Alan McGee comes on the line bang on time and straight away the scene is set.
“Two seconds, hang on,” he says.
He’s back: “Sorry, I didn’t want to put you through that. I had to go for a quick piss and I thought it’s a girl on the line, take your f***ing headphones off straight away.
“Well, I don’t know you, so…”
Straight talking, thoughtful, open, informal, engaging, a man who just gets on with it.
He’s talking from his London home about Creation Stories, the new biopic feature film starring Ewen Bremner as McGee, written by Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh, directed by Nick Moran and produced by Danny Boyle, launched at Glasgow Film Festival this week.
Creation Stories charts McGee’s rollercoaster ride from skint Glasgow schoolkid with a passion for music and an entrepreneurial streak to becoming one of the biggest music moguls in the business, changing the cultural landscape of Britain from the 90s to now. He’s been a musician, manager, record label owner, music blogger and businessman, managing, championing and promoting some of the biggest names in British music - Oasis, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, Happy Mondays and The Libertines.
He co-founding the independent Creation Records label in 1983, selling half to Sony Music in 1992 and continued to release music until its demise in 1999, sold millions of albums, was courted as one of the founding fathers of Cool Britannia by Tony Blair’s New Labour and was instrumental in the launch of the government’s New Deal which gave emerging musicians three years of funding to develop.
After Creation, he launched another label Poptones (2000 to 2007) which saw The Hives hitting platinum sales, and ran the international club night Death Disco before he retired from band music management. But McGee was back with a new label in 2013, 359 Music, signing new acts and in 2014 restarted Creation Management with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Wilko Johnson, Happy Mondays, Black Grape, Cast, Glasvegas, The Bluetones, In 2018 he launched the seven-inch label Creation23 and has now launched new imprint, It’s Creation Baby, with releases due out from Charlie Clark, The View and frontman Kyle Falconer for starters.
McGee is 60 now and lives in London on his own, having left Glasgow at 19, but he’s back and forward to Scotland a lot, still having musical interests here.
“I live mostly in London, nearly all the time,” he says. “I live on my own and it’s good. I love being on my own in London and getting on with it. Although it’s a bit strange cos of Covid, know what I mean? I only see three or four people really... I don’t actually see anybody, do you know what I mean?
“I’m pretty much based down here and don’t really see that much of my family, but I’ve got a lot of good friends in Scotland. I manage a couple of bands up there and I’m involved with a lot of different things. I’m great great friends with Glasvegas who I co-manage with James Allan's sister Denise and I love that band. And I’ve just taken on The View. I’ve got an amazing Kyle Falconer record coming out. If we get it on the radio it could be huge. And I’ve got a band up there, Shambolics, kids from Fife that I’m involved with, and a guy from Stornoway that I’ve just picked up, Charlie Clark, so I’m up and down. I’m up there usually once a month.
I was in Leith at the end of last year 2020 when I had Shambolics playing in Edinburgh and I stayed in one of the hotels. But at the moment I havenae been up cos of Covid.”
SO WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING PLAYED BY EWEN BREMNER AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE FILM, CREATION STORIES?
The truth is, the only thing I can honestly say is I don’t hate it. I can live wi’ it. I know that’s probably not a very good answer in print but that’s actually the truth. You know what, I expected to be like ‘oh god I’m embarrassed’, but I’m not embarrassed. It’s good. It’s a really good portrayal.
Some of it’s just not factually correct, like I haven’t spoken to my father in 20 years, do you know and the ending with me and my dad together and going into the sunset, it’s a load of bollocks. But taking that aside, the little things like that that aren’t factually true - the other thing that’s factually not true, I actually got on well with Tony Blair, I don’t hate him as it’s portrayed in the film. It’s not true, I liked Tony Blair - so things like that… but you have to at a certain point because it’s a film just accept that that’s the way it is. I accept it. It’s a film, it’s Irvine’s portrayal of my life and I have to wear it. And I managed to get to that pretty early in the whole thing.
SO IT CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF THE TIME IF MAYBE NOT THE FINE DETAIL?
Oh yeah he got it down, Irvine. And Ewen and Nick Moran and Danny Boyle, these guys are at the top of the tree in their game.
DID YOU KNOW EWEN BREMNER BEFORE HE PLAYED YOU IN THE FILM?
I knew him a little bit but I’ve got to know him quite well through this film. He was fantastic.
They offered me Ewan McGregor at first and I was like ‘well I don’t f***king look like Ewan McGregor’, and then they came back with Spud and I said ‘I’ll take it’. And I think personally he’s a better actor than any of them, Ewen Bremner, he’s a brilliant actor. He totally gets me. You watch it and you go ‘that’s f***ing me’, know what I mean?
SO YOU THINK HE DEFINITELY GETS YOU?
Yeah. The only thing I would say is it’s a slightly posh version of me. Ha ha ha. But English people are not going to realise that that’s a kind of posh Scottish accent rather than a f***ing council estate accent, but that’s fine. Maybe that was needed so that people could understand what I was saying, you know?
OR MAYBE AT THAT TIME IN YOUR LIFE YOU POSHED UP TO GET AHEAD?
No! No, I’ve never changed, on that level anyway.
YEAH YOU DON’T SOUND LIKE YOU'VE CHANGED. AND YOU’VE HAD A LONG CAREER NOW, TURNING 60 LAST YEAR?
Yeah man. I’ve done it for life. I went down to London when I was 19. I’m 60 so I’ve been down here for 41 years.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT DURING YOUR 41 YEARS IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS?
Maintain the friendships that are real. I mean I am going to put out Ian Donaldson’s next solo single, and he was the singer way back when I joined my first band H2O. We’re putting it out on It’s Creation Baby, my new imprint of Creation. So I would say you’re not wrong when you go into business with people when you’re 19. You might be a bit naive, but Ian’s still a good guy and a great pal and Ian was the first one out of any of us to get anywhere, know what I mean?
SO IT’S COME FULL CIRCLE?
Yeah, it’s brilliant. You’ve got to keep it cool. Keep in contact and eventually it comes round for you all.
YOU FAMOUSLY DISCOVERED OASIS AT KING TUTS IN GLASGOW, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY DURING COVID WITH NO LIVE GIGS?
Well it’s impossible to find a band like that at the moment because we’re now not allowed to f***ing do unsocially distanced gigs, ha, ha. Although that gig WAS pretty socially distant because there were only 12 f***ing people there. It was what it was. Normally I’m still seeing bands live though. I try to see bands that can actually play. Because it’s such a big thing for me, being able to play live.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSTRUMENT WHEN YOU WERE IN THE DRAINS [THE PUNK ROCK BAND HE WAS IN WITH PRIMAL SCREAM’S BOBBY GILLESPIE AND ANDREW INNES BACK IN 1978].
Oh, The Drains...I’ve always been a base player. It’s the idiots guide to rock and roll. Any f***er can play base.
WHO’S YOUR FAVOURITE BASE PLAYER?
Paul McCartney I think.
YOU WANTED TO MERGE PSYCHEDELIA WITH PUNK, DO YOU THINK YOU WERE SUCCESSFUL?
Yes. I think that’s what Oasis were. I don’t think they did that because of me. But that’s what I ended up breaking, so yeah I would say that, but I started with the Mary Chain. It’s still going on, I’ve got Creation Management, the management company, I’ve got the publishing company Creation Songs which still publishes Screamadelica, I did Creation 23 for a couple of years and now I’ve got a new label called It’s Creation Baby, I’m starting a new imprint to put albums out.
Starting with Charlie Clark, a guy from Stornoway, putting the first single of the album out on that label - love Stornoway, when this is over I want to go up and spend a weekend up there. And Kyle Falconer’s new single, which is big and after that there’s Wait Around which is massive. And if I can get him on the radio… Nobody’s really broken an artist during the pandemic and that’s what I’m trying to do. He’s had an album out before, a top 40, but it kind of really didnae do any business and I’m trying to take him properly this time. I’ve just picked him up.”
WHAT DO COVID AND BREXIT MEAN FOR MUSIC AND LIVE PERFORMANCE?
Aw it’s a nightmare. A proper nightmare. I mean I haven’t got anybody out on tour. That’s the only one thing about the pandemic: it’s given us all a bit of time to sort out how we get things in and out. But yeah, if we had bands going out the now, it would be an absolute proper f***ing nightmare, know what I mean?
I’ve got a Happy Mondays show that literally has gone back from March 2020 to January 2022, and I don’t even know if we’ll make that. That’s the truth. We initially put it back to this January now and it’s been bumped another year.
I was thinking after Brexit, how the f*** do I get bands in and out, but luckily by the time we’ve got to go and do a show in Europe I’ll have worked it out.
ARE HAPPY MONDAYS COMING TO SCOTLAND?
Yeah, we’ve got an arena tour with James and Happy Mondays at the end of the year but I don’t think we’ll be doing a gig. Nobody will be doing a gig this year, apart from socially distant. I think we’re in for another weird big year.
HOW DO THINK SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE WOULD AFFECT THE SCOTTISH MUSIC INDUSTRY?
I support independence but I feel a bit of a hypocrite because I havenae lived there in 41 years so I don’t know if people up there really want to hear my opinion on that. I think Scotland should be independent, England’s a f***ing disgrace with the Tories at this point.
DO YOU EVER REGRET THE WHOLE NEW LABOUR THING, IDENTIFYING WITH THEM IN THE 90s?
No. Not at all. I mean that was the last time Britain was profitable and we prospered as a country. I mean I changed the law, got the New Deal for musicians. I got benefits for musicians, so I don’t regret it. I mean I know this is probably not a particularly socialist point of view, but I’m just being honest. So when Irvine’s sticking it to Tony Blair, I don’t hate Tony Blair, I quite like him. Do you know what I mean?
DO YOU STILL KEEP UP WITH BOBBY GILLESPIE AND NOEL GALLAGHER, ARE THEY STILL YOUR PALS?
Yeah definitely. I mean I’ll always be friends with Bobby Gillespie. We don’t see each other, although I did run into him during the pandemic in Borough Market. But when you’ve been through that journey with somebody - we’ve been friends since, he’d be 11 and I’d be 12 - we’re never not going to not be friends. But we don’t live in each other’s pocket any more. And yeah, I talk to him a lot. But nobody sees anybody any more.
DO YOU STILL WEAR A TRILBY ALL THE TIME?
No. No. And that’s another thing about the film, right. I never wore a trilby until about f***ing 2003 or 2004, and they’ve got me in a trilby in the Nineties. I mean that’s me being pedantic.
It is what it is, isn’t it, know what I mean?
Creation Stories is showing at Glasgow Film Festival (24 February-7 March) on Wednesday 24 February. For tickets see https://glasgowfilm.org/ and on Sky Cinema from 20 March.