Mogwai released their first album Mogwai Young Team in 1997. Hailing from Glasgow, the five-piece have carved out a considerable niche in the music world with their moody, dynamic approach to instrumental rock over the last 15 years. More recently they have contributed to the soundtracks for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and The Fountain […]

Mogwai released their first album Mogwai Young Team in 1997. Hailing from Glasgow, the five-piece have carved out a considerable niche in the music world with their moody, dynamic approach to instrumental rock over the last 15 years. More recently they have contributed to the soundtracks for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and The Fountain by Darren Aronovsky, which incidentally is a batshit crazy film that you should probably watch.

Their newest full-length effort, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, is their seventh studio album, released on their own Rock Action label, and has been followed up with a world tour and a new EP entitled Earth Division. I spoke to guitarist and keyboard player Barry Burns last month.

How is the tour going so far?

Where have you been and what has the reception been like? We’ve been around the globe since January this year and we won’t be stopping until next January or thereabouts, even going to Australia for one concert. It’s gone really well but if I am honest, I would very much love to spend some more time at home as it’s getting quite tough to be away continuously. There’s still a lot more to do, but the audiences have been mostly excellent (and a wee bit bigger).

Did anything in particular inspire your change in direction for this new EP , Earth Division?

Actually they are just songs that didn’t fit onto the album during the recording session last year, so nothing radically different from then. They were written in the same way as songs for the album were. They kind of sound more like the ‘Singing Mountain’ piece we did for [artist and co-creator of Zidane] Douglas Gordon.

Were there any particular inspirations behind the material?

Not anything that I could name. I think a lot of inspiration can come from a bunch of things that you might not notice at the time.

I’ve heard good things about End of the Road Festival. Are you looking forward to playing? Which other festivals are you doing this year?

Yes, looks like one of the better festivals we’ve played this year and we’ve played plenty so far. We’ve been to Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and more, plus we have Ireland, UK, Portugal and Scandinavia coming up too.

How has the band evolved since its inception and are you surprised at reaching album number seven?

It’s a daily miracle that we have so many albums. I pity the general public having to put up with us for an eternity. We’ve evolved and become better musicians in some ways, but in other ways not so much. I think we may need liver transplants soon.

Your song titles can be pretty enigmatic, comic even. Do you place much stock in them, or are they there to offer a bit of light relief?

Well, all those minor chords need a bit of levity sometimes so the titles help with that. They don’t mean anything but try telling that to certain interviewers who just don’t believe us!

Tell us about the live visuals that accompany your gigs and what you are hoping to achieve with them.

We have a few video projections for certain songs and to be honest I would like some more because it takes the focus off of us. We’re not one of those jump-around type bands so it helps to distract from what could be seen as a pretty boring visual thing.

I saw Errors play in Sheffield a few months ago. What made you sign them to Rock Action?

Good band that we liked who didn’t have a label. Bingo. It’s as easy as that.

Which bands/musicians signed to the label should we keep our ears open for?

Oh man, all of them! They are all pretty amazing artists. I am looking forward to hearing some new Errors songs soon though.

How is the Rock Action label going in general? What releases do you have upcoming?

Good. It’s nice for Mogwai to be on there now too. We have a Remember Remember album at the end of September which is utterly fantastic and we recently released the Blanck Mass record (Ben from Fuck Buttons’ new project).

Have you preferred releasing Mogwai’s material on Rock Action? Is it a lot more work for you guys?

Yes, it’s definitely a nice feeling to have done this recent release on R.A. We have one, sometimes two people at the office working fulltime, so we don’t have to do too much. Well, I don’t at least.

Is there any news on how much stock you lost in the fire at the PIAS distribution centre in August?

It’s a real downer actually. I would like the total scumbag fuckwits who did it to die slowly of the worst ass diseases imaginable. They were probably after some Sony PS3s and didn’t realise they were helping destroy the careers of many young and not so well known bands. I despise them. Too strong?

Do you have any plans to do more soundtrack work in the vein of Zidane?

Yes, hopefully something like that will happen next year depending on our mental and physical health at the end of this tour.

Can you tell us more?

Actually no! The details are very thin on the ground but we are confident that it will happen next year.

How did you hook up with Sub Pop?

I actually can’t remember, but I am really pleased that we got together with them. All going very smoothly in that department since last year. Very good people.

Do you have any tips for new bands trying to make their mark?

Tour more than you think you can manage and then a bit more on top. It really helps, even if your band sucks.

Is your independence important to you as a band?

Not just in a creative sense, but in all senses. We’ve never known any other way as we’ve kind of always had 100% creative control but it is very important.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Adam and Joe’s podcasts on a daily basis and just reading a bunch of books on my Kindle, which is the best thing I own, I think. Been watching a lot of HBO stuff too. It’s great to lose yourself on those long journeys.

Interview by Sam Walby.