A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of talking to Alan McGee, the man who signed Oasis, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and more, under the iconic, independent record label, Creation Records. These days Alan lives in Wales but spends a lot of time back in London where he’s recently launched his new label Creation23 with just one agenda “I want to put records out again”. Alan also manages the Happy Mondays, Black Grape, Cast, Glasvegas and Bluetones as well as having his own weekly radio show on Boogaloo Radio based in the beer garden of the Boogaloo Pub in Highgate, London. He is also the patron for the charity Musicians Against Homelessness, which is where we start our chat.
How did the patron of Musicians Against Homelessness come about?
I got involved with Emma Rule the founder when she did some PR for the Happy Monday’s tour and then a Black Grape tour and we just formed a friendship. About eight months after her doing PR stuff for us she said to me would you be the patron for this charity and I said “What does it involve?” She said “Showing up to meet MP’s occasionally” (laughs) “Make some statements, more or less be the public face of it, obviously if you can get people like Shaun Ryder and John Power to help, that would fantastic”. At that point my son was homeless, he’s sorted now and I’ve got him a flat, but that I guess was the main reason and that I really like, well I love Emma.
What do you think to the current homelessness crisis and what do you think to the MP group MP4 releasing a track to raise awareness?
I think it’s great and I really hope the single helps raise the much needed awareness. The figures state that 236,000 people are homeless now in the UK, it’s crazy that many people in this country are homeless and that number has almost ‘normalised’ homelessness. When I was, a young kid back in Glasgow it was just, I suppose it was just mentally ill people who were on the streets, but they would soon get scooped off the street and taken into a shelter or something like that and given the help they needed but these days there isn’t anything like that. There are hostels but not enough and homelessness has been normalised and it’s sad. I mean to the point where my son was homeless for a few years. I didn’t know where he was, he had a very troubled few years, well, ten years. Luckily, he reached out to us, and I helped clean him up, etc. We all know people with troubles, I’ve had troubles, it’s never got to the point where I’ve ended up homeless, but throughout my life I’ve had mental health problems. I was thinking earlier on about the things I’ve achieved, I’m not saying I’m a hero or anything like that but it’s amazing how I’ve just chugged along, I’ve had depression, anxiety and loads of stuff thrown in along with alcohol and drugs and it’s not because I’m brave or anything like that…
“I just don’t know any other way. I don’t know any different, I only know one route and that’s to go forward.”
That’s what’s kinda just about saved me. Compared to some people I’ve not had that much stuff going on, but like so many other people in music I’ve had slight mental health issues, I’ve mainly struggled with depression personally.
Tell me about your radio show ‘Riots, Raves and Running A Label’ on Boogaloo Radio?
Well, I was talking to Simone Marie the bass player from Primal Scream, she’s got a radio show in Soho, and she was like McGee you need a show on Radio 6, and I was like I don’t want a show on Radio 6, I want a show on Boogaloo because I can have who I like on. I can have a session bass player then Bob Geldof and if I want to swear, I can swear and I can play all the music I want! I think it’s the new punk in many ways because every fucker can have a podcast and you can do what you want you can interview who you want and say what you want and it’s the most DIY thing out there at the moment. Boogaloo is punk as fuck like it’s got me on it, it’s got Brix Smith, Andy Ross I mean there are loads of people, Mickey Beans, the La Roux keyboard player.
“I mean maybe only a thousand people might listen but it doesn’t really matter about numbers, what matters is your own little community.”
Photo from Boogaloo Radio Facebook
It’s just Punk as fuck Rachel and you should come on next time you’re in London we will do a show together. The radio is a great medium and the internet. It’s like your magazine. I have no idea if its big or its small but it’s that you’re doing it – it’s great. I mean look at where we are today everything is corporate, this whole stretch at London Bridge is all corporate, but if you go round that corner and down that street it’s cool because it’s got a lot more independent shops and I think you have to keep things like independent shops, magazines, radio stations and independent managers to be honest with you, because most management companies are big corporate beasts, and we’re not, there’s only three of us but yeah I think you should always keep it independent and DIY.
Totally agree, whats your thoughts of new music TV?
We need a music TV program but the only thing I will say is I don’t think it would be on terrestrial TV, it’s all online but I think that’s okay because I think things online are as relevant as on the TV. I think Boogaloo is as relevant as Radio 1 it’s just they have more listeners, and they’re listening to you because they’re into you rather than it just being on in the background and nobody gives a fuck. I think the online thing will eventually eat the normal TV and radio thing.
So the new label Creation23, how did you discover your first signing – Rubber Jaw?
Well, what happened was I got put on to them about June this year by my football hooligan mate, he told me to listen to them and I thought they were going to be rubbish – turns out they’re fucking amazing. I was kind of toying with the idea of doing a label, then I just thought fuck it, and we did a seven-inch single and stuck it out.
Would you say Creation23 is your main focus now?
No, my main focus is just been happy. That’s about as bland as it gets, but that’s what its all about. Yeah, I’m doing Creation23 and the management company we manage Happy Mondays, Cast, Black Grape, Glasvegas, Bluetones, and we’re all having a good time. I love all these bands and I’d never work with anyone I don’t love. Indie and Beyond, a show I did for BBC4 with Shaun Ryder has just aired which was good fun and I’m really digging the Creation23 thing as well as the radio show. As long as I’m digging it, it’s terrible but it’s never been about the money. I would quite happily do something just because I want to do it. Equally, I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite and don’t get me wrong if someone came along and offered to make me a lot of money, I’d have no regrets in saying fucking come on then! (laughs).
“I’ve become bit more relaxed with Creation now, when I was younger I never really had a choice because if I had failed I would have probably ended up on a fucking building site or being a bus driver but luckily it worked out for me and Creation got really big.”
I did sometimes feel slightly weaker, like Tony Wilson was a university lecturer running a record company, and I was like a bus driver running a record company – you know what I mean. I would sit and talk to other people who are like your contemporaries, and they had all been to university and I had like one O level and came from the back streets of Glasgow. I felt I had nothing in common with them, I used to say that and people just used to think I was being an idiot for saying it but there’s a real truth in it, because I didn’t have anything in common with them, my upbringing was so different. I kind of taught myself the business part of the industry, but I suppose the music thing I always had it. I loved Glam and Punk, I had brilliant knowledge of these things and they are still my central focus in music. Because I was so young when I was managing the Mary Chain going forward I knew the stresses of being a manager and being on the road.
Tony Wilson was great wasn’t he…
I admired loads of things about Tony Wilson. I stole some of his business ideas for a start, he did theses 50/50 deals and even now in Creation23 it’s a 50/50 deal and what that is you have the cost of the record and then anything after the cost of that is split 50/50 with the band so it’s the most fair deal in the music business. We were doing that right up until about 1992, then we did the deal with Sony, and they made us do points deals which effectively was like five to the record company and one to the band. I remember when it started to feel really wrong because we always shared the money with artists equal, and then we had a big record that sold about four hundred thousand copies, it was a Sugar record, and we were making about five time more than Bob Mould and I just felt fucking wrong but I suppose that’s not a good thing to say about the record company but it’s the truth.
What advice would you give to new bands and managers?
Well, I think for new bands try to be unique, try to be your own band, try just to be you because it’s fucking hard just trying to be yourself sometimes when every other fucker is trying to drag you into trying to be somebody else. It’s like that little band I’ve got in Wales that are in the Shame zone and don’t even know who Shame are, so it’s fucking great. All their Dads are old punk rockers who are probably my age or a bit younger and they are all 21, so their Dads are probably about fifty or something, they were all into The Clash and Billy Bragg and things like that. They’re from the Welsh Valley’s so there all kind of projects of their families because it’s really not manufactured and not London, it really is the Welsh Valley’s.
“Be unique it’s the most important thing.”
Managers, I don’t know if I’m good example I suppose in some ways I really am but I don’t know if I’m a good example of the way to do it because what happened to me I was doing a club and stuff. For the managers i’d say always be available, always take the call and just put in the hours because you never know if that somebody who’s walking through the doors could be a fucking genius. In 1984, I was 23 and I had the Living Room Club and found Jesus and the Mary chain, within a year, just before my 24th birthday, I was in the West Coast Of America at the Universal Amphitheatre managing The Mary Chain playing to a sold out four thousand capacity audience, and I was fucking 23 and the roadies that were there that day that were doing the P.A and stuff they were older than me they were about 30. I was the youngest person managing or doing anything like that. The only people who were as young as me were the band and the bass player of the band that day who was 17.
“We were all so young, and I just think I only got there because I was hyper enthusiastic, I would work all the time because music was and still is my dream, ultimately.”
I still can’t believe in some ways that it’s my job, I couldn’t have made it up for myself, just doing music and I love musicians as fucking mental as they all are, I fucking love them. I know as a manager you’re not meant to say that (laughs) but I do. So I just think be available and work all the time and go out and see things, Go out to gigs see as much stuff as you can and make contacts because you really don’t know who’s going to be important in your life.
Do you think there will be a resurgence in guitar music?
I don’t know really, I don’t think it will be in the same way as Oasis that was like a phenomenon but yeah I think Shame are brilliant and there are lots of new little bands that will connect with a mass audience again. I really don’t know, but there will always be guitar music and there will always be Rock n Roll.
When you was managing Oasis, were Liam and Noel as bad as the press made out?
Not really at the time, it’s all got much worse post the band but at the time it wasn’t really that bad they were always on the same side when I was involved, which was only about seven years but arguably the best seven years from 1993 to 2000. That’s all the time I was involved with them, and they were always puffed up a little bit by the media but behind closed doors they were cool with each other. Unfortunately now I think its definitely real, but I haven’t seen Liam in about four years when I DJ’d for him in Japan.
“I think out of the two Liam is the most misunderstood. People think Liam is not a good guy but the Liam I know is a very warm, nice guy.”
The last time a saw Noel I was standing at the side of the stage at a Gorillaz concert with Shaun Ryder and Noel was about to jump on stage, and we had a good chat and a laugh which was good I got on great with Noel and I love Liam to bits but I’m not really that involved with it anymore, they are both great.
Did you like Liam’s solo album?
I think it was good, and I don’t care who writes the songs. I’m not like Noel, he doesn’t think you don’t deserve respect if you don’t but I don’t care. I mean I love Rod Stewart, and he’s not a song writer. Liam’s more of a songwriter than he is, Liam has written loads of songs and co-writes on them. The truth is it’s a very good Liam Gallagher record.
When was the moment that you thought Oasis are going to be massive?
To be honest I probably didn’t get it until Wonderwall, I was still feeling like we were all just having a laugh, that sort of vibe and then that song happened and when I heard it I knew nothing was ever going to be the same again and it never was, but up until that point I just thought it’s going to be great, the band was just getting bigger and were selling more and more records.
“From about late 1994 to about 1998 Creation probably sold fifty thousand CD’s every fucking week for about for four years, so that’s about two hundred weeks selling fifty thousand and that’s not including the bumper weeks when we could sell four hundred thousand a week.”
That gives you an idea of the money that was coming through the company then, it was brilliant. It’s all changed so much now with the internet and things like Rubber Jaw made their own music video and other bands do too because it’s so easy, you can make them off an iPad.
What was the standout moment for you with Oasis?
The best times I ever had with them were at Earls Court in 1995. Morning Glory had come out the month before and Oasis were probably the biggest thing in the world at that one point and Creation were trying to keep up with them. To be honest, I just remember just standing with my wife, and we were just singing all these songs and I had always wanted to get a band to Earls Court and this was two nights at twenty thousand people a night, so I was like this is quite good! So, that was a great night for me, and I was young as well I’d just turned 35 and I had got the biggest band in the world.It was fucking mad and they were mad times, but one of the reasons I stopped the label in the late 90s early 2000s and this is the truth and something I’ve probably not admitted in print before.
“I don’t think I could deal with the pressure, by the end of the 90s I had got involved with it never thinking we would get that big. I think I just wanted out because I couldn’t take the pressure and that’s the truth.”
From say ’94 to the year 2000, it was fucking crazy because I didn’t come from a business background like captain industry bullshit. I was just a little guy from Glasgow with this massive band and massive label. I was talking about it the other week with Nigel with Dodgy, and he got really big, he was getting like million pound publishing deals, and he just couldn’t take the pressure after a bit. He lasted about two or three years and I lasted about seven, I think it’s kind of standard for little guys that are just normal little spunkers, so they just really kind of can’t take it. It’s like you get big and your like what the fuck is this about?! It’s great on a lot of levels, but it also does your head in.
Tell me more about the Happy Mondays, managing them and a question I bet you get asked a lot, can we expect any new music?
Well, I’ve only been with them for about four or five years. I was friends with them back in the 80s. I first saw them in ’86 or ’87 at Jeff Barrett’s little club, and we were great mates and I used to party with them when I was up in Manchester. I never thought I would manage them as their one of my most favourite ever bands. I used to run into Shaun and Bez quite a few times all over the place and then eventually I suppose I only got the gig working with them was because most of the people that they had known or ever wanted to be involved with them had died like Tony, so it just ended up them just saying do you want to do it and I just said okay, it became the natural thing to do that was the way it was going to go. I would always like to think that there will be new music from them one day as we’re always being asked that, but as yet the band haven’t united as one and said lets go and do this.
“I suppose they all need to look at each other and go lets go a make a fucking record and actually mean it as there’s always somebody in the band that doesn’t always want to do it and that’s why it hasn’t happened yet.”
It would be good but in a financial way but they don’t need to, they can just go and sell out a tour. There’s the Australia/New Zealand tour coming up, and that looks like it’s going to sell out, and they’re going to be putting on a second show on at the same venue because it sold out. I don’t even know if the Monday’s have ever been to New Zealand because I haven’t, its crazy times at the moment. Because I’m a record person, I would really like to think that we are going to make a record.
Whats next for Alan McGee?
I’ve a couple of new bands to put out on Creation23. I’ve signed a great band from Wales called Young Garbo, their kind of like Shame, but they don’t know Shame, so they’re not copying them, they’re more punk funk than Shame but because they’re both young bands, my bands 21, and they look like the other band so there’s some weird crossover. I’m sure if they heard them they’d love them as it’s in that zone. Then there’s a band from LA, and they’re coming out next year. I’ve also got some other stuff lined up including a Creation film which will be great, to be honest I just love putting new records out.
You can catch up with Alan McGee’s radio show on Boogaloo Radio here: https://www.mixcloud.com/BoogalooRadio/playlists/riots-raves-and-running-a-label/ or get all the action LIVE at 10am GMT every Monday by visiting boogalooradio.com
Indie and Beyond is available on BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bn6xl4
To keep up-to-date with all things at the new label Creation23 visit: