After two decades delivering rock with attitude Therapy? have crafted a legacy many fellow musos would kill for and last year’s cracking Crooked Timber album proves they still have plenty to offer.

Three back-to-back gigs in London this week will underpin a three-CD live record of the unpredictable Ulstermen and we can’t wait to hear one of the best gigging bands in the business doing what they do best – over and over again.

We caught up with frontman and rushonrock regular Andy Cairns to bring you another much-needed Therapy? session.

rushonrock: Do you still get the same buzz playing live now that you did 20 years ago?

AC: To be honest I enjoy playing a lot more now than I did. I really, really enjoy being in a gigging band and always have done but the least favourite period was when we were a four-piece. You’re talking 1998-2001 – for some reason I got very nervous during gigs and didn’t enjoy it as much. But when we returned as a three-piece I really began to appreciate the ins and outs of being in a smaller unit. I don’t feel any pressure now and I just think that the chemistry wasn’t quite right when we were a quartet. I have a lot of respect for the two guys who were in the band at that time and who aren’t there now and at the time I didn’t feel there was much wrong. But when I look back it’s obvious things weren’t quite right.

rushonrock: It’s 20 years since Meat Abstract was released – how proud are you of Therapy?’s legacy?

AC: Very, very proud. One thing struck me a couple of weeks ago – we’ve just shot some stuff for a documentary about Joey Dunlop and there was a song dedicated to him on our Shameless album. Now not a lot of people liked that record and I don’t normally listen to past albums but we agreed to play that song for the documentary so I went back to it. It’s just a great rock and roll song and if The Hives or their ilk had released it as a single at that time it would have been massive. I’m proud of most of our work.

rushonrock: In the early years you opened for bands like Inspiral Carpets, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Teenage Fanclub – were you shunned by the rock and metal crowd or were you seen as an indie band?

AC: The Inspiral Carpets and Teenage Fanclub supports came about because those bands heard John Peel playing our single and liked it. Also at that time we got a gig supporting Candlemass at a really well known metal club in East Belfast. But the owner took one look at us and said he couldn’t put us on because we had short hair and we’d get lynched. It was before bands like Helmet and Faith No More came onto the scene and back then everyone who played heavy metal had long hair. You just wouldn’t be seen on a metal stage if you had short hair. But I remember the Inspiral Carpets gig in Belfast very well – there was one bloke who stood five yards from me for the whole of our set and gave me the finger for the entire time we were on stage. His arm must have really ached but I guess he was an indie fan who wasn’t really into his punk rock…

rushonrock: So were you misunderstood indie kids paying rock or rockers mixed up with the indie crowd?

AC: We were critically acclaimed by NME at the time we released our first two records and both of those albums topped the indie charts. But then Kerrang! gave us a decent review and NME never gave us another good review again. I suppose that’s when we went from indie rock to rock but then we’ve never fitted into any one genre.

rushonrock: Has the critics’ inability to pigeon-hole Therapy? helped or hindered the band over time?

AC: It’s hindered us in terms of commercial success but I think it’s definitely helped us as people as we’re keener than ever doing what we do. We’ve talked a lot about this within the band and with our agent. When things dipped after Infernal Love what most bands would have done is gone away and reformed when the climate was a bit easier. We kept going and, as a consequence we saw attendances at gigs fall and record sales fall. But over time we’ve built things back up again and we’ve evolved. That, in itself, has made it all the more difficult to categorise us. But we never set out to be big stars with our own brand of clothing and red carpet invitations. For us it has always been about playing live and it always will be. As a group of lads from small towns in Northern Ireland that was the limit of our ambition but it’s meant we’ve never really compromised.

rushonrock: We’re fast approaching the 20th anniversary of Babyteeth. Are you planning to go down the deluxe edition/reissue route?

AC: A while back we met Harvey Birrell who engineered those records and they’ve been re-released as MP3 albums. He’s remastered a lot of that stuff and I know he’d started looking at Babyteeth and the green light was given to get the job done.

rushonrock: What’s the best thing about being in Therapy? in 2010?

AC: I think it’s still the freedom of being in a band which can do what it wants. It has been really, really difficult at times but last year we played on the back of Crooked Timber all over Europe. The fact that we’ve done it all and still believe in ourselves counts for a lot. We feel free to make any music that we want and we don’t have to conform to anyone. That’s a nice position to be in.