Louder Than War Interview: Alan McGee
Louder Than War talk to Alan McGee about his new label 359, artists on it, his forthcoming bio and the exciting new Liverpool club night recently announced.
It’s exciting times for Alan McGee as he talks to us on his way to a midweek screening for his and Dean Cavanagh’s new film, the surreal ‘Kubricks’.
The most influential figure of 90’s British music is back with his new label 359 music to which he’s already signed artists like Pete Macleod and the young talented John Mccullagh. On top of that the ex-Creation boss has a Nov release date pencilled in for his long awaited biography ‘Creation Stories’. And the final reason for all this McGee excitement? Well that’s the news that 359 Music plan to put on their own club nights in Merseyside at the start of September, a monthly event which will give us all the chance to check out the label’s new artists in the music mad city of Liverpool.
Alan McGee fills us in below on why this mad creative drive is happening right now – and why in Liverpool.
Louder Than War: Where are you right now?
Alan McGee: Right now I’m in London meeting a book editor, and then tomorrow I’m off to New York for a screening of Kubrick, tailored towards the industry but really it’s like inviting a few of your mates along, you know, it’s all very exciting because I’ve never been here before. Whether it be the film or the book it’s all new and another learning process, to see how it all works out.
So are you feeling really positive about 359, where would you say you were at right now musically?
Well funnily enough I think we’re in a good place. In terms of selling CD’s or downloads and suchlike I haven’t really got a clue because I’ve been out of the music industry for the last 6 years, but the response we had in one month was amazing. In one month I got 2,500 thousand people wanting to sign to me with at least a 100 of them worth listening to twice. The idea is to sign about 20 of those groups. It’s a work in progress all the time.
So did you actually sit down and listen to all the groups and artists that were sent in?
Yeah, but to be honest some groups I’ve listened to fur times and others like 3 quarters way through, but yeah, I went through them all. I mean some of them didn’t turn me on, you know, what can you do? But then again some of them were fuckin great.
Your return to the music industry has been met with a great response, how does feel?
It’s a lovely compliment that people are still confident that I’ve got the ear for music, but at the end of the day I’m really only doing it because I simply enjoy it.
What drew you to Cherry Red?
Cherry Red are fuckin brilliant, you know I could of gone with Warner’s Japan but you know what, they’re real at Cherry Red and the speed they do things at, it’s my speed. It’s like they’re still paying me for songs I wrote 33 years ago, they’re real sincere, in fact it was Ian gave me my first publishing deal when I was 19 years old, but it’s about doing it because I really want to.
And you’ve already announced 359’s new signings haven’t you
The first batch of signings to the label are the people who are really close to me, like Pete Mcleod who’s one of my best mates, which is great because it’s people like him who have always wanted to work with me and now we are. But I see the label as a launching pad as much as anything, you know, maybe the next batch of artists who come to the label might decide to do 1 album and move on to other things and that’s fine because that’s all were trying to be, a launch pad.
Especially for the likes of young talent on 359 like John Mccullagh…
Yeah, he’s amazing, I came across him by a complete fluke because I know his father John, I walked into a pub in Rotherham and he brought this kid on stage, I thought it was going to be shit but he was fuckin amazing and just blew me away, ever since then I’ve been pals with them and so when I got the label together it was like ‘do you want to sign him?’ & I was over the moon. So it feels like everything’s coming together at the right time.
At the beginning of September the 359 club is going to be opened in Liverpool, a club night showcasing artists and bands from around the country, starting up on the first Friday of September. It’s based in Liverpool rather than London and I’ll tell you why, if we did it in London it would be just a bunch of art school kids who went to Oxford but Liverpool’s working class and alive, you know what I mean? There’s three great cities in Britain; Liverpool , Glasgow and the greatest is probably Manchester, they’re all great. Liverpool is The La’s, The Bunnymen, Manchester you’ve got Joy Division and Oasis and Glasgow is about the Mogwai’s, The Mary Chains…these are all great sounds and ideal for playing new groups too, you know? London may be the place people go too to make it happen but the best music comes from those 3 cities and for me, personally, Liverpool’s my favourite and the best place to put a really great club night on. Put it this way, I’d rather go to Hyton than Hoxton.
On top of the label there’s the films as well, with both movies very different to each other..did you enjoy your role in Svengali?
Svengali and Kubricks, from a comedy to surreality, they’re two quite different productions aren’t they? I kinda feel Svengali could be a hit, and yeah I’m in it acting but to me its just me being ‘me’, you know, great fun though. Johnny Owen who wrote the film is a real good friend of mine and he told me I’m quite good at it (laughs) so that’ll do me.
Really looking forward to the upcoming biography, Creation Stories, how far are you with it at the moment?
Yeah, it’s called Creation Stories and it’s due to be released for November and coming out on Pan Macmillan and we’re at the first editing stage. Pan McMillan love it and I’ve had some great feedback from those who have already read it so it’s off to a good start. It’s an honest book by which I mean there’s a lot of stuff that nobody has heard me talk about before, I don’t mean salacious gossip but a lot of stuff that I feel I’ve never really admitted to myself before. I suppose a lot of it is me having a look at myself and how and why things happened the way they did, and just being honest about them.
Both the highs and the lows?
Yeah, and I’d say L.A was probably my mid-life crisis, but like a I say there’s a lot of stuff in there that I’ve never covered or talked about before, like things from my childhood. But a lot of it is just because I wouldn’t give in, keeping on til I got what I wanted which I feel comes across a lot in the book.
Lastly Alan, what’s the chances of you walking into another midweek gig and finding the next ‘important’ British rock’n’roll group?
AM; I don’t think its something that could be repeated to be honest, Oasis were the last of that type of phenomenon. With 359 I’m just happy to put out records that I’m into and really like, which you like, which John Robb likes, which we all like, you know…and if I can do that I’ll be happy.
All words by Carl Stanley. More of Carl’s writing on Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archive.