“Oh, we went to a party, found a girl, and you’ve got to meet her. She is special!” Robert Altman remembered being told after screenwriter Brian McKay and assistant director Tommy Thompson returned from an engagement celebration for a local artist in Houston. They were in the lone star state location scouting for Altman’s upcoming film Brewster McCloud. At the time Shelley Duvall was studying nutrition and diet therapy at South Texas Junior College and working as a cosmetics salesperson at Northwest Mall’s Foley’s department store. Without formal acting experience or training, Altman cast her in the key role of the Houston Astrodome tour guide Suzanne Davis and a star was born. Over the next two decades, she would go on to appear in classic films such as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Robert Altman’s Nashville and 3 Women, and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Besides a successful film career she created, hosted, executive produced, (and even wrote the theme music) for the award-winning live-action children’s anthology series Faerie Tale Theatre.
In 1993 Shelley sold the rights to Faerie Tale Theatre to a small British entertainment company after she began to struggle financially. As an independent producer, Duvall was finding it increasingly difficult to fund new projects with tight credit and mounting production costs due to the recession. She was forced to lay off over a dozen employees that worked out of her production company, Think Entertainment, whose offices were located on the second floor of a nondescript San Fernando valley strip mall over a Chinese restaurant and a dry cleaner. Shelley retired as a producer but continued taking acting parts. In 1994 her Studio City home was damaged in the Northridge earthquake and she relocated to the small city of Blanco, TX (approximately 50 miles north San Antonio and 50 miles west of Austin) which boasted a population of 1,500 residents.
While she remained single without any children, Shelley moved into a modest ranch in Blanco with her collection of exotic birds and reptiles that she had begun acquiring in Los Angeles. “At home, it’s a menagerie: 70 birds, all different kinds, ten dogs, one cat, a leopard tortoise, a rabbit, four iguanas, and two desert lizards,” she said during her interview on the Marilu Henner Show in 1994. Shelley continued to accept acting roles and television appearances throughout the late ‘90s but in the early 2000’s the roles got smaller before dwindling completely. Her 2000 independent film Dreams in the Attic which shot in and around Houston and Galveston was pitched to Disney but never sold or released. Duvall’s final acting performance was in the outsider film Manna from Heaven in 2002.
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.’
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.
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.’