Founder Of Oasis, Primal Scream Label Plans Web Start-Up

Alan McGee, who ran influential Creation Records for two decades, seeks 'new underground' online.

LONDON — The founder of England's influential Creation Records — home to Oasis and Primal Scream — says he's quitting his job to go online.

Alan McGee, who started Creation in 1982 and also fronted one of its staple bands, Biff Bang Pow!, said he's launching an Internet label, not in search of money and market share, but to get away from such things.

"I've got to get back to ground level, start up a new underground, and I'm going to do it on the Net," McGee said last weekend from his London office.

He and Creation co-founder Dick Green announced two weeks ago they plan to leave the label by June and launch the new online record company by July. McGee hopes to release 30 downloadable albums in the first year, though he wouldn't name any participating artists.

"You'll be able to visit our site and download three tracks, and if you're into it, you just send £10 [about $16] for the album," McGee said. "And all the record sleeves will be generic, just like the old indie-label days."

McGee, 39, started Creation — named for the '60s British rock band whose songs included "Biff Bang Pow!" — in 1982. Over the years the label has released records by such guitar rockers as Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream, as well as his own band, for which he sang and played guitar.

Among Creation's more landmark releases were the Jesus and Mary Chain's debut single, "Upside Down," Primal Scream's Screamadelica (1991) and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, which features "When You Sleep" (RealAudio excerpt).

"The worldwide success of Oasis saw out my original vision to the extreme," McGee said. "Creation was always about bringing across that raw, punk-psychedelic British-rock sound, from the early days with the Pastels and the Mary Chain, on. But now, instead of selling 700 records, we were selling millions.

"Oasis at Knebworth [an outdoor show outside London, in August 1996, which drew 250,000 people] was the pinnacle of everything I could achieve with Creation — the biggest band in the world playing the biggest gig. What could I do after that? If the last 10 years were about conquering the world, the next 10 will be about integrity, pride and not chasing the market."

McGee, who sold 49 percent of the label to Sony in the mid-'90s, said he has been unhappy working in a major-label environment. But he said he is proud of Creation's recent albums, including Mona Lisa Overdrive, by Trashmonk — an experimental rock band fronted by the Dream Academy's Nick Laird Clowes — which includes "Girl I Used to Know" (RealAudio excerpt), and Primal Scream's XTRMNTR, due Jan. 24 in the UK. He called the latter, which incorporates disco, soul, blues and noise, "the greatest record we've ever released."

Andy Ross, who runs Food Records, home to onetime Oasis rivals Blur, said McGee has picked the right time to abandon Creation.

"The majors are becoming disaffected with labels they once considered a real source of new creativity, " Ross said. "They were excited about the little labels that could produce an Oasis or a Blur or a Pulp for them. But it's been a while since a new band has had that kind of success, and they've decided to concentrate on banal disco-pop compilation party albums instead. They've become very conservative."

"People who know Alan will see this move as very natural," Jeff Smith, head of music at the national pop-music station BBC Radio 1, said. "He will continue to occupy a maverick role, this time online."

Smith said McGee in his Creation years "gave the alternative, independent side of the music industry a more mainstream face with his politically high profile. ... His real legacy will be his passion for challenging the music-industry norm and the establishment, almost from within."

McGee said he will run his Internet label with a small staff and budget.

"I'm going back to basics," he said. "The new label will never employ more than eight people. We don't need all those pluggers and publicity people and engineers. Forget all that bullsh--."

Creation employs from 25 to 30 people at any given time.

"The corporates ... should be careful," McGee said. "One day the new technology will jump up and bite them on the arse."

McGee is still a fierce supporter of the most famous band he's introduced to the world, Oasis. All of Oasis' records — including "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" (1995), which includes "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova" (RealAudio excerpt) — were released by the label.

"You can say they're just making trad rock 'n' roll, but they do it so well," he said. "Liam [Gallagher] is the best vocalist since Elvis Presley. ... He's also the funniest guy I know. He could have been a stand-up comedian."

He said Gallagher and his brother, Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher, "know why I need to move on. They're cool about it."

Oasis, whose album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is due in February, could not be reached for comment.

McGee said he won't announce his new label's name until next year. "But," he said, "I needed to get permission from the high priest of punk — and he phoned last night to give it to me."