The Immortal Mogwai



Mogwai may be the established enigma in post-rock music: a Scottish band whose lengthy instrumental-based pieces (usually devoid of lyrics) have garnered a huge following. Named after the creatures from Gremlins (Mogwai means “evil spirit” or “devil” in Cantonese), Mogwai has never been one to stick to the books. Sixteen years after the band formed in Glasgow, their seventh album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, is out today. We talked to bassist Dominic Aitchinson—just back from Japan and hanging out at home in Scotland before the band starts up its tour again on Sunday night—and he talked us through tour bus traditions and what he misses while traveling.

KYLE WU: Hey Dominic, how are you? Where are you calling from—are you still in Japan?

DOMINIC AITCHISON: No, I’m actually at home, in Scotland right now.

WU: Your next tour kicks off soon. How is life on the road with Mogwai? Do you guys have any pre-show traditions or routines?

AITCHISON: We don’t really have any traditions, but we do a lot of the same things. The one thing we always do is watch Team America on the tour bus. We always watch really crappy films on the bus. It’s hard to watch a serious film after a show, especially with like twelve guys; it has to be really stupid. If Adam Sandler’s in it, it’s probably getting watched.

WU: So you guys don’t go out and party after the shows, you watch crappy films?

AITCHISON: Sometimes we go out and get a drink, but most of us are older and can’t party as much anymore.

WU: Where are you looking forward to going most on tour?

AITCHISON: I don’t know, I’m looking forward to everywhere… to Britain, to come back to the States. And I’m looking forward to Canada, because I have a brother there I can see and see his kids and everything.

WU: Is there anything from home you miss most when you’re on tour?

AITCHISON: My own bed. And really stupid things. There are these sausages in Scotland, they’re square, like square hamburger patties. Two weeks into tour, I always really want one of those.

WU: Tell me about your new album. Coincidental that it’s being released on Valentine’s Day?

AITCHISON: Yes, it was a total coincidence. We didn’t mean for that to happen.

WU: The cover of your new album, a photo taken by Antony Crook, is interesting—on one side it’s very desolate and serene, and on the other side it’s filled with traffic, light, and energy. How did you choose the cover?

AITCHISON: Antony sent us an e-mail with a link to his website, saying he liked our music, and he sent us some of his pictures. We really liked his work, so we asked him to send us some photographs for the cover.

WU: Did you know Antony before he sent you his pictures?

AITCHISON: No, it was totally out of the blue. I’ve still never met him.

WU: Was it easy for everyone to agree on the cover?

AITCHISON: Yeah, well, we each didn’t want to be too involved in creating the cover because we all have such different tastes, visually.

WU: When you were writing the album, you and Stuart were together while John and Barry were somewhere else. You wrote by sending each other demos instead of being physically together. Was that a great challenge?

AITCHISON: Well, we didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. We had demo songs on the laptop and we’d send things back and forth, but it helped in that we actually got a lot more done, and we had all the basics done, so that when we went into the studio together we already had all the basics down.

WU: So it was helpful to be apart during writing—do you get sidetracked when you’re together?

AITCHISON: Yeah, a lot of the time when we are together we distract each other. We’re all such good friends, and when we are together it doesn’t feel like work, so we start talking about football and comics and we get distracted.

WU: Do you guys have a lot of the same interests?

AITCHISON: Not all the same interests, but Stuart and I are really into comics, and John and Barry are really into football.

WU: What’s your favorite comic?

AITCHISON: [laughs] Well, we’d be here for a few hours. My favorite comic? That’s a hard one. I could tell you Stuart’s favorite comic, it’s Batman. Every month, ten new Batman comics come out, and he always buys them. Even though most of them are terrible.