Reverb: Mogwai Rave Tapes
Interview by Chris Cote
Mogwai is a Scottish band that most people would refer to as “post-rock”—but the band’s unique sound, quite frankly defies categorization as they ride the along the edge of sparse and tranquil droning shoegaze taking the listener of epic voyages into deep artistic canyons of sonic bliss with crescendos that blur the lines of instrumental metal and straight up math rock. The band’s latest and eighth studio album Rave Tapes is yet another trip down a wormhole into a world of beautiful transcendent music. Rave Tapes doesn’t venture far from the band’s tried and true sound, but offers fans some subtle new sound forms and instrumentations. You’ve heard Mogwai’s music in many skate flicks, including Emerica’s, Wild Ride, and This Is Skateboarding, and many more. Mogwai’s music as mysterious as it is loud, and after listening to one of the band’s albums or seeing them live, you’ll leave the experience with ears ringing and questions begging to be answered. TransWorld SKATEboarding got in touch with Mogwai’s co-founder, Stuart Braithwaite, to find out what excites him about Rave Tapes, and why is Mogwai best enjoyed at brain melting volumes.
First off, congrats on the new album, we’ve been listening to in front to back for days on end now and it’s spectacular. We’re beyond hyped on Rave Tapes, but what excites you about the album?
Recording it was very exciting as there were a lot of new ideas flowing into the creation of the music and really tried a different approach to the songs. We put a lot of thought and energy in to making all these pieces of music work together. It was a challenge, but we’re all very happy on how the album turned out.
Seems like you guys used some added electronic elements on Rave Tapes—what are some of the new methods or instruments you used to get some of the unique sounds we’re currently being blasted by?
The main thing is quite a lot of the songs are written with Barry’s [Burns] Modular Synths—he’s got a massive wall of wires, lights, keys, and buttons that he’s somehow managed to wrangle music out of. We always try to add new elements to each new album, and on Rave Tapes, it’s Barry’s wall of madness that has accomplished that goal. Additionally, there are actually quite a few songs with bass guitar on them that we try to play in ways that recreate a lot of the keyboard sounds. There’s a lot of experimentation on this album, and sometimes those experiments work quite well.
Why call the album Rave Tapes?
When we were growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a lot of acid house music around and raves going on. People would bring little tape recorders to the raves and record the DJ sets. For a while there were a lot of these lo-fi tape recordings going around—friends would swap tapes and they’d kind of make there way around the city we grew up in. It was a real part of our growing up, and it seemed like a nostalgic and amusing album title.
Very few of your songs have vocals—how do you chose which songs get the vocal treatment?
It has a lot do with the musical content. If the song feels too sparse we’ll consider singing on it or adding something else to the song. It’s a process of judging how to finish each individual song.
There’s a song on Rave Tapes called “Replenish” that has a monologue about the satanic messages in Led Zeppelin that is particularly unsettling—what’s the story behind this song?
That was another song that we felt needed something. We heard this old recording of a Christian radio station form the 70s that was quite interesting. We didn’t use the original spoken word because we couldn’t find who owned it, so we had our friend redo the monologue and it worked perfectly, and yes, it could be considered “unsettling” to some.
Mogwai is one of the loudest bands I’ve ever heard in concert—you can literally feel your body being pressed on by the sound waves. How and why does Mogwai sound so good at extremely loud volumes?
I think everyone sounds better at a loud volume. The music should be felt as well as heard, that’s part of the fun.
Skate filmmakers have been using your songs in videos for a long time. Any particular brand of skating that you think fits well with a Mogwai soundtrack?
Any form of skateboarding, really. It’s flattering to have someone add use our music to accompany their own art.
If you were to tell a first time Mogwai listener before he or she puts on Rave Tapes, what would you say?
That’s a tough question. I guess the easiest thing to say would be; turn it up, and enjoy yourself. Our music isn’t always thought of as totally accessible, but give it a chance, you may like it.
Check out mogwai.co.uk/news for upcoming tour dates in the UK and North America.
by Chris Cote
Black Death Horizon
Hailing from the small town of Kolbotn, Norway, Obliteration is carrying the fiery torch for Norse-metal legends like Darkthrone and Morbid Angel. The band’s new album could very well be the best metal album of the year. On Black Death Horizon, Obliteration hammers through 42 minutes of genre-twisting relentless metal blasting from thrash to doom to straight up speed metal from hell. With song titles like, Goat Skull Crown and Sepulchral Rites, it’s safe to say that the music on this record is indeed evil as fuck, and sometimes we need to listen to evil music, especially when doing evil things, like skateboarding.
From The Ages
Earthless is a power-trio from San Diego that plays music that is as cosmic as it is heavy. The seemingly endless tripped-out power jams that pour out of these three musicians is awe-inspiring. Ex-team Alva pro skater, Mario Rubalcaba mans the drum throne for Earthless with a whirlwind force that boggles the mind. One of the world’s leading guitar wizards, Isaiah Mitchell works the six string, with Mike Eginton’s heavy hands hammering the Bass guitar. From The Ages is pure stoner-rock, psyche gold with songs coming in at mostly 15 minutes and over. If you plan on taking a skate trip with some homies, this album is a must for your long drives and heavy session preparation.
Holograms are a Swedish post-punk band that play music tailor-made to get you psyched—powerful, slightly dark, loud, tight, and epic. The band’s previous album’s standout track, “Monolith” was used perfectly by Clint Walker’s death defying section in Modern Art. Well, any skaters out there currently filming super gnarly shit and looking for a song to use, get a copy of Forever, any track will suffice in making your part sound as heavy as it is—but it better be f—king gnarly if you plan on using a Holograms song. Picture Geoff Rowley skating a 15-stair Hubba in the rain, that’s the vibe the new Holograms record gives off.
Barcelona, Spain is known for an endless supply of rippable skate terrain as well as being one of the most exciting cultural destinations in all of Europe. Barcelona is a city filled with joy, with good vibes abround every corner—both modern and ancient. This band has captured some of Barcelona’s vibe with its latest album, Apar—a dancey, positive, ecclectic, and album that radiates with the electricity and excitement Spain’s finest city excudes. Mix the upbeat songs of New Order and Depeche Mode (sans the darkness) and add some pop elements of Hot Chip or Cut Copy. This is one of those rare bands that play music you can dance to, as well as expect to see in a skate clip, probably a happy young Euro skater doing fun tricks on ledges and doing tech lines on the streets while.