If you think about electronic music, you may not think about Mogwai straightaway. However, this may be about to change. Over the last couple of years, this band from Glasgow has been experimenting more and more with electronics, slowly integrating them into their unique sound of guitar walls and slow, elegiac dreams. Ableton teamed up with John Cummings, Mogwai's guitar player, and talked about electronics in general and Mogwai's use of Live.
Although you collaborated with people from the electronic music community, like "The Remote Viewer," and there are remixes of your work, Mogwai is perceived as a more or less "traditional" band, not focusing on electronic devices. Is this a true perception?
It would probably be true that this is the common perception, and it would have been our perception a number of years ago, too, before we had the chance to work with that kind of equipment. It is only really in the past year that we have been using computers in a more musical than technical way, but we've always had interest in using whatever new toys are about in a studio, if we can work out how to use them.
Do you generally use software when it comes to working on a Mogwai track?
The last three albums that we've recorded have used computers extensively, for pretty much everything from tracking, mixing and editing to whatever else, along with more traditional equipment. I would worry that we would be stupid to avoid electronic equipment and it would be to the detriment of what we do. If we're going to bother making music at all, we should try to make it the best that it can be, and there's loads of things that you can do with computers that you can't do with anything else. We've been using various keyboard sounds from Barry's PC, and running Supercollider from a Mac, but previously it has been in the hands of the engineers.
Do you have an interest in electronic music?
There is a lot of electronic music that we like, Pita and Pansonic and Vladislav Delay, Kid 606, Cylob, The Magnificents, Fennesz.
How and when did you discover Ableton Live?
Stuart has been going on about it for ages but didn't know anything about it really, so it took us a while to get it together; we had been using Cubase to sequence some stuff for a live performance and it just wasn't working out for us, so we finally had a go at it [Live].
How was Live used on the new record? What do you intend on doing with it in the future?
We hadn't really had a look at Live until after the record was finished and we had a lot of tunes with a lot of samples needed to make them work at gigs. We've been using a Roland sequencer with an S5000 for the past couple of years to do the stuff off the last record, but there's a song that needed lots of different loops running on different time signatures, and we couldn't get it together. Then we tried to run it from Cubase because we had been using it a lot for demos, but it's obviously not meant to be used live, so it was a bit of a worry. Live has worked out totally cool though--we were going to be in a bit of trouble if we couldn't play these new songs live. It also looks like we'll be using Live a lot for getting the next record ready over the next year or so, and adding more to live tunes to make them a bit different from how we've been playing them for the past seven years.
How does Live differ from other programs you use? What's the beauty of it?
Live is really really really really simple to get stuff in and out of, and we can depend on it not to stop in the middle of a song, which would be a bit of a nightmare. Mortifying.
Thanks a lot!