‘I HAD THIS HORROR SHOW IMAGE OF US
FINALLY HAVING A HIT SINGLE’
didn’t want to look daft. That’s always been quite a strong motivating factor.’
This five-date Scottish run will be a warm-up for an extensive trawl through Europe, the US and Canada that sees the quintet not returning home until May. On the latter dates, time-lapse photography by Antony Crook – whose shot of New York’s Hudson river graces Hardcore’s cover (see right) – will be projected. For a band whose live shows often feel as pacey as coastal erosion, a startling feature of Hardcore is how fast some tracks are – the pulsing ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ and hurtling fury of ‘San Pedro’ being prime examples.
‘The fastest is “George Square Thatcher Death Party”, which is about 152bpm, ned techno speed,’ Braithwaite says, divulging that 80s New Order producer Arthur Baker advised the band to replace that track’s vocodered vocals with genuine singing. ‘He said we could get on the radio with it. I had this horror show image of us finally having a hit single.’
And that title? It was overheard by James Hamilton from avant-electro men machines Errors when a shopkeeper denied drink to an underage youth. Like Errors, Mogwai’s Rock Action charges, Braithwaite’s outfit have long allied serious music with a wry sense of humour. It was evident as early as 1996, when a few minutes of foreboding swirl was included on a cassette given out to attendees of Glasgow’s Ten Day Weekend Festival. Its name? The gravity-defying ‘I Am Not Batman’.
On Hardcore, ‘How To Be A Werewolf’ and the beefy, Boards Of Canada-recalling ‘Too Raging To Cheers’ sit with the equally confounding ‘Letters to the Metro’. But rather than the latter’s plaintive piano being some sort of exasperated, wistful comment on the text- speak insults and ribald rants printed in the daily freesheet, it is, as Braithwaite puts it, ‘one of the top five worst song titles ever’. ‘There’s a track on the last album called ‘Local Authority’,’ says Braithwaite with a titter. ‘I remember Barry [Burns] saying “That’s just too shit”. The cat’s out of the bag now, we know a lot of the titles are ridiculous and we basically don’t give a fuck about them. Still, maybe not many people outside of Britain are going to get ‘Letters to the Metro’. Maybe people will think it’s vaguely poetic, a kind of ode to underground transport. I wish we’d never let on, and that people thought there was a profound meaning behind them.’
He needn’t be so rueful: when hardcore is as compelling as it is here, that supposedly tongue-in-cheek title is simply true.
Tolbooth, Stirling, Wed 26 Jan; Town Hall, Paisley, 27 Jan; Perth Theatre, 28 Jan; Music Hall, Aberdeen, 29 Jan; Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow, 30 Jan; Picture House, Edinburgh, Mon 21 Feb. www.mogwai.co.uk Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is out on Rock Action Records, Mon 14 Feb.
ANATOMY OF AN ALBUM
A full-time producer since The Delgados split in 2005, Savage last worked with Mogwai on their landmark 1997 debut Young Team. His work with The Phantom Band and The Twilight Sad partly spawned the reunion, plus, recording at his Chem19 studio isn’t like being trapped in a fallout shelter. ‘We always enjoy working at Chem19 – it has windows,’ says Braithwaite. ‘It’s also quite near my house.’
DOUGLAS GORDON Limited edition versions of Hardcore . . . feature ‘The Singing Mountain’, a 26- min track written under the direction of artist Gordon for he and Olaf Nicolai’s ‘Monument For A Forgotten Future’. It follows a 2006 collaboration with him on his Zinedine Zidane documentary.
Not music thievery, but the long distance creative process necessitated by guitarist John Cummings being in New York and multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns now living in Berlin. ‘I think it was to the benefit of the record as it forced us all to focus on our own parts,’ says Braithwaite.
What better way to tribute the man than to name your bludgeoning eight and a half minutes closing track after him? We’ve been thinking all night long and it’s not easy. (Groan).
In contrast to The Hawk Is Howling’s lurid eagle cover, Hardcore . . . features a hazy dawn over the Hudson river. Antony Crook’s shot has the dignified elegance evident in the Bolton-born photographer’s fashion and portraiture.
LUKE SUTHERLAND Musician, novelist and, in the words of Braithwaite, general ‘talented bastard’, Luke Sutherland has been a long-time contributor to Mogwai since the break up of his lithe 90s outfit Long Fin Killie.
W I N S T U F F We have a pile of Mogwai merch up for grabs. To enter, just visit www.list.co.uk/offers
before Thu 3 Feb. Two lucky winners will
receive a signed vinyl copy of Hardcore. . ., plus 7" singles of 'Rano Pano' and ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ and a goodie bag including t-shirt, tote and poster. Three runners-up will win goodie bags.
20 Jan–3 Feb 2011 THE LIST 19