Alan McGee, the former boss of Creation records, is a colourful character who drew some of the finest indie bands ever to come out of the United Kingdom to his label. He was also the man that signed Oasis. This month Oasis: Supersonic, a film that documents Oasis’s first five years and their meteoric rise in popularity, is released. Paul Jones spoke with the humorous Scotsman.
Ride, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Oasis – even Swervedriver – that’s some stable of bands you had at Creation. How do you look back on those days now?
I don’t remember a great deal to be honest with you, but it was a cracking record company. It was a great time for music.
The Oasis story is a rock and roll tale that most people tend to know. Why do you think [Matt Whitecross] made the documentary?
I think maybe to remind people that they were a f-king great band.
I remember reading an interview with Noel a few years ago and he said that he knew that you’d be at King Tut’s [the venue where McGee first saw Oasis play] the night you signed them. However, in the film he said he wasn’t aware you were going to be there. Did he know?
No. He never knew, he never knew. It was the opposite. I’d be the set-up, you know? What did he say before? That he knew that I was going to be there?
Yeah. He said that he knew you were going to be there and that he had to bribe the bouncers to get on the stage and play.
No. He’s f-king bullshitting. I mean, I didn’t even know I was going to be there!
What was it that you saw that night that convinced you to sign them?
Just a great f-kin’ band.
Were they good players?
Noel’s a great guitar player.
What about the rest of them? What about Bonehead and Guigsy?
They could hold their instruments quite well.
As we’ve already mentioned, you had some quality talent at Creation. How do Oasis compare to some of the bands you had on the label?
They were brilliant live. That’s how I found them. They were brilliant live.
Madchester had faded and grunge was steadily killing itself. Do you think the timing was critical for the success of Oasis?
Do you know what, the more I think about it, I think they were just an extension of Madchester rather than a Britpop band. That’s really what they were. You’re right though – it was just timing. I think it was just the right place at the right time.
Would you say that Owen Morris [Producer of the first three Oasis albums] is the unsung hero in the Oasis story?
I wouldn’t call him unsung. I mean he’s f-king amazing. He’s part of it. He did an incredible job. Owen Morris is incredible.
What did he bring out from the band that wasn’t there before?
He made them sound like themselves – what they actually sounded like live. It was amazing.
Was he hard to work with? I heard he was a little extreme; he supposedly terrorised The Verve’s Nick McCabe in the studio. How did you find him?
I always thought Owen was f-king fine. I thought he was f-kin’ insane, don’t get me wrong, but he was mad.
How did you get involved with the documentary?
I think it was Noel’s PA that approached me and asked if I wanted to be in part of the film and I went, “Okay.” Then I went and did a five-hour interview and they used about one and a half minutes of it.
What did you make of the film the first time you saw it, other than the fact you’re only in it for a minute and a half?
I was scared. I was scared in case I’d be portrayed like a fool. They seemed to like me.
Were you surprised that it was just centred on the band’s first five years?
Not really. I think it would be really hard to do a film on their entire career – really difficult, to be honest with you.
There’s no mention of the Blur wars in there. Is that because Noel and Damon are friends now?
Yeah, I don’t know what that was about. I genuinely have never asked.
What’s your relationship like with the Gallaghers now?
Good. Liam’s a recluse these days. Noel I’ll probably talk or text every two or three days; it’s good.
Would you say you’re closer to Noel than Liam?
Probably, but it’s not through choice. It’s only because Liam’s reclusive. I’m quite reclusive as well. I manage the Mondays, the Mary Chain, Black Grape and Willow Robinson, but the other side of me is I live in Wales. I do keep myself to myself. I’m sober now. I don’t drink. I don’t take drugs. I’m not rock and roll at all. I’m a dad. I’m 56 year-old dad of a 16-year-old daughter. I’m a boring guy [laughs].
How long have you been off the booze for?
I’ve been sober off drugs since about ’94, and I relapsed the booze about 2003/2004 for a couple of years, and then I went sober again. I think that was an inevitability, that you would have a drink and then you’d get back on it again.
Did being sober change your perception of the music industry in any way?
I don’t know really. I don’t really judge people. I think as you get older, most people get straight anyway. If you don’t go straight, you die.
Going back to the Gallaghers: Was the sibling rivalry accentuated just for the media, or did they really not like each other?
I think when it started they were playing up to it; then it became real at some point. I think it probably started as comedy and then ended up as reality.
I think one of the reasons they were so popular was they were just a bunch of chancers who saw an opportunity and took it, and the public recognised that. It gave everyone a little bit of hope. The film starts at Knebworth and ends there – where were your heads at during Knebworth? What were you all thinking?
I’m still trying to get my head around Knebworth. I remember thinking when the fireworks were going up that f-k, it’s got too big.
Did you think the band sensed that it was too big at that stage?
I think it freaked them out. Well, maybe not Liam. Liam would still be on stage playing Knebworth if he could. But, I think it freaked Noel out. I can remember going backstage and Noel going, “Where do we go from here?” And I said “Antarctica. Pay-per-view. Let’s play Antarctica.” He looked at me as if I was insane.
It must have been a lot of responsibility for Noel. All that media attention, paparazzi following your every move, and he had to continue to deliver the music. That would be a lot of pressure on his shoulders, I would imagine.
Yeah, I think it was. Be careful what you wish for.
Do you think it was just a matter of time until they imploded as a band? Was it an inevitable crash?
I’m most surprised they broke up, if we’re being honest. I thought it was going to go on and just be The Rolling Stones – it was our generation’s Rolling Stones. I’m surprised they broke up. Now they’ve broken up – I’ve been asked this in a few interviews before – this is about the fourth or fifth interview I’ve done. The first couple asked, “Would Oasis get back together?”
I definitely wasn’t going to ask that question.
I’ll answer it anyway. Noel Gallagher will never reform, but maybe Liam, in five or ten years time, might form Oasis and not have Noel in it. I think he’ll get away with it because all people really want is the Oasis songs done by most of the people in the original band with someone who can play as good as Noel, and Liam can take it around 10,000 capacities and maybe even bigger.
What’s Liam doing now?
He’s just signed to Warner and he’s got a record coming out. I don’t think you’d ever stop Liam doing music and doing it well. He’s a force of nature.
One final question for you tonight, Alan. What’s the best comment you’ve ever heard Noel make?
I once said to him, “I think I’m always going to be known as ‘Oasis guy’” and he comes around to me and he said, “It could be worse. You could be known as ‘The Darkness guy.’”