Q&A: Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite On How Happy Hardcore Sucks, Not Caring That Instrumental Rock Is Out Of Style, And Covering The Jewish Prayer "My Father, My King"
For the last fifteen years, the sonic-terrorizing Scottish smashheads Mogwai have remained true to their original vision: the cathartic squelching of a loud/soft gargantuan-riff dynamic undeterred by the music fashions and trends dictated by the Bitchfork monarchy.
Admittedly an uncool bunchshit, the five dudes in Mogwai still (thankfully) engage in guitar histrionics that pledge allegiance to the '90s Amerindie underground rock they were progenitors of, with nods to instrumental monster peers like Godspeed You Black Emperorthey balance their unhip quotient by carting out the coolest of LP and song titles, like their latest epic Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop). And one might not be able to surmise this from their serious-as-a-heart-attack music and stage presence, but Mogwai is actually having loads of fun out there.
Sound of the City caught up with garrulous guitarist Stuart Braithwaite on the phone from the band's Atlanta penthouse suite and talked about the early days, the Slint comparisons, covering a Jewish prayer and label-hopping.
Are you Mogwai's official spokesperson? I googled "Mogwai interviews" and a ton came up with only you as the interviewee.
Uh... not officially but I tend to do a lot of interviews. No, I'm definitely not the spokesman for the band.
So the other guys are down to talking, too?
Not often, but Barry [Burns] is into typinghe does the email interviews, but it's me and Barry that do most of the stuff for probably the mostI don't knoweasy to get, ridiculous... [laughs]
You guys are on your now. Where are you talking from?
Did you play a gig last night?
No... we were traveling back from Mexico City.
Since there's five of you, do you travel on a tour bus rather than a van?
We have a bus for the tour, but I think the bus is still on its way from the last gig in America, which was in San Diego. The bus is driving across the country while we are in hotels and, actually randomly, they put us in the penthouse suite by accident! [laughs]. It's getting weird. I don't know what bed to sleep in or what toilet to use. It's quite surreal.
So Mogwai is being treated like royalty right about now?
I think they just double-booked the rooms [laughs]. Certainly, this isn't the normal situation.
Or you told them you're in Mogwai and they put you in the penthouse suite.
Yeah. They're like, "You're in the top 20 instrumental bands in Scotland, and you definitely need lots of beds." [laughs]
You're being treated like rock stars. Plus they probably heard you're on Sub Pop, too.
Oh yeah! Being in Mogwai opens a lot of doors... it closes more but it opens some. [laughs]
But you have been at it for a long time, though.
Yeah, we have and it's kind of astonishing to kind of think, especially looking back at places, and remember the first time you went there. Yeah, it seems like a different life. It's quite strange.
When Mogwai first started, the Slint comparisons were rampant. Were you actually super-into them early on?
I think actuallyand I would hate for this to sound eggheaded or somethingbut when we started, we were talking a lot about Slint because it was a band Dominic had introduced me to and they were really quite obscure. I think it kinda weirdly... we talked a lot about them [Slint] and then people made a lot of connections. But I think it was more to do that we were kind of championing them as a band a lot of people hadn't heard of that made this really magical record.
Do you remember what you were listening to back then?
When the band first started, it was just me and Dominic [Aitchison] and he was really into a lot of kind of underground American rock music, things like Slint and Palace. I was more into psychedelic things like Spacemen 3, the Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators, that kind of thing.