[Part 1 of 2] Mogwai has a knack for making instant fans. From a string of festival dates in the late '90s to the relentless tour the band is currently undertaking, the Scottish five-some has amazed anyone with enough sense to check out their cathartic live shows. At the forefront of the flux of instrumental rock that has included Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Dirty Three, Mogwai has proven itself a breakthrough act, evolving to become one of the most important indie bands recording today.
Prefix's Kevin Dolak had the opportunity to chat with Stuart Braithwaite backstage at Irving Plaza before the evening's spectacular show. As stage hands arranged dozens of lights and intermixed with the band and management, the atmosphere had an air of chaos not too far from the apex of many of the band's songs.
It was the first time Mogwai played to a New York audience since the release of Happy Songs for Happy People, the band's newest and most complex album. Later that night, an awestruck crowd, one thousand lost gazers, followed the crescendos and slopes of Mogwai's compositions with impeccable concentration. No doubt, many instant fans we're again formed.
Prefix Magazine:You guys just added several dates to your tour.
Mogwai: Part 1: Stuart Braithwaite: Well, I think they've just been announced, but we've known about them for quite a while... PM:What parts of the US are you off to next?Mogwai: Part 1: We're doing Florida, then Austin, and then we finish over in the Midwest ... Cleveland, Milwalkee. PM:When the band formed, it was you and guitarist Dominic Aitchison. How did you guys initially find the other members of the band?Mogwai: Part 1: We kind of started getting some tunes together, and we needed a drummer and I knew Martin [Bulloch] from some friends at school, and we needed a guitar player and John [Cummings] was the only person that had been at both of the shows, so we asked him to join. PM:Your first show was at the 13th Note in Glasgow. How did that go?Mogwai: Part 1: It was pretty good actually, but the second one was quite bad. They were pretty close a couple weeks apart, back in '95. PM:You guys are all from outside of Glasgow?Mogwai: Part 1: John and Dominick are from Glasgow, and Martin, Barry [Burns] and I are from kind of surrounding towns. PM:With all the music coming out of Scotland, were you guys friends with any other bands like Aerogramme, Belle and Sebastian, etc.?Mogwai: Part 1: Yeah, it's pretty friendly, most of the bands get along pretty well; it's very friendly. I mean, I live in Edinburgh now, so I don't see as many shows in Glasgow now, but ... PM:What are the good clubs in Edinburgh?Mogwai: Part 1: Well, there aren't many good places for new bands, but there are many places for regular gigs. The Venue and the Liquid Room are pretty good spaces. PM:Does the songwriting process start with you?Mogwai: Part 1: We all write songs, it's just one person will write a part and just play it and we'll all work on it. PM:You guys recorded Come On Die Young in Upstate N.Y. with Dave Friddman from Mercury Rev. Is that why you chose that location?Mogwai: Part 1: Yeah. With our first album, we had a bit of a problem concentrating on the record, 'cause we we're at home and stuff. So we wanted to get away. We wanted to get out of the way, and we wanted to work with Dave 'cause he's a good producer. PM:How did you get involved with Matador?Mogwai: Part 1: You know, I don't really know. We were on Chemikal Underground at first and they licensed the record, so I guess Matador spoke with Chemikal Underground, and we didn't really know about it directly. We just found out our record was coming out on Matador here. PM:Tell me about the addition of Barry Burns to the band; what instruments does he play?Mogwai: Part 1: He joined us while we were recording Come On Die Young, kind of late on. PM:And he's considered a permanent member now?Mogwai: Part 1: Oh yeah. PM:And he'd doing all sorts of instruments on the albums?Mogwai: Part 1: Usually he plays like half piano, half guitar. PM:How do you feel he has influenced the change in the band's sound?Mogwai: Part 1: Well, Barry is classically trained, so he's got much more of a competent view of what's going on .... As far as keeping it together, basically. PM:You definitely feel like he has shaped the band into what it's become since the early days?Mogwai: Part 1: Yeah, definitely. PM:I want to go back to the Chemikal Underground thing. You guys left the label, so who is distributing you now in Europe?Mogwai: Part 1: Play it Again, Sam. PM:Is it going well? Who else do they do? Mogwai: Part 1: Sigur Ros and a few other things. Mostly dance stuff. PM:Who would you cite as your favorite bands when you first started to play music?Mogwai: Part 1: Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, Sonic Youth. PM:You were reported as saying: "We have no relevance to the one-dimensional view of culture."Mogwai: Part 1: I don't remember saying that. PM:Really? How do you feel about that now? Mogwai: Part 1: Eh, I think that's a pretty reasonable thing to say I suppose, I just don't remember saying it. [Laughs.]