On my radar: Stuart Braithwaite’s cultural highlights

The Mogwai guitarist on true-crime podcasts, horror movies, New York’s best vegan restaurant, and a Tuareg songwriter to see before you die

Born in South Lanarkshire in 1976, Stuart Braithwaite fronted band Deadcat Motorbike and drummed for Eska before forming post-rock band Mogwai in Glasgow in 1995. The band, known for their slow-building instrumental tracks and use of distortion, were championed by John Peel and recorded seven Peel Sessions between 1996 and 2004. Their last album, Rave Tapes (2014), was praised in the Observer for its combination of “fierce bursts of noise” and “beautifully sombre” moments. Since 2015, Braithwaite has also been part of Minor Victories alongside Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell and Editors’ Justin Lockey; they released a self-titled album in 2016. Mogwai’s ninth studio album, Every Country’s Sun, is out now on Rock Action Records. They play London and Glasgow in December.

Johnny Gosch, from Sword and Scale episode five
Johnny Gosch, from Sword and Scale, episode five. Photograph: no credit

1 | Podcast

Sword and Scale

I’ve been listening to a lot of true-crime podcasts such as Serial in the past few years – it’s been a bit of a bug. This one goes deep into the crimes and uses interview tapes and media reports. It’s not always easy listening; some of them are harrowing, but it’s been interesting finding out the background of people who commit dreadful crimes, because no one just wakes up one day and decides to be evil. One episode starts with the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy named Johnny Gosch, and it’s about a child abduction ring in the 80s that went right up to people in the White House. It was genuinely shocking – it felt like an episode of The Wire, but it all really happened.

2 | Restaurant

Red Bamboo, Manhattan

Red Bamboo restaurant, Manhattan.

I’m vegan so I usually use the Happy Cow app to find vegan restaurants, and I think this one is my favourite in New York; we go when we play New York and I went again recently when I was on holiday there. It’s just an amazing restaurant and has all sorts of vegan American soul food. I was quite fond of the fake buffalo wings but it’s all good. It’s not super fancy or anything, just a really nice cafe with quite a low-key interior. It’s also quite near Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan, so it’s a nice walk around there.

3 | Music

Mdou Moctar

Mdou Moctar.

Mdou Moctar is a Tuareg songwriter who lives in Niger: he’s one of the best guitar players I’ve seen in years and his band just have so much energy. Everyone should see him play once before they die. I first heard his music on an amazing compilation called Music from Saharan Cellphones, on a label called Sahel Sounds, which was people in Africa sharing music through their phones. It was really low-quality MP3s, but this song of his – just a vocal, a drum machine and a guitar – sounded absolutely incredible. I saw him in London when he was playing at Cafe Oto in Dalston. It was more of a rock show than I was expecting – but it was really amazing.

4 | Book

Safe by Ryan Gattis

Safe by Ryan Gattis.

An earlier book by Gattis called All Involved, which is about the Los Angeles riots, is one of the most intense books I’ve ever read. This new one is set during the bank crash of about 10 years ago, and really gets under the skin of the people who were the victims of that. It’s about characters that are often under-represented – working-class Americans whose way of life is very different from mine, so you get a window into their existence. It’s also a thriller: there’s a guy cracking safes, and it involves police corruption. I’ve not actually finished it yet but it’s really good.

5 | Film

The Transfiguration (dir Michael O’Shea 2016)

‘A really sad and beautiful film’: The Transfiguration trailer.

I saw this at FrightFest at the Glasgow film festival. It’s about a young kid living in New York, and he’s obsessed with vampires to the point where he thinks he is a vampire and essentially starts behaving like one. He meets a girl who is displaced and who has to stay with her grandparents even though they are really terrible people. When he defends her from them, they start to build this weird friendship because they are both kids that no one else talks to. It’s a really sad and beautiful film, even though it sounds kind of scary. I watch a lot of horror films – I grew up in the 80s, so I love A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Phantasm. The Exorcist is probably my favourite film of all time.

6 | Comic

Black Magick by Greg Rucka

Black Magick, by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.

This is a comic series written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Nicola Scott. It’s a detective story but the main character, Rowan Black, is a witch. The people she works with don’t know she’s a witch, so she’s solving these crimes but they also have a cult element to them. It’s set in a fictional place called Portsmouth, which doesn’t seem to be anything like the Portsmouth that I’ve visited. Comics require dedication and I’ve been too busy to keep up with everything, but this one really got to me – it’s the best thing I’ve read for a while.

7 | Place

Isle of Skye

Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye.
Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye. Photograph: Alamy

I visited the Isle of Skye earlier in the year– it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. My mum is from the Hebrides, so I’ve spent a lot of time there. Skye has all these otherworldly natural phenomena like the Fairy Glen, which is spectacular – it feels as if somebody built it especially for people to visit. I think that’s probably why it gets used in so many films. I’d recommend it to people, except that there are already more tourists than the infrastructure can cope with, so maybe this isn’t helping. But I still think, even if it’s a bit of a squeeze, people should visit.


Interview by Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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