One of Scotland’s top DJs is returning home to play a gig for 30 people – in a laundrette.
Jackmaster, aka Jack Revill, from Glasgow, has firmly established himself among the top DJs on the planet, constantly touring the world to play in front of packed audiences in clubs and at major festivals.
The man from Hillhead’s hard work ethic and versatility saw him pick up the accolade of Best Breakthrough DJ in 2010 before going on to be crowned Best DJ by DJ magazine in 2014. He is also nominated for Best House DJ at the DJ awards, which takes place in Ibiza in October.
And no stranger place could play host to his talents behind the decks than in Glasgow’s Majestic Laundrette in the city’s Finnieston area. A mainstay of the area for more than 30 years, the laundrette has transformed itself into Scotland’s hipster HQ.
Having hosted everything from fashion shoots, celebrity interviews, acoustic concerts, Emeli Sande music videos and even 40th birthday parties, the laundrette has taken advantage of its perfect location sandwiched amongst trendy eateries, bars and restaurants.
And with its walls emblazoned with the flyers and posters on the latest events and concerts across the city, the laundrette doubles up as a place to both clean your smalls and find out what’s happening in the city and when.
Chris Edwards, who works in the laundrette, said “Where we are situated is absolutely spot on. There are a lot of coffee places, its ideal where we are. There are a lot of laundrettes in the city centre that are tucked away that you wouldn’t even know are there.”
“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. That people will be saying that they were at a gig in a laundrette the other night and it was amazing.
“But a lot of people seem to pop their heads in here for a look, just to read the flyers, to see what’s on in Glasgow. We don’t mind it. Then when they are in they ask us how much it will cost to get their suits dry-cleaned and things like that. Its two birds with one stone.”
Finnieston recently came top in a poll to find Britain’s hippest place to live, with the area’s transformation from former warehouses and dock lands into a trendy hotspot beating off competition from areas such as London’s Shoreditch.
The event, as part of Red Bull’s Music Academy’s UK tour, takes place on the 15th October, with the drinks company labelling the event “quite literally the freshest party of the weekend.”
The search for the real identity of Banksy is a story one that never fails capture the imagination of the media and the millions of fans across the globe of the subversive Bristol street artist, ever since he came to the public’s attention back in 1997 with his The Mild Mild West mural.
And with the news that filtered out in March of a scientific study by Queen Margaret University confirming previous studies that pointed out to him as being plain old public school boy Robin Gunningham, the final nail in the coffin was struck in what had left the world scratching their heads.
But what if Banksy isn’t the one person everyone thinks he is. What if – akin to the Shakespeare consiparcy theories, Banksy is a group of people who have stencilling different locations both at home and abroad. Such a rich body of work done over a decade, across the globe, may allow for the suggestion.
A rumour exists from 2010 that his work that went up around North America was his work but were not necessarily painted by him, but rather by a street team that happened to be following the Massive Attack tour.
And on analysis of his North American work, this makes perfect sense.
Around the time when six Banksy murals were reported to the press in San Francisco on the 1st of May 2010, including the famous ‘This Will Look Nice When It’s Framed’ image, Massive Attack performed a two night stint in the city on the 25th and 27th April, a few days previously.
Also in Toronto a similar pattern arises. Massive Attack played the city’s Sound Academy on May 7th and May 9th in 2010, the latter being the day that three new Banksy murals appeared in the city.
On the 12th of May, a new Banksy mural also appeared in Boston’s Chinatown area, depicting a ‘cancelled’ ‘Follow your dreams’ stencil. Massive Attack performed at the city’s legendary House Of Blues venue one day later, on the 13th May.
We can also jump backwards and forwards to both 2006, 2008 and 2013, when Banksy held residencies at art galleries in L.A. and New York and when new works of his appeared in the country. Again, a link with Massive Attack is evident.
In 2006, Massive Attack embarked on a US tour which saw them play in California in Berkeley on the 22nd of September and the famous Hollywood Bowl venue on the 24th in Los Angeles, the week after Banksy held his ‘Barely Legal’ exhibition in the city, over the weekend of the 15th-17th of September.
Fast forward two years to 2008, and Banksy returned to the US to produced 14 stencils throughout New Orleans to mark the upcoming third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Del Naja wrote the soundtrack alongside fellow Massive Attack member Neil Davidge to the New Orleans-themed documentary ‘Trouble the Water’. It received its New Orleans premiere on the 17th August that year – the same time period, almost to the day, that the stencils appeared.
And in 2013, when the artist’s month long residency in New York kicked off on the 1st October, the dates coincided with Massive Attack’s four night residency in the city between the 28th September and the 4th October at the city’s Park Avenue Armoury.
What about the wider field of play? The locations across the globe where Banksy has left his mark, apart from in Bristol, London and North America include Italy and Australia, and even, if we are to be believed, Africa.
As order dictates, I started at the beginning. And with that, somewhere close to home. Glasgow.
One of Bansky’s earliest public displays of his work was at the now defunct Arches nightclub and event space, under the city’s Central Station. The event saw the artist- then relatively unknown, share a billing with fellow, and more established, artist Jamie Reid of Sex Pistols fame.
Running from around the 1st to 18th March 2001, the Peace is Tough exhibition was poorly attended, but saw Banksy showcase some of his early work, like ‘Monkey Queen’. So why in Glasgow?
If Massive Attack are anything to go by, they also found the venue’s rugged charm to be the perfect launch pad. To celebrate the launch of their second album, ‘Protection’ (which came out on September 26 1994), the band played a concert at the venue on 8th December that year.
Looking abroad, one of Banksy’s first appearances outwith the UK was in Naples, Italy. His famous ‘Madonna Con La Pistola’, painted on the side of a church in the centre of the city, appeared some time around August 2004.
Banksy himself refers to the piece in a photo of the stencil in his book ‘Cut It Out’, released on the 14th of December 2004 – which allows me to make the jump back some months. Searches indicate that photos where first taken around this time of the work, which is still present in its location, covered by a Perspex protective cover.
A work appeared by Banksy in the city in 2010, only for it to be painted over quickly after, with which little information is available. So we know Banksy had ties to Naples, as its the only place he ‘tagged’ in Italy. And that he has visited on more than occasion.
Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja (‘3D’) is a massive Napoli fan and gave an interview to Naples’s Radio Marte in 2010, revealing his passion for the team – a passion handed down to him from his Italian father. In the interview he reveals he attended a Napoli match in Naples against AS Citadella during their time in Serie C1, a match that took place on the 26th September 2004.
So although Massive Attack didn’t play a show there, at least Del Naja was there around the time the mural appeared. The band have had a relationship with the city stretching back to a decade before then in 1994, when Channel 4 filmed a documentary on their visit to the city to visit Del Naja’s father’s place of birth and record with the Naples band Almamegretta.
Let’s move on to Australia, jumping back and forward as we do. He first went down under in April 2003, after being invited to attend to participate in the Semi-Permanent design event in Alexandria, Sydney, creating one of his biggest ever art works while he was there – a collage piece stretching 2.5m high by 9m long.
While in the country he also visited Melbourne, being shown around by a guy called Puzle from a t-shirt label called Burn Crew, whom he met in Sydney, where he sprayed some of his famous rat stencils and a ‘Little Diver’ image around the city, including the famous ACDC lane.
When Banksy’s work appeared in Melbourne, this also represents the last time Massive Attack played in the city, at the Vodafone Arena on March 11th that year, before playing at the Sydney Entertainment Centre of the 14th March, Brisbane on the 16th March and Canberra on the 18th, as part of their Australian tour.
In early August of 2005, Banksy visited Palestine, painting a total of 9 pieces on the Palestinian Wall, including the famous ‘West Bank Guard’ showing a young girl searching a soldier for contraband. He returned a decade later, in February 2015, he further stirred the collective conscience by ‘bombing’ his way across slabs left over from Israel’s 2014 offensive in Gaza.
As for a possible Massive Attack appearance around the time Banksy visited Palestine in early 2005, there is none. Del Naja and Massive Attack have been working since 2005 with the HOPING foundation- Hope and Optimism for Palestinians in the Next Generation – and have continuously lent their support to Palestine issues. After having played 2 gigs in Israel previously, he joined the movement for a cultural boycott of the country in 2010.
The band also played a run of three benefit concerts in Birmingham and London in 2007 for the foundation, while also made the headlines in July of 2014, with their headline show at Longitude Festival in Dublin including graphics which highlighted their solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Later that month the band staged a concert in Lebanon in collaboration with the HOPING project to support Palestinian refugees after visiting the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp.
Perhaps of all the locations tagged by Banksy, Mali has to be the most random of places to have felt his artistic presence. Concretely, his work was uncovered in the suburbs of Bamako in Mali around January/February of 2007, with images first appearing online around four months later.
Bamako is a name that resonates due its links to Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project. Del Naja became involved with the project after visiting The Congo with Albarn in late 2007, and has strong links to the Mali music scene – being cited alongside Johnny Marr in Malian musicians’ Madou and Mariam’s section of the ‘Voices United For Mali’ song of peace, which was released in January 2013 – a song which was recorded in Studio Bogolan in Bamako.
Alburn himself part produced the album ‘Welcome to Mali’ by Madou & Mariam, which itself was part recorded in Bamako in early 2008, around the time when the murals appeared in the city.
Skip to 2008, and Banksy made his Asian debut after his work was included in the ‘Love Art 08’ exhibition at the end of April at the city’s Art Centre. This was around the same time that the art group United Visual Arts were invited to showcase their award winning multimedia artwork ‘Volume’ at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, from the 11-20th April.
Interestingly, the piece was a collaboration between design collective United Visual Artists, Del Naja and his long-term co-writer Neil Davidge (as part of their music production company, one point six).
Throughout his career, Banksy has spoken of his friendship with the band’s Robert Del Naja – himself a graffiti artist. Del Naja and Banksy are said to have exhibited together at shows in the past, with Banksy citing Del Naja as a big influence on his work.
And Del Naja himself appeared in Banksy’s ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, speaking about his relationship with the artist from his early days in Bristol.
The artist also provides the foreword to the tome ‘3D & the Art of Massive Attack’, released in August 2015, which reads… “When I was about 10 years old, a kid called 3D was painting the streets hard. 3D quit painting and formed the band Massive Attack, which may have been a good thing for him, but was a big loss for the city.”
Del Naja was a graffiti artist long before becoming the ‘creative director’ of sorts of Massive Attack, and is held in high regard as one of the pioneers of the stencil graffiti movement, helping to bring hip-hop and graffiti culture to Bristol in the 1980s. And his work has been featured on all of Massive Attack’s record sleeved to date.
It’s also worth noting that Massive Attack cancelled a headline performance at Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’ event in September, citing ‘technical difficulties’. Banksy himself asked attendees to the event to wear masks, with the idea for ‘The Masked Ball’ being that he could attend without his identity being revealed by the paparazzi in attendance.
Perhaps the assertion then that Banksy is just one person is wide of the mark, instead being a group who have, over the years, followed Massive Attack around and painted walls at their leisure.
And perhaps, at the head of such a group we have Del Naja. A multi disciplined artist in front of one the seminal groups in recent British music history, doubling up as the planet’s most revered street artist. Now that would be cool.
With The Coral announcing a December date in Glasgow, we revisit their most recent record, ‘Distance Inbetween’.
You could probably count on one hand the number of bands who have, after a lengthy break, returned to with an album that allows for a wholesale reaffirmation of their genius-like qualities in the first place. Think maybe of Pixies, The Verve and Blur. The Coral’s self-imposed half decade hiatus left us wondering if they would return at all, never mind return to the form of 2002’s self-titled debut or 2004’s Magic & Medicine.
With the wait finally over, The Coral, in 8th studio album ‘Distance Inbetween’, have rewarded us with a surprisingly dark, visceral and at times hypnotic album that, blending elements of krautrock and psychedelic-pop influences, is evocative and thoroughly appealing.
It seems the band have been happy to cast off their commercial pop gem sensibilities, trading them in for a richer, more rhythmic and minimal sound that nevertheless doesn’t lose sight of the bands’ aptitude for luscious pyschedlic rock, as evidenced by the raucous ‘Chasing The Tale of A Dream’ and kaleidoscopic, backwards-guitar heavy ‘Miss Fortune’.
The presence of former Zutons guitarist Paul Molloy, whether wilfully or not, has helped to ignite a Coral sound that feels as honest, authentic and corporeal as they could perhaps have hoped for, dipped in early Neil Young, Love, and even Pink Floyd influences.
With James Skelly’s signature vocals appearing and disappearing like a distant wind, the band – celebrating 20 years together – place heavy drums, restrained guitars and occasional keyboard surges at the forefront of this rhythmic-centred approach, with the 12 tight-knit songs offering a well-sewn atmospheric and trippy tapestry.
Opener ‘Connector’ is an absorbing, rhythmic voyage that lurks into dark, gothic territory, as Skelly exclaims, “I’m the connector, you’re the receiver/You’re the rejecter, I’m the believer.”
With ‘White Bird’ sonic soundscapes intertwine with their trademark vocal harmonies in an ode to 60’s style psychedelia, before ‘Distance Inbetween’ changes direction with its piano-centred broody love lament.
‘Million Eyes’ sees Molloy’s gravelly guitar lick and Skelly’s warped vocal verge into glam rock, as highlight ‘Holy Revelation’ gives off a distinctly Route 66 car anthem charm, a sound replicated in the equally impressive, Queens of the Stone Age-esque ‘Fear Machine’, as Skelly scowls “But I won’t be your prisoner/Deep inside the fear machine.”
Rarely have made such a marked, yet purposefully positive, deviation in their sound, embodied within what is essentially a concept album of skilfully juxtaposed melodic indie-pop and vintage psychedelic airs. One which still has a capacity to mesmerise that few bands other than The Coral can do.
Forgery-proof is one of the best adjectives I’ve heard used to describe Mogwai, Glasgow’s incontestable post-rock pioneers. Having created and shaped a signature sound that is so much their own, a Frankenstein’s monster of celestial, cinematic beauty, imitators run rather than shy away.
With ‘Atomic’, regarded as their ninth album ‘proper’, the band conjure up 48 mins of aural stimulus that has the supreme quality of sonically contextualising its subject matter, the nuclear age.
The ten songs here mirror a journey from feat to the grandiose, the angry to the melancholic, as the band bear the fruits of a pursuit towards an unexpected, yet thoroughly welcome, electronic and synth sound, set against the visual narrative of Marc Cousin’s bold documentary; images of MRI scans and X-rays juxtaposed with Hiroshima, Chernobyl and the horrors of nuclear devastation.
It’s high praise indeed that the band, who, being fully aware of their own proximity to Faslane submarine base and long-time CND supporters, are able to, through the power of their music, craft a sense of scrutiny and contemplation of the nuclear age that oscillates between reverence towards the immense change to our lives against the power of destruction it has brought on us.
As regards to soundtrack duties, we know before a ball is kicked that we are in safe hands, with ‘Atomic’ coming off the back of the majestic artistry that was 2006’s Zidane: a 21ST Century Portrait and the enduring, haunting score for French zombie noir show Les Revenants in 2013.
Stuart Braithwaite’s scything guitar talus –so much part of the Mogwai sound – takes a back seat as buzzing synths and electronic touches, backed by brooding percussion, populate the 10 tracks that make up ‘Atomic’, from the glittering, hopeful opener ‘Ether’ (with French horn added to the mix), through to the solemn, pondering piano infused ‘Fat Man’.
SCRAM sees Berlin based Barry Burns’s vintage synth tones come alive to dystopian, kaleidoscopic effect, while the thick, powerful waves of the stunning ‘Bitterness Centrifuge’ embody a soaring, siren-like feel.
The equally impressive follow up ‘U-235’ (the chemical term for uranium) sees the band verge into broody electro-Kraut dream pop, sharply contrasted with the death march drone of Pripyat.
The ominous quality and feel continues with ‘Weak Force’ and ‘Little Boy’, seeing the band emanate a bleak, muted and moody sound reminiscent of a John Carpenter theme before ‘Are You A Dancer?’ and ‘Tzar’ return us to territory not to distant from Mogwai’s post-rock roots – the former’s hauntingly beautiful violin rendering it a highlight on the album.
Atomic further reinforces the capacity Mogwai have to create sonic soundscapes that permits for a measured introspection the likes of which only Mogwai can do. A band who, just shy of 21 years together, maintain a level of experimentation and exploration of new sounds that underscore their superlative musicianship, one which reiterates something we have known for years, that Mogwai are masters of their art.
Sometimes – especially in Scotland – life has a way of reminding you that everything isn’t all smiles, sunshine and unreserved romance, and that to that effect, Frightened Rabbit serve a purpose like no other band.
As veritable champions of their own brand of ‘healer-rock’, the band, backed by Scott Hutchison’s reflective, tormented internal monologue, craft a blend of melancholic woe and optimistic splendour that washes down like a sweet, warming malt whisky.
With their fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’, produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner (Sharron Van Etton, Local Natives) in New York, Frightened Rabbit release their most challenging, mature and immediate album to date.
Hutchison’s adroit, cathartic lyricism remains present as homage is paid to familiar themes of religion, sobriety and breakups, although disappointingly scarce is the astute wit of previous releases.
Small matters aside, there’s a distinct, welcome shift musically, as explosive soundscapes marry up against folk-tinged acoustic laments to splendid effect.
With former touring guitarist Simon Liddell replacing Gordon Skene, his presence, whether subconsciously or not, has pointed the band towards a more layered, dream-like vista, with walls of fuzzy, distorted noise, electronic touches and sharp drum loops opening the floodgates to a more expansive sound that adds superimposes more colour to the otherwise grey.
The almost dance-like, brooding, synth-driven ‘Woke up Hurting’ and haunting, dark ‘Lump Street’ best evoke this impression, with the latter’s dystopian feel far removed from any Frightened Rabbit work to date.
The solemn, piano-based Opener ‘Death Dream’ sets an early marker of tone, as a chorus of ‘You died in your sleep last night’ finds the accompaniment of ambient instrumentals and brass flourishes, a feat repeated later on with the majestic, ukulele-tinged ‘Little Drum’.
The flawless ‘Get Out’ and its ode to the consuming addictiveness of love sparks the album fully to life, followed by the rhythmic, meaty ‘Wish I Was Sober’.
Hutchison’s anxious, anthemic vocals take centre on ‘Still Want To Be Here’ as he sings “Junk fiends dance at the bus stop next to the rodeo clowns… But I still want to be here,” sings Hutchison in “Still Want to be Here”, while album highlight ‘Break’ adds formidable layers of pounding percussion and scything, fuzzy licks of guitar.
Following this is the morbid love ballad ‘400 Bones’, before the acoustic-guitar driven, tavern-esque lament of ‘Die Like A Rich Boy’ ends the album with a soaring ode to hydrocodone dreams and switchblades.
With ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’, Frightened Rabbit’s pursuit of a more musically expansive, synth-backed sound marks a change from ‘Pedestrian Verse’, one which allows for diverse flirtations against the introspective melancholy and unbridled optimism that Hutchison’ lyrics offer. One that ultimately pays off.
Glaswegian finest purveyors of sadomasochistic, sample heavy Lucha Libre masked electronica, Roman Noise, are returning to our radars with the release of much anticipated E.P. ‘Jacked Up On Mercy’, via their own Badly Built Records label.
Set to be the first of three scheduled E.P. releases this year, the trio return after an 18 month musical exile, hoping to build on the successes that has seen them supporting the likes of 2 Many DJs and LA electro veterans The Glitch Mob.
Known for their high energy and multi-sensory live shows, Roman Noise feel part Machines In Heaven, part Crash Club, with their bass-heavy, dark brand of electronic music dipped in futuristic Tron territory, drawing with it an obvious Daft Punk (before they got shit) ambience, most notably so on the outstanding ‘Black Pope’.
Opener ‘Bloodstains’ is an unremitting tour-de-fource that delights from the get go, as wave after wave of pounding synths and driven electro beats instantly render Roman Noise’s lengthy absence forgotten.
Effervescent follow-up ‘Agoraphobic’ expands further into welcome tech-electro landscapes, as menacing, murky synths trade blows against recurrent samples and pulsating drums.
Black Pope starts as a subaquatic electro baptism of sorts, with ethereal synth sounds giving way to full on wall of throbbing synths that wouldn’t look out of place sandwiched in between Phantom Parts 1 and 2 on Justices ‘Cross’ album.
The majestic, explosive ‘Solid Gold’ finishes the E.P. off on a high note, one which, with two more on the way in 2016, fully augments the appetite for hearing, and hopefully seeing, plenty more of Roman Noise in the not too distant future.
I’m not really sure when, or where I first heard Mogwai. I’d been aware of them for a few years without really paying much attention. More than anything, I remember seeing the name on a t-shirt at Connect Festival in Inverary, Scotland, back in 2007. Everyone wearing ‘Blur are Shite’ across their chest had me wondering. I’d heard of the band, but I hadn’t heard them.
This was when my musical diet consisted of pure guitar driven indie pop, bands such as Interpol, The Horrors, Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire. Stable bands that soundtracked your Saturday nights on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow.
I can’t even remember if I caught much or any of their set that night as I waited for Bobby Gillespie’s Primal Scream to churn out the hits to the thousands gathered at the foot of the castle. But I returned to Glasgow with the idea that instrumental music wasn’t just shite like Robert Miles’s Children or Daft Punk’s ‘Da Funk’ – a song I heard play for 36 hours on repeat on a school ski trip to France.
I think it was around that time that I saw ‘Zidane – a 21st century portrait’, with my brother Mike and pal Andy at the GFT cinema. A massive Spanish football fan, I was surprised to hear that Zidane had took part in a film, and even more so when I realized it was done by artist Douglas Gordon, who hailed from the same neck of the woods as me, Maryhill in Glasgow.
To say I was spellbound was an understatement, sitting there chewing on some sweets while watching the elegance of the world’s greatest ever footballer digging his boots into the turf, all while backed by Mogwai’s shimmering, wonderous soundtrack. I remember leaving the cinema feeling drunk and a tad high after such a visual, aural spectacle. I was Mogwai’d up, well and truly.
With the release of Hawk is Howling in September 2008, songs such as ‘Batcat’, ‘the Sun Smells Too Loud’ and the ridiculously epic “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ became fully ingrained parts of my daily routine, songs which transported me away from the inhumane existence that was working for a home insurance firm in a call centre in Glasgow.
Around this time, my brother jumped ship from Scotland and moved over to Italy to work as an English language assistant in the small town of Ferrara near Bologna. Not knowing anyone, or any Italian, his first conversation with a local said a lot about a yet unknown quantity for me, Mogwai’s level of support abroad.
A guy in bar asked Mike where he was from. “Glasgow”. “Glasgow ?,” replied the Italian dude. “Mogwai – our generation’s Pink Floyd.”
Jump forward to February 2011, and the release of Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’. After taking a call from an old Spanish guy called Manolo in a broom cupboard in Macsorley’s Bar one Friday afternoon, I quit my job and rented out my flat to move over to Northern Spain to teach English – copying my brother in doing so.
I got a job teaching English in an after school academy in the evenings, while during the day I taught the staff at the Bayer pharmaceutical factory in the town of La Felguera – the factory that produces 100% of the active ingredient for all the world’s aspirin. It’s maze of steel tubes and chimneys dominating the skyline, giving the provincial, stereotypical Spanish non-descript town a heavy Blade Runner feel.
Turned out the slow walk along the river there and back to my flat took me around 50 mins, around about the same time it took me to listen to Hardcore…in its entirety. And listen to it I did. For some reason my Ipod shuffle broke after I downloaded the album, so I only had that album on it.
For a full school calendar year, maybe two – September to June – I walked down the Nalon river in the mining valley of Central Asturias to and from the aspirin factory with Mogwai as my guide. I was in another place – far from the abandoned steel towers and mining industry relics surrounding me as ‘Rano Pano’ and ‘How To Be A Werewolf’ kicked in.
Still having not seen them fully in concert, I was gutted to be back home in Glasgow that August when Mogwai headlined a festival barely 20 miles away from where I stayed, in the seaside city of Gijon, in the grounds of La Laboral – Franco’s mega technical college complex and amazing place for a concert.
For that, I had to wait until June last year, when Mogwai put on two shows to celebrate their twentieth anniversary in Glasgow, after missing their concerts at the Royal Concert Hall and and Richmond Park in 2014. And what better place to see them than a Saturday night at the Barrowlands – one of, if not the, best venue in the country.
And it was tremendous. Ear-bleedingly loud. And as the band worked their way through an extensive back catalogue, I was glad to be in the position to have become well versed in most of their albums to date, as opposed to just the material they released post 2007.
Not long after the shows, I bumped into Stuart from the band about 2 am one Saturday night on Byres Road. After a brief stop and chat he gave me his email address, so I could arrange an interview for music website/podcast Scottish Fiction. A week later, I sat down with Stuart and had a blast discussing the band’s 20 years together and their plans for going forward.
With me was my Spanish pal Sara, a Mogwai fanatic herself, who, being her last ever day living in Glasgow, I thought would appreciate sharing a beer with Stuart. Although that day for her she recalls as being both the best and worst in her three years living there, as, moments before the interview while waiting for me outside Tennents bar in the West End, a nutjob ran out brandishing a kitchen knife and threatened her. Such is life in Glasgow. One moment running the risk of a hospital visit, the other having a drink with your musical hero in a reformed Church.
After visiting Barry from Mogwai’s pub, Das Gift, in Berlin while I was there a few times earlier on this year, it was nice to meet the man behind both the world’s best Twitter account and best jukebox in Germany. And as the band geared up to release Atomic, I sat down with Stuart once again to talk about it over a beer in Glasgow’s West End.
This time in less cosmopolitan company with my brother, a conversation had between Stuart, my brother and Paul from Franz Ferdinand at Christmas time during their DJ set in a Glasgow pub played itself out before our eyes. With Franz having played a few gigs in the Italian town my brother called home, Stuart mentioned that he’d be up for playing at the same place with Mogwai.
Cue a number of emails from my brother to the organizers, telling them to get Mogwai onto the bill, and during the interview Stuart got a message on his phone confirming the date. Ferrara, Italy, July 2016.
Well I couldn’t not go could aye? So here I am, drunk as hell, in my brothers flat. Earlier tonight Mogwai played what was regarded as the best concert in the town’s musical history, to a crowd of 1500 people next to the castle, performing their soundtrack to the documentary film ‘Atomic’ while it played on the screen behind them.
The post gig Laphroig whisky with the band backstage in their dressing room went down pretty well, discussing Glasgow’s best curry house, as I cast my mind back to nine years earlier and the ‘Blur are Shite’ t-shirt in Inverary. Funny how things play themselves out.
Your music has taken me somewhere nice, more so than any other band out there. And I hope it continues to do so.
A simple mathematical equation can split the world into two: those who have and those who haven’t seen the Brian Jonestown Massacre live.
The sweltering Barrowlands seemed to levitate as the group worked their way through a quite incredible mammoth 2 hour 45 minute bursting with moments of supreme musical quality.
Front man Anton Newcombe doesn’t things by half, and, sporting white mutton cop sideburns and a hippy shirt, he gave off the feel of a cult leader preaching to his followers under the iconic square tiled Barrowlands ceiling.
Who and That Girl Suicide had the crowd going as the venue started to fill following the early 7:30 start, as the band flooded the venue with jams full of distortion and reverb, reminding fans that when Jonestown, and particularly, Newcome, stay away from freak-out eccentricities or mind bending abstract ramblings, they can nail down an impressive, wide-ranging body of work that is close to psychedelic perfection.
The fantastic Jennifer was followed by rip roaring new tune Groove is in the Heart, before Whatever Hippy Bitch – coupled with a brilliant anecdote about the song’s origin – had the crowd in raptures.
It also saw Joel Gion in fine tambourine and maraca waving form as he soaked up the energy from the animated crowd, his nonchalant on stage swagger taking centre stage as Newcombe seemed content to let the music do most of his talking.
When Jokers Attack kept things moving before Pish and Leave it Alone – both songs off their most recent release Mini Album Thingy Wingy – saw the gig reach a veritable, sedated climax, especially after Pish was cut short as Newcombe berated one of the guitarists for playing the wrong chord, as the crowd were treated to a double dose of what is without doubt one of the best tracks in their extensive repertoire.
Matched only by anthems such as Anemone and Servo, which saw the pints flying as the band took the crowd with them down their own majestic psychedelic rabbit hole.
A truly memorable gig that left no fan short changed.
Scotland’s finest exporters of woolly jumper wearing indie rock, Frightened Rabbit, are back after a two year hiatus to clothe us with their signature brand of charming, heart-warming and spirited anthems that keep us the right mixture of warm and emotionally delicate.
With April’s release of their fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ fast approaching, the band are currently knuckled down in a Glasgow studio in rehearsals ahead of a short three date UK tour and subsequent mammoth 29 date North American jaunt.
Band members Andy Monaghan (guitars/keyboards) and Simon Liddell (guitars) took a bit of time out of their schedule to talk about the new album and their readiness to return to the live scene, alongside how Simon’s addition to the band – graduating from guitar tech and live musician to replace Gordon Skeene – has changed their dynamic.
“I guess it’s a combination of looking forward to playing some shows and anxious to play some shows. I mean the set-up has changed, it’s a bit of a new set up, new sounds, new songs, you never know how its gonna go down, as Andy begins.
While Simon adds, “That’s especially true of playing the new songs as well, for me, cause they are the first ones I’ve had involvement in part of the recording of those ones, as much as its fun playing the other ones.”
With the response so far to the release of new singles ‘Death Dream’ and ‘Get Out’ reaching fever pitch, both Andy and Simon seem in high spirits, as Andy mentions:
“We have put out two very different tracks out so far, so people have been reassured hopefully by the first one (Death Dream) and then saw that things are a bit different with the second one (Get Out).
Whereas Simon, in respect to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Death Dream’, says: It was not meant to be like a proper full on single but more like a ‘can u remember us’ thing. I’m sure some people think it’s a pile of shite but if they hate it they are keeping quiet about it.”
Talk then turns to the new record, produced in both Brooklyn and Upper State New York last year during a swelteringly hot heat wave last summer, that saw the band, in between lying down on floors to escape the heat, remove themselves fully from their distinctly Scottish-tinged overcast, drizzle inspired sound and embrace the flips flops, shorts, and bucket loads of ice-cream.
“The record is the same in that (lead singer) Scott’s narrative shines through but it’s a different band. The creation of the record was very different to any of the other records we’ve made and we were trying a few new things as well. So it sounds a bit different but at the same time it is rooted in Scott’s songs. Without that we wouldn’t be Frightened Rabbit,” says Andy.
As to the new things mentioned, Simon offers more: “There is probably a bit of a dip in the tone, a more electronic approach. I mean it’s not by any means a dance record, there’s just a few more textures in there that would take it a wee bit further away from the normal.”
The addition of a certain ‘electro’ vibe is partly down to Andy, who lists Glasgow’s very own Optimo as one of his favourite musical influences.
“It’s my scene, I’m all about that. Owl John (Scott’s solo album released in August 2014) brought Scott more in line with that sort of approach. I think he felt a bit more comfortable using some synths on some of the demos he was sending over. I was like, this sounds mental! This is great! This sounds nothing like the old Frightened Rabbit, but it still is to an extent.”
With Scott moving over to Los Angeles in the aftermath of touring Pedestrian Verse, both the distance from the rest of the band – who remained in Glasgow – and the arrival of Simon, brought with it new obstacles and different challenges to face up with. But both Andy and Simon see that as having an ultimately positive effect on the current (new) direction of the band.
It’s totally a 5 way street now,” says Andy.
“There’s like different approaches to different songs. Cause Scott was over living in the States with some songs he would come up with the main body of it himself, while there was others that me and Andy and Billy and Grant would have worked on in Glasgow and sent to him, and then he would kind of add to it. And then there was stuff we had from the writing sessions in a couple of studios in Wales and a bunch of songs came out of that, when we were all kind of the same room, so it was kinda different approaches that all yielded diferent results,” continues Simon.
And with all members of the band keen to step outside of their comfort zones and change things around a bit instrumentally, it made for a rewarding experience, as Andy details.
“There were points like when we were getting to rehearsals and we were like ‘who is playing what here’, maybe Billy wasn’t playing bass he was playing guitar or Simon was on keys, I was on keys, Scott played all the guitars but then It’s like Scott plays the keys and I’m playing the guitars…and it’s like nobody is playing what they wrote in the studio or like live on stage and it was all just like people throwing in ideas and seeing what worked.”
Simon agrees. “Everyone felt comfortable enough when we were writing the album to say they had an idea and put it down, and not be like “you’re not the bassist so don’t touch my bass”.
With that, Simon refers back to the importance Scott’s solo record had on the new Frightened Rabbit material.
“I guess it was like, I mean it was my first time in the studio with the full band but when we did Owl John that was the approach to that was so relaxed, we’d (himself, Andy and Scott) gone into that with nothing so it was a case of having to go into the room and record something, try something. There were no nerves, so that sort of carried through onto this record.”
He continues, “I think the touring schedule (for Pedestrian Verse) had hit everyone pretty hard so for Scott it was like, I think it was a really positive thing for him u know. He took all the pressure out of the creative process and it was brilliant.”
Interesting to note is that although ‘Paintings of a Panic Attack’ took the best part of a year and a half to write and record, with the band writing and recording in excess of 30 demos before whittling it down to the 12 that made it on the album, they started thinking about it as soon as they played what was their last show, at Laneways Festival in Australia on the 8th February 2014.
“The first writing session happened straight away after a festival we played in 2014. We got in a van after the festival and went straight there – to the studio and got started. At that point event Scott didn’t have anything – ‘Lump St’ came from that, ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ was born there and ‘400 Bones’ also, Simon reveals.
Having formed a close bond with The National after touring with them throughout America, it seemed a natural fit that Aaron Dessner would take up production duties, although his methods took some getting used to by the band, as Andy explains.
“He (Aaron) is a very talented guy. It was good. I guess when u put so much energy into something and someone else does the same there is going to be a little bit of friction. We wouldn’t know where he was going with something and he would never reveal his cards and then we would be like ahhh we see, we can see where it’s going. There were moments when we were like hallway through the sessions and we were questioning things, what was going on. But I think it worked out in a positive way.”
On a personal note, the move from guitar tech to fully fledged Frabbit was one Simon speaks volumes about, with a real sense of appreciation as to how things came to be.
“It’s amazing. I mean it was obvious for me as a member as I already playing as a live musician for a few years, the first show being us playing woodpile on BBC Hogmanay a few years ago with Jackie Bird. I always felt like part of the group on a personal level. It was always an inclusive thing and it has always been that way so that made it creatively so easy to slot in.”
To which Andy adds, “The internal vibe is different I guess with Simon being around. He is so enthusiastic and on it. It was an easy transition as no one was like ‘who is this guy’. With all the directions the others pull in, Simon pulls us in a different direction.”
With Simon finishing, “I love my reverb”.
And with a hard day’s work in the studio beginning to take its effect on their ability to keep awake, Simon and Andy ended by advising me not to make plans for Tuesday of next week, and to keep my eyes peeled for a show being staged by a band using a name of one of the songs off ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’.
There’s a rumour that Kurt Cobain’s footprint is locked in a safe at the QMU music venue at Glasgow University, a venue which saw Nirvana play a near mythical gig there 25 years ago in 1991.
In attendance that night was a 15 year old Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist with Scottish post-rock aficionados Mogwai. After being grounded for returning home late the previous night, he managed to somehow sweet-talk his parents into allowing him to delay the punishment so he could go see Nirvana play, a memory he recalls freshly as we meet a stone’s throw away from the venue in Glasgow’s West End, 20 years and 9 months to the day since his band, Mogwai, met for their first rehearsal as a band.
Stuart sat down with us to speak about upcoming new release ‘Atomic’, the band’s ninth album of tracks, reconfigured and reworked from the score they crafted for nuclear age documentary ‘Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise’ by Marc Cousins.
In between having to deal with the racket of what looked like the world’s biggest hen party and the close proximity of an amorous elderly couple showing us that romance isn’t dead, Stuart spoke with delight about how the album – the band’s third soundtrack – turned out, before he embarks on a hectic schedule as he prepares to mix Mogwai duties and shows and a debut album release for his new band, Minor Victories.
“I’m gonna have to get some Valium,” his response to his upcoming heavy workload calendar.
“The first Mogwai Atomic gig is two days before the first Minor Victories gig but to be honest it’s pretty good because we (himself and drummer Martin Bulloch) are gonna rehearse with Minor Victories then rehearse with Mogwai, and then I’m doing Mogwai gig in Austria and then Minor Victories is gonna rehearse the night before our London gig.”
With regards to ‘Atomic’, Stuart feels that the work put in – adding muscle and scope to the original film score – has paid off.
“I’m really happy with it, I think it worked out well. The film itself has very separate themes in it. The start of the film is really optimistic and hopeful and inspiring then with certain bits, obviously with the nuclear war stuff is just…,” he says
“We just tried to mirror the mood of the images with the music. I think that maybe helps it work more a bit more like a record”.
He is also positive with initial response tracks like ‘U-235’, ‘Biterness Centrifuge’ and ‘Ether’ have received.
“I think people will like it. I mean I guess the way records come out now I’m sure people can probably hear it before it comes out and see if it’s their cup of tea. I notice its looking like, a lot of people are saying it’s gonna be seen just as another ‘record’. In a weird way maybe like when we’ve put records out that have changed things up a bit and that probably bothers people more you know than straight instrumental music.”
This record is unique in that it was the first not to involve guitarist John Cummings, who left in November last year to pursue other interests. Although he played on the original score, he had no involvement with the record. But according to Stuart, the 4 piece continued as normal.
“We just get on with it,” says Stuart. “Alex [Mackay] who plays with Zyna Hel (the musical moniker of Stuart’s partner Elizabeth Oswell) is playing with us.”
The albums strong subject matter made the recording process a thoroughly emotive one, one that Stuart agrees fed into the record, especially with the band having visited Hiroshima on a previous visit to Japan.
“Yeh defintely that experience plus proximity to the nuclear weapons here,” he says, referring to both the band’s visit to Japan alongside the Faslane Submarine base approximately 30 miles away to the west of Glasgow.
“When we were recording for the film the scene of the bombings in japan was brutal, I mean we were just sitting watching it and it was really emotional. And one of the reasons we did it was because we’d been to Hiroshima and we’d seen like the peace park and all the letters that the mayors written to different countries begging them not to have nuclear weapons. So yeh there’s a lot of real intensity there.”
Fittingly, the band will return to Hiroshima as one of the nine dates so far scheduled for the band to play, one that Stuart feels will take on extra resonance for the band even if he doesn’t expect it to be greeted with a lot of attention by the Japanese public.
“It actually won’t be a big deal we’ll probably play to the least amount of people we’ve played to in japan ever. I think only the real obsessive Mogwai fans will be there. It’s not like the whole town of Hiroshima will come out, but that’s fine. For us I think it’s an important thing to do. It will be really emotional.”
After previously recording the soundtracks to French zombie noir TV show Les Revenants and football biopic Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, the band are well schooled in the differences involved in writing and recording to accompany a visual spectacle.
“I think getting into the studio it’s the same. It’s just to try and make it sound as good as we can. But I think when you are writing the songs it’s different. When you are writing the songs for your own album it’s just a blank canvas, you just do whatever you want. You can be as daft or serious as you want. If it’s to go with someone else’s vision then you’ve got to keep that in mind.”
“I’d say generally the film soundtrack is generally more sparse. We did a lot more for the album. I think it’s also a bit different from our records too. It’s heavy.”
The band have announced nine ‘Atomic’ dates at the moment with more no doubt to come in the following months, but Stuart doesn’t see the band touring relentlessly due to the nature of the album, with the shows ones that he says will not see them dip into any material from their extensive catalogue.
“It’s a weird thing doing a gig that’s along to a film because it’s not quite a film showing and not quite a gig. I think doing other songs would seem a bit out of place. When we did Zidane we did it I think then we were unsure if the whole thing was gonna work so it was almost a safety net. To be totally honest it’s such a specialised thing there’s only so much you can do. I’ve also got Minor Victories is taking up quite a lot of my time. I think that’s gonna be like quite a lot.”
With that our attention turned to Stuart’s new ‘supergroup’ Minor Victories, in conjunction with Slowdive vocalist Rachel Goswell and brothers Justin (Editors) and James Lockey, one which allows him to focus purely on the music and avoid some of the behind the scenes work involved in being part of Mogwai.
“I am excited aye it’s gonna be fun everyone’s been really nice and it’s gonna be a bit different. I’m kinda used to being the guy that I kind of sort a lot of the things out for Mogwai. We don’t have a manager so we all chip in but I do a lot. So it’s quite good to like ‘uh what’s happening’ and turn up and play.”
Interesting to note was that of his three fellow band members, he’d only met one, something that for him was both new and unusual.
“I knew Rachel a little bit and it was Rachel that asked me but I’d never met James or Justin.”
And, even though the four piece only actually met together in March this year, there’s talk of a second album in the pipeline ahead of the release of the debut record on the 3rd June.
“We’ve talked about another record so it’s in the lap of the gods how it goes. I’d think we’d do another one even if it died on its arse to be totally honest but I think whether it grows arms and legs isn’t really up to us. It’s up to folk if they like it. But so far people are into it,” says Stuart.
As for Mogwai, fans will be more than pleased to hear that the band are already working on new material ahead of the release and subsequent tour of Atomic.
“We are getting the studio dates to do the new record just now. It’s think it’s gonna be the end of the year, maybe into next year. And we are starting to get tunes together. Me and Barry and Dominic have been sending each other tunes. We are getting into it.”
Over twenty years since a certain Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, then booker for Glasgow’s renowned 13 Note Café, put on Mogwai’s first show, Stuart is approaching another date on his calendar in the form of the big 4-0, one he mentions in retort to questions concerning his decision to tone down the band baiting.
“I’m getting old I’m 40 in 2 months so it [baiting other bands] doesn’t really look good. I’d rather talk about stuff I liked than what I don’t like.”
But any suggestions of a big party or a one off gig to celebrate it are quickly played down by Stuart.
“I don’t know, I don’t really like a fuss.”
As for bands he likes, Stuart was especially excited about tomorrow’s upcoming gig of fellow Glaswegian’s Primal Scream, in between mentioning what other stuff is on his musical radar.
“I’m into this piano player Lubomyr Melnyk and his Erased Tapes stuff, I’ve been listening to that a lot. I really like a lot of church recordings like gospel music and like the Gaelic psalms from the Hebrides and even like – I’m totally atheist as well which is actually hilarious – but I really love sacred music,” he admits.
“Oh and that guy Mdou Moctar – that’s probably the best gig I’ve seen in a while –at the Art school. The Glasgow gig was nuts, it was sold out and like he’s probably one of these guys that feeds off the crowd.”
Since the last time we met last year, out with spending time in the studio recording ‘Atomic’, Mogwai made their first visit to India, an experience that Stuart was keen to share, alongside a chance meeting with a certain spiritual leader.
“It was a brilliant experience. It was quite humbling to see how some people live but the people were into music and everyone was so nice I met the Dalai Lama. I just said ‘It’s nice to meet you’ and shook his hand. He was like that ‘Your Stuart from Mogwai’,” he says, laughing.
“He was in town speaking at a big event. It was like The Beatles were there, there was like 1000 people outside our hotel holding cameras. I went to the lift and he was just there with two guys. He was doing stuff but I didn’t want to not say hello to someone like that. There was no big chat.”
There was no ‘Your the Pope’ statement, mirroring his infamous ‘You’re Lionel Ritchie’ comment on meeting the artist in an airport a few years back, one which provided the inspiration for the name for the track on 2011’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.’ And on the subject of song titles, Stuart finished up our chat with reference to the nuclear -themed song titles that populate ‘Atomic’ and how, unlike on previous albums, the band have stayed clear of their usual wit and frivolity in naming their tracks.
“We certainly didn’t want to do anything flippant when we were dealing with such a theme.”