Therapy? - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Monday, 26 October 2009 17:16


When their tour in support of latest album 'Crooked Timber' hit Swansea - quickly becoming the Welsh location of Rock 'N' Roll Central - Therapy? seemed more than happy to let Uber Rock's very own guylinered griller Dom Daley quiz them at random.

Andy Cairns had previously said that 'Crooked Timber' was "about celebrating people's quirks, the things which make us unique. These days everyone tries to fit in, instead of just being themselves." This sentiment provides much of the backbone around which this very website stands, so we couldn't be happier than to present this interview with Cairns, bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper.......


Hi guys - first things first; isn't 42 dates in 54 days a bit of a stretch for guys of your mature years?


Andy - Ha ha ha! Yes, it's a proper tour, isn't it?! It's not too bad. We're used to it now and as long as you don't hit the beer every night you're ok.....otherwise you get scurvy after about two weeks. Sometimes the shorter tours are harder work just because by the time you get up to speed the tour's over. There's a definite decompression time thing going from normal life to going on the road so a long tour is good and once you get locked in it can be a great feeling as everything runs smoothly you can concentrate on just playing and that hour and a half, it's good.


How much of a say do you get on the length of the tour and where you play?


Neil - We did say to the management to literally take us everywhere in mainland Europe andtherapy_neil the UK. Let's go to places we've not been in a while. To be fair the agent is taking us out to places we've not been before and towns we've missed for a while. It's nice to do like two Welsh dates and Bristol, so three in all in a short distance over three days at the start of a tour, it's good.


A lot of bands wouldn't dream about playing three dates so close together on the same tour so it's great for fans not having to travel in such tough financial times.


Andy - Yeah,  you're right.


You recently did some dates where you played the whole of 'Crooked Timber'...


Andy - Yeah, we have done it a few times but we're not doing it like the Manics do or the Wildhearts. We've played it throughout the set but that's just how we like to do it. We rehearsed yesterday and what we wanted to do was stuff we've never played, like stuff from 'Never Apologize' and 'Opal Mantra', so stuff for the die hards and then, of course, the hits and ones people will all know. We're really proud of the new record, we feel it sits well with us and it's rhythm orientated stuff but still catchy.


I find it's your heaviest record to date - would you agree with that?



Michael - I don't think it's heavy metal but it is intense in a heavy sort of way.


The bass is very in your face and, in many ways, I feel it's the lead instrument on the album more so than ever before and it's like you say, very intense. Was that planned?


Michael - Yeah, we'd agreed when we went into the studio. We were very focused and absolutely wanted to get what you can hear on the finished record. Absolutely it's intense.


Andy - We were talking with the producer about it and Andy Gill said when he first heard Therapy? he thought we were very home grown and we weren't trying to be "American", then somewhere down the line I do think we lost a bit of that. Not that it's a bad thing it just wasn't us, you know? Don't get me wrong, a lot of my favorite bands are American but Therapy? is a very generic sound. When we did this album, you know what we did was listen to a lot of electronic music and bass heavy pop stuff and Andy said if you think back to British bands like Cream or even Budgie there wasn't a big fucking processed sound on the guitars -  it was about using the Hendix sound and we thought it's that home grown sound you can get.

Neil - Andy (Gill) thought it was a three piece thing where you got Cream or Hendrix, it is rock but not straight rock. Let's get the drums, bass and guitar and make them all as big as fuck like some huge three pronged attack without tonnes and tonnes of overdubs, just very natural sounds made by the three instruments.


How did you record the album? Was it written before you went in the studio or was it sort of part written then jammed as a band?


Andy - A lot of 'High Anxiety' was written like that and a lot of 'One Cure', but really what wetherapy_1 had this time was built from the ground up. I wouldn't say we were jamming as such as that makes it sound a bit hippyish and we're not that, ha ha! Maybe I'd prefer to say it was grown in the studio. Some of the stuff like 'Enjoy The Struggle' has a swing to it because we were listening to some jazz, Charlie Mingus as his double bass sound is really, really heavy and reminded us of Helmet or Sabbath even. We were listening to that so we put a jazz swing in there. And that was the idea there so we put it together with that in mind. It just gave it an extra twist which kept it really really interesting for us as a band. One of the really important things for us having been around so long now is just things that kept it interesting. If we said "right, fuck it, let's write 10 songs that have to be played on the radio" it would be a pressure we don't need and it's not why we got into this in the first place.


Do you feel the business that you are in has changed a lot since you started?


Andy - Yeah, people don't buy music like we probably used to.

Neil - It's interesting.  We spoke yesterday about how it used to be about release dates and the album is out in the shops on the Monday but today it's all so instant. People can hear their music in different ways now in as much as they hear a track on an advert and go out and download it and maybe get into a band that way, so it's very untraditional and songs creep in and out of popularity and people don't listen to a record as a complete piece of work, so maybe don't 'get' a band. If you're the right sort of band with a strong fan base built up before the Internet, I guess like we're lucky enough to be, you don't have to then spend a million pounds marketing your new album or song to people.


Andy - Today I think people know how to get your album for free so when we come and see you live you better put on a good fucking show, because it seems to be that being a touring band is back in fashion and to make a living you're going to have to do a lot of dates, sell a lot of merch. A lot of bands used to do the opposite where they'd sell some records and not bother with the tour other than a couple of dates 'round Europe, then sit back and watch the albums sell because they're on MTV but nowadays it's not the way it seems to be working. It seems to have gone very old school and for a band like us that's your bread and butter; it's what we've always wanted to do and what we've always done so the changes in the business haven't had that big an effect on us. It's other bands who don't like the touring and putting in the hours on the road who complain about the downloading shit.


You seem to have kept going through some changes in trends and genres of music whereas other bands seem to fall by the wayside - how do you think you've still managed to sell healthily, both live venues and cd's?



Andy - A lot of people don't accept sometimes that you have to step down as well as up in this business. There have been times when our fan base hasn't wanted to see the shows or buy the albums and other times like Donington where it's also gone up a notch. I find it is a lot of pride with bands and not being able to accept that change from time to time. I think we're genuinely interested and love music and what we do. We're still fans as well, I still buy music and love it. A lot of people have a bit of success then things don't go well for a few years and it almost hurts their pride to almost go back a step or two and they're not really that into music - to them it's kinda a job, but I just think we love it. We still listen to music all the time. Maybe after about the 15 year period we got a little fearless and we sort of thought well, what will happen will happen.


Your fans have sort of had that same mentality as well, don't you think? They've stuck with you over the years and perhaps become a little fearless with you.


Andy - Yeah, that's right. Fans have albums they don't perhaps like so much and the ones they absolutely adore and that's great because we're the same. You know, I love Iggy Pop. He's also made some bloody awful albums but I'll buy them because I'm a fan and I know he'll come good again. So it's nice to have a bit of a story behind a band as well. These days there are so many faceless musicians who don't tour yet have a profile on the internet - it is kinda fake in a way.


As you love touring, you've played with some massive bands and played the biggest festivals out there - that must be great fun. Are there any that stand out?


Andy - A few really. When we got asked to play the Reading Festival in '92 and there were alltherapy_live these massive bands on that we were massive fans of and we were first on on the Saturday, that was a massive moment, and playing Donington as well. I'm not so into metal but I know Donington was such a big deal. I can remember seeing it on TV and thinking we were going to be playing that and when we got there I can remember all the bottles of piss flying round thinking how mental it all was and thinking if this all goes wrong and we're not accepted then it's going to go so wrong on a Steven Spielberg scale.....but it was brilliant. To be honest, gigs that big sometimes aren't as mad as some club gigs in tiny paces where everyone in the front row knows the words. That can be a lot more intense and mental but you can definitely get something out of it all. Those two stick out for me personally and they are something I'll always have. Even now from time to time I'll look at footage on the net of Donington and have to pinch myself! Metal audiences can be absolutely insane. So yeah, they stick out for me.


Michael - Even this summer we did Oxygen Festival and ones in Eastern Europe were great because they were really diverse and there weren't many so called "heavy" bands, but the vibe was brilliant and we turned up and it was all chaos and seeing people who wouldn't really know us bouncing and dancing that was really really good. Therapy? are a band who'll play with anyone.


Do you notice a difference  when you play in different parts of the world seeing as you're known and had those opportunities?


Andy - God yeah! South America was insane - it was proper scary, Eastern Europe was funny with all your preconceived ideas about the place being so grey and beige when we went there in '95, then we did the Balkans last year and the people were still mad and so grateful you were playing there but the places weren't so grey and bombed and the places were as modern as some of the Western countries but still very much up for it. Even if we go somewhere we're not known we can usually sell well and sometimes those gigs are amazing where maybe out of 1000 people only 200 know who you are and the others are just there to see a live band. And we're such a curious band anyway, we'll look at any offers put in front of us. Places like Russia and old eastern block countries are getting like over here now because everyone's going there, which is cool. Maybe that's one good thing about the internet.


Michael - Ten years ago those people couldn't really buy an album but now it's a massive consumer place - everyone has the latest mobile phone - but still interesting places to go. I mean, Bosnia was amazing. But places that have been good to Therapy? like Germany or Belgium and Holland, people think they're laid back and cool but for us it can be mental and we've had people throwing bottles at us and being mental in those places and some really crazy audiences, but it's all good.


Going back to places you played, you mentioned South America. Who did you play with there and what were your experiences?


Andy - We've done tours with Faith No More and we've been with Ozzy. We did a few gigs with Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Faith No More, Paradise Lost and Clawfinger in these football stadiums and it was good fun -  mental absolute crazy scary experiences where for a split second you weren't sure you'd make it out alive! Yeah nuts, just like the Faith No More boys. Some crazy guys there ha ha ha. We also did Mexico on our own and took Helmet and The Jesus Lizard with us but we've not been back for a while, the last few records have been sold there but it's just so expensive. Our profile in South America is decent but the cost of flights, equipment, crew is astronomical - it would be taking a big risk to book a tour at the moment with all the cost of crew, hotels, venues etc etc.


Does the same apply to the States as well?


Andy - It's a funny country, ha ha, in the nicest possible way of course. Um, the record doesn't come out there until next March and it is such a big country you want to do it right, so having the right people to take care of that has to be spot on to do it any sort of justice. It's a wee bit bizarre in the States because the records that seem to do well aren't the ones you'd think would and it is almost the opposite to the Europeans. They loved stuff like 'Suicide Pact' and 'Babyteeth' whereas 'Troublegum', which was well played on MTV and it sold several hundred thousand copies over there, but 'Screamager' was used in ads and stuff, but it was the press that liked 'Troublegum' but for the fans it was the left of scale stuff they took to, which was a suprise.


Is it a place you have to prepare to tour properly to have any impact?


Andy - Yeah, the record company have said they're happy to give it another go and sort of start from scratch. We'll hit West Coast and start off with the clubs again, which really suits us, so it's great for us and something we're really, really looking forward to. Clubs for us in places like Boston will be amazing.


Our experiences of the US were when we were on A & M and they threw loads of money at us and said "Here you go, tour America" which was great and we loved it. But we'd not earned our stripes and the Americans are very into that you know, earning your stripes. We'd worked our bollocks off in Europe and the UK but in America we were nobody and we turned up already on the cover of Kerrang and the NME and stuff and they're kind of looking at us saying "Oh, a hype band" which was kinda funny. They thought "Oh ok, a metal pop band but we've got Cheap Trick" which was really funny when that was said to us. I kinda get it now looking back, it was sort of "Yeah, the paddys have turned up having a lot of money behind them and they've not earned their stripes." But it was funny at the time, they were saying they didn't need Therapy? because they already had Nirvana....which was nice. It's funny for such a big country, it gets quite polarized. East Coast was always good to us, as were places like Seattle. There's no point in getting hung up on it though, we'll go back and give it another shot but we've been doing it long enough now. I think we've earned those stripes. Who knows, we will see.


A lot of bands pander to America and see it as being the only region, but bands like Therapy? show that needn't be the case. Do you think not being pigeonholed has had something to do with that?



Andy - I dunno, maybe it has. I remember our record company when 'Screamager' was a hit and Green Day broke and we just had a meeting in LA with the record company where they actually said "Green Day have just broken through and 'Screamager' is a catchy song so we think you should get spiky hair, wear bondage trousers and tag along" which was really funny. Needless to say, we kept the "weird beards" and didn't go topless in our videos with massive explosions and fireworks - maybe that's why we're saying "Hello Swansea!" whereas they're doing the enormadomes, ha ha ha! But are they happy? (much laughter) I remember them playing Belfast and sleeping on a mate's floor - ha ha, good times.


Before Über Röck got the chance to get to the bottom of their plans for their 20th anniversary or play them in Subbuteo, get their Gig From Hell or find out how Henry Rollins came to be such a fan and friend, they had to sound check. It was our pleasure to have some time with such passionate and genuine men who seem focussed and happy to spread the Therapy? gospel to anywhere and everywhere and do it with such a lust for life. Hey Satan, they rock!