rip it up|
4th dec 1999|
mogwai - devolution rock
(rip it up magazine - issue 267 - january 2000 - by stinky jim)
interview took place presumably in december 1999 before their auckland concert
transcribed by jason lurman - thanks jason!
with the ability to switch from delicate lullaby to distorted terrorscape at the flick of a foot pedal, glasgow five piece mogwai have noisily gone about their business over the last four years building up a live and recorded reputation that few could hope to match. playing their last gig for the year at the powerstation, founding members stuart braithwaite (s) and dominic aitchison (d) are still gobsmacked by the open racism they witnessed in australia and most excited about the prospect of seeing h.d.u. (they've chosen them as support themselves and have heard they're "brilliant, epic and loud" and mogwai like a challenge). we start off by discussing how the group has been endorsed by the likes of david holmes and quite readily accepted by a reasonable portion of the 'dance crowd' in the uk.
dominic: i think a lot of people i know who are really into dance music and stuff like us tend to because our tunes for the most part are really simple and flowing. alot of dance music is a long piece that keeps going and that's kind of what we're like as well.
stuart: either lacking in structure or without boundaries, you can take your pick (laughs). we'd like to think it's the latter but it's probably the former!
jim: from the primal rumblings of 'ten rapid' and 'young team' through to c.o.d.y's sublime and intense treats and 'ep+2's persuasive progressions there has been a clear flow and forward movement with each release. are the ideas and directions set before the studio process?
s: we just write new songs and it's a process of elimination to not repeat ourselves rather than "what will we do next?". we kind of stumble upon being different by accident because we're consciously trying not to do what we've done before.
d: when we've got a bunch of new songs we always go and play some shows out live, work out what's pish (scottish term for crap) or not.
s: weed out the shit.
d: that's what we're going to do when we go home, we're going to start all over again, try to write a new set, a whole new album.
s: we'll probably spend five weeks in the studio, come out with nothing and we'll just go on stage with a note.
jim: enthusiastic radio support from the god-like john peel and some pretty hefty accolades from the notoriously bitchy uk press have aided the band's gradual ascent over the past four years. how does it feel to know that the knives will be out and there's an inevitable backlash on the way?
s: even now over the last year or so i think the people who never liked us but weren't allowed to write about us and the people who weren't really sure but have decided that they hate us have got to have a go. i think that's quite healthy to be honest so long as it's on some basically musical basis.
d: people do really take quite serious objection to us and we usually find what they write fairly humourous. the american press tend to be a lot more straightforward. we had an absolute stormer of a slagging from new york didn't we?
s: yeah but we played shite and if you get a bad review for that then i think it's fair enough. we got this review from the guardian and the gig was amazing, all the other reviews were really positive. our press officer was so upset that she phoned up the person who'd written it and was like "how could you not like that gig? tell me in one sentense". it turned out that the reviewer had gone to school with blur.
jim: ah yes the blur business, please explain.
d: we had a t-shirt with 'blur; are shite' printed up, like a dictioanry definition. we did it for a tour laugh and it just blew up into a huge thing.
s: and then we're getting bad reviews in the guardian because of it.
d: it was just meant to be funny then it turned into a really stupid thing. every week for about six weeks there were letters and all sorts from upset blur fans. that was fun reading all the slaggings but it might not have been for stuart, as most of them were aimed at him. he received the brunt of it.
s: (who has an amused devilish grin on his face by now elaborates) because i basically announced how shite they were. i simply said that i've studied music and i can go to court and prove how shite they are.
far more interested in talking about bands they do like (a whole bunch of 'new country' and us guitar stuff, pole, basic channel gear and healthy amounts of germtronica) we move onto the remix album 'kicking a dead pig' which finds the likes of kid loco, arab strap and surgeon re-arranging their bits.
s: the remix album that came out wasn't our idea. the eye q label set it up. i think it's really good actually. i think it's because we were so detached, we came back from tour and it was done. i actually enjoy hearing that hood remix more than the original version of 'like herod', it seems more interesting because we weren't in the studio when it was getting done.
d: it had fuck-all to do with us. they asked us if they could do it and we said alright. they asked us for a bunch of remixers we'd like on there and then they put it in their names and we said fair enough.
s: but then they wouldn't let us call it what we wanted to call it. we wanted to call it 'techno techno techno techno'. they said it would offend a lot of the remixers.
d: we wouldn't have offended fuck-all people, we should have called it that.
s: the world of electronic music is supposed to be renowned for its sense of humour and i'll tell you one thing, i've had lots of conversations with mike paradinas (aka jake slazenger, gary moschelles, muzik etc) and the jokes were not flying (laughs). chortle i did not.
and on they went with more than a few chortles covering everything from talking technological twaddle with autechre ("one of the hardest looking men i've ever seen") to england football team ("they should be able to put it together but they're all wankers!") and whether the song 'stanley kubrick' was named before or after he died ("the juries still out on that one"). definitely fine fellows and on the evidence of their auckland show about as good an indicator of some of the possibilities that still exist in open-minded rock music as you're likely to get. don't sleep on this band.