“I’ve had some people – some loonies actually – who say, ‘You can’t do this. I’ll never listen to a Faces record again!’ As far as I’m concerned, ‘Fuck off, the lot of you.’”
With that, Ian “Mac” McLagan was off.
McLagan is a rock ‘n’ roll survivor. He’s opinionated. He’s driven. He’s passionate. And right now, he’s the man of the hour.
His pedigree is extensive. At the age of 20, he joined the Small Faces, replacing Jimmy Winston on keyboards. McLagan contributed to seminal Small Faces tracks and helped shape their concept album Ogdens Nut Gone Flake. When Steve Marriott quit, McLagan and the others recruited Rod Stewart and Ron Wood from the Jeff Beck Group and forged on to worldwide success as the Faces.
Along the way, he’s been a sideman to the Rolling Stones (both in the studio and on stage – his work on “Some Girls,” especially “Miss You,” is remarkable), a session man for Chuck Berry, and he even dipped his toe in the punk waters by recording and touring with the Rich Kids, Glen Matlock’s band after the Sex Pistols.
Since 1979, McLagan has been a solo artist releasing album after album of good ole rock ‘n’ roll.
In May, McLagan and Ron Wood announced that they were reforming the Faces with original drummer Kenney Jones; Glen Matlock on bass, filling in for the departed Ronnie Lane; and in a surprise twist, Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) on vocals. This lineup plays their first show on Aug. 13 at the Vintage Festival at Goodwood in England. A world tour is planned for 2011.
When asked about Hucknall’s ability to fill Stewart’s shoes (whose manager turned down the reunion request on his behalf), McLagan only had complimentary things to say.
“He’s a fine singer, a soulful singer. I always knew that, I just didn’t know whether he could rock out, and we found that he can, he does. We’re not trying to make him into Rod Stewart. This guy is himself – he’s great. He’s a lovely guy, really. The five of us together – suddenly – it’s like a band.”
McLagan also speaks highly of Matlock, who’s walking in the hallowed footsteps of Lane.
“There are plenty of great bass players out there, but Glen understands Ronnie’s playing and loves his playing, and that’s what we need because we really were a four-piece band with a singer. It’s a marriage of musicians. Ronnie Lane is sadly missed, but Glen Matlock is providing Ronnie’s parts, and he’s suggesting stuff. He’s really keen, and it’s great.”
It’s good to hear McLagan get excited about this project. After all, he’s been a professional musician since the early 1960s, associated with some of the most influential rock bands of all time. He’s witnessed the rise and fall of pop music and having once been managed by the infamous Don Arden (“We weren’t ever physically harmed – always the threat that we should behave.”), has had his share of run-ins with management and record companies … especially the record companies; a subject matter for which he has trouble holding his tongue.
“They’re so stupid,” McLagan said. “These record companies don’t know what they’ve got. They really don’t. None of them give a flying fuck. It’s a fucking shame, but there you are. They’re accountants and lawyers. Accountants and lawyers are good at what they do but they’re not good at running record companies. It drives me mad, you know. That’s why I put the box set together (Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, Rhino/WEA, 2004). Before that we (Faces) weren’t getting one penny from Warners. They weren’t selling our stuff, it wasn’t available. And now, the box set still isn’t on iTunes. They won’t put it on because of the BBC tracks. It’s such bullshit. I’m trying to get them to put the box set out without the BBC tracks. Let’s call it something else. Let’s call it Five Guys Walk Into a Shit Hole. I don’t know. We need to get the stuff out there. It’s very frustrating.”
McLagan understands where the music and recording industries went south. He lived it, and he continues to fight to right the wrongs.
“Rock ‘n’ roll’s heyday was ’56, ’55, ’57,” McLagan said with a laugh. “It’s certainly gone to shit, hasn’t it? I don’t know who’s in the charts, and if I read it, I probably wouldn’t know 90 percent of the artists. And now we have fuckin’ Steve Jobs running a record company and he’s just as ignorant about music, ignorant about what he’s got and the money he pays is a fuckin’ pittance … he’s the new fuckin’ asshole in the record business.”
“The four albums the Faces released with extra tracks with covers and everything have been re-mastered and have been sitting there for two years. We’re trying to get them released. They (Rhino/WEA) just came back to us and said, ‘The best thing we can do is put them out as they are without the extra tracks.’ And I’m going, ‘No, for fuck’s sake – people don’t want to buy that shit again.’ We’ve got the extra tracks – stuff I’ve never heard – there’s some amazing stuff there.”
Mac is a fighter. He’s pledged to keep on Rhino/WEA until the reissues can be released in the manner most appropriate for the band and fans alike. He’s also a purist and he keeps busy. He’s always been busy.
“I’ve been painting and writing in recent months,” McLagan said. “I’ve got some solo shows coming up, a tour of the West Coast in September, after the Faces initial gig. In 2011, we (Faces) want to get to Australia, Japan and America.”
Every available Thursday night, you can find him pounding the keys at Austin’s Lucky Lounge. On June 10, he and The Bump Band celebrated the sixth anniversary of their residency. The club gave them a cake.
“It’s always fun,” McLagan said. “I heckle the audience, tell them it’s free to get in but twenty dollars to get out … but I never collect.”