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Publish service announcement: A special report on independent music publishing

Even in a normal year, the world of independent publishing is one that’s ever-growing and ever-changing. But in 2020? Well, like every other sector, it’s navigating some big challenges but, crucially, also exploring some incredible opportunities. Here, Music Week checks in with ...

The Aftershow: Alan McGee

They don’t make record company bosses like Alan McGee anymore. Now celebrating the second birthday of his latest indie, Creation 23, he talks us through the original Creation Records and reveals what Bill Clinton is like as a house guest… Running a label is a way of life… “Creation 23 might be a hobby label, but it’s not really a hobby. I’m doing it because that’s what I do. I was never doing it at any point to make money, I like music. The reality is, I’m a bald guy with a beard who’s hitting 60 in two months’ time. But in my head I’m still the same punk rock kid from Glasgow in 1977 putting out music. I’m just a fan.” Guitar music isn’t dead… “All my bands are, in their own areas, doing really quite well. The Clockworks are selling Ireland out, Shambolics are selling Scotland out, The K’s are selling out the north west. Because nobody’s paying attention to the kind of music I like, which is punky, indie rock‘n’roll music, the quality of bands I’m picking up is better than all other times I’ve run a label. It is harder now than it’s ever been to break bands, but that’s not to say that eventually we won’t have some big bands, because we probably will.” I started Creation because… “The music business would never let me in, so I had to do my own label to have a voice. The first three bands I ever tried to sign, when I was 21, were Prefab Sprout, The Pogues and The Smiths. I got in contact with Johnny Marr but I think they’d already done the deal with Geoff [Travis at Rough Trade]. I wrote to Prefab Sprout and tried to get them to sign to me [laughs]. For The Pogues, I was at their second ever show and ended up back at Shane MacGowan’s house, but I think he just thought I was a child! I didn’t sign any of them so that’s when I thought, ‘I’ll start a club and find bands through that’ – and I did. I found the [Jesus And] Mary Chain, they blew up and suddenly everyone was like, ‘Oh, maybe he’s got a clue’.” My most surreal moment was… “When Bill Clinton stayed at my house. He was doing Hay-on-Wye book festival at the end of the ’90s. I’ve got ‘the big house in the area’, so they got in contact and said, ‘Can Bill Clinton stay at your house?’ And he did! I was on tour but my missus ended up hanging out with him. I’m told he stayed up until five in the morning playing my records and talking about his saxophone, with 10 Secret Service people there protecting him.” Tony Blair was like… “A failed lead singer. You meet loads of them when you go out and watch bands. Guys come up and tell you they’ve been in the same band for 10 years, but nobody’s found them. And you just think, ‘Yeah, you’re a failed lead singer’. Tony Blair reminds me of them. We gave him a sense of ‘now’ in 1997. I think I did OK at that time, because I got the New Deal for musicians through. It was crazy times when you think that I had the ear of the government and actually managed to change the law. It’s fascinatingly mental.” I was shocked when Oasis broke up… “But it shows you how real the Gallaghers actually are. Big bands all fucking hate each other. But nobody breaks bands up because they don’t like each other; it’s big business so they just keep pulverising it. Do you really think Metallica like each other? Do they fuck. But they’re not going to break up because of it, they’ll go out and do another massive tour. That’s why the Gallaghers are ultimately cool people, because they’re really honest.” I shouldn’t have taken so many drugs… “I don’t know if you ever met me on drugs, but I was fucking mental! But I don’t berate myself that badly, some of the experiences I had on drugs were fucking phenomenal. Would I have got Acid House without ecstasy? I don’t think I would have done. I needed to take ecstasy to get Acid House and, because I got Acid House, I showed Bobby Gillespie the Haçienda, introduced him to Shaun Ryder… Without drugs, maybe no Screamadelica.” PHOTO: John Hollingsworth

Hitmakers: The songwriting secrets behind Moloko's The Time Is Now

Electronic duo Moloko scored back-to-back hits with Sing It Back and The Time Is Now around the turn of the century. The latter peaked at No.2 and became a fixture of Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage. Here, vocalist Róisín Murphy tells its story... After we’d had a hit with Sing It Back, it was a question of, ‘What will we do now?’ We had kind of gone as far as we could go with just the two of us so I was interested in bringing in the band – particularly [keyboardist/composer/arranger] Eddie Stephens, who had reshaped what we did as a live act – to the next album, which turned out to be Things To Make And Do. I’d come up with the idea that we could follow Sing It Back with a song that had a more organic sound, like organic house, which is now a thing apparently. I asked Mark to build a house beat and wrote the song over it, a more electronic-sounding thing, and then brought the band in. It was such a good balance. Sing It Back had come from quite a dark record called I Am Not A Doctor, so when it came to writing the next album I just wanted to project some sunshine: to be warm and open, loving and happy. And that frame of mind is crystallised in The Time Is Now. There’s a sadness to it as well. I’ve revisited that classic happy-sad thing quite a few times – that sense of holding those two emotions in two hands – you’ve got deep sadness and regret in one hand and hope and love, beauty and joy in the other. To be able to balance those extremes in one little four and a half minute song is quite an achievement. It became associated with football on Sky Sports and that bought me my first flat in London, so no complaints! Roisin Murphy The acoustic bassline is mad, it’s just one of the best basslines ever. Then we added this huge string arrangement. We did it in AIR Studios and to sit back and watch a 50-piece orchestra playing along to it is one of the most beautiful memories I have. It was the biggest radio record of the year in this country and then it became associated with football on Sky Sports [laughs] and that bought me my first flat in London, so no complaints. The video for Sing It Back had been my concept. At the time I’d given up smoking and I had nothing to do with my hands, so I got an old dressing table and covered it in tiny pieces of broken mirror. So that was where I got the idea for the [metallic] dress. For The Time Is Now, Dom [Leung, director] showed me this super slo-mo thing, which was quite new at the time and I thought, ‘OK, that’s extraordinary, that’s enough. So maybe we just put it into a rehearsal space and bring the band into it as well?’ It turned out to be an incredibly beautiful video, but very simple. We’d made a lot of videos up to that point where there were too many ideas in there, so I was into keeping it simple. The video for our next single, Pure Pleasure Seeker, had an awful lot more of my personality in it, but it turns out people do like the simple things. The Time Is Now and Sing It Back are both great songs, first of all, so I don’t ever get sick of them. But the best thing that happened because of them was that we got booked for all these huge festivals all over the world. We were able to really develop ourselves as a live act and we did it with gusto, and that’s where those singles led us to. Whenever you put strings on something it’s hard to make it live, so we did many a tour where I thought The Time Is Now wasn’t the strongest song we did. But when people know the song they don’t really give a fuck what kind of version you do. It came out 20 years ago? Oh stop, you’re making me feel old. Crucially, you’re not making me look old.

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