After being away for longer than most drunk drivers, Therapy? are back. A new line-up, a new album, and it would seem, a new found sense to re-introduce and establish themselves. What other reasons would there be for playing a tour of venues that sold out within days, and are the size of places they were playing 6 years ago or more. But it's what they've decided to do, and shortly after one of those gigs, at the Rig in Nottingham (a smaller annexe of Rock City), bassist Michael McKeegan is stood at the bar, enjoying a drink and chatting with people. Andy A. does the honours and asks for me whether it's possible to do a quick interview. The request is granted, so after a quick dash to the car to get the tape, myself and Michael retire to a quieter corner of the venue to do the interview.
In all honesty, I wasn't expecting to be granted the opportunity. After all, these are probably the biggest 'stars' that I've approached so far (ok, that someone else has approached for me), so why should they talk to me. But just in case, I'd written a few questions down. I may have to reach for them at some stage. See, a different excuse to normal. Though still not credible.
For added effect, read this with a nice Irish accent going on in your mind. It really does add something. Honestly it does, I mean, would I lie about these things?
Anyway, firstly, I'd been wondering why you deciced to do a tour of places this size, but tonight maybe I saw the reason why. Was it just to introduce yourselves back or for the fun of it.
Well I think it's partly for the Hello, we're Therapy? remember us, and partly for us to have fun, y'know. We could've booked upstairs, and maybe got 700 people, which would've looked respectable, but I'd rather have a really good atmosphere while we were doing this tour. We made the album with a really good atmosphere like, four of us in the room playing, and we played a lot of clubs recently, especially in America, and we're just excited at getting in there and seeing people's faces and having a bit of a laugh, not worring about things y'know. Like the set has been changing every night and the ecnores.
It's just that I'd seen only one band in this place before, Honeycrack, and I'd forgotten how small the place was. Seeing it now made me wonder if you'd considered doing TJ's again in Newport. (For those that don't know, TJ's is a very small club in Newport. Therapy? have played there since they started visiting the UK, initially as third on the bill, building up to headlining. The last time I saw them there, was as a warm up for their appearance at the Reading Festival. Troublegum was about 5 - 6 months away from being released. It was obvious that night that they still had a soft spot for the place, and they've mentioned it a few times in interviews since. Indeed, the last time they played in Newport, they played the 2000 capacity Newport Centre, and continusouly made references throughout the gig to TJs. TJs is also where Dub War have played many gigs, and is one of the homes to the so called 'Newport Scene'. Other bands to have raved about the place include NOFX, Girls Against Boys (check the earlier album liner notes), DOA and many many others. If you're ever in the area, check to see if there's a gig going on at the place. Sorry, advertisment over)
We'd actually thought about doing that a while ago, but see our tour dates got moved. But I will always play there.. It's a low ceiling kind of place like this, though this is maybe twice the capacity. (Low ceiling indeed. Low stage in YJs as well, all of about 6 inches.)
Already I'm going to have to check through that list of questions. Michael doesn't seem to mind, and in fact encourages it. Maybe things are going badly already. Anyway, looking through they don't look half as sensible now as when I wrote them. They also don't seem to have any flow or order to them. This isn't really helping. So it's pick a few and plough on regardless. (yawn, yawn ....)
Ok, a lot of the stuff that you are being quoted as saying in the press recently, paints the picture that you don't actually like the Infernal Love album ....
Well, see, I will actually clear this up right now. The thing is, I think Infernal Love is a great album, but the circumstances when we made it. Like for me as a person, and for Andy as a person, and I'm sure for Fyffe as a person weren't ideal y'know. Felt a lot of pressure. So I think that probably 3/4's of the album is brilliant, really really good, and the rest of it is just like us feeling under pressure. And i think i'd love to be like Mr Public Face and go (adopts American accent), Hey it's all great, it's a great life. But I can't do that, I have to be honest and say it was a really weird time in my life. And I think that's tainted my opinion of the album, whether the songs are good or not. I've not listened to it in a long time. I think at the time it was totally right for us and I'm glad that we stuck by our guns and did it, rather than cop out with the grunge, or new punk thing or britpop or whatever. Cos that's where our heads were at y'know.
Yeah, I still think it's a great album Oh, totally, there's some great songs on it.And when I listen to the new album, although from the press there's this we don't like Infernal thing, the vocals to me more reminiscent of Infernal. Oh yeah definitely. I mean, one of the songs, Born too Soon, sounds very similar to me to Clarity from Infernal.
It's not like we hate the albums, it's just like we're human and it was a bad period in our lives. I mean, I'm only 26 years old, and so there's so only many emotions I've experienced in my life, and that whole period was really hard work y'know.
So do you regret anything from then, I'm thinking of the Donington appearance with Metallica.
Yeah, cos we were just out of the studio and shoved on the stage. I'd rather have been touring the album for 6 months and go on stage pleases and been really up for it. Whereas we were just fucked. we'd just got back from Sout East Asia and Australia. Jet lag. But y'know, it's my career. The only reason I'm complaining is because we made those decisions. No one else made them for us. We said yep, we're up for it and did it. And it didn't work out, so y'know.
Moving on to Semi Detached. Would you see it as a return to the early Therapy? style.
I think the attitude is definitly early Therapy? not the music. I think that's more like, it's got the dynamics of Infernal Love coupled with like two new band members and new optimism and a new energy. But I think it's got the spirit of early Therapy? the fuck you, we love it, so fuck it, y'know what I mean.
You said about in doing Infernal Love not doing what was going on musically then. In the three years you've been away have you taken notice of all the big changes that we are told has occured.
Yeah well, it's funny cos like, you know after the whole britpop came the new electronica, with everyone doing samples and whatever. But in our own way, we dealt with that in 1992, with like Teethgrinder and Neck Freak and things like that. And the thing with everyone doing strings and whatever, like The Verve, and we'd done that with Infernal Love.
Someone wanders by congratulating Micheal on the gig. But I was wondering if they'd maybe consciously tried to distance themselves from a lot of what was going on when they recorded the album.
I think with Therapy? we recently got more selfish. We know what's going on, we see loads of great bands, lots of upcoming bands, or old bands. But I think the whole British press thing is like, fuck that. It's like everythings so much a pop thing at the minute. It's like how much you sell and a chart position and all that. And I think that's the whole britpop aftershock. Like the whole Blur/Oasis thing we sold more records than you in America. And that's rubbish. Like, you don't worry, or they don't seem to worry about whether the records good or artistically valid, it's whether they like (adopts American accent again) shift more units Stateside, or like play to bigger audiences And we jusst shied away from that big time, because it's like our music is noisy and uglyand that's the way it'll be'till the day we die. We'll adopt different things that we feel comfortable withand mutate in different ways just cos we listen to different things and go oh we like this we could do this. But you won't hear a drum'n'bass album by Therapy?. Or you may do, but it won't be under the name Therapy? Y'know that would be a totally differnt thing.
I guess it's how it's done. I'm currently in love with the new Pitchshifter album, which is reported to be a bit drum'n'bass oriented, but seems to me to be still from the 'rock' angle.
Pitchshifter are one of my favourite bands, especially English bands, cos like the very first few times we played Nottingham and Manchester, we played with them. And they were just up with technology. Like, "let's hear what you can do with this". And sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn't. And I think with this recent albu, they've got everything that the Prodigy really want to be but with better songs. It's songs and riffs. And they way its produced and recorded is fine. Pitchshifter are one od the bands that hopefully, they've done their own thing and moved around. I'm really glad they've signed a major label with money behind them, to let people know that there's more to life than y'know, Prodigy, Phil Collins, Mariah Carey, Therapy? I wouldn't lump those bands together, just say that there's more than your fed down the media.
Ok, so with the technology and whatever. There's the remix on the Church of Noise single. Did you have any control over that, or was it just put on.
No, we just got Messenger. We'd heard a dew of the remixes that he'd done and thought it sounded good. So we asked him to do it, just like we did with all our like previous remixes
Now I stll have a problem with remixes. Sometime when it's so different, why couldn't you just produce a new song based around that technology and style.
Well see, part of me thinks that if we're going to pay them to do something, I want them to completely reinterpret it I don't want them to keep the vocal in, keep the bassline, keep the guitar part. See, like the Cornershop remix is genius, but for everyone to do that is really bad. It's just like a slightly more upbeat version of the original or more downbeat
But it's a band decision to do that? Because sometimes it just smacks to me of the record label wanting to put out a new single, and think ing, what can we do to fill the b-side? I know, we'll put on 3 remixes and problem solved.
I think with Therapy? you know, we only put 1 remix on, and that's it. And we ask the person to do that cos we like them as people. And i think if you look closely, all those people that we've asked to do those things have a more punk rock attitude than most of the bands about. Just do it yourself you know. They get their hands dirty. Have their own studios, create their own records and they hand it to the label and it goes out y'know.
And of course, you've done similar yourself with the Pitchshifter remixes
It's good fun y'know. I remember doing that Pitchshifter remix, and we let the master tape run and we'd do things (a whole series of sound effects emerge from the man's mouth, which just can't be re-created in words on a 'puter. So use your imagination instead). And it was like, fucking hell, we can actually do something really good with this y'know. And we hadn't played it so we were really distanced from it, so we were really excited by it.
Earlier, you mentioned the States, and of course you toured there on the Infernal Love tour with Girls Against Boys. Did that give you any idea of the effort that's going to be required to crack the states, and maybe help to decide if you're really going to give it a go this time round?
It did in a way, cos Girls Against Boys, they'd just signed to Geffen right, so it was their last tour with Touch 'n' Go. So they were on the road, they were skint. They were driving themselves, like 12 hours every day, as were we. And it was good, cos it kind of bonded on that level, cos we'd just left A&M in America. So we were just like these two entities, moving about and having like sold out club shows right across America, and it was brilliant. They're fucking great people, and I'm really glad after their period of growing up, that they've actually signed with a major label. Cos talking to them, they were so frustrated cos they couldn't do what they wanted to do. I don't mean buy a mansion, they were talking about not being able to spend more than two weeks making an album, and they wanted to spend like four weeks making a shit hot album
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that album. Yeah, it's going to be great.
So have you decided if you're really going to have a crack at the states this time round?
Well, we don't have a record label over there at the minute. We're free agents. We'll see. We''ll go over there and see what happens later on, like on our right terms. and if they don't want us, well fuck 'em. Sign to an indie, make up our own label license.
On the new album, one of my favourite songs is Don't Expect Roses. To me, the chorus sounds very much like Joyrider. Micheal seems to enjoy that one, laughing in a manner which seems to indicate I'm totally off the mark with that observation. It's just the way Andy sings it.
Not in th e slightest. When we were in Germany, this guy was doing an interview with, and went (adopts German accent, ok, Irish German) so, on your new song Tramline it sounds very much like Marilyn Manson the vocal sound. And I went, now holdon a minute. In 1991, we recorded an record called Babyteeth, and a song called Innocent X. Massively distorted vocal, which was inspired by Big Black or Ministry y'know, full stop. And then you get Marilyn Manson who maybe was still in his nappies in 1991. And that's why he's doing it. But y'know, everyone's got certain reference points and that's fair enough. But I think we, especially coming from Notthern Ireland, we come from that classic pop lineage of like Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones.
Well, it could just be the accent as well. Probably aye. Especially that songs, since it's such an anti Britpop rant really. Or an anti sort of, don't be fooled by the name of the band y'know. Not sure he's overly convinced then about the comparison, but I can often it seems hear a totally different band or song influcence in things to virtually everyone else. It's a gift to be so far off the mark sometimes. And I still think the chorus sounds like Joyrider. So shoot me. And Andy Cairns reckons its more about the new Labour government and not expecting too much too soon from them.
Ok, total change of direction now, one of the questions that was on the list. At the end of the booklet with Infernal Love was the message about the hope and possibility of peace in Northern Ireland. So I was wondering if you think there is still a hope with the new British goverment in power.
My theory is we'll see. Tony Blair is the fucking demon in disguise BUT, BUT, certain things have gone forward, so I'll wait and see. I think obviously still living in Belfast when I go home, there's a sense of unease. There's like everyone going, don't make a move, don't make a move. All the sides are going, oh we've got to be cautious now and I think things have to get really get ugly before it's going to get good. There's going to be a massive bloodbath in Northern Ireland soon or, before things come better. It's like one of those barriers that have got to be gone through. Everyones gone maim, and then it'll be fine.
I think they discovered a 1000lb car bomb destined for the UK today.
Well there you go. I'll play down the accent at the chippie later on.
Indeed, about a week after this interview took place, the Northern Ireland peace accord was drawn up. Time will tell whether it makes any signicant difference to the search for peace.
I'm freezing by the way (the quiet corner just happened to be right opposite the door which was outside, where it was cold and absolutely pissing it down), so one more then I've really got to go. Sorry about that. Cos I'm wet and freezing. uh, uh. Come on, come on, one more he urges.
Plans for the year then.
We're going to go to Europe for a month and a half, and then we're coming back to the UK to do some festivals and all over Europe.
And so, with a handshake, the man is allowed to go and warm up. But well, if he died of pneumonia a few days after this, which I don't think he did, then I'd better go into hiding. And so, returning to the bar Andy A. and Vicky are talking to Graham, the not so new drummer. Also there is the professional alcoholic pervert Ash. They ask if I want to ask Graham a couple of questions. I'm not sure, as I don't want to ask the same things I've just been asking Michael. But in the end they persuade me to, and ask Graham for me if it's ok. Sure, no problem. Ash decides to make a getaway. They also kindly point out one of the oh so minor flaws in my doing interviews, in that I don't like asking people for them, or questions. Thanks guys. But anyway, persuaded, it's time to delve again. So, where did we leave off then? Oh yes, uh, uh .... right, everything else failed, so it's time for the questions re-visited.
So, the great gig, small venue thing then. Intentional?
Oh big time.I don't think it would've made sense for the band to go back straight away upstairs and the bigger places. In a lot of ways we may have looked like pricks, but in a lot of ways we might've filled them y'know. Whereas doing it this way, it's a new band in a lot of ways as far as England and Europe is concerned. So it makes sense for us to do smaller gigs like this. We're getting into it again and getting tighter as a band y'know.
Do you think in a venue this size it's a bit more fun as well?
Oh big time. Everybodys closer to you. The interaction between the four of us. I mean, playing bigger gigs is brilliant fun, but Michael's way off over there, and when he's that far away (indicating not far away!) it's brilliant y'know. And it's nice with the crowd that you can see them and they can see you.
You mention that part of the reason for doing this, is having been away. But do you really think that in that time the musical climate has changed enough that you may not be able to fill upstairs.
I think it has [changed] but at the end of the day, in a lot of ways, we don't actually give a fuck, cos we do what we doand our fans are fucking brilliant because a lot of rockfans, they stick with the bands and they don't give a fuck. And the majority of our fans have been like that. I mean, before I was in the band, I was a Therapy? fan and I know that everybody sticks with the band. It doesn't matter how many years go by, people that are into rock for some reason aren't the type of people that change with fads. They stay true to what they believe in.
So for you with this being the first Therapy? album that you've played on, do you have free reign within the band as to what you do and contribute.
Oh yeah. It's all for all with the four of us. I wouldn't play in a band where I was told what to do or somebody had control over what they think I should play. And we toured together for ages and got to know each other really well before we even thought of the album y'know.
Andy A contributes. I think it was great that you didn't emulate Fyffe at all, even with something like Skyward, it was totally different.
I'm not going to play what he [Fyffe] did, that wouldn't make sense y'know. The lads said it was funny when they did the auditions, that they had drummers coming in that were acutally left handed and just doing everything like Fyffe did. I mean, I really respect the guy as a drummer, but I'm not going to copy him.
Being a drummer then, do the new types of music such as drum'n'bass influence or inspire you?
Yeah, well, they kinda do. They do and they don't, y'know what I mean. There's a lot of dance stuff that I'm totally into, like DJ Shallow and DJ (some name that sounded like hma or tam or cam or something. Look, I really don't know, so get off my case ok!) where they sample a lot of drum stuff but they interpret it fantastically. Like Aphex Twin. A lot of stuff, rhythmically it's amazing. Michael's big time into it, and I just listened to it and thought it's pish, you know, where's the chorus, where's the song.
But it doesn't influence me big time. They're being inflenced by a lot of older shit, in that they're sampling stuff y'know, so I do and I don't.
Uh, uh. Vicky contributes by suggesting asking about the new album? Sensible enough I guess. My favourite track is the fourth one she says (remember, the album's only been out a few days at this point, no-one can remember names. Well, apart from drummers that is.
Is that Lonley Crying Only? That's the next single.
Ok, we'll go with that ever dependable, any thoughts on the new album?
It's just fucking brilliant, and we're all really proud of it.
And drummers don't lie. Well, they may do. But this one isn't about the album, and with the man about to head upstaris to enjoy the heady heights of student night in RC, another interview draws to a close. So there you go. Rhythm sections, when given the opportunity do speak. Now if I was a clever Kerrang! or maybe even Sun journalist, I'm sure I could come up with a clever and immensely witty headline about that. But I'm not and I haven't.