INTERVIEW | Andy Cairns (Therapy?): “It took me years to get over the experience of making Infernal Love”

andy-cairnsThe widely acclaimed band from Northern Ireland, Therapy? has decided to come back to Serbia once more after their visit back in 2012 at the Arsenal Fest. The band is currently touring and promoting their 14th album which the Serbian fans are going to witness and listen to at this year’s Guitar Fest in Zajecar on August 1st.

Despite his tight schedule, the leader of the band Andy Cairns has managed to find a few moments of his time to answer a few questions and talk about some details of his past and the amount of anger poured into the newest album, but about their touring with the band Paradise Lost and supporting Chelsea FC as well.

BR: After only 3 years you are again coming to Serbia. Does this mean that you have already gotten addicted to Serbian barbecue and “rakia”?

Andy: Oh yes! Firstly the people. We love them and have enjoyed our previous shows in Serbia very much. The Rakija is very special. I am also a Chelsea FC fan and season ticket holder so to visit the land that produced Branislav Ivanovich and Nemanja Matic is an honour.

Therapy? shoot 2014

BR: This time you are visiting us after freshly releasing the new album “Disquiet,” which is, as I noticed, a part of more lists and critics than a few of your previous albums. You claim that this is in a way a sequel to the story of the character in the album “Troublegum.” What happened with this guy in the last 20 years? Have you personally faced similar issues or problems which the character dealt with as well?

Andy: “Disquiet” has been very well received by fans and critics alike. The narrative of the album loosely follows the protagonist of “Troublegum” 20 years later. He is a mix of myself, family, people I know and others I observe on a daily basis. He is still angry but not blindly angry. He no longer lashes out instinctively like a younger man nor does he hold grudges like a younger man but he his keenly sensitive to injustices in the world and especially the everyday injustices directed at the poor, the helpless, the hopeless and the lost. He believes in people and wishes more people could believe in themselves.

BR: It seems that in the last couple of years you have managed to minimize making videos. As I can remember you made a video for a song of the album “Crooked Timber” and one for the album “A Brief Crack of Light”… Already a video for “Still Hurts” has been made off of the newest album. Do you plan on breaking the cycle and making more videos this time?

Andy: Yes we do. There has been a budget allocated from the record company and there should be a video for “Deathstimate” being made in the next few months.

Therapy? shoot 2014

BR: As you said, your music contains a lot of literature within it. Which can actually be seen from the aforementioned albums “Crooked Timber” and “A Brief Crack of Light” having reference to Kant, with the former, and Nabokov, with the later. Does “Disquiet” have a similar kind of a background?

Andy: While “Disquiet” is not as literary-heavy as the previous two albums there is still allusion to Fernando Persoa in the title and Samuel Beckett’s play “Krapp’s Last Tape” which was a huge influence on the lyrics of “Tides”.

BR: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the album “Infernal love”. Given the fact that “Troublegum” was so successful, how hard was it to make an album after a monumentally successful one such as that.

Andy: It was incredibly difficult and it’s not an experience I would like to repeat. “Troublegum” had only been out six months and had sold 650,000 copies and we’d already toured the world twice with no break. The record company panicked because they thought Brit Pop was going to kill rock music so they put tremendous pressure on us to go in quickly and try and “strike while our iron was still hot”. We had no time of to write songs and no life experiences outside of touring to draw upon for lyrics but we stupidly agreed to go into a very expensive recording studio and write from nothing. As our A&R man left the studio on the first day he took me to one side and said: “Troublegum has so far sold 650,000 copies. This next one has got to sell a million”. As a songwriter I was made to feel responsible for our future and that the future had to be commercial, not artistic.

At this point myself and Fyfe (original drummer) had stopped speaking to each other so communication within the band was virtually non-existant. To try and conjure up ‘the muse” or any kind of inspiration I started taking lots of Cocaine, Ecstasy and alcohol every day. The producer, Al Clay, had to try and keep the whole project together by getting me into the studio to come up with riffs and chords and Fyfe into the studio to agree to drum along. Michael, our bassist, just wanted us to make music without any bullshit. Somehow we got some tracks together but it took me years to get over the experience. The resulting album nearly split the band up, ended our commercial foothold in the world of alternative modern rock, cost us our American record deal and fed my addiction to drugs and alchohol that took me years to shake.

BR: During certain periods you had certain variations in your lineup (cello), but it seems that 3 is the magic number with Therapy?. Why is that and are there any plans to make changes, add somebody with a xylophone or something like that perhaps? (laugh)

Andy: Xylophone….that could work! Hey, Mogwai use one! Yeah, three is the best for us. It feels natural. Sometimes we have road crew fill in harmonies or rhythm guitar but all the main stuff is done by just three. It’s better way to work. We’re still very open-minded about other things but we’ve learned from past mistakes to be cautious.

Therapy? shoot 2014BR: I would like to change to some “trivia” questions now. I read somewhere that the question mark in the title of the band’s name was actually placed there by mistake as somebody did not properly adjust the margins on the first album. Is that true? And if it is, have you thought of removing it for the upcoming issues after the first one?

Andy: That’s completely true! We have talked about removing the question mark but it would really mess with a lot of our fans with question mark tattoos and would make googling the band a lot more difficult than it already is.

BR: Why do you often refer to Michael (McKeegan, bass) as the “Evil Priest” and they call you as “The Dark Lord?” Are we to expect a black metal project of some sort with full corpse paint on or anything like that? (laugh)

Andy: Michael is called the Evil Priest as this was the name of the black metal band he was in previous to Therapy?. My nickname, The Dark Lord, was given to me by a journalist at NME and unfortunately it stuck with certain members of the British press. As for a black metal project, I’m hoping that Evil Priest can get back to doing some gigs someday as they were a fantastic band. Michael McKeegan is an encyclopaedia of heavy metal, he knows everything especially in the black metal genre. He’s introduced me to so much underground metal I’d never heard of.

BR: How was the famous chorus for the song “Potato Junk” created (particularly the part “James Joyce is fucking my sister”)? Why him exactly?

Andy: The line came into my head at rehearsal. We wanted to write a song explaining that not all Irish people were as they are portrayed by the Irish Tourist Board and Hollywood. I was trying to say that the old ways are fucking with our young way of life. I’m also a fan of Captain Beefheart so that might explain the somewhat surreal exposition.

therapyBR: I recently saw a documentary “Over the madness” by Paradise Lost, where they refer to Therapy? as being the best company for a tour. Which bend was your favorite “companion” during your 25 years of existence?

Andy: Well, Paradise Lost were amazing to tour with, so them for a start. I’d never got stoned and listened to Black Sabbath before as I’d only ever thought getting stoned was for reggae and psychedelia. One night in a hotel room in Argentina the Paradise Lost boys sat me down with a spliff and a copy of Black Sabbath Vol 4. All of of a sudden I completely got it! I also enjoyed touring with Helmet and The Jesus Lizard in America in ’93 and the tour we did with Tad in ’94 was amazing. We went for thanksgiving dinner with those guys and it was such a wonderful night out. Tad Doyle is generous and a very funny guy.

BR: Besides the well-known cover songs by Joy Divison (“Isolation”) and Husker Du (“Dianne”) you also participated in making some tribute songs for bands like Black Sabbath, Turbonegro, Misfits,… Is there a certain kind of a “younger” band on which tribute list you would like to see yourself?

Andy: Hmmm…maybe Modern Life is War doing “Trigger Inside”, Arctic Flowers doing “Lunacy booth”, Lana Del Rey doing “Bowels of Love”

BR: Thank you for your time Andy. Be sure to “rock our monkeys” in Zajecar!

Andy: We’re really excited about coming back to Serbia. Thank you very much for your questions. Love and respect!

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