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Mogwai - Interview

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 16 / 6 / 2007

Mogwai - Interview


Post rockers Mogwai are currently working on their sixth album which will be released next year. Sarah Johnson speaks to the group's leader Stuart Braithwaite about it and the group's strong Glaswegian roots

Getting hold of someone from Mogwai had proved a difficult task for Pennyblackmusic. After the release of their fifth album, ‘Mr Beast’, in March 2006 an interview fell through for reasons beyond any ones control. After this phone dates were made and ultimately cancelled simply through bad luck and it wasn’t until over a year had passed that I got a call on my way to my day job asking if I’d like to talk to Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist and occasional singer, from the Glasgow based band. Of course I jumped at the chance, so later that day I was legging it back to my flat for a conversation I had been planning out for over a year. Speaking from Glasgow Stuart was in the middle of a busy couple of months. The band had just returned from a series of live dates around the UK and were about to head off to Europe. “Florence is a lovely place, but the amount of sight seeing will depend really. Last time we were there we had a day off so we got to look around and I went out there with a friend a while back and stayed in Tuscany for a few nights which was nice ” he says. Mogwai have played all over the world and shared the stage with a number of bands they sight as influences, the most notable being both the Pixies and the Cure. “We’ve played a few shows with the Pixies. We played with them in Athens and Paris which was great. They seemed like nice enough people but we didn’t get to see that much of them, I think they were off doing interviews and stuff." “We’ve also toured with the Cure who are one of my favourite bands and were while I was growing up as well. It’s happened a couple of times that we’ve been able to play with bands we really respect and it’s just great.” Mogwai are now themselves considered a band that many aspiring musicians sight as an influence, their atmospheric brand of post rock spawning a whole generation of instrumental rock which mixes guitar, feedback and a rainbow of sound effects. The first spark of the band was kindled back in the early 90's when, as teenagers, Stuart and bass guitarist Dominic Aitchison met at a gig. Martin Bulloch joined soon after on drums and after a gig or two John Cummings introduced piano, a second guitar and his computer to the bands developing sound. They started work on their first album, ‘Mogwai Young Team,’ along with short-term member Brendan O’Hare, ex-band member of both Teenage Fanclub and Macrocosmica. It wasn’t until their second album, ‘Come On Die Young,’ that Barry Burns joined to compliment John on piano, guitar and the computer sound effects and mixing, completing the band's current line up. Their sound has matured over five albums and various side projects and has continued to meet the expectations of their unshakable fan base, who can expect the sixth album sometime next year. “We’ve started recording our new record so we’ve been quite busy lately. It’s too early to tell what it will sound like though as we’ve only really done a few songs. It could change so much between now and next year.” Mogwai will also be playing a few festivals over the summer, one of which is the Connect Festival in Scotland. The three day festival is held in the grounds of Inveraray Castle and has already announced an impressive line up. “I’m really looking forward to seeing The Jesus and Mary Chain, I’ve seen them before but it’s always a good show. Super Fury Animals are also playing and Biork. There’s loads of great bands. It’s just a great line up.” Scotland is a country of diverse culture as well as stunning landscapes. Mogwai are especially grateful for the music scene, which enabled them to get noticed when they first started playing and also allowed them to build up a strong and faithful fan base. “The music scene in Scotland has been so good to us. It was great when we started out, we got a lot of help and met a lot of nice people. Scotland has got such a rich heritage and culture that I suppose I would describe it as a really cold, crass California,” Stuart laughs. “I think Scotland is quite a unique place. It’s a very beautiful country with a lot of great people - I should get a job working for the Scottish tourist board!” Stuart grew up in Glasgow, going to gigs at local venues such as the Barrowlands and Mono. “The Barrowlands is a famous old ballroom which can hold a few thousand people, it’s definitely one of my favourites. There’s also Mono which has a record shop in it, I’ve been to a lot of great gigs there." “My wife puts on concerts so I still go to gigs all the time, I help carry the equipment around.” One of the band's side projects is running their own label, Rock Action Records. The band started the label to release their own music but now use it to help bands they are fans of put out music. Stuart insists this has not changed the way he listens to new bands however. “We just run our label as fans really, just if we like something. We don’t run it very commercially. We just ask ourselves if we like something or not.” Among the bands signed to Rock Action are Errors, Envy and Chris Brokaw. “We had heard Chris play a few times, and before that he was in a band called Come and he was also in a band called Codine. Those were bands we really loved when we were first getting in to music, so we really liked the music he was doing years ago and we just liked the stuff he was doing now. We heard his album, 'Incredible Lobe', and just said 'This is amazing. Can we put it out ?'” With the internet it has never been easier for bands to put out their music and hope to be noticed by a label. “I think the best advice for new bands is to not really think about getting signed too much, just concentrate on making the music you really like. I think a lot of bands think too hard about what other people want so I think the best advice is just make the best music you can, enjoy it, make the music you like and if you’re good enough and it's what other people want to listen too then someone will become interested." “To be honest with all the new technology out there bands can put there own music out and control it themselves. Labels don’t have the power that they used to have.” For some people in the music industry this is a scary prospect. It was recently reported that music shops are suffering huge loss of sales and the popular FOPP chain of stores, which was founded on a market stall in Glasgow, has shut down after 25 years of business. Stuart said the internet has opened up so many opportunities for bands however that it is still a progressive force. “It’s a brilliant thing the internet. You don’t need a lot of money to let people hear your music. You can record for next to nothing and let people hear it. It kind of cuts out a lot of the bullshit." “Then again, there’s so much music out there that it can be hard to find things, but I think people now are listening to more music than they ever have. They don’t need to rely on magazines or radio. They just get on with it, so I think that’s a great thing.” "The internet has also made back catalogues of bands that have long since parted ways readily available. People can listen to music decades old and are discovering the music of past generations which, without the internet, they may have missed out on. This does raise the question of the music industry becoming saturated however, and new bands now have to compete not only with their contemporaries, but every song available for download, and that’s a hell of a lot of music." “I’d never heard Black Sabbath until I was 22 or something because you don’t hear old records on the radio anymore. I think its great that there’s so much variety and people can here so many different types of music now." “As for the competition, I think the people who like our music tend to be quite dedicated so I don’t think I’m that worried about the Beatles stealing our fans.”

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Mogwai - Interview

Mogwai - Interview

Mogwai - Interview

Mogwai - Interview

Mogwai - Interview

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