Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite discusses upcoming Aidan Moffat collaboration as part of Tectonics
The duo will be joined by Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir as part of the experimental mini-fest
Mogwai bassist Stuart Braithwaite chats to Malcolm Jack about an all-new Glasgow music festival and hooking up with pals both old and new
I’m too good at saying yes to things,’ jokes Stuart Braithwaite, when asked if he isn’t a little bit daunted by the prospect of taking part in a largely improvised performance, featuring a collaborator he’s yet to meet, before an audience perhaps not altogether familiar with his work. ‘I think it’s nice to be challenged,’ he adds, ‘and to go into something with an open mind. I think generally if you’re willing to give everything your all and work with good people, unless something horrendous happens, something good will happen.’
And therein lies some of the spirit of the two-day Tectonics (Sat 11 & Sun 12 May), a new Glasgow festival curated by conductor Ilan Volkov (see interview) and hosted by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, bringing together leading lights from the worlds of experimental, rock and orchestral music. If you were fortunate enough to attend Scotland’s longest-running experimental music festival Le Weekend at Stirling’s Tolbooth between 1997 and 2010, then you’ll have an idea as to why this is going to be special.
Alastair Campbell, the man behind Le Weekend, co-curates Tectonics with a similar spirit of fearless eclecticism. He commissioned one of the most eye-catching collaborations on the bill: Braithwaite – guitarist and songwriter with Glasgow post-rock titans Mogwai – and his long-term creative sparring-partner Aidan Moffat, formerly of Arab Strap, best-known since for his award-winning work with Bill Wells. Bravely interrupting Braithwaite and Moffat’s well-established dynamic will be Hildur Guðnadóttir, a virtuoso Icelandic cellist who has played with the likes of múm and Pan Sonic.
At the time of writing, these three artists have yet to be seen in the same room together. ‘There’s been some email exchanges and sharing of ideas,’ Braithwaite explains. ‘She’s a really great musician, so I’m excited about that.’ He remains uncertain as to exactly what shape their performance will take, but that’s all part of the fun. ‘It’s going to be at least partially improvised. At this stage I actually don’t have a clue what’s going to happen, which I find quite exciting.’
Tectonics promises to be a forum for participants and spectators alike to broaden their horizons. ‘There’s lots of other really wonderful musicians playing who I really look up to, such as [Sunn O))) guitarist] Stephen O’Malley and [Australian multi-instrumentalist] Oren Ambarchi,’ says Braithwaite. ‘It’s going to be one of these festivals where not just the people who attend, but the musicians too, will hear a lot of different music.’
Braithwaite and Moffat’s performance will be the latest in a long history of collaborations – musical and otherwise – between the pair, from the former Arab Strap frontman’s guest vocals on Mogwai tracks, through to Moffat designing the artwork for Mogwai’s album The Hawk is Howling and a recent split-single for Record Store Day. ‘We’re constantly interfering with each other’s business,’ Braithwaite jokes.
Some 11 years or so back, the pair even fleetingly had a band together. The Sick Anchors released one EP best-remembered for a hilariously tender cover of Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ (listen below). Seems as good a chance as any to ask what ever happened to that project? ‘Eh,’ Braithwaite ponders, ‘we put that record out, people quite liked it. Aidan made some tea towels. That was the last thing. Maybe the tea towels killed it: not so much musical differences as kitchenware differences.’
Stuart Braithwaite and others play the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Sat 11 May.