All the News That Didn't Fit

On the Record

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof


The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City


Soul by the Pound


Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word


If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Stagger Lee

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music


Going to New York City?


A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?


Not Modest Enough


Listening to Mogwai gives me the same chill pleasure as donating blood: a slow trickle and a bloody crescendo, a morbid beauty with symmetry. Their music is orchestral and moody, totally at odds with their garrulous personalities. I first met them at the Matador Records office in New York just before the release of their latest album, Come On Die Young, and I found them surprisingly engaging. Stuart Leslie Braithwaite is the guitarist, keyboardist, and de facto mouthpiece of Mogwai.

Stuart speaks in a heavy Scottish accent, with an American uptalk? So every sentence? Ends like a question? Phrases such as "kinnae lak" (kinda like) and "d'uh ken w'a meae?" (do you know what I mean?) pepper his conversation and makes interview (ent-TAIR-vyeh) tapes a bitch to transcribe. The most striking thing about Braithwaite is his wide, toothy grin, which lights up his baby face particularly mischievously when he's about to tear into someone. During the course of that interview he ripped Blur a new one, and made fun of Stereolab fans, the Rolling Stones, and Roger Daltrey.

The Blur feud is ongoing. At England's T in the Park festival in July, Blur and Mogwai were booked as headliners on different stages, simultaneously. Mogwai, never ones to mince words, printed up T-shirts that said, "Blur: Are Shite."

Braithwaite told New Music Express, "We decided to proclaim our dislike of one of the weakest bands on the planet by putting out these shirts. We sold out in one day and Super Furry Animals and Pavement have put in an order for more. The thing about the shirt is it's like a dictionary definition.

"Blur: Are Shite. It's factual and if there's any legal problems about it I'll go to court as someone who has studied music so I can prove they are shite. Using the breakup with your girlfriend as a marketing tool is one of the most disgusting things I've heard in my life. Blur are fucking pish."

The Brits love a good rock feud, and slagging Blur puts Mogwai in good company with the likes of Tricky, Pavement, and the Manic Street Preachers, the two latter with whom Mogwai has toured.

Touring with the Manic Street Preachers taught Mogwai how to take as good as they give. Mogwai requires patience, as they layer sound in order to win you over. Four minutes into a song, you'll discover what you thought was a quiet number is now raging. The Manic's audiences were actually covering their ears. "Ironically, they were some of the best gigs we've ever played," Braithwaite says of the tour. As for the fans, "They've all been given such a diet of mediocre, formulaic music that we just edged them out of those boundaries. They thought we were fuckin' Satanists, like, running in a church and chopping up babies."

The crowds also screamed insults at the band, but they took it in stride. For someone so polemic with the press, Braithwaite has a sense of humor about himself. "I think probably the best insult I got was 'Stuart you're so fat; all you do is sit and eat cheesecake all day.' And I thought, I don't! I eat cheese burgers."

One of the things I remember most about meeting Mogwai was what they wouldn't tell me. At one point, Braithwaite and the others were trying to draw the three-diamond symbol of Mitsubishi cars. When I asked them why, they all cracked up and wouldn't tell me. They fidgeted, looked down and around, basically stonewalled me. But later, after we'd bonded over a mutual fear of the Who's Tommy, and commiserated about our childhood nightmares of Ann Margret and baked beans, they offered to put in a good word for me with a guy I had a crush on. I told Stuart that I thought my crush had a girlfriend and he said, "I can shoot her or something like that? I'll shoot her in the feet. 'Cause ya don't want someone stumblin' around, aih? You want a good walker, aih?"

"Especially if you have a foot fetish!" I added.

"Yeah yeah yeah, you don't wanna be wankin' over some fuckin' disgusting wound. Unless you've got a wound fetish." He broke off in laughter, his cheeks turned pink, and he shook his round head. In his hooded sweatshirt and giant pants, Stuart Braithwaite looked for all the world like a latter-day cupid.

What would be the title of your autobiography?

Stuart Braithwaite: I did it Mogwai!

What's more important: the lyrics or the music?

SB: Both can be important. Neither can be important. This question is unanswerable.

What is the stupidest lyric ever written?

SB: "She's as similar as you can get/To the shape of a cigarette." [Suede, 1999.]

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done while drunk?

SB: French kissed my sister.

What song will you have played at your funeral?

SB: "Spinal Meningitis" by Ween.

What's the worst album you've ever loved?

SB: Sheep On Drugs' Greatest Hits.

What's the most naive ideal you held in your teens?

SB: That the clothes someone wears bear any relation to what someone is like -- i.e., cool clothes=cool person. I now believe that someone who thinks about what they are going to wear will probably be a cunt.

Would you rather eat a pound of raw bacon or punch your mother in the face?

SB: Mmmmmmmmmmm, tasty bacon.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

SB: A musician/astronaut.

Would you rather join Blur or never play music again?

SB: "I could do with the money (you know that I could), I'm so wiped out with things as they are, I'd send a photograph to my honey bla bla bla...." [from David Bowie's "Rock and Roll Star"]

Mogwai plays the Breakroom on Tues Sept 14;

the Starfish Room in Vancouver on Wed Sept 15;

the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Thurs Sept 16.