Interview with Mogwai: Without Verbal Descriptions

Are there things in the songs that you change when you play them live?

A lot tends to change. It’s quite difficult, actually, under the conventions we use to record music. People generally haven’t played it or heard it the way we record it. So it changes when we play it live. Songs we wrote two or three years ago even still change. The music always keeps changing.

When you play it every day, it just seems more personal when the music shifts from night to night. The people aren’t just standing there. The songs change in ways that you might not ever have thought of changing them. It might be more sensible to do it another way, but then the songs wouldn’t be so alive. And some songs are more likely to change than others. It’s out of our control how people get their hands on our music and how they enjoy it anyway. MP3’s aren’t so much a controllable presentation of our music, but the shows are more so.

Do you incorporate any kind of visual elements in your live shows?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it would take a lot of effort to do it. We’ve always thought about it and then never done it. I’ve never really come up with any ideas that I think are wonderful. I’d like to spend time messing about with it. It’s something I’d really like to do. To have something mirror what’s happening musically onstage. I’ll get it together one day. It all seems like a wonderful experience but I would need someone technical to pull it off for me.

When your songs have been used on TV and in movies do you watch and/or care how they use the songs?

When I do see it, it more just amuses me that our songs are on TV and in films. I don’t really think of the way they’ve used the songs. The music doesn’t really have any kind of context for me to give it to. It’s just music. I haven’t really noticed how it’s been used. It’s just amusing. Recently our music was used on the news. It used on a segment in Britain. That was pretty funny. I don’t really have any other thoughts on the music when I watch.

Do you think that music like yours that is mostly instrumental still conveys ideas and emotions easily to the listener?

I think it can induce ideas or emotions that seem obvious to the listener, but nothing is really being conveyed, I don’t think. Those kinds of things are inherent to music. I think music can be used to express ideas, but it has to be put in context. Our music isn’t about the nightmare you had last night or the weather or anything, but it becomes about those things when someone listens to it. We let it be without verbal descriptions.

The Hawk Is Howling is set to be released on Sept. 22 through Wall Of Sound Records. Mogwai will be performing on Sept. 18 at Terminal 5 in NYC. For more info, visit or

Photo Credit: Steve Gullick