bright light ! articles
title: barry & stuart in zagreb
translated by: mileta okiljevic
date: 25 january 2004

mogwai - we mainly talk nonsense

the scottish guitar army, in the true sense of the word, destroyed zagreb venue 'mochvara' (the swamp) and left adrenalin to flow long into the night, and smiles from ear to ear on faces. here is an interview with two of them - stuart and barry.

i never was so excited before any of the interviews i have done. if i try to talk about mogwai without using any big, significant or pathetic words at which they will laugh, i haven't a clue but to describe their music as an uncontrollable show of emotions, for which it is hard to find a name. i heard that in japan they don't have a word for love, because they think it will lose all meaning when they talk about it. words steal sense from emotions.

i guess that is the reason words don't mean so much for mogwai.

a few hours before, while denis takes a picture of the almost-religiously counted guitar pedals (we counted there was exactly 40 on stage, that is for sure), we sat with guitarist stuart and multi-instrumentalist barry. the rest of band stood around, eating sandwiches and drinking beer.

"one of the best things is coming to a new place for a first time. i don't know how tonight will be , but i have a very good feeling" said barry, as my old panasonic starts to record.

what was your ambition when you started, you've been down a long road?

stuart - "we founded the band in 1995, first dominic and myself. first intention was to play something we liked, we were in some other bands but we were not very happy. when we played our first gig, we were very nervous, we thought people would not like us. but they was accepted us, a few small labels offered us single releases, it all happened very fast..."

it seems to me that mogwai have a strong fan base, and that people who like your music try to play music ourselves. do you think that the way you make your own music can move people to express themselves, even they are not very good musicians?

"yes, i hope so, we are not very good musicians, but we are very succesful in the way we express ourselves, so i guess that when some people see it, they try that too"

can we say then that mogwai is some kind of punk band, if we take your approach to music..

"not really, maybe partially.. maybe there are some things in our music that people can see as punk thing, but my opinion is that things like that can be found in any other good kind of music"

what about metal, then. some of you said once that your ambition is to take the title of 'loudest band in the world' from manowar?

"yes, we were obsessed with loudness (laughs), but now, not much like before, in fact since people started leaving our gigs in middle of them" said barry, who was smiling until then and shaking his foot under the table.

you used many christian and religious motifs in the names of your songs..'moses i amnt', 'you don't know jesus', 'mogwai fear satan'.

"most of us were in catholic schools, but we are not catholics anymore. so, we thought it was cool to use these as names of songs, because they tried to make our heads full of these things. most song and album titles mean nothing, it's just so we can recognize them more easily"

what foes the term 'post-rock' mean to you? stuart said that it is when you get drunk after a rock gig?

"our statements are mostly stupidity, don't take them too seriously. but yes, that is the most righteous definition" laughs the not-so-tall guitarist whilst looking at the wedding ring shining on his finger. 'yes, i am long way from home' is one of the titles completely lacking sense, and it comes to my mind, when they started the gig with this song.

like real scots you drink so much and party on tours. does it mean there will be post rock after this gig?

"well, maybe" said stuart. "i hope so" adds barry and laughs, "but it is not like before...we had times when we were more crazy"

you use vocals on just a few occasions, but when you decide to do that (like in " take me..."), the voice is very good

"we are not poets, we are not good at writing lyrics. we have no message and have no idea about what to sing. also, we cannot sing, so last time we used vocoders and meaningless words, and it sounded very nice and made a nice atmosphere." i can see that stuart has answered this one a zillion times already.

who are the bands who influenced your music and who are the bands you are listening to now?

"for sure sonic youth and slint. and now? even though we have similar taste, we don't listen to much instrumetal music similar to our own" said barry. i decide to ask about specific bands - radiohead - "cool, we bought some of their albums, newer ones are better", sigur ros - "poseurs, yes!no!yes!!!", godspeed and do make say think - "they are the best!!"

metallica. some of their songs sound exactly like mogwai, if they will play them in another way.

"yes, we noticed that too" said stuart, and added "we used to like metallica when we were teenagers, so maybe some of that is still with us. we saw them two months ago in japan, they were so bad. but we cannot complain, we got into that gig for free, and it was very funny."

what do mogwai do when they are not making music?

"to be honest, not so much. we don't lead especially exciting lives, we go drinking with arab strap in the pub, go bowling. last year we only had two free months, so we just wanted to relax and rest. you know, ordinary life."

i get the impression from reading barry's e-mails on your website that you don't have much fun?

"shite, that is true."

tell me something about your experiences with dave fridmann? why he didn't produce 'hsfhp', your last album?

"it was brilliant, and it was very nice working with him. main reason is that dave doesn't like leaving his cottage, and he is a family man and he hasn't the desire to come to scotland, and we didn't want to travel to his place. not working with him is not the end of the world, but if we have occasion to work with him again, we will do" explained stuart. barry added "in fact it was a waste of money..i am joking, of was nice working with him, we are great friends and so."

what changes did you want to make on the new album, if you compare it with 'rock action'? what did you want to achieve with them?

"we just wanted a different album, we work very spontaneously. we have no masterplan, but we wanted to make it faster, because we spent so much time on making 'ra'! we worked faster this time, but in a more relaxed way, in fact we didn't know how it will sound till the end."

were you a bigger band when 'ra' was out than now?

"i wouldn't say that. maybe the press wrote more about us then, but we sold the same amount of the new one as other one. the reaction to the new one was very good."

what are your plans when you will get home after the tour? when will there be a new album?

"as soon as we get back, we will go into the studio. we've been asked to make music for a short movie, and music for an installation that will be presented in galleries in europe, usa."

and we end the interview, talking about football.

"i will be happy for croatia to beat england in portugal, destroy those bastards." barry is very sharp. he's a big fan of celtic, same as stuart. i used this chance to ask them, would they rather be in the first eleven of their favourite team or members of my fave band.

"listen, as a celtic supporter i am glad i don't play for them, they would be in big trouble. this could be said for mogwai too, but.." and he looks at barry, who knows the reason stuart said this, and laughs like crazy.

that's all for the interview. they haven't so much to say, don't talk too much. but the energy, and heart with childs purity, they throw out through their instruments, speaks for them instead. we take some photos, they start to soundcheck, and we watch it from the side of the stage.

after a furious set in the evening, i get backstage and hug them. it seems they are familiar with such reactions. stuart opens me a bottle of stella and we toast each other, and barry promises me arab strap very soon. both of them were excited too, a little surprised at the reaction of the audience. i didn't ask if they will come again, it was more than obvious. and a little bird told me, it will be sooner than we think - this year.

thanks to mileta for the translation. if there are any glaring errors, please mail rob and i'll fix them.