Saturday, August 11, 2007

alan mcgee and mbv

When I was a kid I assumed that, because he had signed so many of my favourite bands to his record label (The House of Love, JAMC, Ride, Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream etc), Alan McGee must be a pretty good bloke and a man of impeccable taste. His later love affair with Oasis obviously proved me wrong in the latter instance, but it's still surprising to see how far their conservative trad-rock instincts have affected him and his musical tastes. It's simply extraordinary to find him now denying that he ever liked the mighty My Bloody Valentine, and signed them as a 'joke' - but this is now his line, amazingly. Writing in the Guardian recently, he said:

"Bloody nonsense. My Bloody Valentine were my comedy band. Ride were different - they were a rock band, really, a fantastic rock band - but My Bloody Valentine were a joke, my way of seeing how far I could push hype."
I guess seeing as Ride's Andy Bell is now a member of Oasis Quo, McGee needs to make that caveat, but his contention that MBV only sold because people believed his lies is pure comedy itself. As recently as 2004 he was - rightly - heralding Kevin Shields as a genius. It's pretty hard not to reach the obvious conclusion that this is the product of some personal spat between the two men, probably concerning that old line about Loveless costing so much (more on that later). McGee is at it again in this week's post on his Guardian blog.

"Hype is fun. Everyone that worked in the music industry has been involved in it in some way, since acts sometimes need a kick-start to get the audience in front of them. Highlights of my hyping skills include talking up Kevin Shields to be a Brian Eno-like genius (when in fact you could put a monkey in the studio with Alan Moulder and make it sonically interesting), and the Boo Radleys, who were signed to demonstrate to Kevin that I could take anybody doing "his" music and make it a number one."
Alan Moulder, as well as producing Ride and MBV, engineered dismal records for the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and the Killers. So make of that what you will. And the Boo Radleys - whose first album is great, incidentally - only had a number one record once they'd abandoned any semblence of the Valentines' style.

Thus far Shields has - predictably - said nothing and I suspect that, seeing as he's hardly a man who loves the limelight, he won't. But I did a web search anyway and found this recent interview with him which touches on the band's history with Creation and, more interestingly, talks a little about his old band's sound.

He writes:

"The two things we're really known for spending Creation's money and making records with loads of overdubs on them. The exact truth is this: About a month before we started Loveless, Creation pulled away from Rough Trade distribution and said, " Out contract is up with you. We don't want to sign again." By the time we resumed recording in September of '89, Creation was already bankrupt.

When we first started Loveless, no one signed to Creation. When we finished the damn record, they had hit records and bands on Top of The Pops. They were a very successful label. All that stuff about us nearly breaking Creation because we spent all their money is literally 100 percent lies.

Another interesting fact is that we were only in the studio a year and 10 months. We spent six month out of the studio touring behind (1990's) Glider EP, so really, we were only in the studio a year and four months. The last two months, it was £600 a day. Every studio before that was between £200 and £250. If you actually do the math, you realize that those figures don't add up (to the record's reported £250,000 price tag). About a year after Loveless, Creation got in trouble, right before Oasis, because Primal Scream spent £1 million on Give Up But Don't Give Out."
Here he is on the MBV sound. Fascinating:

"I've always told people exactly how I've made a record. The average My Bloody Valentine track is about one or two guitar tracks: less than a White Stripes or Cramps record. I could only get away with having one or two guitars at any one point because if you put a few on, then it took away from the effect, it sounded smaller and smaller. Basically, a My Bloody Valentine record has the same amount of tracks on it as most bands' demos do.

When making records, I got it into my head that some of the big no-no's were no echo, no reverb, no chorus or flanger and no panning. The one effect I would use was this reversed reverb effect, which is very reverb-y, all of these things I was against, right? But the irony was that with these effects, you could actually play harder and it sounded really different. If you played softer, the sound changed dramatically. I would work with a tremolo to get this other dynamic and suddenly had a language I could kind of express myself with, which I never really had before. I found a voice, and I could do it well."
I think I'd rather read a blog by Kevin Shields than one by Alan McGee. That said, there's one more possible ulterior motive behind McGee's comments which I'm more than prepared to entertain. McGee is doing what he's always done best - stirring up attention, placing himself at the centre of events, and ensuring that people keep buying the back catalogue. Annoying, revisionist, laddish, pain-in-the-arse and damn clever sod that he is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dunno why this sudden backlash against MBV calling them a joke when their music is actually more evolved then Oasis regurgitations. Also it must be something sudden, cos 2 years ago he was callin Shields a genius.

I think its all a bizarre joke.