Louder Than War Interview: Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai

As we reported back in April, Mogwai’s iconic second album, Come On Die Young is soon to be reissued on Chemikal Underground Records. Exciting news, and with it being 15 years after its initial release, timely news too. We will, of course, be running a proper review of the album – something that’s slated to go out early next week – but to begin ramping up the excitement we wanted to catch up with someone in the band to find out more about the album. Questions were compiled by Simon Tucker and were forwarded, via the band’s PR, to none other than guitarist, bassist, drummer, singer and songwriter Stuart Braithwaite. His answers can be found below.

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Louder Than War: How did it feel looking back at C.O.D.Y? Did you enjoy revisiting the album?

Stuart Braithwaite: I really enjoyed it actually. It brought back a lot of fond memories and thankfully the music still sounds good (I think).

Did you feel any second album pressures at the time or were you confident that the songs you were working on were as good as, if not better, than the songs on Young Team?

I think we felt pressure but only because we weren’t completely happy with myt. I think the songs on Cody are more thoughtful and the record as a whole is more consistent.

How did the songs evolve? Were they the results of a jamming type session or did a member of the band bring a song that was basically fully formed?

It was a long time ago but as far as I recall a lot of it was written together in the rehearsal room though we had 4 tracks back then and would have written some of it at home.

C.O.D.Y has one of the most beautifully evocative opening songs (Punk Rock) to any album ever released. What was it about the Iggy Pop interview that made you decide to sample it?

We just thought it sounded great. He’s really on one and gets to the heart of what music is about in a way we’d find very difficult to express ourselves.

Whilst the album contains many elements that people familiar with your first album would recognise, there is also a deeply romantic and melancholic feel to the album, with songs such as Waltz For Aidan, Helps Both Ways, and especially Cody displaying moments that are, to me anyway, modern alternative love songs. Was this your reaction to what was going on in the world at the time or was it just another musical avenue that you as a band were exploring?

Again, it’s a long time ago but I think we were just writing that kind of music. Our music has always been a bit morose so I think we were just focussing on that aspect.

With the reissue comes a few demos of tracks that ended up on C.O.D.Y and what struck me was how fully formed the songs were and how good they were sounding. Many bands would have released the songs in that form, what made you decide that they needed further touches and what do you feel producer Dave Fridmann added to these demos?

To be fair there are only a handful of demos. Most of the extra recordings were intended for the album before we decided to do the whole thing in America with Dave. I think Dave added loads though. He’s a bit of a genius truth be told.

The album feels extremely organic and free-flowing, was it difficult to select the running order or did it (the running order) start to become obvious to everyone as the recording process progressed?

We actually originally wanted the record to be a lot shorter and Chemikal persuaded us to include more songs. It was quite a big argument at the time.

Even with the little production touches (background TV noises etc.) the album still sounds like a band playing live in a room together, with Martin’s drums in particular sounding fantastic. Is this something that is important to you as a band? The fact that the songs may contain a myriad of instrumentation yet they will sound just as great live as they do on record?

Most of it was pretty much live bar a few overdubs. We recorded and mixed it in three weeks, which, by our usual standards, is pretty quick. I’m happy about that as I like records to sound as much like a band playing as possible.

Speaking of live performance, how were the songs from the album received when you played them out? Did any particular song(s) stand out when it came to crowd reaction? Do you as a band have any particular favourite songs from the album that you like, or even dislike, playing live?

We were playing Ex Cowboy and Xmss Steps on the tour for MYT and they went down well. I remember a few grumbles when we played Cody at first but people like it a lot now so that’s shown the grumblers!!

When people speak of Mogwai, a lot of them refer to C.O.D.Y as your classic album (the album is often in best-of lists etc) yet you’ve continued to make great, thought provoking albums including the recent Rave Tapes. Does it annoy you that some people only refer to the album when talking about the group, or do you feel proud of the fact it is still discussed with such reverence?

I’m happy when anyone says anything nice about anything that we’ve done.

How important do you feel the independent label, Chemical Underground, was to the band and what were they like when you were recording C.O.D.Y?

They were very supportive. I’m sure it cost more than most of the records they’d put out so I can only be grateful. I remember everyone being elated too when it charted. It was a very exciting time.

There’s been a trend over the recent years for bands to perform a ‘classic-album-in-its-entirety’ is this something that interests you? If not, what are your thoughts about bands doing this kind of show?

We did play myt once because we were offered a lot of money, but the festival went bust and we only got a fraction of the fee. I think that was a bit if a lesson for us not to think with our wallets. I’ve seen other bands tour old records and then struggle to get people to pay attention when they make actual new music. I’d hate that to happen to us.

Finally, how do you feel about Neil Lennon leaving Celtic and about his replacement Ronny Deila?

As always I’m optimistic!

Thank you so much for your time. I honestly really appreciate it.

Thank you.

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For more information on the C.O.D.Y reissue vistit Chemikal Underground’s Website or Mogwai’s Website.

Mogwai also do Facebook and they tweet as @mogwaiband. Stuart Braithwaite himself can be found on Twitter as @plasmatron where he discusses such things as teaching Shellac about penalties.

All words by Simon Tucker. More writing by Simon on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Simon tweets as @simontucker1979.

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Raised by music obsessive parents on a diet of Ska, Bowie, Queen… and the Bay City Rollers. Discovered dance music and heavy metal at the same time making for a strange brew of taste. I do this for the love of an art form which welcomes all types and speaks to us all. Find me on twitter @simontucker1979.

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