Houston Calling

Ten Questions for Mogwai

May 24th, 2004 · No Comments

Curiosa, one of this summer’s best rock festivals, is coming to Houston on August 15. Featuring The Cure, Interpol, Mogwai, and The Rapture on the main stage, the show will most likely be at The Woodlands. Yes, in Houston in August. Anyway, it is sure to be a great show and one that fans of alternative music will not want to miss.

A second stage will feature bands such as The Cooper Temple Clause, Muse, Auf Der Maur, Cursive, Head Automatica, and Thursday. More bands will undoubtedly sign on before the tour kicks off in July.

For fans of great instrumental underground rock, it would be difficult to ignore Scotland’s Mogwai. Their trademark sound of loud guitars and soft lulls had spawned a lot of bands trying to duplicate the sound. A good thing, yes (when it’s like Kinski, Explosions in the Sky, or Godspeed…), but none do it quite like Mogwai.

According to the band’s website, Stuart Braithwaite (guitarist and sometime vocalist) and Dominic Aitchison (bassist) met at a Ned’s Atomic Dustbin show in Glasgow sometime in the nineties when they were 15. Four years later, Mogwai officially formed when Martin Bulloch joined as the drummer. They played a gig or two before John Cummings (guitarist/pianist/computers) was added to the ranks. Before recording Young Team, Brendan O’Hare (ex-Teenage Fanclub, Macrocosmica) joined for the duration of the album before parting ways. It wasn’t until the recording of Come On Die Young that Barry Burns (pianist/guitarist/computers) joined as a permanent member. The band has had the same lineup since 1998.

The members of Mogwai own Rock Action Records, an independent label that put out Mogwai’s first single and is now run by the band members and their manager, Craig Hargrave. The label has released records by Part Chimp, James Orr Complex, Kling Klang, Random Number, and The Zephyrs, plus has licensed Envy from Japan, Cex, and Papa M.

I recently contacted Barry Burns from Mogwai, who agreed to answer a few questions for Houston Calling.

Enjoy. Let me know what you think of the interview here.

Ten (or so) Questions for Mogwai

HC: How did Mogwai get started?

Barry: From a need to play music that had nothing to do with the BritPop nightmare that was happening at the time, I believe.

HC: What do consider to be your primary musical influences?

Barry: I really don’t know because there are far too many bands, songwriters and composers that we all listen to that it’s hard to pinpoint even a few. We have vastly different tastes in music within the group so they all come together and get confused. Which also describes our rehearsals.

HC: 3. How did you guys get hooked up in the summer tour with The Cure, Interpol, and The Rapture (among others)? I once read that Mogwai are big fans of The Cure–did this play any part in the decision to play these shows?

Barry: There is a majority of Cure fans in our band and when we were asked to do the shows, we immediately said yes. I think Robert Smith wanted us to play on the tour because he likes our music too so it’s mutual. We also get the chance to get boo-ed off every night in a stadium, which is the most important thing.

HC: What’s your take on the state of the music industry? Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? The Mogwai website seems to have a lot of information–how involved is the band in the website? Do you consider it to be a good way to promote the band?

Barry: I have an iPod and plenty o’ MP3s in my iTunes so I’m definitely an advocate. It’s hard to tell the harm it does, if any, as a musician. I’m sure the record companies must notice but I feel like it hasn’t directly affected me. My head is firmly in the sand.

The band are fairly involved in the website and its content but it’s fast becoming too much like hard work these days so we’re winding that down a smidgen. It’s a good way to see what kind of people listen to our tunes and is quite a good laugh at times and it definitely serves to promote the band too.

HC: A friend and I were discussing which songs we like best by your band. He is a fan of “Punk Rock,” while I had a hard time choosing between “Ratts of the Capital” and “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong.” What is your favorite Mogwai song to play live?

Barry: Oh, they’re ALL favourites…………………..Heh.

HC: Mogwai’s music is always an interesting listen–the ups and downs, crashing guitars, and walls of sound. When I listen to any album, I wonder how you guys do it. How do you guys approach the songwriting process?

Barry: With great panic and a need to justify our existence by making a different album to the last. I don’t think I enjoy making records as much as I enjoy seeing them finished on a table or, even better, in a record store.

One person in the band will have the main body of the tune (or a “bit”) and we’ll all just play it over and over. Lately we’ve been using our computers to demo tunes in the rehearsal studio so we can take it home and add bits. Quite handy how portable a studio is these days.

HC: What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

Barry: That it’s “post-rock” or “depressing.” That’s two. Sorry.

HC: If you could have any band cover one of Mogwai’s songs, what song would it be and what band?

Barry: Guns ‘n’ Roses covering “C.O.D.Y.” That would be the funniest thing for days.

HC: Why would anyone eat haggis? Just kidding. Happy Songs For Happy People was great–it came out last year while I was on vacation in the desert. Very appropriate listening, in my opinion. Any plans for a new album any time soon?

Barry: I recently tried Haggis and it’s actually really really tasty. The vegetarian one is even nicer, to be honest.

We’re currently making up tunes and I have to leave the house in exactly three hours to go and practise today.

HC: What is in your CD player right now?

Barry: My iPod holds far too much stuff to go into, but a few things would be Pelican, Envy, Enon, Cat Power, Colleens, The Birthday Party.

HC: Last one: Explain the “Blur are shite” slogan to me. Have you ever had run-ins with the band as a result?

Barry: Well. It was said as a joke by our then sound engineer and we laughed a wee bit too much, then made the shirts as a result. It’s meant to be funny and it certainly is. People get very upset by it but you can’t mess with facts. They asked us for one when we had them made but we told them to get to fuck. They can pay like everyone else. Fuck them.

Mogwai will play Houston at the Curiosa festival. Many thanks to Barry for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to check this site often for updates on Curiosa–as soon as I find out when tickets go on sale, you’ll know.

And please be sure to support Mogwai by buying their music. Just pick an album. Seriously–every one of them is a great listen.

Now Playing in My iPod: Mix 36

Tags: Music