MOGWAI | INTERVIEW
A quarter-century since their debut release, would you believe, these Glaswegian creators of sonic atmosphere also hit double figures on the album front this month. Alex Payne talks to Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite about new LP As The Love Continues and much more.
Formed over 25 years ago in Glasgow, Mogwai have been steadily releasing some of the most thoughtful and intricately crafted soundscapes to be found in guitar-based rock music ever since. Whilst they may be one of the best known names in what gets called post-rock, it’s a label that they’ve previously rejected, but their signature sound – undulating, winding guitar riffs with gloomy vocals intermittently weaved in – practically pioneered a style adapted by many others.
Mogwai have remained grounded enough to balance longstanding success with a cult following, and prove that it’s possible to simultaneously be the biggest Celtic FC fans on the planet and prolific creators of thought-provoking sonic art. With nine released studio albums, 13 EPs and half a dozen soundtracks under their belt, this month sees them release album 10, As The Love Continues; Mogwai lead guitarist Stuart Braithwaite chatted to me about it.
How much of a challenge was it working remotely with producer Dave Fridmann on As The Love Continues? Have you faced any big challenges while creating an album before?
Stuart Braithwaite: You know what? It wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be. I think the fact that we’ve worked so much with Dave in the past that, even though he wasn’t in the room, we had a good understanding of what he wanted from us. So actually it was OK, but no, we’ve never dealt with any problem quite on this scale in the past. This whole year has brought a whole set of challenges that are new.
You’re debuting the album with a livestream, and you donated some of the profits from the last album release to NHS charities already. What’s the band’s response for the post-Covid world, if you’ve been able to think that far ahead?
I don’t know, I’m really hopeful that things get back to some sense of normality once everyone has been vaccinated and concerts start again. I can’t imagine the alternative to that, if that didn’t happen. From our point of view, we’re just hoping that we can start playing live again, but I think that the world will be a bit different, but we’ll have to wait and see in what ways, and how we’ll all adapt.
What’s the secret to the band’s longevity, other than hard work?
I think the fact that we still enjoy it, you know? We’re quite lucky that people are still interested in hearing what we’ve got, the music we make. So I don’t really know if there is a secret. We’re quite lucky. A lot of it comes down to people being receptive to what we do!
How has the creative process evolved over the years?
I think when [guitarist John] Cummings left we had to rethink things a little bit – probably when we started doing more demo sharing and that kind of thing. But before that, we’d all be in the room all the time, which we still do when we can, but I think now we tend to do a lot of recording at home and then share it. That’s probably the biggest difference.
How does it change when working on commissioned pieces, like soundtracks versus studio albums?
It’s a bit different because when someone is asking you to do something for their own project you really have to listen to them, whereas if it’s for ourselves we only have to keep ourselves happy. I enjoy both, but there’s definitely a lot of differences.
The late, great John Peel was one of the band’s earliest supporters. How much of an influence did he have on the band?
John had a huge influence on the band. He was the first person to play our singles on national radio, and he gave us a Peel session: the money from that allowed us to go down to play gigs at London, and spread the word further. He was a big supporter, but even beyond how he helped our band, he shaped me as a music fan. So much of the music that I love was championed by him, and I discovered through him. So yeah, it’s almost incalculable in the ways that he had an influence on Mogwai.
Who is the most exciting artist on Mogwai’s label, Rock Action, at the moment in your opinion?
I’m fond of them all, obviously, but I’m really excited to hear what Kathryn Joseph does with her next record. She’s got a lot of talent, but yeah – it’s kind of like being asked which is your favourite kid!
You famously produced t-shirts back in the day with “Blur: Are Shite” on them – if you were remaking them today, do you think there’s a band that’s worthy of that honour now?
I mean, there’s probably a few but to be honest I think doing that in your early 20s is a better look than in your mid-40s. We’ll leave that for younger and more rambunctious bands!
Mogwai’s As The Love Continues album is released on Fri 19 Feb on Rock Action. Info: here
words ALEX PAYNE photos ANTONY CROOK