"It probably read like I was some kind of malevolent psychopath": the truth behind that entertainingly one-sided Mogwai vs Blur feud

Mogwai and Blur
(Image credit: Stuart Mostyn/Redferns/Getty Images | Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

It's somewhat ironic that none of Mogwai's early songs featured vocals, because the Scottish post-rock band were fabulously mouthy bastards in their early years, never afraid to pour ridiculously over-the-top scorn and vitriol upon artists whose music they despised. As an example, Barry Burns, the group's multi-instrumentalist, once described The Rolling Stones as "possibly the worst band in the history of human events" and shared his hope that guitarist Keith Richards would die on the toilet, then get "eaten by your own dog." 

But the band's most controversial pronouncement came when they took on BritPop kings Blur, in the world's most one-sided feud.

"It’d be fair to say they were the antithesis of what we felt was good in the world of music," Mogwai's bandleader Stuart Braithwaite recalled in his excellent 2022 memoir Spaceships Over Glasgow: Mogwai And Misspent Youth. "Their anti-American English nationalism also grated, as did their fake cockney accents."

When the two bands were booked to play at the same time at the T In The Park festival in Scotland in 1999 - Blur on the main stage, Mogwai on the Radio 1 Evening Session Stage - the band decided to commemorate the occasion by printing up a brand new T-shirt featuring the emphatic declaration 'Blur: Are Shite'.

At the time, Braithwaite told NME: “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.”

In his memoir, the guitarist looked back on this and admitted, "It was super childish but I honestly didn’t think anyone would really notice. They did notice."

"To those not familiar with my somewhat acerbic sense of humour it probably read like I was some kind of malevolent psychopath. Blur were (and are) far from my favourite band, but it really wasn’t worth all the hassle that ensued. For weeks the music press letters pages were full of furious Britpop fans aghast at the temerity of anyone casting aspersions on their heroes."

"I recall my mum saying to me that we shouldn’t feel the need to be saying stuff about other bands because people really liked our music in its own right. She was of course right, but I was too young and daft to hear it." 

“It’s the kind of thing you think that’s hilarious when you’re in your early twenties, but I’m still amused by how it was received at the time," Braithwaite told NME last year. "We were naïve and didn’t realise the storm it would cause. Blur just pretended it never happened, which is a sensible way of dealing with things. I’d see [Blur guitarist] Graham Coxon around, but he never brought it up. He probably didn’t care.”

In fact, Coxon was actually a Mogwai fan. In 2015, when a fan on Twitter asked 'Do you think Mogwai is shite", the guitarist replied, "Not at all, quite the opposite."

Stuart Braithwaite recalled that Mogwai, "sold a lot of T-shirts but possibly at the expense of a lot of people taking our music seriously."

"I’m not entirely sure it was worth it, as funny as it was at the time," he confessed. "After all, who really gives a fuck what Mogwai think about Blur?"

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Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.