Hello Stuart, how are you? Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I will keep it as short as possible, so you can go and eat a sandwich?
Hahaha, thanks Wim, I am fine, thank you. I have a cup of coffee standing in front of me so I will be fine for a while.
Well, me too, so let’s do this. To start things of: 2015 was a hectic period for the band and 2016 was also quite turbulent. First of all, John Cummings left the band. Was that a big shock for you guys or did you see it coming?!
Well…..I don’t know. It wasn’t a real shock. I guess we saw it coming. John wanted to do different things musically. I do not know if he is doing those things right now, I am too busy to know. He also didn’t like our touring schedule. As you know, we play a lot and all over the world. So he left. Not a big shock but still a bit strange: he was part of the band for a long time.
Why did you not replace him and did you decide to go on as a quartet?
Well, there was no particular reason. We didn’t think it was necessary to replace him; there was no real need. It did not affect our song writing and it did not affect us playing as a band. No, it had nothing to do with a more prominent role of the keyboards and electronics in our music, absolutely not. During live performances we bring an extra guitarist, that’s all.
In that same period Mogwai got involved in the ‘Before The Flood’ project (a film produced by Leonardo DiCaprio); how did that came about?
That is simple, we were asked by Atticus Ross (a British musician, producer and composer, WS), who was responsible for the whole project, together with Trent Reznor of course. They just liked our music. And as you know, we frequently write music for films and documentaries. It is something we keep on doing in the future.
Can you tell a bit more about that evening in San Diego in the US when a lot of things went wrong?
O yes, that was a weird evening. Very strange. We were there to perform ‘Atomic’ (a documentary by Mark Cousins about – in a nutshell - nuclear waste, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, Mogwai wrote the music for this film, WS) but once we started things went wrong. People passed out and stuff. Obviously a bit scary. It had nothing to do with our music by the way, hahaha. It were coincidences: it was very hot, people were stoned, they did not expect a critical film, etc. And it was a day before the inauguration of Trump. No, the evening was in no way inspirational for us. We already wrote the music for the new album.
So now you are about to release a new album, ‘Every Country’s Sun’. I read something about a new approach in the song writing process. What did you do differently this time as far as the song writing is concerned?
Well, different approach…I don’t know. The approach wasn’t really different. Over the years we know how to write songs. We know what to do. We live in different parts of the UK and we sent each other ideas for songs. Sometimes basic ideas, but sometimes it is almost a complete song. Once we meet in our recording studio – the Castle of Doom – all different pieces come together. That is the way we do it now for years.
So there is no point asking how different songs come together? A fragile piece like ‘Aka47’ or the first single ‘Coolverine’?!
Well, obviously you can ask me how those songs occur but I have to be honest: often I do not know how things started. I sometimes do not even know the name of the songs! Hahaha. Like I said, we have our own way of composing: first sharing ideas through the internet and later on, when we are in Glasgow, we bring everything together. You could not find the meaning of the word ‘Coolverine’ in the dictionary? I know why. Because we made that word up, it does not exist. Hahaha. It is a contraction of the word ‘Wolverine’ (we were watching the film) and the coolness of Michael Hutchence. I know, Mogwai is sometimes hard to follow…
You have worked with a few different producers over the years, people like Paul Savage and Tony Dougan. This time you worked with Dave Friedmann again. For me as a listener, can I hear the fact that you worked with Dave instead of Tony or Paul?
I guess you can but it is not necessary. The difference between these guys are the little details. For instance: Paul is a drummer so his approach of the drums is different than the approach of the other two, as far as the drum sound is concerned. The overall sound remains the same, like you said. This is a typical Mogwai album, yes. The next album will be different; it will be a concept album.
You always seem to be engaged: you are interested in the world you are a part of. You have an opinion about things that are going on, not only in the UK but in the whole world. Isn’t it hard sometimes that you play in an instrumental band, so you cannot express your thoughts in lyrics?
O no, not at all. For me playing in a band is about making music. I want people to enjoy our music. Our music has nothing to do with politics. I do not even want to express my thoughts about various things in music. And yes, of course I am worried about certain things that are going on in the world. But I react to those things as Stuart and I can use Facebook or Twitter to share my reaction.