Play ATP, talk music, like Iceland, fear Satan
You think of American indie and you think of whimsical art school kids or a Brooklyn barista with a nose ring and an aggressively projected love of whichever band he has deigned with his attention that day. The UK indie scene contains those types but has traditionally been less tolerant of them. The Scottish scene in particular has always seemed to me a collection of rougher, down-to-earth guys who just like meeting on the weekends and producing some fookin’ tender and beautiful music, ken?
But Mogwai manages to buck that image as well. When a precocious and profusely sweaty 19-year-old music critic interviewed his first non-Icelandic band back in the early ´00s they immediately put me at ease. The music can be grimly hypnotic, dramatic and emotional, but the band members struck me as playful and slightly nerdy with none of the affected austerity you saw in some of their genre-mates.
Now they’re back for ATP, they’re still doing their thing and I’m still (*sigh*) doing my thing.
Hello Stuart. I doubt you remember me, but I have actually interviewed you before, about 13 years ago. I must have been about 19-years-old when we had a chat over a beer at Vegamót. Are you looking forward to playing at ATP in two weeks?
We’re all very excited about it. We had a great time when we played in Iceland and it’s amazing that it’s taken this long for us to come back.
What are you most excited about seeing?
It’s a great lineup. We’re looking forward to catching Swans. And Interpol are great friends of ours.
You guys are playing the same night as Swans; let’s hope you aren’t playing the same time slot. We wouldn’t want a repeat of the whole Metallica controversy. Could you say something terrible about Swans anyway?
I don’t want anything to do with that and I’d be lying if I said anything bad about them. They’re a great band.
So, back 13 years later. There have been a lot of changes with the scene Mogwai were lumped in with (post-rock) and the music industry in general. Have you noticed any changes in the audience and how they’re engaging with the music?
I think we’re lucky in that new people find out about our music all the time. It’s not like our audience gets older and older. The only people who get older and older are us. But the industry has definitely changed. I remember that it was at our first concert in Iceland when I first found out about illegal downloading because people knew the songs of the album that hadn’t come out [‘Rock Action’]. Someone explained that you could just steal stuff off the internet and that was the moment I realised that I was probably never going to get wealthy from selling records.
I’ve noticed this about the band, a lot of the new fans are coming in through the newer material and may even not be all that interested in the older albums that had a big effect on me and my generation.
It’s really nice because you go to see some bands and they’re just meant to be playing the same old songs but we’re lucky that people are interested in the music we’re making right now. Which probably explains the impressive output. Almost an album a year, counting the EPs and soundtracks. We’re just lucky in that we’ve never really seemed that trendy or untrendy. It’s a happy middle ground.
I guess you could say you’re a bit of a dying breed being an indie-ish rock band doing mostly instrumental music, not counting doom metal and all of those genres.
Well we’ve always had some songs with singing, but I think our style has gradually changed over the year. I don’t think people would be interested if we were still making the exact same music. But it was definitely in vogue for a while.
You have produced two soundtrack albums in later years for the film ‘Zidane’ and the French TV series “Les Revenants.” You see yourself doing more of that in the future?
Definitely. We’re doing the second series of “Les Revenant,” and we’re talking to people regarding some films. We’re definitely very excited about that.
But back to the Rock Action tour that brought you to Iceland. You founded the Rock Action label at the very beginning of your career, but are only putting out your second full-length album through the label this year.
Well we put out our first single compilation ‘Ten Rapid’ through our label but then we were signed with other labels like Chemikal Underground in Glasgow.
The titles of your first proper LP, ‘Hardcore Will Never Die,’ and your latest album, ‘Rave Tapes,’ strike me as interesting. When I’ve been to the UK and Scotland, it seems that the clubbing and raving culture is in no danger of dying. Do you think it ever went away?
It’s nostalgia on our part. Just us remembering the time when the raving was big and how much technology has changed things. It seems recent, but it’s actually completely ancient in retrospect.
So that’s a nice place to bookend it. From ‘Young Team’ to ‘Rave Tapes.’ Thank you for the chat, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing you play again.
Thank you, we’re really looking forward to it.