Alan McGee: 'If there's one thing Creation Records wasn't, it was boring'

Ahead of next month's premiere of Upside Down, a film about Creation, label founder Alan McGee remembers running out of money, feuding with Kevin Shields and babysitting Mick Hucknall

Why make a brand new Creation movie when there are already books out there that tell the story?

There are two books on Creation but neither of them get it. One nearly gets it: Paolo Hewitt's book. He wrote it really fast after two interviews. He captured a bit of the Creation spirit but it was too soon, really. The David Cavanagh book is objectionable. It's what I call the "accountant's tale". He completely manages to miss the spirit of what Creation was about.

You didn't have to be there to get the story right. [Director] Danny O'Connor wasn't there and he gets the spirit. He's absolutely bonkers. He was always talking about fighting. I think he must like fighting. But who cares, he made the definitive Creation story, he got it bang right. He just gets the spirit.

And what was the spirit?

Just the whole fuck you-ness. Cavanagh was too busy trying to be the next Nick Hornby to understand that. Last time I checked he had some book about himself and music which I think reached the heady heights of 214,000 in the Amazon book charts. So basically his claim to fame is a shite Creation book. It was so boring. And if there's one thing Creation wasn't, it was boring.

When you first started Creation did you have a mission?

The mission was not wanting to have a real job, just being a Scot living in London, trying to get a job the proper way, through the front door at the majors and being told to fuck off so then doing it the indie way and bizarrely succeeding. And I only succeeded because I wouldn't give in. There were 20 times I should have given in but I didn't. A few times we were actually begged to stop.

Who by?

Accountants. We were fucked, man, for years. We never made a penny for the first 10 years! When we did the Sony deal in 1992 we owed over a million quid. Without that we'd have gone bankrupt. Bobby G was talking about doing a benefit gig for the label in a football stadium. I told him you'd better do a tour of football stadiums to pay our debt off.

The best music stories involve a good blag …

Yeah, Creation was part luck, part something that was just meant to be. It came good in the end, because the legacy of the label attracted Oasis and the rest was history.

Oasis were the commercial high point yet the film is dedicated to Bobby Gillespie. How come?

Primal Scream were integral to the whole thing. Bobby was intrinsic to the story. Without Bobby I'd never have got Primal Scream but I'd also never have got the Jesus and Mary Chain or Teenage Fanclub.

I always wondered how Teenage Fanclub coped on the chaotic Creation roster …

Oh, they loved it. Listen, they were quite naughty, in the old days. When they were kids, Norman and Brendan were total nut jobs. Right up for a party. I can remember being in Sheffield at 6am out on a lake in some boat on about five Es with Norman! We'd stolen this boat from the posh hotel we were staying at and sailed out onto some mad boating lake like Captain Cook and Captain Hook!

Tim Abbott, the former Creation managing director, said that your signing policy was to basically "drink and drug the bands into submission".

Yeah, that or showing up at every single gig until they signed. That worked with Ride. I just showed up every night until they signed. But usually we'd get them off their nut. They'd have such a good time they'd think: "Do we really want to sign to some boring fucker at a major or some lunatic who will put us in the charts?" Then when you end up taking whatever refreshments are available at 4am in a Jacuzzi you think: "I made the right decision."

Which Creation band were the most hedonistic?

Oasis. By a mile. Primal Scream and House of Love were pretty bad. But you really don't know what Oasis were like …

Are there any Oasis stories that haven't been told?

Loads. I'm always seen as having made a grand, selfless gesture giving Noel that chocolate brown Rolls Royce as a gift. What people don't know is that five minutes before I gave him the car I was sat in it, thinking how nice it was and going, "Why the fuck am I giving this away?" I nearly kept it for myself.

You've fallen out with a lot of bands over the years. Do you think this film helped you bury the hatchet to some extent?

Yeah. I'm not overly fond of tonnes of the music we put out. Some stuff, like Oasis, I love to bits, and I've grown to love Screamadelica again after watching the film. But the film made me realise that I really liked the musicians involved, the people in the bands.

You did once tell me that Oasis were the only people who hadn't turned bitter …

I was telling you that I didn't like any of them any more but that was just talk: this film made me remember that I did like them. Listen, I'm not about to invite a load of them round for tea, but there are people there on that label – your Ed Ball or your Pat Fish, the Jazz Butcher – who will always be 10 out of 10 to me.

What about your damaged relationship with Kevin Shields? It caused a stir when you slagged him off and basically disowned Loveless

I don't know if it's back to normal. There was loads of posturing on both sides. He said some mad shit that sent me left at the lights. It all went a bit bizarre. In the film I say Loveless was amazing and of its time. Honestly, it's not something I'm into because I don't like music like that anymore … but I can tell it's important to people.

Will Shields ever forgive you for writing the Charlotte Church blogpost in which you compared his artistic struggle to the Crazy Chick video?

Ha ha ha, I don't know. You'd have to ask him. I thought it was quite funny.

Let's talk Kevin Rowland. Creation put out My Beauty, which is one of my favourite ever records even though everyone always slags it off as karaoke.

It's GENIUS! Rowland is a genius! I've always said I liked that record. Look, the record should have been a million-seller. It's just people's problem with a guy in stockings on the cover that stopped them buying it. But if you just put it on your iPod it's a work of genius.

Was he difficult to work with?

I was more difficult than he was. He had to go on holiday a couple of times because of me.

It sold better than people made out as well, right? Wasn't it a big hit in Sweden?

Bizarrely, Sweden got it. The press said it sold 500 records, but that was a Q thing. I hate that magazine by the way, can you put that in? But, erm, yeah, they said it sold 500 but it sold around 8,000 in Sweden alone. It sold over 20,000 worldwide. To go out with that as one of the last things I ever did? I'll take that. People might say it's a comedy record but fuck them, I think it's a classic.

I guess to really get it you need to have been to a certain place. A pretty dark place.

Yeah, but we've all been there, right?

Do you regret getting behind New Labour?

No because it was what it was. I don't care about politics to be honest. I like the local Lib Dem MP who I voted for, Roger Williams. He's a good guy. But it's easy for everyone on the Guardian website to criticise people for getting caught up in backing Blair but we all thought in 1997 we were voting in a socialist government. We weren't, we were voting in another version of the Tories – they just had Hugo Boss suits on. OK, it was a mistake, but it was a trip as well and I never regret having a trip, good or bad.

Tell us a story about the night at No 10 …

I was put in charge of looking after Mick Hucknall, which was bizarre.

Why did you have to look after him?

He was chasing everything that was blonde in the room! But Downing Street was funny because my missus was chasing Tony Blair around asking him if he wanted to listen to her Grooverider remix! We ended up in Chequers, with Swat teams coming in and all of that. I don't regret it, I regret the way it all turned out, obviously, because I was against the Iraq war. But if you're asking me if I regret the trip? No. Never.

Upside Down: The Creation Records Story is showing at the BFI London film festival on 23 and 24 October.


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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