Alan McGee: I don't look anger

Alan McGee discovered Oasis, but his drug habit meant he lost his son. Now, after 16 years, they've been reunited. Louise Jury hears his story
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The Independent Online

Well, that's what he claims. Chatting amiably over a Coke in Primrose Hill, north London, he eventually realises this isn't strictly true; he did have a couple of glasses of wine a few weeks ago when he bumped into Bob Geldof.

But, essentially, a few weeks short of his 45th birthday, McGee is clean, bursting with energy over new bands, his new DJ-ing venture. The abstinence is certainly not due to a mid-life crisis over mortality. "You can't live a life ingesting the things I've put into myself and think you'll be on a Zimmer frame at 80. And I don't want to be on a Zimmer at 80. I'm well prepared to check out at 60. That's fine," he says.

Nonetheless, the new phase of clean living is not chance either. Three months ago, Daniel, the son McGee had not seen since he was a baby, tracked him down. McGee decided sobriety might be necessary. "I thought I'd better keep my shit together. There were too many emotional footballs in the air," he says. But he was genuinely delighted. "I'm probably the happiest I've ever been. My life has come full circle," he says. "I blew it with my son. I was married [to childhood sweetheart Yvonne McMurray] and we had a child, but we broke up and I became a drug addict. It was nobody else's fault. I removed myself out of his life because of my drug addiction. I wouldn't have been a good influence. Me and his mother both accepted that. But there was a hard decision to be made when he was five or six when his mother wanted to adopt him with a new father."

McGee, out of rehab but still fearing his potentially destructive effect on his son, eventually agreed and stuck to his decision. "Could I re-enter Dan's life and say: 'Hi, I'm your dad, I got clean, Oasis are No 1?' It would have messed him up."

So McGee signed the legal papers and formally promised social services never to make contact unless Dan wanted him to. Fifteen years later, Dan did. Aged 16, finishing GCSEs and school, he sent McGee a text message - "Hello Alan, it's Dan." Confounded as to how to respond and fearing for the worst when he did, McGee finally replied: "Where are you?"

They were soon reunited and now Dan is about to move in three doors down from where McGee lives with Kate Holmes, his partner of 11 years and wife since 1998, and their daughter, Charlotte, four. He admits it is a challenge getting his head around the different responsibilities involved in parenting a toddler and a teenager, but he and Dan are already inseparable. McGee says his son is apparently perfectly happy to see his father as "a cool geezer" who discovered some great bands. "It's par for the course in that scenario that you always think the worst. He could be poisoned against me or he might have a grudge. But he's an amazing kid. His mother and [step]father have done an amazing job," McGee says. "We don't look like each other - he's handsome - but, unbelievably, we have the same character." Which is? "Obsessive. He's encyclopaedic about music. He's obsessed about music that I don't even know exists. He's into dubstep, a sub-genre of drum and bass, and - not with my financial backing - he's going to form his own label. His ambitions are to take dubstep and UK hip-hop and garage to America."

McGee could, of course, back Dan financially if he wanted. After growing up on a Glasgow council estate and working as a British Rail clerk, he founded Creation Records in his bedroom in 1984. Fifteen years later, he sold it for $300m. "Once you do that, then the bottom line is what are you going to do with your life. I want to do things that make me happy and please me," he says.

But McGee had no intention of retiring on his share of the sale. He runs regular club nights, and Poptones, the label he set up after Creation, is just branching out into film production. Plus, through Creation Management, he manages bands, including The Paddingtons and the new "phenomenal" band of The Libertines' Carl Barat, the name of which has yet to be revealed. But whereas Creation employed nearly 100 people worldwide, McGee is one of just four who operate Poptones. "I'm not scared. I've been successful. But I'm scared of having Creation, Part Two. I don't like the corporate ownership. I want to be putting out new bands and being a maverick and being as wild as I want to be," says McGee.

The Rock and Roll Promz, his latest venture, is the result of a DJing set at Glastonbury. When the sound engineer turned the noise levels down, McGee realised that 1,000 people were singing along to the Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony". Following that up with a raft of anthems from "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to "Don't Look Back in Anger", he decided he was on to something.

"I even put on 'Give Peace A Chance'," he says, laughing. "It was the most popular record of the night." Observing the sea of flags, it reminded McGee of England winning the 1966 World Cup. "And I thought, what does this remind me of? It's what the Proms are like."

The Rock and Roll Promz were born. The ticket will be cheap, there will be flags on sale, and McGee will play all the best anthems you might hear in the final hour of a good wedding party. Already 50 shows have been scheduled across Britain. "We're going to see if it works or doesn't work. If it works, I'll carry on," he says. "That's the way I run everything now. I don't do anything I don't want to. Everything is fun."

And part of the fun of the Rock and Roll Promz is that Dan is going to be the opening DJ. If it sounds slightly sentimental, perhaps it is. McGee admits that he lives on Abbey Road in London because of The Beatles, who famously recorded in the studios there, and has a home in a part of Wales connected with another of his loves, Led Zeppelin. There seems to be a mellow side to the former hell-raiser. Certainly, when we meet he issues none of the scathing broadsides about bands he dislikes - such as Coldplay - that have been a feature of conversations in the past. Instead, all he showers is praise, notably on Barat's former co-Libertine, Pete Doherty.

Doherty is, he says, "a song-writing genius" and The Libertines were poised to become one of the biggest British bands since Oasis and Led Zeppelin when they imploded. "But personalities clashed and egos and drugs got involved and it didn't work out," he says, pragmatically.

He is equally pragmatic on the subject of drugs themselves, and has none of the condemnatory zeal of some reformed addicts. "I'm a libertarian," he says. "If you can do your job and take drugs, I don't have a problem with it. It's when you can't do your job and take drugs that drugs become a problem. Lots of my friends are drug addicts and have fairly normal existences. Life is a journey and for as much as I lost out to drugs, I probably gained in other ways."

It is an honesty that may explain his explosive and well-documented falling out with New Labour. McGee was one of the band of rock'n'roll's finest invited, briefly, into the heart of government. Fêted at No 10 and subsequently made a member of a task force on the creative industries, his original motivation for getting involved was simple - getting the Tories out in 1997. "I never for a moment perceived any political career."

He believes he influenced one piece of legislation to help aspiring musicians, though he does not know whether the so-called New Deal worked. But it took two years of his life that he now regrets wasting.

"I, like everybody else, thought Tony Blair was going to listen," McGee says. Disillusion set in quickly. He upset Labour apparatchiks by backing pop impresario Malcolm McLaren for London mayor and then voted Liberal Democrat at the last election. "The irony is not lost that some boy who has got one O-level was involved in British government," he says. "But I wish I hadn't done it."

So McGee's foray into politics is over and he's back full-time in music. He reckons he sees about six or seven new bands a week, "which for a guy of 44 is probably quite good". He remains enormously proud of Oasis and of signings such as Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Teenage Fanclub.

But he is, he insists, most proud of his children. "I don't imagine in two years' time my 16-year-old kid is going to want to hang out with me, but at the moment we're obsessed with each other," McGee says. "Nothing can replace the years I missed with Dan. That's gone forever. But we can either speak about the last 16 years and be negative or we can talk about the next 16 years, about the future. There was always a bit of me missing in the past. I felt as if I was defending something. Now I don't feel as if I'm on the back foot. I feel pretty open and optimistic."

The Rock and Roll Promz start in Glasgow on 22 September