Former Creation records boss Alan McGee is telling the true story of his incredible life with the publication of his autobiography, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label.
He’s the man who signed Oasis and was responsible for one of the greatest music labels in rock ‘n’ roll history.
And now former Creation records boss Alan McGee is telling the true story of his incredible life with the publication of his autobiography, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label.
It’s a riveting, rollercoaster of a read documenting incredible highs as Oasis became the biggest band in the world and crushing lows as the Glaswegian’s life fell apart due to drink and drugs.
However, it was Wales that would became his great redeemer and McGee’s sanctuary from the excesses of the music industry.
Buying a house in Hay-on-Wye in 1997, initially as a holiday retreat, the music mogul moved to the Welsh countryside for good five years ago, desperate to escape London with his wife Kate and their daughter Charlie.
“I think I was going past McCartneys the estate agents in Hay-on-Wye and I saw this gaff,” says McGee, recounting the story of how the border town first cast its spell.
“Now I don’t know if it was a rock ‘n’ roll message being sent because of the name of the estate agent but I’d prefer to say it was all down to Led Zeppelin if I’m honest.
“ I remember when I was 15 and Led Zepplein were walking over the hills in Wales and had these big houses. I thought to myself if I ever make it I want one of them.
“No matter what happens, I’ll never move from here. There’s a ley line under us, Strata Florida, which runs straight through the house, all the way from Glastonbury to Aberystwyth Castle, with us in the middle.”
Describing life in Powys as a spiritual rehab, McGee says he spent five years reading, watching films and bringing up his daughter, happily isolated from the rat race.
The rest was recuperative in every sense because after five years he was ready to re-immerse himself in the music industry, but on his own terms.”
The 53-year-old, who also launched the careers of Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Super Furry Animals amongst others, announced his long-awaited return to the music industry this year with 359 Records – a joint collaboration with long-standing independent label Cherry Red, run from his Powys base.
“The best thing I ever did was going away for five years. Where I live is completely spiritual. I can sit in my room, look at the Black Mountains, and I can just decide should I or should I not go and do this or go and do that?
"I find in London that everything is like a bumrush every single time. It’s just too much."
“We split to Wales because London is such a me-me-me culture,” he adds. “It got so boring.
"You come down here and people are actually nice. You don’t usually meet people in London who are actually nice.
"Everyone has got an agenda. Me and the missus were in London for too long. Plus my daughter was around six or seven and I thought ‘I really don’t want her to become Londonised’.
“I think I’m averse to London,” he adds. “It eats your soul. It’s not people’s fault, it’s just there’s no spirituality in London.
"There may be creativity, but there’s no spirituality. People are on the breadline, and they’re just used up as a resource.
"People just end up using each other, you know, eating each other, it’s a kind of cannibalism. It freaks me out. All I ever want to do in London is get in and get out of it.
“With the technology now, it means you can run everything from home. I’ve got the book out, I’ve got a record company, a publishing company and two films all coming out, and I’m running it from my bedroom in Wales.
“The bottom line is, if I can do it on a Blackberry and a computer, anyone can do it – because I’m not that bright. You’ve got to have the confidence, but once you go after it and do it, then you realise you can do it.”
The reborn music mogul has never been busier. In addition to his autobiography and 359 Music, his first film as producer, Kubricks, has secured a distribution deal and he will be making an appearance in the forthcoming music industry comedy Svengali, which stars Welsh actor Johnny Owen and Sherlock star Martin Freeman.
McGee, who DJs regularly around the world, will be returning to one of his favourite Welsh haunts – the Mountain Ash Inn pub in Mountain Ash – next Saturday for another 359 Music night, after launching the label in Wales back in September.
Being introduced to landlord Tony Rivers through mutual acquaintances, the former Creation Records man admits it’s a place he loves.
“I just came and DJed one Sunday night and there were about 200 of them singing Oasis songs,” he laughs. “I had a blast so I kept coming back.
“When we started the label I said we would come back here and do a 359 Music night, because I like it here. I don’t think this part of the world gets the publicity it deserves. I think too many people see it as a backwater and a forgotten part of Britain.
“When we said we’re going to do the launch in Mountain Ash, people were saying to me ‘well where is it?’
But I love it, it’s this little rock ‘n’ roll haven in the middle of the valleys with posters of The Smiths and Sex Pistols on the wall it’s unlike any pub you will ever see.”
Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label is out now, published by Sidgwick & Jackson.
Read excerpts from Alan McGee's book:
Super Furry Animals get tanked up
Signed by Creation Records AnR Mark Bowen (from Wales) they were perhaps the last great Creation band. They came out of the Cardiff music scene, and their lead singer Gruff Rhys was really charismatic. Mark took me to see them in the Camden Falcon at the end of 1995, where they were supporting Pearl Lowe's terrible band Powder.
The sound through the PA was that bad I thought Gruff Rhys was singing in Welsh. I told him afterwards it would help sales if he'd sing in English, and he said , 'I was!'
My only real interference with them was insisting that The Man Don't Give A F**** come out as an A side, instead of a B side. It could have been written for me, you know there was no that wasn't going to be a single on my label!
We had fun marketing the band. We were going to give them a full page in the NME, and they said, 'We don't want that, we want a tank. We want to deliver the single to Radio 1 in a tank.
That kind of logic wouldn't have appealed to every label boss, but it seemed perfectly reasonable to me and I happily handed over the money. It probably got loads more press attention than an advert would have done, but that wasn't the thinking behind it. It just appealed to my sense of mischief. I wonder if my sense of mischief, whatever trouble it's got me into, has also led to some of my greatest successes.
The Libertines go wild in Wales
I had a great idea, I'd take Pete Doherty and Caral Barat to the house I'd bought in the Welsh countryside, get them away from the temptations of London and they'd write the next album in nice peaceful setting.
I couldn't control it. Everything else, I've been able to control the scenarios. The Libertines were completely out of control.
Everybody had warned me but I didn’t listen. One morning Carl Barât smashed his head against a sink, after a row with Doherty. His 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.
Bill Clinton bunks up
These days I don't travel nearly as much. I'm a family man, and I like the quiet of Wales. People comes to see us.
Bill Clinton came to stay once. I was going to do a gig in New York in May 2001, and on AOL messenger Peter Florence, the director of Hay Festival, said, 'Hi Alan, what are you doing next weekend?'
When I said I was in Amaerica, the next question was, 'Can Bill Clinton stay in your house?' I told (my wife) Kate, and she was very excited. 'What! Of course he can.'
I didn't particularly want Bill Clinton to saty at my house. American presidents, I know what their game is. Clinton's no different to the others, he's just really eloquent. But if Kate wanted it, that's okay: Clinton could stay.
The irony of all ironies was that Kate, who thought she was going to get to hang out with Clinton, wasn't even allowed to stay in her own house! She got kicked out and had to stay with Peter Florence's mum!
That was the end of being a hotel for the literature festival.
She's been to stay at my house in Wales. She's a keen horse rider.
You can ride out of my place for miles into the countryside. She lost a £40,000 bracelet when she fell off her horse up there and asked me to send out a search party. There's no way we would have found it. For all I know, there's still a £40,000 bracelet up the hill.
Plant and Page
I've many of my heroes through becoming well known in music. I used to see Robert Plant wandering around. In 2005 he phoned me up and asked me to DJ his son's wedding.
Well, you don't get more flattering offers than that, and I showed up at the wedding in Robert's place down the road. Jimmy Page had just got sober and was wandering around. Jimmy Page is a god to me.
I remember putting Lola by The Kinks on as the first song and seeing Jimmy and Robert head to the dance floor and start dancing together, that was the absolute highlight of my DJing career!