Mogwai have a new album out. Rock Action is the long awaited follow-up to Come on Die Young, one of 1999’s best albums. Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement fame) once said, that Mogwai were “the band of the 21st Century”. I spoke to Stuart Braithwaite, Mogwai’s guitarist, about Rock Action, Post Rock, culture, and the atrocity of Britpop, amongst other things.
Q- I’d like to know about your musical background?
A- I’ve been playing guitar since I was like twelve or what ever and we started the band, I kind of knew the other people in the band,we started the band in 1995.
Q- Do you have any musical training?
A- A guy called me to play the guitar, that’s about it. Barry’s the one with the musical training.
Q- Dou you think musical training is important?
A- It can be, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I think it can actually be restrictive if people are overtrained than they build too many barriers and they have it in their minds that they can’t break any rules. I mean it’s just a matter of certain chords I would’nt say that it’s essential, alot of my favorite bands aren’t classically trained but then again, it depends.
Q- It seems that you’ve taken sort of a step away from post rock, your music has more of a rock attitude, what caused this change?
A- We just didn’t want to make the same kind of record. we just wanted to change things. I don’t think we ever considered ourselves to be “post rock” anyway, we just wanted to do something concise.
Q-Your musical style is mostly instrumental, however, this time you’ve experimented with vocals quite a bit, what made you take this leap into song writing?
A- Really, the songs just required it, they just sounded like they would be shit without any singing. So we just did some singing. Actually I believe all the other ones to be songs to, it’s just what needs to be done and what’s required, and it just seemed that these required some singing.
Q- How do you find music with vocals differs from instrumental music?
A- For me I think it’s obviously much easier to determine what a song’s about or get a deliberate message across but by working out an instrumental song like we do it can be conveyed with out having somebody singing. I mean I can’t sing very well and neither can the others but it’s all the same really. Then again it’s hard to imagine what Bob Dylan songs would be without him singing.
Q- Dou you think there is a difference between bands that have a singer and bands that don’t?
A- It just that when there’s a singer in a band, it’s often the singer’s band. That’s not really what Mogwai’s aboout. Ther’s more of a socialist thing going on.
Q- When “Tuner/Lower” came out, Britpop was in full swing. What you were doing seemed very different. When “Come on die young” came out, it was at the height of Post-Rock, now the new record is out and there seems to be more of a rock philosophy. How has the band evolved since “Tuner/Lower”?
A- We’ve gotten heavier, that’s for sure. We’re in more of a serious musical environment now.
Q-Do you think that’s good?
A-Yeah, just as long as it’s not Britpop, I hate that shit.
Q- How did Barry’ joining of the band influence the band’s evolution?
A-Well Barry has a lot of musical training, so we get him to play a lot of the instruments that normally we do a shit job at. It’s also one more person’s idea’s joining the group. The more the better.
Q-Scotland seems to be constantly in the middle of a cultural identity crisis. Always having to prove how not British they are by how Scottish they are. Your music seems to be influenced by culture and politics. Is that just coming from Scotland or is it chosen?
A- I think there are a lot of good bands that come out of Scotland, like the Vaselines, and Jesus and Mary Chain, there are some shit bands like Simple Minds, but there are a lot of good bands. I think people are just happy to be Scottish, and they love it. I love Scotland and I think people just embrace their culture.
Q-You did a split single with Magoo a few years back, covering of all things, Black Sabbath, how did that come into being?
A-Well, it was mostly just for fun. We know the guys in Magoo and we all love Black Sabbath. It was just fun.
Q-What’s your involvement with the “All Tomorrow’s Parties” festival?
A- Well, Belle & Sebastian started it, and it’s just a really good festival. So we got involved with it, we selected a good portion of the bands that played.
Q-Did you pick bands that you liked, or bands that fit the festival?
A-Well, some of the bands had nothing to do with us. They were already playing before we got involved, but the bands we picked were just bands we wanted to see play. It turned out to be great. It’s just a really good festival.
Q-What music do you listen to?
A- Leonard Cohen, I don’t really listen to much electronic stuff. I like the velvet underground.
Q-What’s your all time favourite album?
A-Joy Division’s Atmosphere
Q-Lastly, what should Montreal audiences expect from your show?
A-Bring earplugs, we’re loud.
Mogwai play Club Soda on Saturday, May 26th with Bardo Pond. Tickets are on sale at the Club Soda and Th