The new album from Scottish post-rock band Mogwai is out today although any excuse is good enough to speak with these highly talented musicians.
This is probably their most cinematic album to date, in line with their recent soundtrack for the french TV series Les Revenants. Rave Tapes (Sup Pop/Rock Action Records) first singles were Remurdered and The Lord Is Out Of Control and it’s already the 8th studio album from the band.
We caught up with Barry Burns in a hotel in downtown Madrid and chatted about the album, the music industry, and the extraordinary jukebox that entertains the clients in his Berlin bar.
How are you Barry? Rave Tapes is about to be released, how do you feel with the new album?
Kind of nervous as usual, but glad. I don’t really enjoy the recording and all that stuff. I like the concerts. I’m looking forward to play the shows. I hate being in the studio. It’s boring.
But you still have your own studio, right?
Yeah and it’s nice. But I’d rather be on stage, playing songs. It’s much more fun.
Some people got impressed after listening Remurdered, as they thought you were making a different sound? What’s with all that evolution thing at the end of the day?
Artists are creative and clear on what they do. Sometimes you get bored and you try different things. Sometimes it works. sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes half works. I think sometimes you just get lucky.
The Les Revenants soundtrack was released last year, but how do you approach an album for a soundtrack? What’s the difference with the other albums?
Yeah, you really have to listen to the director. you have this other voice, that tells you that this need to be shorter, or is not scary enough. Is like another member of the band, trying to tell you what he wants. And you’re very conscious, that you’re not the main thing, you’re the second. You’re in the background. He still wants to make it good, but it feels like you are in a slow gear, not the same as when you’re making a Mogwai record.
Some bands get to play albums in full, and you also have played the Zidane album in full, but did you see yourself playing shows with a whole full album?
No, no, I think, that thing was alone with something else, so again we were secondary there. But we did it in Summer Case in Spain few years ago. But I think it seems very retrospective, or nostalgic to do that. We’re not very comfortable to do that I think. We rather just play songs from all the different albums
Playing without singer makes it harder to understand each other when you’re playing live?
No I think it’s easier. Well, I don’t know actually, because we’ve never really had a singer. So it would be difficult for us to comment. I think if we had a singer, by now, he would probably have run out of things to sing about. Maybe it’d be like Kanye West lyrics.
“People don’t want to pay for music. Unless you can play a lot of concerts, you won’t make any money”
You’ve added some vocals into some songs over the last years. Do you feel like the band really speaks with the instruments?
Yes because we’re not very good at writing lyrics. The ones that have lyrics, they were actually instrumental songs to begin with, but they didn’t have a melody or didn’t sound finished, so we decided to put like a vocal or a sampler, so it’s really our last resort.
There’s a lot of talking about the music industry nowadays. Since you’ve been playing for a long time, and everything has changed a lot since you started, how do you see the industry nowadays?
Fucked? (laughs) It’s pretty fucked. Unless you can play a lot of concerts, you won’t make any money. People don’t want to pay for music. I remember that a few weeks ago our album leaked on the internet, and then I went on Twitter and some people were like “yes! Mogwai album has leaked!”. So this people are really happy that the album has leaked. They don’t understand that if people makes copies then nobody buys it, and there will be no more records. It’s an amazing stupidity. Or maybe they buy the record later I don’t know. Historically people have always bought our records on vinyl. If you want to make money you have to tour all the time.
What about if you had to start all over again, would you change something?
No, no I don’t think so. We’ve been lucky.
What’s your opinion of music streaming services?
I don’t use these things. I have a lot of friends that use it. They do promotion things for the bands and it helps the bands but they don’t make money from that, it’s weird.
I prefer to use iTunes, or if you’re gonna pay for something at least you have something physical.
I’ve read that you open a Bar in Berlin like 3 years ago, do you still have it?
Yeah. My wife that is actually walking the room somewhere here, is the one that pays for the investment and stuff like that. But is great, it’s like a bar, we don’t have live music, but the jukebox is awesome, cos I have some friends that made mixes, and we’ve got mixes from Rob Smith from The Cure, Geoff (Barrow) from Portishead, or this really weird people like David Cross from Arrested Development. It’s just an amazing jukebox.
I’ve seen you on Coachella’s line-up, and also you’re playing in UK later this month. Which are your plans for this year?
Well now that some of the members have got wives and children, we won’t be touring as much as we use to, but probably more than most other bands (laughs). We haven’t announced many things like festivals and stuff but we will soon. We’re gonna make the music for the next season of Les Revenants, another project for Anthony Crook who does the video for The Lord Is Out Of Control, that just went out on Vimeo, and he wants us to do the music for a project he’s working with an artist that wants to send a boat down the Hudson river in Manhattan, I don’t know how’s gonna be that, but should be good.
And last question. Are you happy?
Yeah! (laughs) Tired but happy!