By Mark Glenister, with questions from Ashley Tubb (Sugarhorse), John Newton (John x 2 and Total Wkts) and Crows band fan community!
Right Number 1
About 12 years ago, a colleague came into work wearing a hoodie, which across the front was written MOGWAI. ‘What, like the furry thing in Gremlins’ I questioned, he looked at me, rolled his eyes and said ‘No, you heathen, like the Scottish band’ he started rummaging in his bag and produced a CD, ‘here’ he said as he threw it towards me ‘Educate yourself’
I looked at the CD in my hands ‘Mogwai – Special Moves’ it said on the front.
‘it’s a live album, good introduction for you’ my colleague said as he sat down opposite me.
So, throughout the day, in between meetings and telephone calls, I listened to the album, eventually telephones calls being ignored because the music had me gripped and I knew I had a new passion.
‘So, no lyrics then really’ I said looking across the desk
‘With music that good, why would you want lyrics’ was the response, with an exaggerated tut to accompany it
‘Aye’ was my only response as I started the CD over again, and got back to attempting some work.
I am one of those people, who when they find a new band, must consume everything, CDs, interviews, YouTube videos, anything that mentioned Mogwai, I wanted to know about. The next few weeks were spent indulging in all the albums I had purchased so far. Journeys to and from work were filled with loud guitars, even louder silences, layer upon layer of guitar, each track brining out different emotions in me, and each passing moment realising that Mogwai were now part of my life.
Over the past few years since that introduction, I have seen Mogwai countless times and still get the same exhilaration when ‘Mogwai fear Satan’ goes quiet, because I know at some point in the next few minutes, the wall of sound will hit the audience as the track kicks back in, the noise filling your chest and forcing you backwards – never ever get bored of that sensation. As a side note, I want the full version of ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ played at my funeral, I want that beautiful noise to fill the room and scare the crap out of whatever mourners have bothered to turn up!
When, 4 years ago, my depression and anxiety reached its peak, and I was finally diagnosed, it was the music of Mogwai that I turned to, it was my comfort blanket, this wall of sound that would wrap its loving arms around me and assure me that everything would be ok. They are still the band I turn to now when I have my dark days, no lyrics as such to add to the confusion already in my head, just layers of guitars, keyboard and drums to help me focus and drown out the sound of the demons battling for control of my life.
…….. Now, once the Arab Strap story was told, I should have checked about recording. But A, I was chatting with a musical hero so totally forgot the purpose of this chat and B, I’m an idiot who didn’t check that the interview was recording, it wasn’t.
In the build-up to speaking with Stuart, I had approached friend’s and some musicians who I know love the band to get questions from them. I had read recent interviews and tried to pick out questions that he had been asked recently. The album had made No 1 so there was a lot of press about the band and lots of soundbites from Stuart. We started off chatting about being No1 and how amazing that was, especially for a band like Mogwai. We discussed song titles, why the band was started, The enjoyment of doing soundtracks, how more famous than Stuart are his 2 dogs (Prince & Lyra), why Lyra was currently banned from the living room, noise restrictions in Switzerland, urban myths about venues collapsing whilst the band played them, trashing hire cars, Skateboard heroes, a song he wish he has written, and how a Horse sized Cat would be a frightening prospect.
Alas, I have none of the real answers to this to hand, no they are lost in the annals of time and my capacity at being an idiot. It was a lovely interview, Stuart is engaging, funny and answered all my questions even the slightly odd ones, It felt like chatting with someone I have known for a while, which I guess is true as their music has been part of my life for some time now.
Once I stopped crying at the fact the interview didn’t record, I then resigned myself to the fact I had had a nice chat and I should be thankful for that. But over the past week or so, its been nagging at me, was there a way to salvage something from the interview, I remembered some of his answers so perhaps I could work a piece around that. I then came upon the idea of using a Mogwai track title as the interview title, and looking through their albums, this one stood out straight away. So this interview or article is the story of 2 rights making 1 wrong.
Below are the questions and answers that I can remember, I hope Stuart reads this, and understands what a total amateur he was dealing with – Thank you for your time Stuart, it was and will always be appreciated, hopefully when you do tour I can meet you and have another chat, one which I will definitely record!!
So, the Stuart Braithwaite interview in all its glory, well the bits I can remember, and some of those might be abridged and I have only included the ones I can remember most of the answer to . . . . .
ASHLEY TUBB (Sugarhorse)
Ask him about the NYC show where they played My Father My King and they had to evacuate the building’ cause pieces of the ceiling started falling down...
Urban myth, remembers gigs where bits of the ceiling have fallen, but have never had to evacuate venue
You should also ask him what it was like when Alan McGee was managing them.
Great, really nice guy, managed us for a couple of years. Must be hard being him as everywhere he goes, people give him music because they want to be the next Oasis
Ask him how they go about playing Switzerland. The country very famously has an incredibly strict 100db limit, how do they get past that?
It’s a an average reading, so we just played songs that have quiet bits in them or make the quieter bits longer in a track like ‘mogwai fear satan’ so over an entire gig the average is 100db
They were pretty notorious for going from incredibly quiet to incredibly loud in a millisecond on their first few records, but kinda dropped that particular move afterwards. Their new album has a couple of occasions where they pull this move out the bag again (first track had one of those moments). Ask him why they originally sacked it off and why they decided to bring it back?
We became conscious that we might get known for being that band, so we did try to not do it, but its certainly not been a conscious decision to bring it back.
He may have been asked this before but has he ever thought of doing a greatest hits album all of their tracks in the style of black or death metal and calling it Gremlin? If not why not?
Nice concept, but no, too old to be doing death metal, will leave that to someone else.
Also can you ask him what happened to Steve Gullick’s hire car at Tarbox Studios when they were making Rock Action ( amazing album)?
Ah, hmmm, not sure I should tell this story . . . oh what the hell, we were big fans back in the day of the Jackass type stuff where they would hire a car, pay the damage excess and then just trash it. So we thought we would do this to Steve’s car, in hindsight it wasn’t the greatest moment of our career. I think Steve has photos of it, we might add them to the re-issue of Rock Action if we do one
JOHN NEWTON (JOHN/Total Wkts)
How conscious are you of changing your sound for each album?
We aren’t really, Barry (Keyboard) might well introduce a different sound with a new piece of kit he has, but as a band we try to stick to what we have done for the past 26 years
CROWS BAND FAN COMMUNITY
Which non Mogwai song does he wish they had written?
Probably ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath
Is there a venue they haven’t yet played but want to?
Probably some of the iconic New York venues, like Radio City or Carnegie, one day maybe
Album that inspired him?
Psycho Candy by Jesus and the Mary Chain, I think it was an album that inspired the entire band
How did they get involved in the ZeroZeroZero soundtrack
The music producer for the series was the same guy who was on the Les Revenants series. We got sent clips from the show, but without dialog, so sometimes we just had to go on the sense of anger or doom that the clip showed us
Who are his favourite skaters from back in the day and who are his current favourites?
He still skates on a weekly basis, and mentioned loads of names, none of which I can remember …. Sorry!
Where do they get all the song titles from?
We have a book full of them, so have plenty left for a few more albums although we did nearly name a track on the ZeroZeroZero soundtrack which we had already used on another album, so we have to be careful sometimes. Titles come from everywhere, stories that we have been told, or people mispronouncing things
On stage, you seem to be in a trance sometimes, as if becoming part of the music, is that how it feels?
Sometimes, yes very much so, other times its more a look of panic as something has gone wrong, or I am trying to remember which pedal to press in the track
Both your Dogs have a very strong following on Instagram (Prince of Glasgow), do they get noticed more than you do when you are out?
Definitely, I’ll get noticed when I am on my own maybe once or twice every couple of months, but they get recognized every time we go out without fail
Favourite guitar to practice on or write with?
It depends what’s lying around the flat, I’ve recently been given a Fender Jazz master, and used that for quite a bit of the last album. When we started the band I never realised that people like Fender would send you guitars to play, that’s definitely been a plus point being in a band. Thank you Fender
And finally, a Horse Sized Cat or a Dozen cat sized horses?
Ooh, a Horse Sized cat would be terrifying, that’s bigger than a lion, definitely a dozen cat sized horses.