Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: the Mogwai guitarist takes the ultimate test

1
In 2014, Mogwai were quoted on a T-shirt by which metal band at Glastonbury?

Glastallica - NME
CREDIT: NME

“That was Metallica.

CORRECT. Mogwai’s drummer Martin Bulloch’s verdict of the metal titans – ‘Metallica…they’re just shite!’ – was among several criticisms from other artists emblazoned on their ‘Glastallica’ merch shirts when they headlined the festival that year.

“Martin got asked at a news conference about Metallica playing Glastonbury that year, and he’s not a big fan so he said that and also Barry [Burns, Mogwai multi-instrumentalist] joined in and said that Lars Ulrich’s drumming was unbelievably bad. It was a ploy by them to never have to do press conferences again, because it turned into a bit of a stooshie. It was funny because me and Dominic [Aitchison, bassist] are actually big Metallica fans and for six months after we were getting asked about why we hated the band! Martin bought the T-shirt and wore it onstage which was a nice touch.”

It almost felt like a sequel to Mogwai’s famous ‘Blur: Are Shite’ T-shirts you sold in 1999. How do you look back on them?

“It’s the kind of thing you think that’s hilarious when you’re in your early twenties, but I’m still amused by how it was received at the time. We were naïve and didn’t realise the storm it would cause. Blur just pretended it never happened, which is a sensible way of dealing with things. I’d see Graham Coxon around, but he never brought it up. He probably didn’t care.”

2
Which rock icon did you once turn down the opportunity to jam with in 2007?

Lou Reed. Unlike the ‘Blur: Are Shite’ T-shirts, I really do regret that!”

CORRECT.

“He wanted us to play a festival he was organising in Australia and wanted to do some noise-stuff together with us. He’d gotten into our music and wanted to make a racket, which would have been great fun, but it would have disrupted the recording of our album. That was a boo-boo on our part.”

3
What number did Mogwai’s ‘As the Love Continues’ reach on NME’s 2021 ‘The best lockdown albums – ranked!’ list?

“I would love it to be Number One, but I bet it wasn’t. I’d guess Number Eight?”

WRONG. Number Three.

“Which two bastards beat us?!”

You were pipped to the top spot by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ ‘Carnage’ at Number One, and Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ which placed second.

“They were both good records so I’m fine with that.”

How did it feel to hit Number One in the UK official charts with that album for the first time in your 25 year career?

“It was insane and made even weirder by the fact that we were locked-down and, since we’re not Conservative ministers, we couldn’t have a party. So we were just in our house and there weren’t any bars open to go to. They were a lot of people supporting that record like Elijah Wood, Robert Smith and New Order in the week leading up to finding out which was really nice.”

Advertisement

4
Mogwai were known for their acerbic interviews, but can you guess who you’re talking about from these quotes? A half-point for each correctly identified.

‘I’ve spewed blood down dirty toilets with more talent than him. Twat.’

“Did Barry say that about Robbie Williams?”

WRONG. He said it about James Blunt.

“Oh well! I just don’t know how he summoned the energy to be so passionate about James Blunt, but there you go!”

‘Possibly the worst band in the history of human events, worse even than Placebo and The Reynolds Girls combined…The sooner you die the quicker my Ladbrokes bet comes in between you and McCartney you old dick. I hope you kick the bucket in the most humiliating of ways, like on the toilet and then being eaten by your own dog.’

“Oh my God! The Rolling Stones, maybe?”

CORRECT. That was Barry’s damming verdict on Keith Richards.

“To be fair, I really don’t like the Rolling Stones, but again I’m surprised at the level of vitriol and energy [Laughs]. I do think the Rolling Stones are mind-blowingly overrated and derivative, but I don’t care enough to summon much energy to say anything about it these days. I can’t even remember who The Reynolds Girls are – you could tell me that’s a brand-new band on the BBC 6 Music playlist and it wouldn’t surprise me!*”

“Force feeding their music to kids is tantamount to child abuse”

“That’s brutal! It’s gotta be Britpop-era, hasn’t it? Blur would be the most obvious one…”

WRONG. It was your assessment of Steps in 1999.

HALF A POINT OVERALL.

“That was around the time they had the battle with Belle and Sebastian [when Belle and Sebastian won the 1999 Best British Breakthrough Act BRIT Award and Steps accused them of vote-rigging] so I was probably sticking up for my pals there, because I’ve probably never for one second thought about Steps, apart from when they get mentioned on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which we all love – there’s probably more RuPaul fans in Mogwai than football fans, so we talk about Drag Race a lot in rehearsals. I’d love to be one of the show’s judges!”

Did you ever run into anyone from any bands you insulted afterwards?

“I apologised to singer of Starsailor [James Walsh] when I met him [for saying he’d “rape his granny for a BRIT Award”] cause that was really out-of-order but most of the other people wouldn’t know who we were. We were teenage kids and as you get older, you realise most people are nice and it’s a better use of energy to talk about music you like rather than music you don’t.”

*The Reynolds Girls were a pair of one-hit-wonder sisters who released the 1989 Stock Aitken Waterman produced single ‘I’d Rather Jack’.

5
Name all of pseudonyms you used in the liner notes of your 1997 debut album ‘Mogwai Young Team’.

“Well, I’m pLasmatroN. John [Cummings, former guitarist] was Cpt. Meat, Dominic was DEMONIC, Martin was bionic, and Brendan [O’Hare, ex drummer] was +the relic+. And then Barry got one as well, which was Mocca Synth, but we’d stopped using daft nicknames by then so his isn’t even on a record, but it deserves some recognition!”

CORRECT.

6
Which politician is pictured on the T-shirt you wore when Mogwai played Primavera Sound Festival in 2017?

“It was a Public Enemy T-shirt but with [then-Prime Minister] Theresa May.”

CORRECT. How are you feeling about Rishi Sunak becoming our new PM?

“I think the fact we’re going to have a billionaire whose wife has investments in Russia is just a recipe for wonderful things to continue to happen! No, it’s terrifying and I’m surprised people haven’t started burning things because it’s an appalling, disgraceful situation. You don’t think it’s going to get any worse, then it seems to. What blows my mind is that no-one’s mentioning the root cause of all this stuff is Brexit. That there’s no chat of reversing it seems to me that people fear the racists that run the right-wing newspapers so they’re scared to say anything about it.”

Do you see any hope in Labour?

“Obviously they’d be preferable, but Keir Starmer just seems like a Diet Tory, who doesn’t want to do anything particularly different and is not very inspiring.”

7
In 1997, you appeared in NME’s annual ‘Christmas Pub Golf’ festive piss-up feature, in a rock v dance special. How did you finally win the competition for your rock team?

“Did I down a pint made up of every drink they had in the pub? I remember that Aphex Twin had to be carried home. I should have that as my Twitter bio: ‘I drank Aphex Twin under the table!’ [Laughs]”

CORRECT. You downed a pint made up of every spirt behind the bar in Camden’s The Good Mixer, before snogging Rick McMurray from Ash.

“I’m sure Rick will be really happy to be reminded of that! [Laughs] To be honest, serving me that was probably attempted murder! I’m still barred from that pub as well because I’m fairly certain I was sick everywhere after that – unsurprisingly! I’ll definitely not be drinking that again. I can’t believe I forgot about that. That should have been in my book! [Laughs]”

There are some snapshots of feral amounts of hedonism in your raucous new memoir, Spaceships Over Glasgow: Mogwai and Misspent Youth, including snorting booze on Mogwai’s first foreign tour to Norway in 1997, to the extent that you’re unsure whether one of you has fallen overboard…

“We snorted it because we didn’t have much money and thought it was going to be cheaper. And it was cheaper, but don’t try it at home, kids!”

And in a darker anecdote after a post break-up psychedelic binge, you’re convinced your right-hand is demonically possessed…

“I was under a lot of stress, probably not helped by my unhealthy lifestyle. Thankfully, I’m now aware that my hand is just attached to my arm and helpful for writing texts and turning on kettles and suchlike – and not demonically-possessed. [Laughs] It was just a manifestation of a feeling of peril and dread around that time.”

At another point, your bankcard is so encrusted with cocaine that it won’t fit in the cash machine so you have to snort off the excess gak there and then. Writing your autobiography, did you ever think: ‘How am I still alive?’”

“There was a bit of that, but all of this stuff happened when I was pretty young and human bodies are sturdy when you’re young. I think if I tried it now, it would not go so well. Problems of the past – thankfully!”

Advertisement

8
What were you wearing when you appeared onstage with the Super Furry Animals at 1999’s Glastonbury Festival?

“An alien outfit designed by Pete Fowler.”

CORRECT. During the performance, a man on acid drove a van into the crowd….

“Looking out and seeing that, I just thought: ‘this is mad’. I’d never been to Glastonbury before, and had never seen that many people together anywhere so the whole thing felt surreal anyway. It was an exciting time and Super Furry Animals were one of the bands we bonded with, so to be around our friends playing this iconic place felt special.”

9
Can you name all three tracks on your 1999 ‘The Sick Anchors’ EP, your side-project with Aidan Moffat from Arab Strap and Colin Macpherson?

“There was a cover of Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’, a cover of the Fall’s ‘Bill Is Dead’ and then a normal song that I can’t remember the name of!”

WRONG. You missed the track ‘You Always Hurt the One You Love’.

“That was fun – we should do another one of those. I’d been pals with Aidan for a long time, and he’s one of my most talented friends.”

In your memoir, it seems Arab Strap are one of the few bands who could keep up with Mogwai partying-wise back in the day…

“No, they were way ahead of us. Never mind keeping up, they were 10 times more mental than us. They’d get a pinchy and would start stealing things like dirty magazines”

10
Which frontman once tried to blag a CD from your merch stall only to be told to “get stuffed”?

Michael Stipe from REM.”

CORRECT.

“We didn’t find out about it until afterwards, but at the time, we were living hand-to-mouth and would have needed that $10 because it would have gone towards our lunch the next day.”

The verdict: 7.5/10

“Not bad! I was helped slightly by having just written my memoir! [Laughs]”

– Stuart Braithwaite’s memoir, Spaceships over Glasgow: Mogwai and Misspent Youth, is available now via White Rabbit Publishing. Mogwai are set to reissue their debut album, ‘Mogwai Young Team’ and its follow-up, ‘Come On Die Young’, on 10 February 2023

Advertisement
Advertisement