Thursday, 21 July 2011
INTERVIEW WITH IAN McLAGAN:
6 NOVEMBER 2000
Ian McLagan and the Bump Band were on tour in the UK to promote the album Best of British. The following interview took place just after the gig at The Neptune Theatre, Liverpool on 6 November 2000.Jon Kirkman:
Hi Mac, how’re you doing?
Ian McLagan: I’m doing very well thanks. It’s lovely to see ya and nice to be here in Liverpool.
JK: We were talking earlier and I think I said the last time I saw you was with The Faces. Is this the first time you’ve been back since the early seventies?
IM: Oh no, no. I’ve played here with The Everly Brothers in ’85 and let me think, Billy Bragg a number of times at The Royal Court. In fact we’re coming back here in December. Who else, let me think….well probably nobody else. But you know you can’t keep a good man down, you can’t keep me away from you.
JK: The gig tonight was great.
IM: Thank you.
JK: It was a nice mixture of new stuff and obviously some of the older favourites from The Faces and the Small Faces. How do you actually choose which Faces songs and Small Faces songs to do, because you are spoilt for choice really, aren’t you?
IM: Well, no. It’s simple; if I wrote or co-wrote one of them, like You’re So Rude or Cindy then obviously I want to do it because it means something more to me. I would love to do Stay With Me but I can’t sing that high. And I do All Or Nothing most nights but that’s not easy to sing either. I kind of have a little prayer to Steve, “Help me out Steve, for Christ’s sake.”
JK: You’ll have to get the pliers out!
IM: (Laughs) Yeah! Thanks! But see another one I’d like to do is Tin Soldier, cos that’s one of my favourite songs but I tried and there’s just so much going on vocally and keyboard-wise, that it’s not possible. Actually we’ve just started doing Get Yourself Together, which I think sounds great. Paul Weller said, “Do you ever do Get Yourself Together?” and I said, “I don’t even remember it, mate,” and he couldn’t’ believe it. But you know back then you’d cut ten songs and one would be the single and you’d never play the others ever again you know. And then you’d be onto the next ten songs. So I finally thought, ‘Well, I must give it a listen,’ and when I heard it I thought, ‘Yeah, we could twist that around and make it ours,’ which I think we do.
JK: We’re going to get a little contentious here and you can answer it if you want to, but the Small Faces were, if we’re honest here, like a lot of bands, taken to the cleaners, weren’t they?
IM: We attracted thieves like… flies on shit. How nice of me to be so blunt.
JK: Blunt but to the point.
IM: Well, the fact is we got conned out of lot of money, but it didn’t mean we didn’t’ have any fun and we didn’t stop being creative all through that. It was something that was out of our control and we didn’t know anything about lawyers and accountants and our management and record companies were quite happy to keep it that way. I liken the music business to being filthy. It’s a filthy business, it really is, and I hope these boy bands, mind you, none of them have got any talent, but I just hope they’re making some money.
JK: I’m sure they are
IM: They’re not even writing the songs or playing on the records though.
JK: The thing with The Small Faces was that it wasn’t just once, it was twice. First of all you were with Decca and you weren’t happy with what went on there. They were sticking out records you weren’t happy with and then you went to immediate and I suppose The Small Faces’ collapse coincided with the collapse of Immediate, didn’t it?
IM: Yeah. Immediate – great idea for the company. They wanted us to record and they were happy to stir our creative juices and we worked with Billy Nicholls, we worked with PP Arnold and things were kind of interesting there until we realised we weren’t making any money. They were not giving us our money, they were not paying us. But anyway we get paid for some of that stuff now, so Ronnie and Steve scream at me from their graves, “Sort it out Mac and Kenney”, and we do what we can, for the widows and for ourselves.
JK: It must still be incredibly frustrating though, if you go into a CD shop or a record shop and see all these albums and go, “Hang on, I haven’t been paid for this!”
IM: I buy them all. I go into these places and if it’s a bootleg – I don’t mind people buying bootlegs - but if it’s a record company bootleg, in other words if it’s a company that should be paying us, I throw it in some other area so no one’s going to buy it. You’ve got to do your little bit you know (Laughs). That’s my way of giving (laughs).
JK: When The Small Faces folded, Steve Marriott left; he went on and formed Humble Pie. At one point there was the chance that you might have joined Humble Pie, didn’t Peter Frampton ask you?
IM: Yeah. And I went down there and had a little play, and didn’t like it. Nah, it wasn’t for me (laughs). That was definitely a good move not to be part of Humble Pie.
JK: Well, obviously it was, because out of the split of The Small Faces, Humble Pie were very successful but The Faces were too. But initially it wasn’t the case. I think I read in one of the books that record companies saw The Faces as being the leftovers of two very successful bands, which sounds a bit unfair.
IM: No no, they didn’t think that at all. They didn’t want us to change the name from Small Faces, they saw the potential in the band very much. They paid us a lot of money to sign, but they demanded that we keep the name: The Small Faces and we fought that. But they said in America people only know The Small Faces for Itchycoo Park. So we said alright we’ll go along with it. And we went along with it but we got them to change the name so they took the Small off for the English release. Same album though. That’s why people come up to me and say Hey, Small Faces toured the States, you said they didn’t Well they didn’t. It was The Faces, you know what I mean.
JK: The Faces as you said, in America always seemed to do very well. You did very well in England after a while but a lot of people say The Faces hit their stride with the third album, A Nod’s As Good As A Wink. I actually disagree because I think the first album was pretty good as well.
IM: I think they were all pretty good but the third and fourth albums were the best. They were the reasons, that’s what we were building up to you know. Definitely Nod’s As Good As A Wink, and Ooh-La-La were the albums we were meant to make but the others were OK. I’m not so keen on Long Player - there’s some good stuff on it but I’m not so keen on some of it.
JK: I remember Ooh-La-La and there was a bit of a stink in the music press because Rod came out and said he didn’t like it. But I guess that happens with bands, doesn’t it?
IM: No it doesn’t happen to bands, it happens to people who don’t know what the hell is going on. The joke is that album went straight to number one, right. Twenty-five years later he cut the track Ooh-La-La. He phoned me up and said “’Ere Mac, I’ve cut Ooh-La-La.” I said, “’Ave ya? You’re twenty five years too bleep late! Ronnie Lane don’t get a penny of that now,” I said, “He’s dead, you idiot!” And that was our little conversation about that. He hated Ooh-La-La – you know why? Cos it was great. He looks back now and sees the magic in it. There’s some great songs on there, “Glad And Sorry”…. you know, Oh man it was a great album.
JK: About eighteen months or two years after that The Faces split. Was it really that inevitable?
IM: Yeah, I mean Ronnie Wood was being courted to join The Stones. Rod felt he was upstaged. He hated the fact that Woody was going to join The Stones, so he said the band quit, the band broke up. We didn’t break up, Rod left and then of course, what did Woody do? He joined The Stones.
JK: Do you think one of the reasons why The Faces haven’t got back together is because Rod’s scared of having to go back into that band mentality after being a big solo artists for so long?
IM: Rod can’t handle it mate. He can’t rock ‘n’ roll (laughs). I’ll tell you what; Rod wishes. But see his management are just protecting him from a situation where they’ll have to take only a fifth of the money. They don’t want that.
JK: But he keeps talking about it – “Oh, we’ve got to get The Faces back together,” and to put it bluntly, he does sod all about it.
IM: You know why he talks about it? Because it creates an interest in the fans who wish he would, you know. I know loads of people who would cross the street to see The Faces, but would never bother to see Rod, but would cross the street to see The Faces together and I know loads of people who don’t like The Stones or wouldn’t bother to see Woody but would like to see Woody play with Rod and me.
JK: I’ve got to be honest, I’m in the former camp there, I wouldn’t’ cross the road to see Rod these days, but for The Faces I would probably travel half way round the world.
IM; Me too! That’s my feeling (laughs). No that’s right, that’s right.
JK: It’s great to have you back in Liverpool, but you’re going to be back again soon, aren’t you, with Billy Bragg.
IM: December the sixteenth. That’s a nice little plug.
JK: One final thing I’ve got to ask you, I believe there are some Faces projects on the go, in terms of CD’s? There’s going to be a boxed set, isn’t there?
IM: Well, me and Ronnie are working separately and together on what will probably be a three CD boxed set of The Faces that Rhino are doing. They did such a good job with the last thing that I worked on with them (Good boys while they’re asleep). It’ll be every single - every A-side, every B-side, album track, everything that was ever recorded that we released. Plus some live stuff that will **** all over the live album that came out.
JK: It’s got to be better than Overtures and Beginners.
IM: You know what I found when I was writing the book. All the Rage by the way, it’s in your local stores. When I was writing the book I found an invite to a party the same night as we played the Palladium. This party where Bob Dylan came. I wrote about it in the book. Anyway, we played the gig then we went to a party ‘til two, maybe two thirty in the morning. Then we went into the studio and mixed tracks, I mean, how sane can we have been?
JK: I was just disappointed, having seen The Faces live, it was like – I’ll be honest with you – I’ve got better bootlegs.
IM: So have I! I’ve got the same bootlegs as you have. Also Rhino are keen to put some bootlegs out too.
JK: Rhino Handmade – I’ve seen stuff like that.
IM: They’ll be pristine copies though.
JK: Well, as long as the B-side to Cindy comes out, Skewif Mend The Fuse. Great track.
IM: That’s on it, definitely. All those instrumentals. I mean, we actually considered putting out an album of instrumentals while Rod was in the band, but funnily enough, he didn’t think it was a good idea. But I’ve got some great vocal tracks of Rod so we’ll get that stuff on there. That’s a project we’re working on whenever I get a minute. Rhino send me CD’s and I go through them. There’s a version of Had Me A Real Good Time that you’re going to go crazy for.
JK: I can’t wait.
IM: There’s a rap from Ronnie Lane, you wait ‘til you hear that, it’s very funny.
JK: Well, as I’ve said, it’s great to have you back in Liverpool, we’ll see you December the sixteenth with Billy Bragg at the Royal Court, seats available at the theatre even as we speak!
IM: Yeah. I hope they shut those doors, it’s very cold on stage there, did you know that?
JK: I do actually, I’ve been on that stage, and it is very cold.
IM: It’s moider! Well, I’ll see you then.
JK: You definitely will Mac, it’s been a great pleasure.
IM: One last message, I’m, really looking forward to having a drink, so I’ll have one now.
JK: You have one on me, mate.
IM: OK (laughs), all the best.
And with that, Ian went back to the hotel for a well-earned drink. Never let it be said that I come between a man and his liquid refreshment.
The Boxed set that Ian was talking about was eventually titled Five Guys Walk Into A bar and was a four disc set and was released in July 2004. More recently the faces (Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones, Ronnie Wood) re formed not with Rod Stewart however but former Simply Red vocalist Mick Hucknall and former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock filling the bassist slot formerly occupied by Ronnie lane
© Jon Kirkman May 2000 and 2011