Mogwai Talks Rave Tapes, Post-Rock, and Running "Very Much a Democracy"
It took long enough, but Mogwai will finally be playing a gig in Miami. The post-rock band from Glasgow, Scotland, has been around for nearly 20 years, but as its upcoming debut show in our town proves, there are still many firsts for the quintet to experience.
Speaking via phone from his home, guitarist John Cummings also proves that Miami Vice still has an unshakable influence on his perception of the Magic City.
"It's one of the few comfortable associations that I have with your fine city, sadly," he admits, referring to the knee-jerk TV reference. "But that can all change."
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Told he needs to try some real Cuban food, Cummings says, "Cool. That's what it's all about, the food. I'm all about the food."
Good for him and his Mogwai mates if they can get a taste of Miami, but the real winners are the local fans of the post-rock music genre, which Mogwai helped popularize with a mostly instrumental, guitar-driven style of music that originally gained recognition thanks to adventurous college radio of the early 1990s. In the shadow of grunge were bands like Mogwai, Tortoise, and later Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky.
When Cummings, guitarist and sometime vocalist Stuart Braithwaite, bassist and guitarist Dominic Aitchison, guitarist and keyboardist Barry Burns, and drummer Martin Bulloch step on the stage and fire up the amps for their latest tunes from eighth studio album, Rave Tapes, many Miami fans will feel a sense of relief, after waiting almost two decades for this moment.
Cummings also promises a performance of the whisper-to-shriek classic "Mogwai Fear Satan," a 15- or sometimes 20-minute long jam from the band's first full-length, Young Team.
"It's really easy to play, and it's also a lot of fun," Cummings says of the piece. "There's a lot there for being quite simple, and we can change it in different parts every night, if we want. It keeps us interested in a way."
The band members need a well-developed sense of chemistry for such a dynamic piece, which ranges from hushed pulses to a wall of amorphous, undulating feedback. But Cummings says there is no huge secret to his bandmates' long-standing compatibility.
Asked how they can maintain such an enduring relationship, he suggests: "General respect of other lives of other people, I suppose, is more important than a lot of other stuff."
When it comes to writing and recording new material, their process is fairly egalitarian, as all songs are often simply credited to Mogwai. Cummings says it's "very much a democracy. If people want to take charge of something or be the main driving force of a project, they often get room to do what they want, whether it's to write a song or a couple of people arranging different stuff. We all work on different stuff and then come together to make decisions."
When asked to consider the band's longevity, Cummings laughs, "It has been a long time, hasn't it?"
He and his mates prefer to make no fuss about it. That's why it was no big deal when they went into the studio to record their recent studio album.
"We had to make an album," Cummings says about the inspiration for Rave Tapes. "That's our job, so we have to go write some songs and record them and get them all in."
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Mogwai. With Majeure. Tuesday, April 29. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $25 plus fees via ticketfly.com. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
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