Alan McGee simply never stops.
The Glasgow-born record industry maverick is currently packing his bags for a trip to Australia alongside the Happy Mondays, with his management wing still going strong.
But after he was handed a demo tape he simply couldn't turn down, Alan McGee realised that he desperately wanted to get back involved with a label.
Following the dissolution of Poptones he took a step back, writing a well received book and spending time reflecting on his career.
A pair up with Cherry Red brought the short-lived imprint 359 Music into the world, but it's the launch of Creation23 which has truly given a platform for his passions to flourish.
Completely DIY, the label's run of singles focusses on new music, each rewarded with impeccable packaging.
"We’re doing seven inch singles," he tells Clash on the phone from his home in rural Wales. "It’s good fun! I do like the physical thing As much as everything is streaming now, the world still likes physical – I mean, we all like holding a record!"
Last time we spoke we for the launch of his memoir, with a filmed adaptation now in the works. "The book did well!" he exclaims, his ebullient energy rippling down the phoneline. "In films what I’ve learned is it’s never there until it’s there. I’m off to Australia with Happy Mondays when we start, but by the time I get back the film is on."
"Irvine Welsh has written it. He’s basically taken my book and done the screenplay," he continues. "It’s an Irvine Welsh screenplay and it’s Nick Moran directing it. Ewen Bremner is playing me. It’s gonna be good, man! I’ve read it, and it’s Trainspotting does Creation! Pretty mad."
Right now, though, Alan McGee is busy adding a new chapter - so we discuss Creation23, the state of guitar music, and why major labels still can't get to grips with working class culture...
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The last time we spoke you were working on 259 Music...
The only reason I never carried on the last label is that me and Cherry Red just didn’t see it the same way. I think this one is self-financed, so I suppose ultimately I’ve got to be my own master.
It's DIY, then.
It is! It’s good!
Is it like those early Creation days? Are you sitting up in your bedroom pasting sleeves together again?
Bit posher than that, to be fair. Have you seen the sleeves we’re producing? They’re pretty posh little records.
You need to offer people something a little extra, don’t you?
The records are £9.99 which I initially thought, God that’s expensive… but you’re getting an artefact! The truth is now £10 for an artefact isn’t that much.
It’s about crafting a full ethos with a label, isn’t it?
I’m super optimistic. It’s weird to say but, but I suppose we’re back in the game… in a really big way. We’re going to put out 10, 12 singles this year. And that’s being back in the game!
It’s a good time for underground music in this country…
Brilliant! Brilliant for guitar music. When I started Creation the first time in the 80s – and even with Poptones in 2000 – it was difficult to get bands, really. Difficult to get good bands. It’s not that difficult at the moment because the majors, and the mainstream record industry, are not that interested in guitar bands. It’s like picking them off trees.
The reason we’ve got 10 coming out really fast is that at some point one of them will break and the majors will think: oh fuck, we should have been on this! The majors are not paying attention to guitar music, but guitar music is fucking great again.
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The majors, and the mainstream record industry, are not that interested in guitar bands...
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Well yeah: look at Shame and IDLES last year.
Completely. A brilliant time.
And you pick up new bands after asking for email submissions…
It’s more than that! People contact me on Instagram. Send me a direct message! And it’s great. You can promote the records there – I’ve got about 41,000 people following me on Instagram. We’re selling the records on the back of my Instagram… I mean, that’s how mental social media is!
Social media remains key to everything.
I know! I mean, we’re only doing a few batches. We did 500 of the Rubber Jaw one, and we’re doing really limited editions of everyone now.
Rubber Jaw was a great single to launch the label with, how did you get in touch with them?
Well that started it. One of my pals – this ex Mod, football hooligan – phoned me up, and said you’ve got to check out this band! And I like, aw fuck off! Just because he’s an old friend I decided to put it on and – honestly – it was fucking great. He told me to put it out, but I didn’t have a label.
Then he phoned me up a week later, and I’d been thinking about it. I spoke to the guy I do Creation Management with, and he said: you should just do Creation Records! But I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Dick Green and Joe Foster, so we knew it should be something different. I just said, well, Creation23 and we stuck on it.
And it’s a good name for a label to be honest. It’s still Creation because I’m Creation – ultimately, I’m the joining force between all these different things. But at the same time I really didn’t want to call it Creation Records because that was the 80s, that was the 90s, that was Dick Green, Joe Foster, and me. Creation23 is a new thing.
The second release Juggs came about because they’re from LA and they’re just a brilliant group. I mean the singer is a rock ‘n’ roll star – he even looks like Billy Idol! An updated version! Total rock star. It’s kind of trap music, but it’s also a little bit Beastie Boys.
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Young Garbo are the new signings…
I heard their very first demo, they didn’t even have a name. Basically a bedroom fucking band. And I heard it, and it actually reminded me of ‘Radio Clash’ - like, really good. And then the next month when I was back in Wales seeing my kid, I listened to it again and just thought: fuck this is good! They rehearse in a scaffolding yard on the hill behind me, just the middle of nowhere in Wales.
My pal who knows them contacted them, and said: Alan wants to see you play! They were half-way up the motorway to a show in Manchester but they sped right back, set the gear up, and I went round to see them. They played and there was something genius there – so I signed them on the spot! They could barely play when I found them, they’d only done five shows but they rehearsed non-stop for five months and they’re really good. They’re well on the way to being a brilliant live band. And the record is phenomenal!
The singer in the band is just a little kid, he’s only 21 but you have to listen to those lyrics. It’s adult lyrics from this wee boy. They’re working class from the Valleys in Wales. They rehearse in the drummer’s Dad’s scaffolding yard. I mean, they all work in Nando’s and live in the Valleys! Real working class band.
Do you feel the major label system still hasn’t got to grips with working class culture?
I shouldn’t really be like this but if you were working class or middle class… then I’ll probably sign you if you’re working class. Not solely because of your class – you’ve got to have a tune – but if both bands are equal then I’m going to sign the working class one. Because that’s just the way I am. That’s where I come from!
I suppose Creation getting back in the game is hope for working class kids because it just seems to be that it’s the middle class kids that get all the fucking breaks. You’ve got to have a really rich Dad to stay in the game now.
You’re doing a lot of live shows as well…
We’ve got a tour in April, and I’ll be DJing the London show. We’ve got a Creation23 club night once a month at the Social in London. Then I’ve also got my own radio show on Boogaloo Radio. And I’m still managing, I’m looking after the Mondays, Glasvegas, Cast, Bluetones. I’m just doing my thing. And I’m happy at the moment! I’m creatively happy… which is a bit fucking weird!
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Creation getting back in the game is hope for working class kids...
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You’re going to be inundated with demos…
We are, dude. I am absolutely buzzing!
What is it you look for?
What is it that first strikes you about a new artist? It’s a bit of everything. Songs is the main one for me. Songs and being able to get it down. Great people – I can’t sign wankers. I just can’t do it! I never really have been able to sign wankers, you know what I mean? Even back in the old days, the Creation days, in the early 80s… all the bands were cool, to be honest. I’m still friends with everybody. They were all nice people.
You’re right, those bands were cool. The early singles aren’t navel-gazing indie – it’s actually out on the edge.
They were all working class. That’s the thing. If we’re going to favour anything, it’ll be talented working class kids. We might get slaughtered for that but it’ll just come from the usual Cambridge fucking journalist bollocks. That’s who’ll slag us for that. Most people would like: go on, give them a break!
And it’s about looking beyond that London bubble, as well.
Listen man: once you go outside London people want guitar music. It’s only London that thinks guitar music is fucking rubbish, you know what I mean? In Manchester the same bands are fucking huge. Outside London people want guitars.
Creation23 is a singles based label, but could you envisage doing an album project?
Maybe one day. But we’re just putting singles out just now. I see us at the moment as putting out singles and seeing how it develops. It’s very much like the early 80s Creation because it’s so early… I mean, who knows?
When you started Poptones in 2000 you were an evangelist for the internet. Has the growth of streaming and it’s impact on the independent sector altered your views on this?
I wasn’t being perverse. I utterly embrace the culture of social media. We don’t pay for adverts – we just advertise the singles on social media. We put up the singles, and we sell a load of singles every time. I’m only doing the seven inch singles because it’s cute – nobody in the media pays attention, we put them out, and see what fuckin’ happens. These are all great bands, but some of them will blow up and some of them won’t… it’s just the way of the world.
What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Meeting a band in Glasgow soon, who I might sign. We just signed a band from Blackburn. Just loads of releases and shows. I’m so excited about Young Garbo, though. Just an angry, angry band. Punk-funk working class fucking rage… and you can’t get better than that!
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Bands are encouraged to send submissions to Creation23 via firstname.lastname@example.org
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