Covering The Beatles, The Brits and My Bloody Valentine...
Personality Clash: Alan McGee vs Anton Newcombe

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the two hook up via the wire to discuss The Beatles, The Brits and, surprise, surprise, My Bloody Valentine...

The words “Oasis” and “Alan McGee” go hand in hand. And Creation Records’ right hand man can claim many a notch on his musical bedpost. Having launched the career of those feuding Manc rapscallions back in the day, he also assisted fellow Scots Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain in their rise to fame. He even orchestrated the release of My Bloody Valentine’s epic ‘Loveless’ LP. So this hardy Scot is responsible for some pretty era-defining moments in music.

Anton Alfred Newcombe is a man of many instrumental persuasions, and can even claim the hurdy-gurdy amongst his many talents. He is also the face and voice of psychedelic (and metamorphic) shoegaze troupe, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The 42 year-old Californian namechecked My Bloody Valentine in his 2009 release, the cunningly titled ‘My Bloody Underground’, so it would appear that these two musos have some seriously fuzzy common ground to wax lyrical about.

-

Alan: So, how you doing today Anton?

Anton: I’m not gonna lie - I’m busy. I’m in a hotel doing interviews. It’s amazing the [number of] people who come to interview you and haven’t heard the record. One of them was asking me about Lily Allen, who’s been complaining about file trading. She’s said publicly that she wants to retire to a farm and have babies - why does she care about file trading?

Alan: To be honest I think she’s one of the good people. However I don’t think she’s very well informed - I think she still thinks that we get 79p a download every time in royalties. You and I both know that when you’re on a major record label and you make a record you’re getting four pence a record.

Anton: Besides that, people don’t realise that we’re giving up vast sums of money, for touring and promotion, and they’re not actually making money off the record sales.

Alan: It’s all lies - I remember once the Oasis boys told me that the return was twenty to one, live revenue compared to recording revenue, and that was back in the Nineties. And they were the big boys, way back in the Nineties when everyone bought CDs.

Anton: That and the t-shirts. I remember Meatloaf, who sold thirty-five million with ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, never made one penny.

Alan: You would say The Cult made it - The Cult broke the US, etc. I’m good mates with Ian Astbury. I said to him, “You must have made a fortune Ian.” He replied, “Alan: we only just broke even.” And that was in the Eighties.

Anton: I’m a big fan of them. I bought all their stuff from ‘Southern Death Cult’ on, until it got ridiculous, like with Iggy with the ‘Electric’ album.

Alan: Anton, you and Astbury would be like soul brothers if you met.

Anton: I’m curious about The Cult, because every song is those three chords, those power chords - how do you personalise that?

Alan: It just worked for him.

Anton: Some people have that - that artistic click-off - painters have it, sculptors have it, lots of different people; there’s definitely something electric about it and you can’t really replace [it]. I was thinking about The Beatles earlier, that their record ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ is the best rock record of all time. I mean it isn’t really a rock record though - it’s something else.

Alan: It’s funny with artists. I think the John Lennon stuff that came after The Beatles was just as good, you know? Stuff like ‘Cold Turkey’, or even during his house period, when he was obviously just a house dad on smack - and then he came out of that - his album ‘Double Fantasy’, that was a good record.

Anton: For you! I’m much more interested in the other stuff you’re into. I mean you never named your record ‘Rubber Soul’! I think your label Creation offers something in their intensity, their rave-ups, that The Beatles never really got to. In Performance Mick Jagger talks about achieving madness, and there’s something to be said for that too. Being a proper mentalist.

Alan: I think with the media, no one’s going to pick up on the political Anton, they just think you’re a lunatic. Maybe people think I’m a lunatic too, and there’s so many other fucking layers to people but everybody picks up on the obvious bits.

Anton: I know you’ve moved on in your relationship with the music industry - I think that’s perfect - you’ve contributed quite enough. How do you see the music world?

Alan: It’s funny - I actually bought NME for the first time in six months the other day

Anton: You had to buy it...

Alan: Yep! There were only two things that were vaguely interesting in it - that Paul Weller was going to make a record with Kevin Shields - that could be really good - and that James had threatened the NME staff by saying ‘I know where you live if you give us a bad review’... Other than that it was fucking bizarre. The only records I’m excited about hearing this year are yours and Glasvegas’! We’re living in cloud cuckoo land - music used to fucking exciting.

Anton: I know you have a healthy perspective on what you’ve done. You know what your motives were - from square one, you’re loving music, it’s clear. I’m not someone who holds their success against them, you know? But lots of my friends have gotten all kinds of perks from just playing the game - they’ve used it as a stepping stone into real estate - mad stuff. I just had a pub lunch, and I was walking back, and thinking - what is so important about the Pet Shop Boys other than that single ‘West End Girls’, or whatever it’s called; why should they be in the popular consciousness for any other reason other than the fact that they’ve just done a reunion tour? How do you put that against what ‘Psychocandy’ [Jesus And Mary Chain’s debut album] means to culture? I think that a lot is just devoid of content. I think with a lot of musicians they would pay for the celebrity and just bypass the making of music.

Alan: I agree - we’re living in a world that’s devoid of soul. That’s why you get these terrible things happening and no one does anything, because it’s not directly pertaining to them. People seem disembowelled from their souls now.

Anton: I’m really interested that we find beautiful things that we like in art - that’s why we listen to music - we can identify with it. But I do think we live in strange times. In an interview someone asked me what kind of music I’m into, like what new bands I listen to. I’m like - I’m not a sycophant, I don’t do that.

Alan: I listen to old stuff now - I’m listening to The Stone Roses, the first or second albums - I’m loving that at the mo.

Anton: Those guys had a magic. They are a pop phenomena. The quality level of their workmanship is great. Musically you have to be so good and I’m a big believer in the suspension of disbelief. People like us who can really hear music like us have a kind of ADD - we can really hear music and all the imperfections in it. If things are a bit wonky and the rhythm’s off, I take advantage of that and piss all over it, I don’t care about the meter. I never realised what it meant until I had a line at a party (I don’t even drink now) and I realised that it wasn’t because I was mashed but it was actually like attention deficit disorder, it changed immediately the way I listened to music, and I stopped being critical. I think it’s interesting that people don’t even really listen to music though.

Alan: I think CD culture did something to people. I think when we had vinyl it was a much warmer experience. But funnily enough, I’m a big fan of the iPod. You know, I could be staying in my London flat and just put on forty Stone Roses songs if I feel like it. I remember when we were making ‘Loveless’, this is back in the very early days, real backing tracks not even any tunes, and Kevin Shields was telling me about a tune that was going on inside it and I’m actually quite attuned to music so I was really listening but I told him that I didn’t hear it at all and then I asked him years later if he was taking the piss and he said no - that’s when I realised how attuned to melodies and rhythms that guy really is.

Anton: I think it’s really cool that he hears things on such a level. I know that as people we don’t even see colours or hear sounds in the same way. Alcohol really affects your hearing but if you’re standing next to a person your perspective and all of this is unique just to you - people can try and share your perspective but they can’t even see it. He’s grooving in his own little world and it’s cool to get as close to it as we can. As much as I love him and his music, I’m not really a sycophant in the way other people are.

Alan: I remember when Nirvana came out and we were making ‘Loveless’, I honestly thought it was going to be the next ‘Nevermind’ and it was going to change everything. It sort of did, but it happened twenty years later. I actually thought, in the same way I thought about ‘Psychocandy’, was that it was a revolution. And you know it was ripped off from the Bay City Rollers...

Anton: That is hilarious....

Alan: I know, it’s cool when you can delve a bit deeper and find out these funny little idiosyncrasies...

Anton: Totally...

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album, ‘Who Killed Sgt. Pepper’ is out now.

Interview by April Welsh
-

Follow Clash: