Alan McGee: ‘I’m glad I’m sober and not an absolute nut job’

Legendary Creation Records boss reveals the back story on a new biopic about his eventful life

Rather than the customary red carpet schmooze fest on Leicester Square, Creation Stories premiered at the virtual Glasgow Film Festival. “The best thing about the pandemic is that we didn’t have a film premiere,” says its subject, former Creation Records boss Alan McGee.

“It would’ve been the bane of my life. The producer of the movie going, Have you spoken to the Gallagher brothers? Did you talk to Bobby Gillespie? Have you spoken to Kevin Shields? Did you speak to Tony Blair? Have you spoken to the Pope?’ I’m glad I didn’t have to do any of that f***ing nonsense.”

Ewan McGregor doesn't look Scottish. He looks Swedish

The executive producer of the Creation Stories happens to be Danny Boyle, the former BBC Northern Ireland producer who cut his directorial teeth on Inspector Morse before becoming one of the most acclaimed directors of his generation. Creation Stories turned out to be a little bit of a Trainspotting reunion, as Irvine Welsh and his long-term collaborator, Dean Kavanagh, adapted McGee’s 2013 book, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label to the screen with Ewen Bremner (Spud) playing Alan McGee in the lead role.

“Irvine said to me, ‘I could get you Ewan McGregor’ ” McGee says. “I didn’t want Ewan McGregor. I look how Scottish people look like, f***ing weird and bald. Ewan McGregor doesn’t look Scottish. He looks Swedish. Nobody would believe that he looks like me.”

But McGee wholeheartedly approved of the final casting. “Then, Irvine said to me, ‘what about getting Nick Moran to direct?’ ” he continues. “I hate all that Guy Ritchie cheeky Cockney s**t. I just don’t like the films. Irvine said, ‘ah, he’s great. Just have a meeting.’ So, we had a meeting and he was brilliant. Irvine kept developing and developing it but it couldn’t quite get full funding. There wasn’t a lot of money around and it needed about £2.2 million. Eventually, Nick and Irvine got Danny Boyle to be executive producer. The minute we put Danny Boyle’s name to it everything happened instantly. It’s an Irvine Welsh film, really. I just happen to be in it.” Welsh and Cavanagh took some creative licence with the script. “It’s only about 50 per cent factual,” McGee says. “When I say factual, it happened. But it didn’t happen like that”.

Comparisons are inevitable with Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People about the larger than life Factory Records chief, Tony Wilson, who McGee was close to over the years. “Both Tony and Shaun Ryder found that movie a little difficult, because it wasn’t really them,” McGee says. “I’ve managed Shaun for the last six years and he is not really the guy in 24 Hour Party People. Neither is Tony. It’s a version of them. It’s not really me in this movie either. It’s just a version of me.”

I don't mind being portrayed as a cartoon character when I was on drugs because I probably was

In addition to the belly laughs and cracking tunes, Creation Stories documents Alan’s descent into addiction. “I don’t mind being portrayed as a cartoon character when I was on drugs because I probably was,” he says. “I haven’t done coke or crack since 1994, so that cartoon element doesn’t really exist. I got off prescription drugs about four years ago, which changed my personality again. I was warped and mad on them as well. I’m glad I’ve completely sobered up and I’m not an absolute nut job half the time.”

From about the age of seven, McGee supported Glasgow Rangers, who beat Celtic to the Scottish league title last month for the first time in nine years. “I don’t care to be really honest,” McGee says. “I’m glad they did it, aye, but I stopped bothering about football years ago. I owned a piece of Chelsea in the ’90s, but Roman Abramovich bought my shares off me. I had about 2 per cent of the club, or something like that. I used to go Chelsea and all that but since the late ’90s and early 2000s I haven’t really bothered. I’m not down with the whole Rangers-Celtic thing because it is too sectarian and I’m not like that.”

Indeed McGee managed the Celtic mad Mogwai, who recently scooped their first UK number one album, in the mid-noughties. His best friend, Bobby Gillespie (who is publishing his own memoir, entitled Tenement Kid, this October) also follows the Hoops. McGee befriended Gillespie after the future Jesus and Mary Chain drummer and Primal Scream singer asked him to come to Thin Lizzy.

“That actually did happen and wasn’t made up by Irvine,” McGee cackles. “Bobby said he knew about me because I used to walk around with David Bowie albums under my arm when I was 11 or 12, so he knew I was into music. I honestly don’t remember that.” While McGee famously discovered Oasis at King Tut’s in Glasgow in 1993, which makes for a pivotal scene in Creation Stories, he maintains that his personal career highlight is releasing albums by Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Teenage Fanclub consecutively in late 1991. “Musically, we never got better than that,” he says. “Screamadelica, Loveless and Bandwagonesque are all defining records.

We put out those three records in six weeks

Primal Scream did acid house meets rock n’ roll. My Bloody Valentine did shoegaze. Teenage Fanclub defined power pop. We put out those three records in six weeks.” McGee also looks back at the early noughties fondly, when he established another label called Poptones, signed The Hives, bankrolled a campaign for Malcolm McClaren to run for Lord Mayor of London, and ran a club night with BP Fallon called Death Disco.

“So many people still come up to me and say Death Disco changed their life,” McGee says. “The Libertines formed in that club, which was really an excuse for me to drink. I was supposed to be sober and I got off drugs, but I was getting f***ed up on wine. I was doing these nights for f*** all money just to go and drink. I didn’t even know if it was any good, but people loved it.”

Alan enjoyed doing Death Disco in Dublin and used to regularly cross the Irish Sea to meet friends such as Fallon or Craig Walker for lunch. “There are a lot of nice restaurants in Dublin,” he enthuses. “There used to be a super posh one that I really liked, but I can’t remember the name. I haven’t spent that much time there in recent years, but back in the day I used to pop over to Dublin on a helicopter for lunch. It became that mad.”

McGee still has numerous irons in the fire. “I’ve been offered lots of mad stuff in the last few days because of this film,” he reveals. “Real crazy s**t. I might do another book based on the Death Disco times and properly go into it up until about 2012. By the way, seeing as this is for The Irish Times, I must say this: despite the repeated line in the movie, I have never, ever said to anyone, ‘they’re going to be bigger than U2’. F*** knows where that came from. Then again, it’s a good line and it’s a very funny film. It’s Irvine f***ing Welsh, do y’know what I mean?”

  • Creation Stories is available to view on Sky Cinema and Now TV