Glasswerk writer Mark Cooper caught up with Therapy? for a quick chat when they played Liverpool last month.
Coop: One of the last times I saw you guys you were being supported by Groop dogdrill.
Andy: That’s right, 98.
Coop: … and before that it was Donnington with Metallica.
Andy: Oh yeah that was 95.
Coop: Krusher introduced you as three complete Irish bastards. How we doing at the moment then, this tour so far?
Andy: It’s good, it’s like, really good, we’ve been on tour just over a week and three out of the five gigs are sold out, it’s been really good. We're heading up to Europe as well, but it’s been good. The records doing well, the three of us are really getting on it’s like were really getting on together, making, having fun with the set-list you know what I mean? We’ve got twelve albums now so it’s kind of been a bit of a challenge trying to get a set-list together.
Coop: I’ve always thought that Therapy had that self-depreciating sense of humour.
Andy: Excellent, yeah.
Coop: There’s a nice edge to it, that’s probably why you’re set aside from some of the bands out there.
Andy: Yeah, I think we’ve always have a wee bit of, a lot of gallows humour in what we do, completely so-I think it’s the Northern Irish background, bit like the scouse sort of sense of humour, suppose Glasgow’s the same as well.
Coop: really dry.
Andy: I think it’s kind of how people deal with hard times and hardship, and I think some of that’s carried through; and I think also we sort of knew the way the band looks and the way we are as people. I don’t think we have it in us to suddenly turn up wearing a three quarter inch green velvet jacket with a boa.
Coop: I’d like to see that (laughs)
Coop: Did you see him then? (Speaking to Michael & Neil are just to the left) in his mind he was thinking ‘But that could work’ (Laughs)
Coop: So Damnation festival, that was yesterday right?
Andy: That was good, because to be honest we weren’t sure how it would go, we saw the line-up, we were familiar with a lot of the bands; but it could have went either way, we could have gone up and people could have been like ‘What’s this about?’ but you know what? We went down really well and the crowd were great they had a lot of interaction, singing along to a lot of the songs, we played a suitably more intense set, because we were on before Life of agony, so we played a lot of the darker material. They all got it, it was brilliant we did sell a lot of t-shirts which we were really surprised about. There were young kids down the front, that weren’t even born when ‘Troublegum’ was out. Afterwards there were a lot of good notices from punters that we met, we left really happy, so it was a nice-you know what? I didn’t expect it to be pelted with stuff, but I didn’t expect to go down as well as we did. Our merch guy said it was an away victory (Laughs.)
Coop: There the hardest ones-it’s like six points not three (Laughs.)
Coop: You’ve always represented to me the strange, the slightly twisted side of things
Andy: I think with us it was the image, I remember the very first time we played Donnington 1994, Aerosmith headlined it, and Zakk Wylde was on the bill, and we got offered the gig and we said we’d take it, we knew Phil Alexander, the editor of Kerrang! And he actually said “Be prepared”, and we played it, we went on and went down a storm, and then all of a sudden, there was like Faith no more, and Helmet came along. So it was alright, but I think a lot of time it was just the fact, it’s one thing that always kind of: I’ve got two opinions on heavy metal, my personal take on it is the most important thing is that metal fans are the most up for it fans in the world, the second thing is it’s in danger again of y’know, it embraced all this music, right through from Cream and Hendrix, the metallers embraced the first black rock and roll guitar player and made him a superstar and then they embraced Led Zeppelin right through to Faith no more and all that kind of funk metal, right through grunge and then punk and I think its endanger again…
Coop:… of stagnating?
Andy: It reminds me of that point in the eighties were everybody looked the same, there was a certain point we were in a rock club in the eighties the blokes would look the same as the girls, dress the same and there was a little bit in the nineties where there was a little bit of diversity it was a rock club but you could hear everything from punk metal right through to black metal; and I think sometimes whenever I go on tour and when we go the pub for a couple of jars it kind of like everyone looks the same-we kind of do something that’s slightly out there. Occasionally you get bands like Faith no more, you get the odd bands coming along now, that just make you think “What’s this about?” And that’s what I like about it.
Coop: Just adding a different colour, a different shade.
Andy: Yeah, yeah.
Coop: (To Mike) Your the ‘metal’ guy. Did you think when you first joined Therapy that “I really like that, but I want to kind of do this as well. I want to twist the thing that I like, I want to make it something else” or did it just come out like that?
Michael: When we started the band it was all about us being ourselves individually that worked well collectively, probably sounds really stupid.
Coop: Not at all.
Michael: All the bands I liked, as well as the metal thing, I like bands like the Dead Kennedy’s, public enemy-stuff like that, there was always a very exciting diverse mix; really exciting times for music then you’d listen to bands like Pantera and stuff like that, not nessaceraliy copying those bands, but you feed off the energy; that’s what- to sort of recap what Andy said-a lot of metal bands these days the energy level it really came, I think aggressive rock should be aggressive, not clean triggered drums, and all the rest of it, sometimes it works, when it doesn’t its really very sanitized.
Coop: Is that the element of danger, “let's just play?”
Michael: I like the fact it could fall apart at any moment, like Slayer for example, you go and see them live and it’s a fucking rollercoaster.
Coop: Falling down the stairs and landing on your feet, at any point Dave Lombardo could explode.
Michael: That’s what I like, the energy feeling-we have that energy with the three of us it’s a very direct straight forward approach.
Coop: I think you were the first choice for a lot of people, who wanted something different. You must enjoy that, it allows a lot of doors to be opened, to be the band that doesn’t have to be straight up metal.
Michael: We can do something like Damnation, or we can play a festival in Europe with R.E.M, and it all works.
Coop: That’s something most bands never achieve they get lost in their own genre, like Metallica, massive band like that struggling to find their identity.
Andy: It’s heartbreaking to watch, cos I’m a fan of Metallica, you just think the guys are the ones beating themselves up, heartbreaking to watch.
Coop: You said at the Donnington gig, that you remembered working in a factory and how you used to dream about playing in a band. Can you still remember those days in the factory?
Andy: Oh I remember them really well.
Coop: Are they a good motivator, when maybe it’s a bad gig?
Andy: Do you know what though I think that’s what comes with it, I think that because when I left school I had two or three jobs, the reason I worked in a factory was because it was good money, cos it was night shifts and I could buy a guitar, buy records and buy clothes and pay the rent. To be honest it might be a working class thing but I think it gave me a great grounding. My brother he’s a nurse he lives in Nottingham, and he should get way, way more money for what he does than he does, cos of the amount of people he helps he doesn’t get very much money for that.
Coop: It’s tragic.
Andy: I know, our merch guy is taking a year out from teaching, he’s a teacher in a comprehensive school-he doesn’t get enough money for what he does, fireman, and teacher’s y’know. It’s more important than what we do it is at the end of the day, I think what we do, we’ve managed to make a living out of it for twenty years, and I’m really grateful for that.
Coop: It’s not something you hear from bands in your position, just grateful for it; because you’ve had difficulties-every band does- I’m sure you’ve had to deal with no end of bad situations, and to still be grateful is superb.
Coop: Your dad wasn’t into the Beatles, was that the kind of first seeds, where you were like “Ok. I’m not going to exactly follow the right route” and try and pick your own artists?
Andy: Well ironically it was two things, I didn’t start listening to the Beatles until a few years ago and now I have all their records. The first thing was we never had Beatles albums around the house. My mum and dad went to see the Beatles, and then the week after would go to see Gene Vincent , and they were more into Gene Vincent, which ironically influenced the Beatles, they were more into that rock’n’roll.
Coop: Because the Beatles were almost like what a boy band is now.
Andy: Yeah, the boy bands of the time, yeah.
Coop: But Gene Vincent was more like your hard rock and roller.
Andy: Leather jacket and jeans. Those are the records I would have heard growing up, more rock’n’roll records; and then I remember when everyone was into the Clash as a kid, they had a chorus in 1977 “no Elvis, Beatles, or the rolling stones” so I thought you couldn’t admit liking them, it’s like farting in a lift. (Laughs.)
Coop: There’s a quote, “the Beatles are like farting in a lift” (Laughs.)
Andy: (Laughs.) but then you know what, I remember I always like the Hamburg Beatles, they looked really cool, could just get into it now –‘Revolver’ is one of the best records ever made, I can listen to it now…
Coop: …and enjoy the fart (laughs.)
Coop: Coming from where you came from I’m sure watching a polished Duran, Duran video made no sense to you.
Andy: No, not at all, on the estate where I lived me and my mates I would see these blokes with tea towels round their heads on yachts (Laughs.)
Coop: Black Sabbath said when they did their first album, they grew up without shoes on their feet, and they were listening to some guy talking about wearing flowers in your hair, in San Francisco and it didn’t make sense to them.
Andy: I think what it is partly what our style is; it’s probably what we’ve learned over the years, I’m probably not aware of that-it’s just there so, if I could explain it I wouldn’t probably do it.
Coop: You started in the L.P age, instead of putting something up on Face book you actually had to put a poster up on a wall somewhere.
Andy: Yeah, yeah.
Coop: That’s a tough way to pay your dues, now you’ve got the age where there’s no paper, it’s all digital, you don’t see records anymore- how have you found that change?
Andy: I think we’ve all noticed it, it makes it old school again I think. You go out there you do your gigs, and you sell your t-shirts you sell your records, and it’s word of mouth and everything-we’ve always said that word of mouth is our greatest weapon, because we had demo tapes, a 7” single on our own label pressed up; and because we did that for years before we got on a label, were comfortable doing it again. I think to be honest, there’s less kind of waste with it isn’t there? When you do it that way, it’s like everything’s important, every single thing is thought out, I definitely think word of mouth is the most important thing.
Coop: You played anywhere there was electricity, and I don’t mean in a Bon-jovi way, you played even if there were two people in the audience.
Andy: Oh yeah.
Coop: That those two people will tell someone else.
Neil: It’s all that knock on effect. That means more to me than a full page advert in NME.
Coop: So you started as a three piece, moved to a four, and then back to a three, what changes with that, I mean everything from musically to mentally?
Andy: I think personally hindsight’s a wonderful thing I think the four piece was a failed experiment, I think Therapy was always meant to be a three piece, well the drummer, we couldn’t help because Spike left, but the cellist Martin, really good friend of ours, lovely bloke. He was doing session work for us and I think at the time we just brought him in to do vocal harmonies, we wanted to do live; and it was a little bit then that it changed the dynamic of the group. I think it was just too many cooks, nobody knew what we were kind of doing there was no one steering the boat. It was a little bit adrift for awhile, and when we decided to become a three piece again the whole thing just got more focused.
Coop: I think it’s fair to say you never really had a plan?
Andy: Oh no, no.
Michael: It was a very natural sort of progression; I wouldn’t say it was going to be soon to make a record, if we just feel like making a record-if that makes sense.
Coop: That’s a really nice position to be as well, that massive deal where you have to produce something and you’re forced to do it, that’s going to make working with people you maybe don’t get on with harder.
Andy: I think you right, whenever you’re forced, in the past we’ve kind of done B-sides under duress, back in the nineties y’know? And a lot of those were just throwaway because we’d be on tour and someone would say “We need two formats for the single, so can you do two tracks on your day off on Wednesday?” (Laughs.) There not going to be sonic masterpieces (Laughs.)
Coop: Is there such a thing as a failure then, from an album, a single, a B-side if at some point you can get something from that? Later on, you’ve learned now that you wouldn’t get yourselves in that situation again-so is that a failure?
Andy: No it’s not a failure, I always think things happen for a reason, and I think that were we are now on our twelfth album around I think there’s things that have happened so we could get to this point.
Coop: There’s no failure as long as you keep on moving on-it's still progression.
Neil: I think every record you do is an emotional and creative investment, and hopefully for our audience as well. Some people really love one album; some people really dislike the other album, it’s amazing how ones kind of speak to different people.
Coop: It’s that interpretation. Some of those B-sides you thought were throwaway.
Andy: That’s it exactly. I remember Michael Stipe from R.E,M once said that he never used to put the lyrics on the sleeve because he thought it would be like telling someone the plot of the movie, before they went to the cinema.
Coop: But you annotate them don’t you?
Andy: Yeah, we do now. To be honest with you, when I read a book and I am influenced the thing is I want everybody to read that book.
Coop: That brings us nicely to ‘Crooked Timber’ obviously the new album, that’s the guy Kant.
Andy: Immanuel Kant.
Coop: The minute I read ‘Crooked Timber’ I had no idea what it meant, so I read the passage and it is exactly right for Therapy, you must have read that and thought “That’s it”
Andy: Well, we did yeah. I was reading, I like Samuel Beckett, the Irish play-right all his, because a lot of Beckett’s stuff is relevant now. He wrote a lot of stuff post war, when people were penniless and people were trying to make do with what they had; and he dealt with human beings that no matter how much crap was thrown at them in England post war, they dusted themselves off and got on with it. He said he also got the idea from hope from decrepit situations and Immanuel Kant influenced him so I looked up Immanuel Kant and came across that quote and like you were saying I thought that’s great for a Therapy album. We had it in a song, it wasn’t meant to be the album title to start with, it was just a song called ‘Crooked Timber’ and we all just thought we were looking for a title for the album and we thought well that’s quite good.
Coop: ‘Enjoy the struggle’ seems very prophetic.
Andy: Well I think the thing about ‘Enjoy the struggle’ is that every-day is a really hard work for a lot of people. It goes back to the Beckett thing, there’s a guy called Sisyphus from Greek mythology, because he pissed off the gods he was condemned to push a rock up a hill. We're the only living things on the planet aware we are going to die- a dog doesn’t know it’s going to die. When you wake up on a tour bus in some god-forsaken part of eastern Europe and it’s a cold Wednesday night and we’ve all got the flu and y’know were going on stage, How many are in tonight?-were not really sure-what’s going to go on? And at the end of the day we always go on and we love it.
Coop: An away victory.
Andy: And it’s that away victory.
Coop: Do you see yourself as the underdogs?
Andy: No, I don’t personally categorise myself in any way. I don’t belong to the club which includes Bono and Anthony Kiedis and people like that, I dipped my toe in that water in the nineties for a little bit and I knew straight away that the lad from the factory and housing estate did not belong in that world. Some people from exactly the same background as me would grasp that with both hands, they would network and get to know these people and they’d be up doing this and that; I actually thought a lot of time whilst I was in the company of a lot of people who were very, very famous-this is bullshit. I couldn’t relate to any of them about anything. So I don’t know if that makes me an underdog or not but I never felt comfortable in that kind of world were everything’s an illusion-do you know what I mean?
Coop: I think your being incredibly honest; I think a lot of people would jump through those hoops.
Andy: Some people are great at it. I seen people go up what they perceive as a gilded ladder, and there very, very good at it. I think with myself, don’t get me wrong I’m not anti-success.
Coop: But there has to be some morality to it. For me it’s just that grasp of reality, you can have the success, but you do have to be grounded, like earlier you said about where you come from has a lot to do with that. I personally think Therapy wouldn’t have existed if you’d kept going with that type of thing.
Coop: Is this album meant to be listened to in its entirety?
Andy: We wanted it to be uniform, we wanted it all to have the same kind of mind-set, sonically people have actually said that to us since it’s come out.
Coop: I did feel it had to be listened almost in order, was that the intention from the beginning?
Andy: I think it just came out, it was a lucky accident I think because we were all in the same place together over a period of a couple of weeks, we relocated to Newcastle first of all and we relocated to London to mix it.
Coop: How does the album being listened in its entirety fit in with the internet? With that sort of three minute thing, where people will click on songs, and maybe take them out of context.
Neil: With this record it’s the first time I’ve walked out the studio, almost like I’m very interested to hear what the record company are going to pick up on, whether its a download single or the tune that’s going to go up on MySpace, to me I was kind of like, well the album sounds great as an album so it’s kind of like let’s see what we come up with. I think for the three of us, it’s always that weird one, when they do turn round and say well we need a single so were going to go duh, duh, duh, so we locked ourselves away and made the whole fucking album and your expecting us to pick a tune.
Coop: That’s going to define the whole thing, that’s what their looking for that one riff they can play on the radio a couple times, that’s the new Therapy album, well it’s like hold on-it’s not like that.
Neil: Yeah, the download thing, we’ve done our bit, and now it’s their job to promote how people buy it or perceive it, maybe someone downloads ‘Magic Mountain’ for example, and that’s their first introduction to ‘Crooked Timber’ I’d like to think we did that song justice.
Coop: It’s probably just important they get an introduction to the album that they are left to make up their own mind.
Coop: How’s the new stuff going down?
Andy: Its good I mean, they go down well with the fan-base, the stuff that people are really picking up on stuff like ‘Exiles’, the title track, ‘Told you I was ill’ there going down really, really well, I mean all the fans we’ve met, I don’t want to be crass but it’s the best record we’ve done in three or four albums sales wise, it’s sold a lot more already. The punters that were meeting are loving it.
Coop: Thanks guys.
Andy, Michael & Neil: Thanks.