HE SIGNED Oasis and put out The Jesus and Mary Chain’s first single. He turned Primal Scream on to acid house, paving the way for Screamdelica; and his label, Creation, released some of the greatest British (and Irish ) music of the 1980s and 1990s.
He is Alan McGee - band manager, label founder, a man with a keen eye for talent, and the ability to promote and encourage it. It was his label, Creation Records, which he founded in 1983, that issued Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story ) Morning Glory, My Bloody Valentines’ Isn’t Anything and Loveless, and all Primal Scream albums from 1989’s eponymous second LP to 2000’s XTRMNTR, not to mention a host of releases by Teenage Faclub, Felt, Ride, Swervedriver, and Slowdive. Without exaggeration, the Scotsman can be described as one of the most significant figures in British music of the last 35 years.
The Clockworks connection
McGee will make his debut appearance in Galway in December for two different events at the Róisín Dubh. He will be Djing after a gig by his latest signing, The Clockworks [pictured below], on Friday December 6, and holding a public talk on his life, career, and views on music, entitled The Chats, on Saturday December 7.
“I’ve never been to Galway before,” McGee tells me during our Thursday morning interview. “I’ve been in Cork, I’ve been to Dublin loads, and Belfast a few times, and Waterford, but never anywhere else, but recently I’ve been to Kerry, Dundalk, the midlands. I find Ireland is just brilliant, but in a sense, me coming to Galway has come about because of The Clockworks. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Galway is like.”
In 2018, McGee announced he was founding a new label, Creation 23, and among the first signings was The Clockworks. One of the most exciting bands to emerge from Galway in recent years, and now based in London, they have long shown determination and ambition - qualities that encouraged them to get in touch with McGee.
“The Clockworks got in touch with me online,” says McGee. “They sent me music. A lot of bands do. I don’t think I’d ever really heard of them. I said, ‘Where are you from?’ They said ‘We’re from Galway’. I was prepared to go over and see them, I didn’t know they were now living in north London. They’d only just moved there two weeks before, so I would have been in Galway earlier only for that.
“What I liked was how they described themselves: ‘We’re like a punk version of The Streets.’ I thought that was cool, so I asked them to send me what they thought was their best song. They send me ‘Bills and Pills’ and I thought, ‘This is f****n’ great!’ so I asked them, ‘Do you want to put the record out?’”
Creation 23 released the ’Bills & Pills’ single in October, and McGee feels The Clockworks time in Galway was key to their development and originality. "They’re a great band, man. Unbelievable,” he says. “I think it was the fact they were in Galway that allowed them to get so good. They were able to work under the radar, and had that time to develop.”
Spirit of rebellion
After the tumultuous years of Creation Records, and McGee's subsequent Poptones label, the Glaswegian took some time out from the music business. Considering the contribution he had already made, no one would blame him if he was content to sit on his laurels, but, as he told the NME earlier this year: “I’m excited about music again because there are all these bands with attitude.” He elaborates on that point with me: “No matter how troubled the music business is, or how marginalised music becomes,” he says, “young bands will always keep popping up because it’s the spirit of youth, it’s the spirit of rebellion.”
That recurring spirit keeps the Glaswegian interested, and played a role in the foundation of Creation 23. Yet McGee also has more practical, self-deprecating, reasons, for staying passionate about music. “Maybe because it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at,” he says. “I have it in my DNA. I’ve never got bored with it. Maybe 15 years ago I did, when I moved to Wales to bring up my daughter, but since I was 10 I’ve been obsessed.”
That obsession began in 1971 when McGee heard T.Rex’s mighty ‘Get It On’. “I loved it!” he says. “It was the first record I ever bought. I was a difficult 10-year-old. I remember standing in front of the mirror in my bedroom, holding a tennis racquet pretending to be Marc Bolan.”
Primal Scream and McGee
McGee is touring his show The Chats around Ireland and Britain, and explains what will be involved. “I’ll be interviewed and then we throw open the floor to questions for a half-hour/hour and people can ask anything they want,” he says. “Sometimes people just want to ask about Oasis, but, I don’t know why, I have a feeling in Galway, the questions will be all over the place – I hope so anyhow!”
McGee however recognises just how significant a role Oasis played in his own life, citing the band’s show in King Tut’s in Glasgow in May 1993 – the night he first saw them, and the night he signed them – as pivotal. “If I hadn’t been there that night,” he muses, “I don’t know what I’d be doing now. I’d probably be a store clerk or I’d just be unemployed! It changed my life!”
When it comes to Creation though, it is Primal Scream, founded by his close friend Bobby Gillespie in 1982, that provides McGee with his defining moments. When I ask him what album from the Creation catalogue he is most proud of, he declares, without hesitation, the Scream’s 1991 masterwork Screamadelica. “More than anything else I’m proud of that because it was my childhood friend, Bobby Gillespie who made it, and it did really well,” he says. Indeed McGee was instrumental in getting Gillespie’s MC5, Stones, and Thin Lizzy obsessed rock outfit into Acid House. “I had gotten into it just before them and told them about it,” he says. “I remember taking Bobby down to a Happy Mondays show and Shaun Ryder popped a pill in Bobby’s mouth. Then he popped another pill into Bobby’s mouth and then Screamadelica was born.”
The film with Danny Boyle
The Chats is not the only opportunity for McGee to look back on those wild years of the eighties and nineties. His life, based on his memoir, Creation Stories, is being turned into a film by Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh, with Ewen Bremner, best known as Spud from Trainspotting, playing McGee [pictured above].
“I’m excited,” he declares. “If you’re going to get anyone to make a film of your life it might as well be Danny Boyle! Irvine Welsh approached me with the idea and then started developing it, and after that Danny came on board.”
In previous interviews, McGee has described the film as “Trainspotting does Creation” but also that “it ain’t going to be that realistic”. So what can audiences expect? “It’s real and it’s not real,” he says. “There’s a bit in it where me and my father walk off hand in hand into the sunset, but I haven’t spoken to my father in about 20 years, but my life has been so surreal you don’t have to make things up!”