“The acts have got nothing to fucking to say any more - they’re all really sedate. At least punk and Britpop had an attitude” says the encouragingly chipper Creation Records founder Alan McGee as we chat about the state of current pop music. This is the man who signed Oasis, after all.
McGee isn’t pessimistic about the apathy of youth in general though – he just doesn’t see it coming through in music like it used to.
“It’s the kids now that are more interested in politics or art – these are the kids with the attitude," he laughs. "I don’t see any attitude coming through from kids with guitars any more. Not even guitars but music in general, you meet them and most of them could be working for Barclays or something you know."
The Glaswegian’s bold response is hardly surprising, as he’s never been one who’s scared to wear his heart on his sleeve. In the days he was gaining success in putting out records from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Ride, and House Of Love under Creation Records, he became known for having a maverick style as well as genius A & R skills. Notably, the Hackney office that he ran the label from in the early ‘90s was the site of a drug-fuelled party den – wild and unabashed compared to the corporate front of ordinary record label offices. “I was using anything I could get my hands on it was mostly uppers," he reveals.
“Ecstasy changed it for us," McGee. "You know the Happy Mondays turned me onto E and that turned Primal Scream onto E and we changed. We stopped listening to Tim Buckley and started listening to Frankie Knuckles. The music changed, it happened overnight. I blame with a smile on my face Shaun Ryder and Bez they got us on it you know."
It was a really intense period for McGee. “I’m amazed me and most of Primal Scream (his childhood friends) are still alive!” he muses. His all guns blazing approach though did reach a climax and it nearly killed him just as Oasis, who signed to Creation, were getting big.
And so, he knocked the drugs on the head in 1993, returning with new found clarity to make Oasis the biggest band in the country – and he did it.
During the Oasis years, McGee had sold half the company to Sony and made himself a millionaire in the process. Until 1999, McGee stuck with the label and notable achievements in the post Creation days include a stint managing The Libertines, starting the Poptones label that signed The Hives and more recently the formation of 359 Records.
However, 359 is currently on the backburner as he’s starting a label in conjunction with Warner, and running Creation Management from his home in Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh countryside. It appears that music for McGee is a compulsion, “I love rock n’ roll bands. I'm really into music. I want to die working. I don’t want to retire. I tried that and I got ill so I want to,” he says.
This week the legend is down in London and volunteering his expertise and untameable enthusiasm by giving a talk to young people at an event called Listen Learn: Music. It’s organised by Teenage Cancer Trust for 18 November at Gibson’s Showroom in London and will give young people a valuable insight into the inner workings of the music industry.
The Scotsman has always been determined to help young people who don’t have opportunities laid out in front of them. McGee's most astounding achievement gesture of altruism towards youth is back when Labour had just taken power under Blair – and before he had known about the party’s plan to invade Iraq – he was involved with the party and helped push forward a bill that would give young people benefits for up to three years so they could focus on their music.
“Back in the day we were getting people benefits for playing guitar!," he says with a joyous disbelief. "It was quite weird how that got passed. The government had this thing called the Creative Industries Task Force and 90 percent of the people in the forum did not want that passed and it was me and John Glover who wanted it. But anyway it went right round I looked up at the culture secretary and he nodded to me and I nodded to him and it got passed. It was unbelievable that they got that passed! "
The scheme no longer exists as governments continue to reduce public spending as many of our public services become privatised. However, it is a remarkable achievement to have it passed back then and also a sign that McGee is someone with passion and drive and unquestionably rich experience that could definitely help motivate youngsters to be a part of the industry.
Alan McGee will be a special guest speaker at a special Teenage Cancer Trust event - Listen Learn: Music, a workshop for teens who want to get into the music industry. He'll be appearing alongside Nicola Roberts and Elyar Fox on Wednesday 18 November at the Gibson Showroom in London.