As Scotland’s seminal post-rock flag bearers, Mogwai have been making noise and splitting ears for as long as we can remember. With a new ‘Best Of’ compilation making its way into record shops at the end of the month, Central Belters, I sat down with guitarist Stuart Braithwaite to discuss everything from film scores, Lou Reed, nostalgia and of course, Glasgow.
20 candles recently blown, and yet for Mogwai, Glasgow’s post-rock pioneers, they show no lack of enthusiasm for making music that has so far churned out a heady amount of albums to add substance to any good record collection.
After their triumphant, face-melting anniversary shows at the Barrowlands and London’s Roundhouse in June, the band were keen to cement passing the double-decade mark with more than just a run of gigs, especially for those unlucky enough not to have been there to see them.
“I think we really wanted to do something to kind of mark the occasion. Not just the concerts. They were great fun. Something more permanent. It seemed quite an obvious thing to do,” explains Stuart.
With new Best Of compilation Central Belters, the band have been careful to provide fair representation to all strands of what has been a remarkable career, with the 35 tracks spanning all 8 studio albums as well as the Les Revenants and Zidane soundtracks, whilst attempting to cater to all possible sections of the Mogwai ‘Young Team’.
“I think a lot of people got into us in the last five or 10 years. Maybe some people liked us at the start and fell away, or stopped going to record shops. So this is an opportunity to show what we’ve done over the last 20 years.”
With such an expansive back catalogue to choose from, Stuart had his say on what would be included where. “The rarities were harder, as there is so much there and they were less obvious picks,” he explains. “With the rest, I kind of ran with it. It was more that the rest of the band would say ‘no’, rather than being five different ideas.”
Seems many moons ago that the Mogwai as we know came to be, after that first jam in Stuart’s family home in Glasgow, and the city, if not directly, has certainly had some part to play in the longevity of their music, as he himself notes, “Maybe it’s a subconscious thing that has probably happened without us thinking about it. Glasgow was a scene that helped us and we’d like to think that we’ve helped it as well. It’s definitely a community thing that you have here.”
Stuart also took time to give us some news on his side project with super-group Minor Victories, revealing that, with the album nearly complete, he has been working with James Graham from local heroes The Twilight Sad on a song for what will essentially be a “pop record”.
The band will go back to the drawing board shortly after the release of Central Belters with the completion of Mark Cousin’s Atomic documentary soundtrack, alongside the promise of more live shows next year. “We are going back into the studio this month…to turn the Atomic music into a record, do some shows and make that live along with the film,” he says. “Then next year we’ll be making a new album.”
And as for continuing to experiment with other ideas, it seems the motivation is also most definitely there. “I think we would like to do a proper film. To be involved right from the start,” he explains. “We’ve came close to a few things happening but nothing came of it.” With that in mind, a passing suggestion was made of throwing their hat into the ring for the upcoming Trainspotting 2.
“That would be great. I know Irvine (Welsh), he is a brilliant guy. I don’t know if I know him well enough to phone him up like you would phone your pal,” he jokes, “but you never know, it might be one of those, ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get’ things.”
As for the future, he doesn’t see himself, or the band, hanging up their instruments at any point soon, not while the desire is still there to experiment with new sounds, play more gigs and travel to more places. “I’d love to be still making music when I’m 75,” he says, “I think if you’re lucky to do what you like doing anyway then there’s no reason to stop.”
Any regrets then as the release date draws nearer? One or two, none more so than the missed opportunity of a collaboration with a certain Lou Reed. “We actually once got asked to play with him. That is a real, real regret, we didn’t do it because we were making a record (2008’s Hawk is Howling). He wanted to do a noise jam with us.”
And while history, as it happened, robbed us of what would have surely been an astonishing musical get-together, we can, without doubt, thank our musical stars that Mogwai have led our ears and our minds into realms the likes of which we had never entered previously.
Here’s to another 20.