Following their eighth album Rave Tapes that came out in the U.S. January 21st via Sub Pop, Scottish post rockers Mogwai celebrated its release by announcing their own whiskey, RockAct81w, a limited edition Scotch. For a band that has never had lyrics and still always maintained a creative precedent like few other musical entities, it’s no wonder that they needed to add a certain bite from a different voice this time around. Although with Rave Tapes, Mogwai stuck to their tried and true formula of instrumental movements and grandiose buildups, but with less guitar and more credit to the electronic side. While Mogwai may remain confounding to some, their truest of fans can easily decipher the subtle differences in their sound with precision and this latest opus is no exception. We recently had the chance to talk with band leader Stuart Braithwaite about this stage of Mogwai…
It’s well documented that you don’t like to over analyze your work, so to put it simply how would you describe Rave Tapes as being a different finished work of music than your previous works?
It’s less layered than most of the older records and has less guitar and more synthesizer. That’s probably as simple as I can get. It’s also a less chipper than the last record.
Take us behind the scenes- what is it like for you guys to construct your songs in your practice spaces with this last album and how has that changed from when you first started out?
It’s changed since the third album in that we really write the songs alone in our studios/bedrooms and then don’t get together until a month before we record. Before that, it was writing in the rehearsal space which to me would now seem very awkward and difficult.
Mogwai’s music is sometimes described as a serious of movements. As composers what do you allow yourselves to do to avoid redundancy in your music?
We just try very hard to not repeat what we’ve done before. That doesn’t always happen, we’re not perfect by any stretch but I think each album exists as a separate entity with some overlap from previous work. That works for us I think.
Now that your discography is eight plus long, can you go back and play every song on notice or how do you best keep your past compositions organized in your head (tough without vocals).
Ooof! No. It’s probably impossible for us to recall songs we haven’t played in three or four years without a lot of rehearsing. We always have to sit and listen to the old records together to remember what parts we played. Recently we tried this with a song called “Ratts of The Capital” and we couldn’t get it together at all.
After eight studio albums in do you still manage to not let yourselves be dull or insincere?
We try. Jesus. Sometimes you play a song that you know goes down well with audiences but you are standing there playing it thinking, ‘why does anybody actually like this.’ But that thinking doesn’t help so you try and get on with it.
Putting a follow-up to your last record Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will could have been quite daunting? Was there any moments in the prior record that you consciously might have tried to build upon?
No not really because I think we were more trying to get over the soundtrack for The Returned/Les Revenants than our own last album. I think maybe that had a bigger effect than Hardcore did.
Do you feel Mr. Beast is still the benchmark as serving as the strongest communication point of a Mogwai album?
I’m not overly fond of it to be honest. I’d prefer Happy Songs, Hardcore or Rave Tapes. But it changes.
What instruments or sounds do you still want to experiment with?
Just whatever we can find. There are so many samples of weird instruments like Glass Harmonicas and bowed piano strings that you can never really tire of trying out things anymore. Nothing that we can’t take on a tour though….like no hollowed out elephant trunks with holes and reeds fitted.
What keeps you going and do you feel you’ve reached true artistic success yet.
We love playing concerts mostly. Recording is a means to an end for me, I like live music and I always will. As for artistic success, I suppose we’ve done quite well considering we have never been a very “cool” band. The fact that people still come and see us and (gasp) buy a few records must mean something.