Not one to be backwards about coming forward, ALAN MCGEE, head of Creation Records, speaks frankly about the future of music in Scotland. Words: Jonathan Trew
‘ln Glasgow. you’ve got a few options: you can either be a pop star. a football player, a drug dealer or you can rob banks. There’s really not that many ways out of the rat race and at the end of the day a lot of people want to be pop stars.’
Alan McGee doesn’t mince his words. Whether giving his opinion on why Glasgow pumps out so many bands. as above. or why he thinks that the record industry is in crisis. one thing is sure: he won’t spout banal platitudes. You may not agree with all that he says but you won’t be bored by it either.
Already famous as the man who signed two gobby Mancs and turned them into superstars. Glasgow-born McGee has been in the spotlight again. This time around he has been making waves with his comments about the health of the record industry and in his role as music business representative on the government think tank. The Creative industries Taskforce.
Critics have guffawed heartily at the thought of McGee, the former hell raiser and dedicated party animal. now helping to formulate government policy. Since rock ’n’ roll is supposed to be in a constant state of curled lip rebellion. setting up a dialogue with the government was seen by many as akin to the class bad boy suddenly repenting and giving teacher an apple. Champagne at the Blairs’ was tantamount to fraternising with the enemy.
‘lt’s easy to sit and snipe from the sidelines. it's much harder to try and get inside and try and make it work for you.’ is McGee’s quietly spoken response. ‘What I’m trying to do is set up a system so that musicians are recognised; so’that being a musician is recognised as a reputable way of making a living. Maybe no-one will thank me this year but in ten year’s time there will be a generation of people that came through that system and I think that’s important.’
Whether the music industry will survive another ten years in its current form is perhaps debatable. A combination of plummeting record sales. cancelled
year.’ Alan McGee
festivals and the fact that increasing amounts of
youth’s disposable income is being diverted from
52 THE LIST 23 Jul—6 Aug 1998
We need a new underground. Creation is going in a much more edgy way in the next
Alan McGee has a word with his celestial A&R manager about a new tip
record companies’ coffers and into the bank accounts of trainer and computer game manufacturers has caused much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair among the boardrooms of the music biz.
‘I think the talent spotting policy of the record companies is really weak. The majors have been living
people like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and that’s started to run out now.’ is McGee‘s take. ‘We need a new underground. Creation is going in a much more edgy way in the next year. Over the last four years. my attention has been spent trying to keep the phenomenon that is Oasis on the right track. They’re off on a break now and it let me step back and think “Fuck. we used to be a really heavily edgy label and we have to get our edge back“f
Creation. along with London alternative station XFM. is part of a consortium called Hub. Like The List as part of Beat FM. Hub is bidding for the new central Scotland radio licence.
‘The radio station will favour Scottish bands.’ explains McGee. ‘The idea is to find Scottish bands and they’ll get their first break on our radio station.’
The question is: is the world ready for another Bobby Gillespie?
McGee will be talking to Peter Easton at Gilmorehill Theatre, Glasgow University, Fri 24 Jul.
off the back catalogues of
POP Billy MacKenzie
Even after all these years it still sounds extraordinary. The shallow synth drums and strafing white funk guitar may mark it out as a typical 805 artefect, but Sulk, the major-label debut of The Associates, is timeless in its brilliance. .
Bugger critical objectivity. If you ask me, the Dundonian dynamic duo of Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine made the most thrilling pop sounds that have ever emerged from Scotland and 5qu was their hymn to posterity. On its release in 1982, Sulk offered an alien dream of pop music with MacKenzie’s astonishing, almost operatic voice at its heart. On the hit single ’Party Fears Two' he starts singing on the edge of hysteria and then proceeds to drop over it. As Bono Vox has it, Billy was 'over the top of the top’.
This summer seems a fine time for reappraising The Associates. Journalist Tom Doyle has just published The Glamour Chase, a biography of the tragically short life of MacKenzie, who took an overdose last January. Later this year, the band’s back catalogue is set to appear on CD, as are some previously unreleased recordings. And, as part of the 10 Day Weekend festivities, Waterstone’s is hosting a talk on Sulk in the presence of 00er and Rankine. In the end, 5qu proved not only to be the high mark of MacKenzie'and Rankine's partnership, but the beginning of the end. MacKenzie, on the verge of serious pop success, didn't fancy the idea of spending months on tour and pulled out.
He kept the name The Associates and went on to record three more albums, including the unreleased Glamour Chase, as well as working with Yello and Barry Adamson, before his early death. Sulk, however, remains his finest hour. Rankine certainly has no doubts that it deserves the ephitet classic. ‘l’m constantly frustrated when it doesn’t appear in the best 100 albums of all time lists,’ he says. 'lt's experimental. It didn't answer to anyone and that's its biggest strength. It took no prisoners.’ (Teddy Jamieson)
a The Glamouerase by Tom Doyle is published by Bloomsbury, [ 72.99. Doyle and Rankine will talk about Sulk at
We ters tones, Sauchieha/I Street, Glasgow, Fri3l.
Billy MacKenzie: took no prisoners