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"
Mogwai, "You're Lionel Richie"
Mogwai was one of the first bands to be labeled post-rock, and still are, however passé. Did you think of that as an aberration?
Well, I guess that's just pre-post-rock when the band started. It's more something in Europe. In Europe, they are very into genre names and things and we'll do an interview and people will be like, "What do you think of the current post-rock scene?" and you're like, "Really? You want us to tell you about all the bands that sound like us and Godspeed You Black Emperor? It's depressing." No, we never really paid too much attention it. We always thought of ourselves as a rock band, especially back then when people started coining the term. The bands they were mostly referring to were us and Tortoise. Tortoise are an amazing band but they couldn't be more different from us. We're like a heavy metal band compared to Tortoise. They're like a really technical, almost jazz-influenced band so it [being called post-rock] never really made much sense. I think it's just about laziness with bands with hardly any singin'.
Do you care that instrumental music or rock isn't as fashionable as it once was in the '90s and early 2000s?
I couldn't care less! Certainly I never started the band because of fashions or less into any kind of bands because of they were fashionable. There was an amazing quote from Andrew Eldritch from the Sisters of Mercy who said, "The best thing about never being cool is that you're never that uncool." No, I'd rather we go on with our music and people who like it, listen to it and the thought that people turn out because it's in some way relevant or trendy, is kind of depressin.' I'd rather people just, like, came and heard the music because they like it or because it kinda had some sort of emotional connection to them. I also think that when, say, like ten years ago or whenever it was, when lots of instrumental music was really trendy, people were sick of it! It got to the point where we'd bring our record and some people would be like "Oh, no. Not another one of these records!" It was like "Really?" But it's gotten to the comical point now where like I'll meet people in bands making completely different kinds of music and they'll be like "I used to be in a band that sounded like you." I'm like "Oh, god." [laughs]
Did you feel camaraderie with other instrumental bands? Did you tour with them?
Yeah. We used to play a lot of shows with Godspeed and still got a lot of respect for them as people and their music. I think they're great. We got to know Explosions in the Sky. They are lovely people. It's great that they are doing so well. We'll play a bunch of shows with a lot of these bands. A lot of them are amazing musicians.
Mogwai has managed to be on both Matador Records and Sub Poptwo of the biggest indies. Do you see yourselves on another label? Is Merge next for Mogwai?
I think we're gonna try and get'em to resurrect Touch & Gothat's the next plan. Or maybe SST. [laughs]. Or maybe Factory. I don't know. We're kinda workin' on it. Tryin' to get Alan McGee to start Creation again... we'll do it. We'll do a split single with Ride. That's the next plan.
Mogwai can do the whole record-label tour.
Yeah, I think so. That's the best thing about ridiculous longevity: you can work your way through every single person and label that you got any admiration for. And lose them more money. [laughs]
Were you into the music SST put out?
Oh, yeah. Big time. That was the kind of music we grew up listening to: Black Flag and those kind of bands.
Did being into hardcore have any bearing on the title of your latest record?
No, that just came from a story. In fact, the story was like a guyit's a true story of a young guy who went bananas in a shop at the shopkeeper because he wouldn't sell him something because he was too young and that ["Hardcore will never die but you will"] is what he shouted at him. I guess he would've been talking about hardcore techno. In Scotland, a lot of the kind of guys that hang out on the streets still listen to sort of really fast rave, "happy hardcore." It's the worst music in the world if you ever want to check it out. [laughs]
So it's called happy hardcore?
Yeah, happy hardcore. It's really fast gabba techno; really inane music.