Much more to Mogwai than baffling song titles
Published 26/08/2011 | 05:00
Compared with the wanton and widespread destruction of homes, businesses and lives during the recent riots that ravaged England, the consequential loss of music seems almost insignificant.
"Our label's entire back catalogue has been destroyed, so I feel like we have been touched by it slightly," says Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite. "While it's a big pain, it's obviously not as bad as all the poor folk who've had their family business that they've worked on for generations destroyed. Call me a traditionalist, but I'd rather they burnt down Buckingham Palace or the Houses of Parliament rather than a bunch of Footlockers and carpet shops."
As the adage goes, the show must go on and influential instrumentalists Mogwai are primed to release their Earth Division EP hot on the heels of February's highly acclaimed album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.
"For me, an EP was a great way to get into music," Braithwaite says. "I suppose I became a music fan during the heyday of the EP, when a lot of the bands that were really big influences on us like Mudhoney, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver and Ride would put out EPs of songs that weren't on albums and they were all great.
"We did way more songs than we needed for the album and these four songs were really different. I'm sure they'll surprise people, as the album is much more direct and structured, whereas these are all over the place. But I think they fit together in a weird way."
Mogwai have had one of their busiest years yet, involving no fewer than three trips to Japan. "We've never toured on this scale before," Braithwaite explains. "It's partly because we put the record out ourselves. To make sure as many people as possible hear it we've got to tour our arses off. We'll have to hibernate like bears at the end of it, but it will have been well worth it."
This year's intensive touring schedule kicked off with two Irish dates in the Radisson in Galway and an unforgettable show at Dublin's Olympia. "It was the first time we have played there that it felt like a real occasion and we've been there a good few times," Braithwaite says. "It's an amazing theatre and you can tell there's so much history there. It's also got a washing machine and I really wish we were playing the Olympia tomorrow. Galway is the only place we've played in Ireland apart from festivals and Dublin, so it would be nice to do more. It's a lovely country and so close it's daft not to come over more often."
They've been consistently slogging out the festival circuit all summer before making this visit to Electric Picnic. "Primavera was great," Braithwaite enthuses. "There was a hell of a lot of people there. It was the first festival we did this summer, so we were a bit spoilt. After that, we were brought back to earth with a bang. I slept through the Champions League Final, which isn't like me, and it just shows how knackered I was.
"I was in a taxi going to the stage when the final whistle went and it's something I'll always remember. The noise and the fireworks and people shouting in the streets. It was almost as loud as we are."
Hardcore Glasgow Celtic fans that won't die that they are, following their team and catching an odd match becomes a priority on the road. "My season ticket has been an amazing waste of money," Braithwaite laughs. "However, because of Irish and Scottish ex-pats everywhere they're one of the easiest teams to follow. There's usually a nutter somewhere opening up a bar at seven in the morning or you'll get St Mirren v Celtic in the middle of the night in Tokyo."
The 'Gwai earned themselves a bit of notoriety by slagging off Blur, which they took a few steps further by selling T-shirts emblazoned with 'Blur: are shite'. Blur wisely didn't get drawn into what amounted to nothing more than a silly joke. "I just don't care now," Braithwaite says. "I don't think I particularly cared back then. I was just a bit of a rent a quote. Now that I'm involved in a label, I'd much rather help people hear good music rather than tell people that music is bad. Everyone has got different taste and you get less definitive as you get older, but I did believe that at the time. Now, I don't particularly care if someone does something I don't like."
Mogwai have a long-standing tradition of coming up with baffling and surreal titles such as You're Lionel Richie and Letters to the Metro, or as Braithwaite says of the former, "one of the top five worst song titles ever".
"I was going through an airport hungover and I saw someone who looked like Lionel Richie, so I said to him -- 'You're Lionel Richie'," Braithwaite explains. "Simple as that. I'd forgotten all about it, but the guys remembered it, so it ended up as a title in our usual way. Funny thing is, it really was Lionel Richie."
Their international legion of devoted fans can be attributed to years of hard work, but also unexpected opportunities. "We played one tour with the Manic Street Preachers, which was a lot of fun hanging out with them and seeing what big tours involve," Braithwaite recalls.
"I've lost count of the amount of people who I've met over the years that said that's where they first heard us, so it just shows you that these things are good for you. Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield are two of the nicest people I've met in music. They're an example of how to conduct yourselves, because I've seen plenty of people in big bands act like the biggest idiots. It's just pathetic, but those two guys are the antithesis to that. They'd do the load out with the crew even though they'd be number one in the charts."
Sixteen years into a highly prolific career and Mogwai are somehow bigger than ever.
"I think we've done very well and much better than we ever expected," Braithwaite concludes. "We have more fans than the bands we were into ourselves and now we're selling out the bigger venues. We're extremely proud of what we've done. Considering the music we play, it's quite an achievement."
Earth Division is released on September 9. Mogwai play Electric Picnic on Sunday, September 4
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