Ulstermen Therapy? continue to push the boundaries of rock music more than 20 years into a prolific career.
As they prepare to relase their first record for Tyneside-based Global Music, on the DR2 imprint, rushonrock was granted a typically illuminating audience with frontman Andy Cairns.
Prepare for the singer paying homage to The Answer, Samuel Beckett and Sonic Youth. Plus much, much more.
rushonrock: You’re getting namechecked by bright young things The Answer right, left and centre these days. How do is feel to have influenced younger Irish bands?
Andy Cairns: I feel really proud to be honest. I’m very, very flattered. People have drawn my attention to it and it’s nice to get your peers’ recognition for what you do. It did feel kind of good when I heard what The Answer were saying about Therapy?. Of course the people you want to please most are the fans but then I suppose they were fans of the band when they were kids. It’s very life affirming.
rushonrock: Is the respect mutual?
AC: Of course. I’ve seen The Answer live many, many times and I’ve liked the band from the first day I set eyes on them. I remember we were doing a show in Switzerland with them and they were the first band on the main stage. We were on a couple of bands after them – the Smashing Pumpkins were playing too. Anyway as two bands from Northern Ireland we’d chatted beforehand and agreed to have a few jars after the show – the classic thing. But someone didn’t turn up on the second stage bill and the promoter, who was in a bit of a panic, had seen how well The Answer had gone down and asked them to play again. Now some bands would have said ‘look, we’ve done our bit, now we need to chill’. But they agreed straight away to play a second set and right then I knew they were the right kind of guys and they’d go far.
rushonrock: Do they epitomise a vibrant scene in Northern Ireland right now?
AC: There’s always been a lot of really, really good bands back home but now that the political situation has been diffused it’s safer for people to go out and night and there are very few self-imposed curfews these days. There’s a great club scene in Belfast and a lot of money has been invested in venues. As a consequence there are bands like Fighting With Wire, LaFaro, Cashier No.9, Oppenheim and, for those people who like their rock bluesier like The Answer, there’s Mojo Fury. So yeah, there’s a great scene!
rushonrock: On the new album Crooked Timber there’s a line in the song Clowns Galore which goes ‘what do we do/now that we’re happy?’. Is that a question Therapy? have asked themselves in recent years?
AC: We are happy and so, yes, that’s a line which is very relevant to this band. We’re very positive about what’s going in with the band right now and I suppose we do always question what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. But the whole Clowns Galore thing – it’s a song we wrote before the onset of the Credit Crunch but it’s become very timely. It’s about how much of our society is mirroring the US and how society is cheap. The idea for the line in Clowns Galore came from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot where they ask that same question. It’s at the heart of Western society now – the fact that people are never satisfied with what they’ve got and they seem determined to fuck it up. Greed is getting out of control.
rushonrock: It’s always been impossible to pigeon-hole Therapy?. Do you ever label yourselves?
AC: We’ve always taken the view that we’re just a rock band. I remember watching Sonic Youth on the South Bank Show and Melvyn Bragg, the presenter, asked them how they would describe themselves. The answer was that they were just a rock band and that’s stuck with me ever since. We’re just bass, drums and guitar. I was really inspired by that programme and it’s become my stock answer to the question ever since. Categorising bands is a business or a marketing thing. It makes things easier for the publicists I suppose.
rushonrock: But have you ever been pigeon-holed?
AC: I discovered that we were but I only learnt this many years after it happened. After we left A&M Records we’d often bump into people who we’d worked with at the company all over the world. Anyway one day I bumped into someone who told me the story behind promoting the band in the USA after we’d released Infernal Love. The Americans asked their colleagues at A&M over here how they could sell Therapy? to a US audience. They want everything in a box over there – it’s got to be rock, metal, indi, alternative, whatever. So some bright spark came up with the idea that we would be marketed as a ‘European Metallica meets Depeche Mode’! Now if I was a fan of Metallica or Depeche Mode I’d have been very, very disappointed with that record!