bright light ! articles
interview by: carsten wohlfeld
date: 2nd march 1998

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mogwai from a-z

they're from glasgow, scotland, they love instrumentals, they like art rock (their songs sound like tortoise, my bloody valentine and talk talk all rolled into one), and no record collection on planet indie is complete without "new paths to helicon" (on wurlitzer jukebox) or "summer" (on love train). you can't get a hold of them, check out the mighty singlesandstuff-collection "ten rapid". you also might get their proper debut album "mogwai young team". they are also very nice blokes. i met up with guitarist stuart before the band played their first ever show in germany. look out for some exclusive gossip further down! stuart also told me, that the band was glad the club, the mtc in cologne - was so small, "cause nobody knows us in germany anyways". about an hour later the show was sold out and water was dripping from the ceiling. go figure. here's what he had to say when i confronted him with my little collection of catchwords...

carsten: a - audience

stuart: incredibly polite and quiet. i don't care to much about them as long as they are quiet and appreciative.

carsten: b - brendan o'hare

stuart: a person who used to play in the band (laughs). he's just busy with his other band, that's why he left. c - chicago

stuart: nice place. good bands. very windy.

carsten: a lot of people seem to throw those chicago comparisons at you...

stuart: not really that often, but we do like quite a few bands from there. we like tortoise and probably a few more we don't even know that they are from chicago. it's a good scene there.

carsten: d - direction

stuart: no particular direction. we do whatever we feel like.

carsten: e - everyday life

stuart: quite boring.

carsten: is there still much of an everyday life left for you, or is it just touring these days and doing interviews?

stuart: no! we rehearse a couple of times a week and most of our interviews we do on the phone, so that takes like half an hour a day or so. not quite michael jackson (laughs).

carsten: f - friends

stuart: i'm meeting a friend of mine in munich actually. his girlfriend stays there so i'm looking forward to seeing my friend simon.

carsten: if you chose bands to go on tour with. do you rather play with friends or do you care more about meeting 'new' people?

stuart: we play with bands that we like and if there's two bands we like to chose from and we know we'll go on with one band personally we're going with the bands we're friends with. then again... we played with aerial m on the last tour and we didn't really know them but we got on great and they are now our friends. most bands get on which each other. i know people in bands that have nothing to do with our kind of music and we met catatonia and 60ft dolls and we get on with them.

carsten: g - germany

stuart: i don't know much about germany. some pretty good bands came from germany... like can, kraftwerk and neubauten.

carsten: h - holidays

stuart: holidays???

carsten: is this - your first european tour - some kind of a holiday?

stuart: no! sometimes when we play concerts it's like a holiday... first time we played in new york city we were there for five days and just one concert and the rest was just mocking about. that was a total holiday. this tour's very hard work. six show s a week.

carsten: and you play all on your own, no support band?

stuart: that's right.

carsten: i guess you'll play longer then and it gets more exhausting?

stuart: we just play the same (laughs out loud)... we don't make any difference.

carsten: i - inspiration

stuart: sometimes i feel quite inspirited by buildings and paintings...

carsten: so it's usually not bands and records you're listening to that inspire you?

stuart: of course we're inspired by music but not directly.

carsten: what kinda bands? stuart (after a micro-second): joy division.

carsten: i could've asked you about j - joy division, but actually it is: j - jokes

stuart: we're not really into jokes. we do have a good laugh and stuff but i never really remember jokes for some reason. i'm sorry, not much for 'jokes'.

carsten: k - kevin shields stuart (getting a bit excited): i actually met kevin last month. he's a nice guy. he did a remix for "mogwai fears satan" that's coming out next month. that's kinda scary... kevin shields!

carsten: i guess you've approached him for the remix...

stuart: yeah. and he said, 'okay, i'll do it'.

carsten: did you expect that he'd agree to do it?

stuart: we thought he'd tell us to fuck he came to one of our shows and he's into it. it's quite a good thing. childhood dreams!

carsten: l - long songs

stuart: yeah, we do quite long songs.

carsten: is that some kind of a concept... do you feel better doing long songs?

stuart: no, i get bored of them now actually when we're playing live.

carsten: how many songs do you do every night and how long does it usually take you?

stuart: eight or nine songs for a set just under one hour. couple of times we played for an hour-and-a-half but we get tired of the long songs so maybe it'll be 45 minutes soon cause we play some shorter songs. i enjoy playing a two minute song as much as i like playing a 15 minute song. it has a lot to do with physical exhaustion as well. you get really tired (laughs).

carsten: the audience can probably relate more to a two minute song as well.

stuart: no, i don't agree. with some bands and really complicated songs, but our long songs are just simple songs repeated over and over and over again. it makes people really get into the music.

carsten: m - media exposure

stuart: it's part of the game. we try to sell records to be able to work as a band. we're not a famous word by any means of the word. if we were hassled in the streets that could be a problem but right now it's just another part of being in a band.

carsten: n - names ... you came up with some funny...

stuart: stupid names you mean (giggles)? i don't even know why we have those names. it just looked like a good idea at the time.

carsten: so it's just for fun and no hidden deeper meaning?

stuart: no meaning at all (laughs)

carsten: o - oldies

stuart: yeah, we like old songs. like black sabbath.

carsten: that doesn't come in the music though?

stuart: no. i listen to a lot of leonard cohen and nick drake and that kinda music.

carsten: so all four members have different tastes in music?

stuart: there's a few bands that we all like like sonic youth and joy division and nirvana. we never argue about which songs to play. i mean we argue about the songs to play each night but we really just see it as being a good or a bad song, we don't really think about what it sounds like, if you know what i mean.

carsten: p - pop songs

stuart: we don't have any pop songs, except for "summer". i do like pop songs though. i like "another girl, another planet" by the only ones.

carsten: yeah! that has an amazing guitar solo, don't you think?

stuart: yeah! i can tell you: i went to music college and i played that song to get into the college! i never told any journalist that!

carsten: do you think you'll ever try to do a real pop song?

stuart: no, we don't really see the benefit of doing a pop tune.

carsten: q -quality control

stuart: we just record and then sit back and see if it's good enough. we have quite a few tunes that haven't been released just because they weren't good enough. for example we demo’ed songs in january and some of them we haven't played ever since cause we didn't like them all that much.

carsten: do you do a lot of unreleased stuff live?

stuart: yeah.

carsten: r - rich

stuart: are we rich? no! i guess i’d like to be rich. it's not a goal but i'd like to have a house and stuff.

carsten: s - slint

stuart: you don't think we sound like slint? no, we don't really! the people from the english press probably just like to write the word 'slint'. it's their excuse for using it.... slint, slint, s-l-i-n-t! we don't sound like them at all. we use at lot of things that they never used. we have delays and a lot of pure noise, they use a lot of time changes and we don't have that at all. but they are one of my favourite bands and we probably mentioned them in an interview or something. and that's probably why people compare us to them. could be it, i don't really know.

carsten: t - touring

stuart: i think we're doing some gigs in america soon. but after this i don't think we'll do a tour in europe ever again. we know it's going to be done but we only see the point of doing it once cause we don't really enjoy it

carsten: do you feel more at home in the studio then?

stuart: no i enjoy playing live, but not every single night. if we do one-offs we can rehearse the whole set and we get a really good support band we really put a lot of effort into it. there have been some really good nights on this tour but on the whole the one off concerts we played last year we're much better.

carsten: u - underground

stuart: chemical underground is our label in britain. it's run by the band the delgados and paul, their drummer recorded a lot of our old singles and he's just a friend of ours really. one time i just got a hold of his phone-number and i phoned him up an d we chatted for a bit and i told him that we didn't really like or trust any of the labels we've been talking to and he just asked, 'well would you be interested if we do your next record?'. and it worked out quite well?

carsten: are the other bands on the label - most notably bis and the delgados - friends of yours as well?

stuart: yeah. george from bis visited us yesterday in amsterdam. they are our friends, but that not why we're on the label. we just got to know them.

carsten: what do you think of the scene in glasgow and scotland? this seems to be the second coming now, after the pastels and the vaselines in the 80s...

stuart: it's surely good. i'm not sure if it matter anymore, but i really helped us in the beginning. when we put our second single out, everybody was like: ' another band from glasgow, i wonder what they sound like...' and that was quite lucky for us, cause we actually weren't very good then. i can't pretend i like every band from glasgow, but it's a quite supportive scene. people help each other and a lot of the older people in bands, like stephen from the pastels help people out. it's definitely the best place for young bands in britain. it's very simple to get a gig. there's many places like this where bands can play every night. in london it's soo hard to get concerts and stuff...

carsten: v - vocals

stuart: we don't have very many, do we? (laughs) we just kinda grew out of the habit of having them.

carsten: some people still think that instrumental music lacks 'a message'...

stuart: i think one of the reasons why we started doing it was that we realized that nobody in the band had a message anyways. nobody was saying anything remotely interesting. there's exceptions obviously but vocals are not really necessary. so many bands we just saying the same old shit. i don't write very good lyrics and i didn't think we'd do much better so we decided to drop the vocals altogether.

carsten: w - ??? i didn't find anything for w. is there anything starting with w that's important to mogwai?

stuart: hmmm... (long pause) wah-wah? we don't even have a wah-wah pedal!

carsten: that's a good one. "w- wah wah" - "no, we don't have it!"....

stuart: yeah... but there must be! sometimes our amps don't - work!

carsten: x -x-files

stuart: i love the x-files. not as much as i used to though. the first three seasons were very good, the fourth was not as good. i guess because they had the film they didn't want too much to happen in the tv version.

carsten: y - young team

stuart: that's the name of our first album. it's a play of words... in scotland we have the motherwell young team or the heraldon (sp?) young team... it's kind of a joke...

carsten: well, i never knew where it came from... it probably comes across better in britain.

stuart: well, it's the same with the singles compilation "ten rapid". that's a scottish expression as well that hardly anybody knows...

carsten: to close it all off, a german word: z - zeitgeist

stuart: i've heard that a lot, but i actually don't know what it means (laughs)

carsten: it's like, um, when you, um, try to catch the mood of the time, maybe?

stuart: that's something we definitely wanna do. i mean, if you listen to joy division you really can hear what it was like in 1979 in manchester.

carsten: so you don't go for a timeless sound?

stuart: no, we wanna get a timeless sound in the mood of 1997 or '98.