“I’m not interested in people being lukewarm – love or hate are the only options worth anything to me, emotionally.”
Legendary music mogul Alan McGee was the head honcho of Creation Records, which brought us Oasis, Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain, but now he’s given up the rock and roll lifestyle and lives in rural Wales, studying the work of the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley. But could he be tempted back into the music biz? I spoke to him to find out more….
Sean: Hi Alan. How are you? What’s it like living in rural Wales? Have you adapted to the country life style?
Alan: It’s amazing. I live on a ley line, which runs underneath my house. I live with my family in the middle of nowhere and I love it. It’s 40 minutes to a train station – Hereford or Abergavenny. I have 11 acres, so what’s not to like about living like that? I saw The Song Remains The Same [Led Zeppelin film]. They all lived in mansions in Wales, with loads of land; so, when I got some cash I bought one! I moved here for good three years ago. I bought the place in ’96 and we used to come and use it at weekends for years.
Sean: What, if anything, is currently exciting you musically?
Alan: I like what I’ve always liked – The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Clash, The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, New Order, Oasis, Primal Scream and Led Zeppelin. I just like what I like.
Sean: Do you yearn for a decent, new rock and roll band to come along, or have you given up on all that? Could you be tempted back into running a label, or managing a band?
Alan: People are trying to tempt me back at the moment – they must have remembered I sold 60 million records with the groups I signed. Maybe I will come back – I’ve had an offer from Japan and they have the cash. To be honest, it needs a kick up the fucking arse – every fucker is sedated!
Sean: Your current main interest seems to be the work of Aleister Crowley (19th century English occultist, mystic, ceremonial magician and poet). What’s the appeal?
Alan: He was the ultimate libertarian. People that demonise him have never read him, or they’ve read a sentence out of context. Crowley was Malcolm McLaren before McLaren. The fact that he’s still demonised says everything – job done. The Beatles loved Crowley, as did Led Zeppelin. I started reading him because everybody told me not to, so I did. Sure enough, he was the original rock and roller. Jimmy Page loves him because he was rock and roll before rock and roll music.
Sean: What did you think of the recent Creation documentary Upside Down?
Alan: I liked it. I had no say in the making or editing of it, but the director did a good job. What I like about it is if you love me, Joe Foster, Dick Green and Tim Abbott [fellow Creation bosses] then you love us, or if you hate us, then you hate us. I’m not interested in people being lukewarm – love or hate are the only options worth anything to me, emotionally. I enjoy them both, either way.
Sean: You’re working on your memoirs. What can we expect? Should anyone be worried?
Alan: I’m writing it with a shrink called Harry Mulligan. To be honest, I have no idea how he will get it into one book. We’re meeting the editor this week. She seems nice, but she’s got a job on her hands cutting it to fit. People shouldn’t be worried – I’m not Glenn Mulcaire!
Sean: I recently bumped into you in Sheffield, at the Smart Art Galleries, for the opening of a new exhibition of paintings by ex-Hurricane#1 front man Alex Lowe. Alex, a former Creation act, also performed a solo acoustic set. Was it good to see him again after all those years?
Alan: He’s a great talent, isn’t he? We always got on from day one. After Creation, he wandered around the world for a bit and made some solo records. I ran into him at Heathrow a few times and found that the vibe between us was still alive. I saw his paintings, bought a couple and started to think about an art idea of 23 paintings. I asked him if he wanted to do it with me. We were good friends at Creation, but we’re probably closer now than we were then. The set he played in Sheffield was beyond my expectations, as he hadn’t played live for two years. The place was packed, his paintings are great and he nailed it. I never say anything is good, to be honest, but that night he was. He says he’s putting a band together with bassist Nick Repton, another friend, so it should be good, I hope.
(Pictured: Sean Hannam, Alan McGee and Alex Lowe at the Smart Art Galleries, Sheffield)
Sean: You and Alex Lowe have been working on a new art project called The Aquarian Conspiracy. How did that come about and what can you tell me about it?
Alan: Just through us being mates, really. I can only work with friends. The paintings bring together occult and pagan symbols and Magikal sigils. I got into the Chaos Magickians about four years ago. It’s a long story….
Sean: Unlike a lot of other music journalists, I was a big fan of Hurricane#1 – I championed them from the start. I still maintain they were ahead of their time. Looking back now, what are you memories of that period in Creation’s history? Wasn’t there a clash and a rivalry between Oasis and Hurricane#1, who were both signed to your label?
Alan: It was weirder than that, Sean. Creation had 50 employees in the UK and another 50 around the world – each band had their own camp. Hurricane#1 were great in general – Andy Bell [guitarist] and Alex Lowe were a good combination. They did well and they had five hits – two of which were in the Top 20. Weirdly, they did well in Japan. Their first album did about 100,000 copies in Japan, so I would call that successful.
Sean: Didn’t using the Hurricane#1 song Only The Strongest Will Survive on a TV advert for the Sun newspaper lose the band some credibility?
Alan: People were pulling off from Britpop by 1998, so Hurricane#1 suffered and we should have never done the advert, but overall, whether people like it or not, Hurricane#1 did pretty well. If we had formed the band a year earlier than we did, they would have been massive.
Sean: So, what does the rest of 2012 hold for you?
Alan: I’m off to Japan to talk to some people about forming a label. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I’m shooting a film called Kubricks. Dean Cavanagh is writing it and directing it – he’s a genius. I’m launching the art project with Alex Lowe in the summer and I’m finishing my book. I’m also working on a West End musical, with Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh. I let things come to me and decide if I want to do them, Sean. It works for me.
Sean: Was there ever one band you wanted to sign, but you couldn’t get? If so, who and why?
Alan: The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays or The Beatles.