Fifteen-year-old, John Lennon McCullagh was one of the first signings to Alan McGee’s new label 359 Music. At the time of his signing, McGee said of the singer:
“John is an amazing talent for such a young kid! To be honest, he’s just a natural!“
But it’s not just his record label who are enthusing about this prodigious young talent, John has been receiving rave reviews for his live performances, and has been described as a teenage Bob Dylan, which even led Courtney Love to ask:
“Who is this 15-year-old kid doing Dylan better than Dylan?”
Singer/writer/author John Robb has also been equally impressed and wrote the following appraisal on his music and culture blog Louder Than War:
You know when you hear someone really good that it blows you way- it transcends influences and decades and makes something old sound brand new?
John Lennon McCullagh is a prodigiously talented 15-year-old who has got that early Dylan folk blues thing so down that it sounds like a lost demo of some American troubadour of the times that we don’t know about yet. With a middle name like ‘Lennon’ you really are going to have to be able to back it up and he does.
Don’t take their words for it, have a listen to the stunning first single from John Lennon McCullagh “North-South Divide.”
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.”
More from Alan McGee on his new signings, and whether Oasis will reform, after the jump…
Alan McGee thanks all of the bands, musicians and artists who submitted their demos to his new label 359 Music over the past month. The response was incredible, and the range of music impressive. Now McGee has made his first selection of 20 artists, who will be officially signed over the coming weeks.
“On 359, we will be making an announcement in the next ten days,” McGee exclusively tells Dangerous MInds. “I can tell you, we’re in talks with 20 new acts. Five contracts have already been signed, and we’re waiting on one coming in from Canada, and these will be the first six signings.
“There will be a second wave and a third wave of signings to follow. We’re already scheduling the next batch, but you won’t really be able to get the full idea of 359 Music until next Christmas, when we will have all of the records out.
“The second batch is entirely off the Internet, as is the third batch and we’re in talks with these artists to different degrees.
“The first batch of bands are ones I’ve kind of known about—like one of the artists is a girl from Canada. She’s a model who writes songs, and I met her on the Svengali shoot. I mean we’ve got fifteen-year-old kids on there and 44-year-old men. So there ain’t no rules.
“I was in London last week, and I met with three artists that I am going to sign, and one manager. The vibe I am getting back is that people are so happy that somebody is out signing bands again.
“The reaction has been great and I am so pleased I’m doing it with Cherry Red because they are completely the right partner for me, because they have genius expectations, they’re tuned-in and they want to build something new—though they know old fuckers like me still buy CDs.
“The most fascinating thing about the label is that at a time when people weren’t signing bands, to get 20 great things, and to think that there were 20 good things out there that couldn’t get signed is incredible. You know what, they’ve either been shut-out or people just aren’t listening.”
McGee has found the Music Industry has changed considerably in his five-year sabbatical. He finds the business as being like ‘a new industry,’ but one that he is exciting because of the changes in technology that make the process of finding new music far more immediate.
“You can listen to two-and-half thousand MP3s sitting in your bedroom,” he explains. “I mean all the music, the record company, the book, the film stuff, it’s all getting run out of my fucking bedroom in Wales. It’s bonkers, but you know what, it’s exciting.”
Earlier this month, McGee premiered Dean Cavanagh‘s film Kubricks, which was well received even though there was a slight hiccough with the screening, as McGee reveals.
“We premiered Kubricks in Leeds. In true Creation fashion it was—I’d like to say it was an overwhelming success—it was a success because basically James Allan [of Glasvegas] came down from Glasgow, and Lee Mavers, [who was in the The La’s] came over from Liverpool. And people were so amazed that they had come to it, in this little Arts Bar in Leeds.
“We got away with it, because we had some fucking rock stars there that had traveled. On another level, we had all gone up to Leeds to show the film because Dean lives there. But the thing is, the actual club itself had a screen that was two-thirds the size of the film. The smartest cookie in the room, to be fair, was Mavers who said, ‘What the fuck’s going with that fucking screen?’
“I had presumed, as you do, someone would have sorted it out before we started showing it. But, it ended-up, we premiered Kubricks to 80 people, where they could only see two thirds of the movie. The entire third of the right-hand side of the screen you could not see. It was truly quantum-we were in two different dimensions.”
Though McGee finds the incident funny, he is still proud of Cavanagh’s movie and has been hustling deals all over the world for its release.
“We did an I-tunes deal for Kubricks, and it’s going to come out in October in Europe and Australia on I-tunes. Next month, I’m going over to New York to do a private screening, and we’re also working on a deal in Japan.”
McGee’s film career doesn’t stop with Kubricks. He is guest star in Johnny Owen’s “5-star film” Svengali.
“I’m over the moon for Johnny Owen—he’s absolutely pulled it fucking off. It looks like it’s going to be a hit.”
Owen, who wrote and stars in Svengali as “Dixie” a pop manager on the make, has received glowing reviews from the UK press for his debut movie. The film has been nominated for an award at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, and to cap it all, The Hollywood Reporter has given Svengali great review:
Essentially an excuse for audiences to spend 90 minutes with one of the most genially loveable protagonists in recent memory, Svengali is a showbusiness satire of the breezily gentle variety.
While Owen rightfully is receiving all the plaudits for the film, McGee’s performance and his sartorial attire have come in for their own critical appraisal.
Finding time amid his extensive Middle Earth commitments, meanwhile, Martin Freeman pops up now and again as a bumptious record-shop-owning “Mod.” His fleeting contributions are fun, but arguably better value is provided by McGee, who enjoys a surprising amount of screen-time and, in what is perhaps a deliberate in-joke, is never seen without his Trilby hat.
“Now, I didn’t know this, but weirdly there’s some character called Trilby in that original story, who inspired the hat. And because I wear a trilby in the film everyone thinks it’s some kind of in-joke to the Du Maurier’s story. No, it’s not, it’s because I’m bald!
“I’ve never seen the other movies, and didn’t know about Trilby until Johnny sent me a link to it. We were joking because in that Hollywood Reporter review they said I got more laughs than Martin Freeman, but we thought it was mental about the hat. At the Edinburgh Film Festival everyone was asking Johnny questions about the trilby, saying you know, you guys knew that, and he said, ‘No, Alan wears a hat, he’s bald, he’s worn one for ten years.’”
With all this going on, it’s hard to believe McGee has time for anything else, but he is finishing-off his autobiography Creation Stories, which will be published in November.
“It’s at the first edit stage, and I’ve let some people see it, some close pals like Irvine Welsh, and the reaction has been really, really good. I’m happy. It was a rocky start to begin with, the original deal fell through, but I’ve got a new deal with the publisher, and it’s all good now. We’re going to call it Creation Stories, it’s the story of my life, from me being a kid right through to what I’m doing now, and stories of the bands I’ve worked with, because we thought that was the best way to tell the story.”
In the meantime, Alan is forging ahead with 359 Records, and planning to release the first batch of records soon. Though submissions are closed for this year, he will be looking for more artists next year.
Alan McGee has been in touch with Dangerous Minds to give an exclusive update on his new record label 359 Music.
Less than a month since he launched 359, Alan has received an incredible range of music demos from unsigned musicians and bands.
‘It’s been very good,’ says McGee, ‘I’ve had over 2,000 MP3s to listen to, and I have still about 600-hundred-odd to go. So, for anybody reading this, I will be getting back to you.
‘There’s a lot of good stuff and at least, 15 very good things I’ve found from people sending in their MP3s, which is pretty fucking incredible—considering I expected to find only about 1-or-2.
‘What’s really good is the range of the music. I expected to get 2,000 bands all trying to be like the Gallaghers, but that is not the case—it’s all over-the-shop.’
While the initial response was high, Alan noticed there were very few demos from female musicians. Therefore, he posted a further request specifically asking for more women to send in their music.
‘We put out the YouTube clip asking for more girls to send in music, because it was all blokes sending in stuff. After that post, we received about 300 girl bands out of the next 500 that were sent in and the standard of music was very high.
‘Overall, the music has been incredible. There’s a lot of stuff I hadn’t expected, especially from people who have been ignored by the system.
‘I suppose if anything, 359 is a launch pad for people. Whether they stay with us or not isn’t important—if they do, they do, if they don’t, they don’t. We are essentially a launch pad to give people a shot at it, a chance to show what they can do.
‘There is no label sound, which will become apparent after about a year-and-a-half-to-2-years. The last thing I wanted to do was create Creation Records Part 2.
‘359 is more for people who are into music. It’s more of an attitude, you know? It’s like a vibration that draws you in, do you know what I mean? Music is a vibration, it’s like why do we all love “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk? It’s because it vibrates within us and makes us feel good.
‘I’m not saying we’re going to have the next Daft Punk, but maybe one day. Musically the label is going to be all-over-the place, because it will be about creating moods, creating music that is good, and I think this will become apparent after we’ve released about 15-20 albums or so.’
359 is a partnership between Alan McGee and Iain McNay, the chairman of Cherry Red Records.
‘I think Iain is the best person to be doing this with. I mean Iain is just fucking cool. Any guy that can deal with me saying, “I’m never come to your office ever again. I’m never going to come to a marketing meeting. I am never going to go to a gig in London. And I am never going to go to an awards ceremony. As long as you can deal with me on that basis, then we’re partners.” And we are.
‘We could have gone with a Japanese major, with a 6-figure salary, but you know what, I’ve gone with Iain and it’s like, half the company, no wage, and I don’t think I could get a better deal. Can you imagine turning round to Warners Japan and saying, “I’m never going to come to a marketing meeting. I’m never going to come to your office. I’m never going to go to a gig in London, and I’m never going to go to an awards ceremony.” They would stop before I finished my first sentence!
‘Iain is the only person in the music business who can put up with my fucking demands on that! Everyone else would go, “Go fuck yourself!” But Iain can put up with that.’
‘The best thing I ever did was going away for 5-years. Where I live is completely spiritual. I can sit in my room, look at the Black Mountains, and I can just decide should I or should I not go and do this or go and do that? I find in London that everything is like a bum rush every single time. It’s just too much.
‘I think I’m averse to London. It eats your fucking soul. It’s not people’s fault, it’s just there’s no spirituality in London. There may be creativity, but there’s no spirituality. People are on the bread-line, and they’re just used up as a resource. People just end up using each other, you know, eating each other, it’s a kind of cannibalism. It freaks me out. All I ever want to do in London is get in and get the fuck out of it.
‘With the technology now, it means you can run everything from home. I’ve got a book coming out, I’ve got a record company, a publishing company and 2-films all coming out, and I’m running it from my fucking bedroom in Wales.
‘The bottom-line is: if I can do it on a Blackberry and a computer, any fucker can do it—because I’m not that bright. You’ve got to have the confidence, but once you go after it and do it, then you realize you can do it.’
Alan also mentioned that his first film as producer, Kubricks, written and directed by Dean Cavanagh will having a special screening in Leeds this month.
‘It’s just for friends and family, but we have a plan to show it in New York, and we have a distribution deal for Europe on the table, which we’re probably going to do.’
Legendary music impresario and Creation Records founder, Alan McGee has announced details of his new record label 359 Music, which will be a joint venture with respected indie Cherry Red
In a statement issued with co-founder of Cherry Red Iain McNay, McGee said he hoped 359 Music will provide “an outlet for new music artists that have been shut out by the system.”
McGee has also pledged to listen to all submissions personally.
The joint statement reads in full.
Alan McGee: ‘Recently I found myself reinvigorated by new music again after being 5 years away from music living in rural Wales, and from which there has been much talk about how I will return to music. As recently talked about in the press, my original plan was to do a deal with major label backing in Japan. But when it came down to it I realised that I didn’t want to come back to music through a major music label - that’s not what I want to be part of. That’s when I had a chat with Iain McNay from Cherry Red and we quite quickly put our heads together and developed between us a much better deal for 359 Music which will be a joint venture with Cherry Red.
The first ever person to ever approach me about music when I was 19 was Iain McNay from Cherry Red. That was 1980 and 33 years later Cherry Red still continues to send me publishing cheques for songs I wrote then. To me that just proves nothing but honesty and diligence. To me it makes sense and it excites me - it’s where it all started and where I will have my, more than likely, last record label.
My vision for 359 Music is a launch pad for new talent and some ignored older talent. We intend to release on average a dozen new bands per year every year - maybe more if I find a lot of new talent I like. Hopefully some of the artists will stick around and make numerous albums with 359 but some will go on to other things and that is just nature of the musical beast.
Due to technology the world is much smaller these days and 359 Music will be run from rural Wales by phone and computer and the day to day engine room will be run by the Cherry Red team in London. So basically the day to day logistics of 359 Music will be handled by Cherry Red Records and the A&R signing policy and creative decisions will be my domain.
There is no agenda of ‘let’s be the biggest like Creation Records’ - if in 5 years’ time people who I respect and who love music can turn round to me and say 359 Music has put out some great music then that to me will be success. There really needs to be an outlet for new music artists that have been shut out by the system and I hope 359 Music will be that outlet.
If you are an artist and want to be considered for 359 Music send an mp3 to INFOAT359MUSIC@AOL.COM and I will personally listen.
“So there you have it - 359 Music. I am extremely happy to be working again with my friend Iain McNay and to be again involved in the Cherry Red family after 33 years’”
Iain McNay: ‘Alan and I go back a long time, over 30 years in fact. Cherry Red celebrate their 35th birthday next month and we just continue to grow and grow. We released 623 albums (all on CD) last year, mostly catalogue but with an increasing number of new recordings. I only know of two other labels that have survived the late ‘70s Independent breakthrough intact in the UK; that’s Ace and Beggars. I like to think of the three of us as the ‘A,B and C’ of British Independent labels.
I have always admired Alan’s passion and belief in the music he loves. His maverick side will sit well with Cherry Red’s committed Independent stance. I have no doubt we will have a great adventure together. One thing is for certain, working with Alan McGee is never going to be boring…..’
The first full-length feature trailer for Dean Cavanagh’s Kubricks has been released. And its producer, the former Head of Creation Records, Alan McGee is in shock.
‘I think I’m in shock, well I know I am in shock, and I think even Dean’s in shock and he’s made films before.’
Written by Dean and Josh Cavanagh, Kubricks stars Roger Evans, Joanna Pickering, Gavin Bain, Chris Madden, Matthew Blakey and Alan McGee. It deals with a director’s obsessive fantasies, and is part Kenneth Anger, J. G. Ballard and Stanley Kubrick.
‘The whole thing was like an experiment really,’ McGee explains. ‘I actually didn’t know if we could do it, because we had never made a full length feature film before. I thought we’d probably have something that we could show people, but we’ve done much better than that—we’ve made a film. It is genuinely out there, but I think it’s really good.’
Cavanagh agrees and tells me Kubricks is ‘A no budget experiment that didn’t end in disaster and taught all involved that Turner’s quote in Performance “The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness” was really on the money.’
‘I suppose the way you can look at it is, we’re Scritti Politti doing “Skank Bloc Bologna”,’ adds McGee. ‘It’s total D.I.Y. Dean had never directed. I had never produced a film or organized it, or been in one all the way through. Joanna Pickering had never had a major role in a film before. Roger Evans had never had a lead role in a film before. And I don’t think Gavin Bain had even been in a film before. So, you have all these people who are living the dream, so to speak, they’re all wanting to be in a film and wanting it to be great. But probably deep down in our hearts, we thought we’ll be lucky if we come out with something, but let’s try it anyway. And unbelievably, it’s good. It’s really good.’
Kubricks Written & Directed by Dean Cavanagh & Josh Cavanagh; Produced by Alan McGee; Director of Photography Tom Mitchell; Starring Roger Evans, Joanna Pickering, Gavin Bain, Chris Madden and Matthew Blakey.
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.’
The first in a series of teaser trailers for Dean & Josh Cavanagh’s Kubricks has been released. They feature the character of “Donald the Director” (played by Roger Evans), who suffers a mental breakdown during the making of a film, and begins to involve his cast (Joanna Pickering, Gavin Bain) and crew in his sinister and obsessive fantasies.
Produced by Alan McGee, Kubricks looks a cross between Ballard, Kubrick and Kenneth Anger, which suggests it may be brilliant, or indulgent, or like some of the best art, a bit of both. We wait to see. Meantime, check the Kubricks website for more details.
We seek to write the perfect sentence. The one that opens the paragraph, like a key in a door, to places undiscovered. It was how to begin this story on Duglas T Stewart, the lead singer and mainstay of BMX Bandits, whether with a fact or a quote, or oblique reference that would set the scene to unfurl his tale.
Duglas has written his fair share of perfect sentences - in dozens of songs over his twenty-five-year career with BMX Bandits. From the first singles in 1986, the debut album C86 in 1989, through to Bee Stings in 2007, Duglas has been at the center of an incredible family of talented musicians who have together created some of the most beautiful, toe-tapping and joyous music of the past 3 decades.
In the early 1990s, when Nirvana was top of the tree, Kurt Cobain said:
’If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits.’
It was a tip of the hat to a man who is responsible for singing, writing and producing songs of the kind of beauty and fragility Cobain aspired to.
Not just Cobain, but Brian Wilson and Kim Fowley are also fans, with Fowley explaining his own definition of what it means to be a BMX Bandit:
’It means a nuclear submarine floating through chocolate syrup skies of spinach, raining raisins on a Chihuahua covered infinity of plaid waistcoats, with sunglasses and slow motion. It sort of means, pathos equals suburban integrity of loneliness punctuated by really nice melodies.’
But let’s not take Kim’s word for it, we decided to ask Duglas to tell Dangerous Minds his own version of his life and love as a BMX Bandit.
DM: What was your motivation to become a musician?
Duglas T. Stewart: ‘Initially it was two things. I heard Jonathan Richman in 1977 and it sounded so human and full of warmth and humor and beauty. It also seemed to fly in the face in the punk ethos of DESTROY. It really made a connection with me and I thought I’d like to try to do something that hopefully might make others feel like I did listening to Jonathan. Listening to his music gave me a sense of belonging. I felt less alone.
‘The other thing was I met Frances McKee, later of The Vaselines, and I thought she was incredible. I loved everything about her from her mischievous sense of humor to her slightly overlapping front teeth. She said to me one day she thought it would be fun being in a group, and so I thought I would start a group and she could be in it and that way I could spend more time with her and have a vehicle for expressing how she made me feel.
‘Also I had a lot of self belief so I knew if I started a group it would be way better and more interesting than any other local groups at that time.
Dean Cavanagh is that very rare breed – a maverick whose talents have been successfully proven over several different disciplines.
He is an award-winning artist; a screenwriter and playwright, writing the highly acclaimed Wedding Belles with Irvine Welsh and the forth-coming movie version of the hit on-line series Svengali. He has also been a journalist, with bylines in i-D, NME, Sabotage Times and the Guardian. Dean is also a documentary-maker, a film and TV producer and a musician, with along list of collaborators, including Robert Anton Wilson.
Now the multi-talented Cavanagh has written and directed (with his son Josh), his first movie - the much anticipated Kubricks.
In this exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Dean talks about the ideas and creative processes behind Kubricks. How he collaborated with Alan McGee, and developed the film with his son Josh, discussing his thoughts on cinema and synchronicity, and explaining howKubricks came to be filmed over 5 days, with a talented cast this summer.
Dean Cavanagh: ‘Stanley Kubrick has always fascinated me in that he was clearly trying to convey messages through symbols, codes and puzzles in his films.
‘For me his genius was in the way he presented the ‘regular’ audience with a clear narrative structure and for those who wanted to look deeper he constructed hidden layers of subjectivity. He was clearly a magician working with big budgets in such an idiosyncratic way that it’s hard not to be intrigued by him and his oeuvre.
‘I’ve been following Kubrick researchers like Rob Ager and Jay Weidner for the last few years and I really wanted to dramatize a story based around Kubrick as an inspirational enigma. There is a wealth of material about the esoteric side of Kubrick on the net and Ager and Weidner are great places to start the journey from.’
DM: How did you progress towards making ‘Kubricks’?
Dean Cavanagh: ‘I’ve been writing screenplays and theatre on my own and also with Irvine Welsh since the 1990’s. Up until last year, I never really had any desire to direct a film but Alan McGee encouraged me to have a go. He offered to produce a film if I would write and direct with the emphasis being on us having total control. This was music to my ears after having mainly dealt with people who are always looking for reasons not to make a film. Alan’s credo was “just do it and let’s see what happens”. There’s a great freedom in working with him.’
Read more of Dean Cavanagh’s exclusive interview, plus free ‘Kubricks’ soundtrack download, after the jump…
With Alan McGee it’s difficult not to be inspired to go out and do something great, something daring, like he did with Creation Records and Poptones and all the bands whose music defines the past 3 decades. His infectious energy glows and inspires, it fills you with his rich enthusiasms for life.
Just now McGee seems to be everywhere: he is making a film called Kubricks with the artist Dean Cavanagh; he’s writing his memoirs; he’s curating a music festival in Japan for 2013; he’s working on an art exhibition with musician Alex Lowe of Gun Club Cemetery; he’s thinking about returning to making records because most of today’s music is “awful”; and he’s also studying Aleister Crowley and Magick.
‘For the last 5 years, I have been studying Crowley / Osman Spare and the Chaos Magickians. I got into Crowley because everybody told me not to go there so, of course, I did and ended up at Chaos Magick.
‘I 100% love Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law is my Bible. I love him. Anybody that is still demonised by the media seventy years later had to be on it and he was. He was the ultimate libertarian.
‘I believe in the power of will. If I want something to happen it does. It always has and that was before I read Pete J Carroll. I really wanted Creation Records to become massive and to get the biggest band in the world and I did.
‘I wanted to become rich and I did, which sounds crass but I come from Glasgow we had fuck all, so having money interested me and still does.
‘If I really want something it comes to me. That was before I learned you can do it with technique, we all can read the right books and be very accurate in what I want to achieve.
This might sound like arrogance, but it’s not. It’s just said in a matter-of-fact way, without any sense of ego.
‘I am almost a hermit in Wales, then I go and DJ or give a talk or work with Takashi, my Japanese friend on Tokyo Rocks and I become the old Alan/Rock ‘n’ Roll Alan, which I also enjoy.’
Most recently he bought a church.
‘I bought this chapel in Wales, as all the pubs and churches are for sale, so I bought it for 33K, has its own graveyard, it’s pretty posh, so that should be fun. I live on a ley line in Hay-on-Wye, everything that happens here is charged. The chapel is more for doing stuff that local people can interact with long term. I know Primal Scream want to do playbacks there etc. so, it’s going to be fun.’
Last month he was producing his first feature film Kubricks, written and directed by Dean Cavanagh, starring Joanna Pickering, Matt Berry, Gavin Bain, Anton Newcombe and, of course, McGee.
Dean and Alan became friends around 2008, after working on the hit on-line comedy series Svengali, which has now been made into a movie.
‘We formed Escalier 39 as a film company to shoot some DIY films. We talk a lot on the phone and have a lot of the same political and spiritual views on things so the film company seemed obvious to us. It’s an experiment really, to see if we can make films together.’
He pauses when asked what his role is in Kubricks.
‘Good question. Maybe as agent provacateur.’
Kubricks was shot over an ‘exhausting’ 5 days and is currently being edited. It’s tag-line is ‘Everything Is Synchronicity…Even Chaos!’ and is a new map to the world Kenneth Anger once filmed (‘I love Kenneth Anger…he’s an amazing dude’) of Magick and Art. Though McGee puts it more bluntly:
‘I could say meta-physics, but the truth is we don’t really know, which is why we did it.’
Kubricks will released next year, which brings us to McGee’s next project, his return to music after his “retirement” five years ago, which led him to believe he had given muisc up completely. But the cancer of mediocrity spread by Simon Cowell and the piss-poor quality of current chart music has led McGee to rethink things, especially after an offer to organize music festivals in Japan.
‘Recently I have been helping curate stadium festivals in Tokyo for 2013, and I am enjoying it. So maybe I am moving back towards music. I don’t know, to be honest.
‘I do like films and books more than working with music but I find music easy to do, I sort of understand the music process and always have done.
‘I think music is awful at this point and it’s deliberate. Music is such a strong thing, with the message and the vibration and they want it now to be shit so it loses its impact on people. They are great bands around but they just are basically marginalised till they give in.’
Next up, is an exhibition with Alex Lowe, and another film with Cavanagh set in the recently acquired church..
‘Dean is already writing a script about the chapel, but to be honest we both have too many ideas.’
Alan McGee has shared this gem with Dangerous Minds - Joe Strummer’s original lyrics for “London Calling.”
THE NEWS OF CLOCK NINE
RETUNE YOUR RECEIVER FOR THE LONDON SIGN
LONDON CALLING TO THE FARAWAY TOWNS
NOW THAT WAR IS DECLARED AND BATTLE COME DOWN
LONDON CALLING TO THE UNDERWORLD
COME OUT OF THE CUPBOARD ALL YOU BOYS & GIRLS
LONDON CALLING NOW DON’T LOOK TO US
ALL THAT PHONY BEATLEMANIA HAS BITTEN THE DUST
LONDON CALLING SEE WE AINT GOT NO SWING
‘CEPT FOR THE RING OF THAT TRUNCHEON THING
THE ICE AGE IS COMING The Sun is zooming in
ENGINES STOP RUNNING & The WHEAT is Growing THIN
THINKING NUCLEAR ERROR, BUT I HAVE NO FEAR
LONDON IS DROWNING - AND I LIVE BY THE RIVER
LONDON CALLING TO THE IMITATION ZONE
FORGET IT BROTHER, AN GO IT ALONE
LONDON CALLING UPON THE ZOMBIES OF DEATH
QUIT HOLDING OUT - AND TAKE ANOTHER BREATH
LONDON CALLING - AND I DON’T WANNA SHOUT
BUT WHEN WE WERE TALKING - I SAW YOU NODDING OUT
LONDON CALLING - SEE WE AINT GOT NO HIGHS
EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE WITH THE YELLOWY EYES
The lyrics are still as relevant and as powerful as when they were first written. Alan was given this piece of rock history by the song’s co-writer Mick Jones, and says, ‘Some people have the Bible, we had The Clash.’
Primal Scream’s Screamadelica album was like an event when it arrived in 1991. Nirvana’s Nevermind, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Massive Attack’s Blue Lines all came out that year, but my friends and I could not get enough of Screamadelica. Practically everybody I knew was deeply into that record, even the ones who weren’t druggies…
“Loaded,” “Come Together,” “Higher Than The Sun”—Screamadelica is an album meant to be listened to when you are as fucked up as possible. It’s one of the ultimate soundtracks for drug use. (“Higher Than The Sun” sounds particularly good after you’ve inhaled a lungful of nitrous oxide, but then again, almost anything sounds great when you’re high on nitrous).
I recall meeting band-leader Bobby Gillespie along with Creation Records head Alan McGee in New York City, the year it came out. I think it must have been for the New Music Seminar. I met them in the “Kenny Scharf Room” (basement) of the Palladium nightclub on 14th Street and although the conversation began well-enough as I complimented him on a record I just loved, Gillespie’s Scottish accent was very, very strong at the time and I couldn’t understand more than one word in ten. I lived in the UK for two years and normally have no problem with a Scottish accent, but with Gillespie, I had to admit defeat. From the sound of things in this new documentary, his accent has gotten a bit softer over the course of the last two decades. You won’t need subtitles, I don’t think.
Primal Scream’s seminal album Screamadelica was released in 1991, and synthesized the band’s rock ‘n’ roll roots with the dance culture of that time; for many, the album’s sound and imagery came to be regarded as quintessential symbols of the acid house era, perfectly catching the spirit and mood of the early 90s.
Using rare archive footage and special performances, this film tells the story of Screamadelica and its hit singles and dance anthems “Loaded,” “Movin’ On Up,” “Come Together” and “Don’t Fight It, Feel It.” From the formation of the band in Glasgow to winning the first-ever Mercury prize, the band members explain the record’s inception with insights from main producer Andrew Weatherall, Creation Records founder Alan McGee and many others involved with or inspired by this joyful record.
Screamadelica both defines a generation and transcends its time, and is a true Classic Album.
Upside Down: The Creation Records Story is a roller coaster of film, which tells the incredible tale of one of the most important independent record labels of the past fifty years - Creation Records.
This excellent film reveals how the gallus Glaswegian Alan McGee started the label with a £1,000 bank loan in the 1980s, and went on shape music in the 1980s and 1990s, as he made Creation home to such talents as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Medicine, The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, Super Furry Animals, The Boo Radleys, Saint Etienne, Momus, My Bloody Valentine, 3 Colours Red and Oasis - who were signed for £40,000.
McGee originally thought Liam Gallagher was the band’s drug dealer, as he told the Sun:
“I was up in Glasgow seeing my dad and I wasn’t sure I’d even go to the gig. I got there early by mistake. Oasis were on first, before most people arrived. There was this amazing young version of Paul Weller sat there in a light blue Adidas tracksuit. I assumed he was the drug dealer and that Bonehead, the guitarist, was the singer.
“It was only when they went on stage I realised it was the lead singer Liam Gallagher. I knew I had to sign them.
“Noel and I talked after the show and just said ‘done’ and he turned out to be a man of his word.
“I was lucky to be there. We didn’t send out scouts. Most of my signings were because I happened to see new bands. That couldn’t happen any more. If a new band as much as farts it’s all over the internet.”
Since there is no such thing as a music “mainstream” anymore, and if there is, it’s one that I can easily ignore—I have never heard Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” that I am aware of—so I don’t really feel that out of it. Or care. Where do you find out about new music, though? It used to be you found out about new music because you’d see something in a record store and think “That looks interesting” but that hardly happens anymore. Radio sucks. For me, it’s not going to be Pitchfork, I just don’t relate to most of what I find there. Now it’s often a matter of happy accidents or friends’ recommendations.
Sometimes it’s good to consult with the experts. Of course, I realize that I’m more than a little late to the party on this one, but hey, better late than never. Last week I was reading something on the Guardian’s website and I found, by accident, a year-old blog post by Creation Records founder Alan McGee where he compares British singer-songwriter Laura Marling’s 2010 album, I Speak Because I Can to Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. Huh? That’s a rather strong statement to make, I’m sure most of you reading this will agree. Court and Spark? There are precious few albums I revere like Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece. It stayed in my car stereo for about a year and a half, once, I kid you not. And there’s also a comparison to Bob Dylan’s, Blood on the Tracks, probably THE classic break-up album. Again, it’s another record I’ve played so much it’s a part of my DNA. Laura Marling is supposed to be that good? Court and Spark good? Oh, please. Nothing is that good these days…
Still, when it’s coming from the fellow who signed My Bloody Valentine, Jesus & Mary Chain and Oasis, it’s probably worth investigating.
So I did. And holy shit was McGee’s assessment right on the money. Laura Marling is a fucking genius. Marling, born in 1990 and just 21-years-old, is almost a child, but she doesn’t sound like one. Where does her incredible depth come from? I don’t know, but I don’t care, sometimes it’s better if rare and special talent like hers remains a mystery, like Antony Hegarty’s or a young Kate Bush (another particularly apt comparison given both her age and absolutely prodigious talents). She’s got a powerful, exceptional and uncommonly beautiful voice, perfectly suited to her compositions. Here’s what Alan McGee wrote that sent me out to find the album:
I Speak Because I Can could have gone wrong. It could have been a bleakly pale and introverted take on lost love. Yet it runs much like Bob Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks. Marling explores a broken relationship with blind rage and biting power, yet still manages to leave the listener with hope and salvation. In capturing a sense of love won and lost, and independence gained and fought for, Marling has scored an extraordinary songwriting achievement.
The album sees Marling developing a sound that is distinctly non-twee (listen to the Led Zeppelin-like title track or Devil’s Spoke). Her voice is deceptively huge – it gives the impression of unknowable, boundless territory without sounding loud or exerted. The sound can be unnerving and is not easily assimilated into a pop record. Marling is far from the Larkin-loving teen of her debut, Alas I Cannot Swim.
It’s pleasing to see a truly great British artist gaining popularity. I usually despise awards shows, but when Marling’s album, Alas I Cannot Swim, was nominated for the Mercury prize, I was glad that her genuine talent (in a sea of Lily Allen clones) was acknowledged.
It’s tempting to draw parallels between Marling and other figures of the alt-folk resurgence; Will Oldham, say, or Bon Iver. But if we’re honest, I Speak Because I Can plays more like a modern version of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. It has a classic feel. And Marling deserves comparison to the greats.
I Speak Because I Can sounds like an intimate conversation between performer and listener. When it’s finished, you’ll feel as though you’ve just come away from a deeply involving and curious encounter with a stranger. It’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time to come, and one that you’ll want to revisit frequently.
Fans of emotionally intense and “literary” performers like Neil Young, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and yes, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell will find much to like with Laura Marling. I’m only now, with each successive play of I Speak Because I Can, beginning to appreciate the jaw-dropping talent this young woman possesses. If she’s this good at 21, her promise as a maturing artist is practically off the scale. This is the kind of talent that comes along once or twice in a generation and I think she must be aware of it.
Laura Marling is someone I plan to follow throughout her career.