INTERVIEW: Mogwai On New Soundtrack

Accompaniment for spooky French telly programme

Mogwai are to contribute music to a new French TV series called Les Revenants, the first episode of which is being transmitted tonight, Monday November 26th. For those of you not in France, versions of the music recorded by the five Scotsmen will be released on an EP on January 28th 2013, followed by a full album on February 25th. Mogwai are of course no strangers to the art of putting together film and music, having already composed a soundtrack to Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. This time, though, the turbulence on the other side of the Channel isn’t at a football match, but something more unusual and creepy – Stuart Braithwaite explained it as "horrible, but not really horror." You can watch the trailer below. Meanwhile, we spoke to John Cummings about Mogwai’s involvement in the series.

So John, what is it with Mogwai and the French moving image?

John Cummings: It was the French people who got in touch with us, so there’s no particular draw on our side to them. I don’t know if it’s been a particularly mainstream perception that the French have that we’re good at soundtracks or anything, it’s coincidental.

Can you tell us a little about Les Revenants?

JC: It’s a Twin Peaks, Twilight, zombie kind of thing. The police are involved, but it’s not a crime thing.

Did the filmmakers want anything in particular from Mogwai?

JC: They wanted us to start writing it before they started filming it. They described it as inspiring them, they wanted some kind of musical mood in place before they started, so we were working a bit dry at first, coming up with anything that sounded a wee bit zombie-like. We didn’t know what the overall tone was going to be like – we’d seen the first couple of scripts in English, but the rest of them weren’t translated and we hadn’t seen any footage, so it was a bit stab in the dark, but they seem to have a decent view of the things they wanted, so from the things we sent they were choosing different ones.

It would have been more traditional to start writing stuff before we’d seen the footage, but it wouldn’t have given us a lot of time to write and for them to come back. It was all a demoing stage until quite a late point. We did two recording sessions, one for the first four episodes and one for the second.

When you were thinking ‘now what does a French film that’s a bit Twin Peaks and has zombies sound like, what sort of tone were you coming up with?

JC: It’s all pretty… sedate’s not the right word. Calmly unsettling. There were hints that there was going to be some kind of action in it, killings and whatnot, and we were a wee bit worried that they were wanting big rock music things, like we’ve done before and we enjoy doing on albums, but sometimes you see a film with a chase sequence and it’s got big rock music on it it’s just ridiculous. So there was a wee bit of that, trying to tone down the impact drama of the music in order for it to support strange goings on… we tried to keep the rock to a minimum.

What were you inspired by?

JC: We tried to avoid it being to much like Psycho, or too John Carpentery, which were easy, obvious avenues to go down. We were aware of trying to keep it not as a typical soundtrack, more just music that doesn’t necessarily do anything that has a bit of a presence.

How will the soundtrack album sound? Will they be different versions of the tracks?

JC: With a lot of soundtrack albums you put them on and tracks last a minute then stop in the middle, which seems weird though I still enjoy them. We’ve recorded Mogwai songs, proper album-type tracks out of what would other otherwise have been 30 second pieces.

What other work do Mogwai have planned?

There is another soundtrack that we’re going to be recording at the start of next year sometime. That’s for the photographer [Antony Crook] who took the cover shots for our last album. He’s making a film about his friend taking a boat down the Hudson.

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