Alan McGee: 'We didn't realise that we were voting in the Hugo Boss version of the Tories'

The founder of Creation records on New Labour, riotous gigs and his passion for UFO research

Will your memoir, Creation Stories, be upstaged by those of Morrissey, Sven-Göran Eriksson, Alex Ferguson and Courtney Love?

I see that as an advantage, that people are buying books. Alex Ferguson and Morrissey have got books out, how many loudmouths can you get in one room? I read the Morrissey book, I think it's brilliant, but my book's not venomous about people. It might be venomous about me sometimes.

One of the main thrusts of the book is the psychological effects of being beaten as a child. Was that the reason you lost yourself in drugs and rock'n'roll?

If I didn't have that childhood I wouldn't have the drive to go do it. I'd been told: "You need to get a trade and if you're really lucky you can save up and get a black cab, and then from the age of 40 onwards you'll be driving a black cab round Glasgow, and that's you." When you come from that background you come out pretty fiery. If I'm being honest, the first time I took ecstasy was the first time I felt emotionally complete.

You admit to exaggerating the riots at early Jesus and Mary Chain gigs. How much of your success was built on exaggeration?

I'm a good myth-maker. I was having these nice conversations with journalists, going: "This is truly art as terrorism" – it was a good statement but it was just me talking fucking nonsense. Then at the Electric Ballroom [in London in 1985] it really was a fucking proper riot. I remember leaving in [Rough Trade boss] Geoff Travis's car, thinking: "What have I done?" If you wanted to be esoteric about it you could say you're conjuring up your own future. I always said, from 1985 in Sounds, we're the greatest label in the world. I didn't believe it for a moment but it sounded good. Then I started talking about having the biggest group in the world by the late 80s, and by 1996 I'd actually managed to get hold of the biggest group in the world. Sometimes you spout a dream and it comes back as a reality.

You've worked with some of the most dysfunctional, hedonistic and abrasive bands in rock history – the Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, the House of Love, Oasis, Primal Scream, the Libertines. Who was toughest?

The Libertines, by a mile. I couldn't control it. Everything else, I've been able to control the scenarios. The Libertines were completely out of control. I was instated as the Libertines' manager and by the Monday or Tuesday we were in Wales, hence that whole bit of madness in the book (1). That was totally true, [Carl Barât's] eye was hanging out of his head. There was so much blood it was unbelievable. He managed to do £400-worth of damage to a big marble sink.

Did the Happy Mondays really have the best drugs ever?

The strongest E I ever got on was from Shaun Ryder. It was at Disorder, 1988, Christmas. I was already on about three Es. I went over to Shaun, who I was friends with, and went: "Have you got any Es?" He said: "Take some of this." He put half an E in my hand. I remember thinking: "I'm me! I don't need half!" But I took this thing, it was called Spectrum, only Shaun would probably know what it was that he gave me, but there were beams of light and I could literally see particles in the beams of light. I don't know what it was.

Do you regret selling Creation to Sony so soon before discovering Oasis? (2)

I didn't have a choice. We were within days of going bankrupt. We owed about £1.3m.

The vast majority of bands today will automatically rebuff any discussion about politics with the line "I don't know enough to comment" – is that a consequence of you pushing Britpop into bed with Tony Blair (3)?

I don't think you can blame that on Britpop. Did you see Russell Brand on Newsnight? I thought Russell was brilliant. Let's just hope he doesn't have a fucking accident. He said very similar things to what I think but I don't think I'd go on TV and say "revolution". Noel and I got slagged off for [going to 10 Downing Street], but I don't regret it. I saw a lot of stuff, how it worked, brilliant insights. Tony Blair, Cherie Blair – Cherie's the brains, by a mile. Stuff like that. Everybody at the time wanted the Tories out. What we didn't realise was that we were voting in the Hugo Boss version of the Tories instead of the more conservative tweed suit version that was already in place after Thatcher and the Major years. Prince Charles asked me three times to supper and I probably should've went. [Invitations] came in once a month for about three months. Then of course I came out in some interview and went: "They're a bunch of inbreds." The invitations stopped. I look back at it as a 53-year-old guy and think it would've been quite interesting. If he is completely out there at least I'd know how far out there he actually is.

How did you justify giving yourself the title "president of pop"?

Because I was a ridiculous human being. You could be as ridiculous as you want, the music business is a ridiculous occupation. I was just taking the piss. We probably did think we were the epitome of rock'n'roll in the 90s. Our heads were so far up our arse that we couldn't even get off the boat. If I'd had any sense I'd have ended it at Knebworth [in 1996, when Oasis played]. Bang! You'd have been going: "What a fucking exit!"

Having moved to rural Wales and got into Aleister Crowley, leylines and UFOs, are you now the classic post-drugs millionaire recluse searching for meaning in mysticism?

I don't think I'm as easily defined as that, I wish I was. I did see a UFO (4). There's definitely "Area 51" classified American military stuff. They've got stuff there that they don't talk about. I saw something go past my head up about 12,000ft in the sky and it was the fastest thing I've ever seen, it went in and out of sight in about four seconds. I've had some good experiences with mysticism.

Given that you could draw elaborate symmetrical star maps linking selected UK branches of Dunkin' Donuts if you wanted, aren't leylines nonsense?

Not for me. I believe it. What you believe is your own reality. Do I think magick's crap? No I don't. I think it works. A lot of the Crowley stuff I believe in, but it's not the Crowley thing that I'm buying into. It's more the chaos magicians, like a guy called Peter J Carroll. Weirdly, I combined Crowley rituals with the chaos magick ideology so I could probably write my own book if I chose to.

We'll all be slaves to McGeeism by 2025.

I wouldn't call it McGeeism, I'm not a Thelemite (5) either, if that's what you're asking me.


(1) Creation Stories tells of the night, shortly after he and Peter Doherty's post-prison reconciliation, that a drunk, frustrated Carl Barât smashed his head repeatedly into McGee's marble sink during a Libertines writing session.

(2) Sony bought 49% of Creation in 1992 for £2.5m.

(3) Blair took McGee on as a culture adviser in the late 90s and Alan instigated the New Deal for unemployed musicians.

(4) McGee claims to have witnessed a silent ball of light travelling at "three or four thousand miles an hour" over Santa Monica in 2007.

(5) A follower of Aleister Crowley's religion of Thelema.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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