twenty-five years. The thing about Rotherham, it is worse than you think it is going to be. In the middle of all that, we’re in this horrible pub, with about 40-people there, and John goes, ‘I’m going to put my son on.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Fuck, this is going to be shit.’ Because every time someone has done that before it’s usually been rubbish. So, the son goes on and does four Bob Dylan covers, and kills it. He was not only better than Dylan now, which wouldn’t be hard, but he was better than Dylan back-in-the-day. This kid’s got it. I said, ‘Go and write some songs,’ and we made the album in a day, in Sheffield, in the studio Pulp use, and it is great. It’s a fucking great record.”
Alan McGee: “I’ve always been big mates with Alex Lowe, and I’ve come to the stage where I’m mates with Nick Repton as well. Out of the first batch, I had five that I kind of knew, or knew about, and had in my back pocket. I knew Alex was still doing music, and I asked him for some music and he sent these beautiful ballads. Which were amazing. It also baffled me because all Gun Club Cemetery‘s stuff had been Rock ‘n’ Roll, and I’d never thought of him as a guy who wrote ballads. He’s 44-years-of-age. That’s the beauty of 359, you can be a 44-year-old, or a 15-year-old boy, and I’ll still give you a chance.”
Alan McGee: “Tess is a model. who happens to write amazing songs. She has literally “got it.” She’s really small, only five foot or five-two, and she’s a real beautiful model. When we first met, we were on the Svengali film shoot, together, and she said to me, ‘I adore you.’ And I was thinking, ‘How the fuck can you adore me?’ So, I said ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘You signed my favorite ever band.’
“Tess gave me a tape, and I thought it was going to be shit, and I played it on the way back, and was just blown away. I met her in London, we kept in touch. She went back to Toronto, to form a band. When I started the label, I emailed her, and asked if she was still doing music, and she said, ‘Yes.’ So, I said, ‘Do you want a deal?’ She said that was the happiest day of her life.”
“The great thing about the kids I’m signing is it means the world to them that somebody has signed them because young artists are rarely signed for their own music anymore. I know we have Domino and I know we have Rough Trade, and Heavenly, I’m not taking anything away from them—I’m saying in general people young artists are usually given songs and have to do what they’re told. You sign a batch of artists because you like their music, that’s why you sign them. You know they’ve got talent.”
Alan McGee: “I met Chris Grant through Myspace way back when Myspace meant something, about 2006. And Chris had played a club, and he is just a force of nature. Out of all them, if there is such a thing as the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” then Chris is probably the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” because he just doesn’t give a fuck. He’d have it with Mike Tyson.”
Alan McGee: “Pete MacLeod is a strange one, because he’s become one of my best friends. Pete, probably more than anybody, was responsible for getting me back into music. He just loves me for some unknown reason. He spent three years talking to me to come back, and eventually I came back. If anybody is interested in what I’ve got to say musically anymore, then they should probably thank him, because he talked me into coming back. He’s a persuasive fucker, I tell you that.”
Alan McGee: “That was a weird one. Craig Walker was in Power of Dreams. I took Craig when he was the hottest thing in the country on The House of Love 70 Day Tour, and Power of Dreams were the support band. We stayed in touch. Out of the blue, it turns out he’s been writing songs and hits for people, and he contacted me and said I’d love to sign for your label. I ‘phoned him up and he’s really D.I.Y. and I expected him to sign with someone like Warner’s, but he said, ‘No, I want to come with you.’ Basically it’s a French electronic band with a singer based in Dublin.”
With his new signings sorted out, and album releases imminent, I asked Alan about one of his earlier bands, Oasis. I wanted to find out, if it was true that Noel and Liam were planning on getting back together—possibly in 2015—for the twentieth anniversary of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory??
There was a slight pause, then Alan chose his words very carefully.
Alan McGee:“I don’t know. But all I can say is that me and my sister, Laura, got on terribly for 40-years and now, we’re best mates. So, I would say never say never.”
So, you’ve heard it here first, as, James Ellroy wrote in ‘L.A. Confidential’: “Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”
Alan McGee will be screening Dean Cavanagh’s film ‘Kubricks’ in New York, this week. Alan’s autobiography ‘Creation Stories’ will be published by Pan/MacMillan, on November 7th 2013.