"arbiters of noise"|
country of origin:
are mogwai the last true punk band?
scottish five-piece mogwai aren't the first artsy, postpunk act to
righteously employ the dynamics of loud versus soft, rock versus not really
rock, distorted versus clean and dissonant versus harmonic. but they're the
best to come out in a long while, perhaps since american indie legends
slint. like that wildly influential combo, mogwai
make music that's precious and ponderous, definitely rockist and distinctly
their own. their music approaches the wall-of-sound squall of crafty
prog-trancers such as
and pelt, but it's more varied, harder-edged and
difficult to describe. amazon's mike mcgonigal chats with mogwai guitarist and
pianist john cummings.
come on die
young with dave fridmann (ex-mercury rev)
in upstate new york; what was that like?
as a producer and engineer, he's great. the studio is this house
that some couple had spent two years building while they lived in a big caravan
outside. six months after it got finished and before they'd actually moved in
properly, the couple got divorced. so dave and some of his friends bought the
house. it's in the middle of a big forest and it was hunting season when we
were there. we weren't really able to go for a walk around, in case we'd get
shot by hunters. they might have mistaken us for some animal--a rabbit, maybe.
did that kind of situation really centre you guys?
me personally, yeah. the last album was recorded really near
where we all stay in glasgow and that was a bit of a problem. stuart and
dominic had to go home and walk the dog and stuff like that; they couldn't
and come on die young are named after gang slogans; what's all
that about? are gangs really big in scotland?
ehh? i mean, they exist. and when you're young, there are always
gangs: "oh, you can't go up there because there's this gang hanging about."
none of us really were part of all that, but it's what we went to school with
and just remembering the things that we used to see greatly amuses us. when we
went on tour before we recorded the first album, we were getting quite silly.
that's when we made up all our alternate names. and we decided that we were
mogwai young team: a gang. we got quite excited by a kind of tour madness and
started writing "myt" and we got a bit carried away. at one point in the tour,
we were close to getting the led zeppelin-like symbols. we snuffed out that one
quite quickly. but the names kind of stuck. my name was captain meat. it's not
the best name.
no, it's not.
people seemed to think it's got something or other to do with my
liking sausages and chicken and stuff. i like meat. it's a tasty substance. but
if i had a chance again, i don't think i would have named myself after it.
is "punk rock/puff daddy/antichrist" supposed to read as puff
daddy the antichrist, or is it like there's one section of the song dedicated
to puff daddy and another to the antichrist, if they are in fact separate?
if we had connected the name "puff daddy" with the term
"antichrist" any more ...
...you might have had some trouble?
yeah. so we had to kind of separate them a wee bit for legal
reasons. as far as i'm concerned, puff daddy very much is the antichrist, yes.
but we really couldn't make as bold a statement as that.
why do you think that?
there's nothing wrong with pop music. "never ever" by
saints is a tremendous song; i could listen to it every day. but
take, for instance, that puff song with the "kashmir" riff--the riff itself is
the only thing in the song that's of any value. puffy's just done nothing good
at all. and i suppose it annoys me that everyone thinks he's brilliant and he
makes so much money, and he thinks he's brilliant and he's just not. he's
you guys have something of a political-social edge, which is
interesting for a predominantly instrumental band. for instance, there's your
ep from early 1999, fuck the curfew. can you explain, first of
all, what that's about?
there's a town called hamilton near glasgow; it's where we
recorded the first album. they imposed this curfew and if you were under 16,
you couldn't be allowed out after nine o'clock at night. it was ridiculous that
kids couldn't actually be out doing anything after nine o'clock or they would
get sent home. the curfew is not going to solve anything at all. when things
annoy us, it does tend to seep into our music in some way, even if it's just in
song titles. we're not going to ignore the fact that we get really annoyed by
government policies or other things, but neither are we going to start a huge
political movement based around it. we're not going to try to get everyone at
our gigs to start chanting, "we hate the government. we hate the government."
nothing like that.
does the fact that you don't have much singing at all in your
songs confuse people?
yeah, a lot of people don't really seem to understand it. but i
don't really think there's anything to not understand. it's weird. if i saw
monkey brains on a dinner menu in a restaurant, i would probably think that was
quite weird, but it's very commonplace in some countries.