Interview with Mogwai: Without Verbal Descriptions

Mogwai (Steve Gullick)Glasgow rock band Mogwai has proven time and time again that lyrics and vocals aren’t necessary when it comes to making music people can feel and enjoy. The five-piece is about to release their sixth studio album, The Hawk Is Howling, which only augments the band’s impressive discography—much of which frequently appears in movies and on TV. Guitarist (and occasionally keyboardist/programmer) John Cummings talks about making the new album, playing live and what it’s like to hear your music on TV.

Did you have a set vision in mind when you started writing the album?

No we didn’t know what direction we were going to take. It’s just kind of what happened, some music happened. It wasn’t planned. You can’t really plan music.

Do you write the songs all together in one room?

We tend not to be. The very start of the writing tends to be done all alone. We start out independently. The best way to do it is then to get together and see what’s there. It’s really hard to tell. And some of it is good and some of it is actually terrible. You have to work with everything that seems half- passable and then see what happens.

When did you start the writing process?

A long time ago. We spent a lot of months writing the songs and then re-writing them, if it was something that was gonna work. I don’t remember when it was exactly. It would have been in the summer of last year.

How long did you spend recording?

We spent a month recording.

Is that a short or long time for you guys?

Well, we have done it quicker. We’ve done all the recording in two weeks before. I don’t know. I think four weeks is extremely good, but I always want another week. I could always find more things to do with another week.

Is there a point when you know a song is finished in the studio?

When you can’t think of anything else to do to it. When you just don’t have any more ideas on how to make it better then it becomes finished and we have to decide if it’s good enough to go on. A couple of times we have a song and we’re not really sure what to do with it and at the end of it you realize it just isn’t good enough. It just didn’t do it. It’s hard to tell until things finish themselves.

Have you listened to the album since it was finished?

Not really, no. Not at all in fact. I heard it quite a lot during the recording process. There’s nothing more I can do with it now. I can’t really make the songs better now. It’s just how they are. It’s never going to be any better than it is now.