McGee Moves From Britpop to Poptones

Alan McGee is wondering if lighting strikes twice. Once the manager of British modern rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain, McGee formed Creation Records during the late '80s and turned it into one of the most powerful independent labels in the world, thanks to acts such as My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, and, most notably, Oasis. But last year, McGee shuttered the company — not to get away from music, but to get back into it.

"I never knew I would make $30 million and sell 36 million records in six years or something and get invited to Buckingham Palace — I never went, by the way," says McGee, 40. "I never thought I'd be some iconic figure of the '90s that the Labor Party government would come to or that I'd be advising [Prime Minister] Tony Blair on the drug policy in the country. It all got quite removed from what I was about, from what I'm actually good at, which is music."

McGee calls Poptones, his new label, "a reaction to what Creation had become." It's a multimedia enterprise that releases albums — including titles by Detroit's Outrageous Cherry and recent SXSW rage Cosmic Rough Riders — as well as producing films, an online magazine (www.poptones.com.uk), and a weekly radio show. Poptones also hosts a weekly dance party known as Radio 4, for which McGee himself often serves as DJ.

"The idea for Poptones is that nobody else is really doing it," McGee says of the company's various endeavors. "I think DreamWorks is doing it as a big label, but on a small, indie label scale, we're the only ones trying to do all this."

McGee is bringing a bit of Radio 4 to North America during the next couple of weeks, while he's in the United States and Canada to promote Poptones. He'll DJ at club nights in New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Detroit, where he promises to "rock the … bollocks" off of the crowds. McGee says Poptones will not have a U.S. office but that he'll instead license his bands' recordings individually to labels in the United States. He knows there's a possibility that the new label could explode like Creation, but he's trying not to concern himself with that.

"I'm not anti-success; I'm anti-corporate," he explains. "You can be successful and be independent. If something comes in for $5 million, I'm sure I'll prostitute myself for the money."

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