Miss Fliss 22/11/2009
The two thirds of Therapy? that I interviewed were so polite that I'd be happy to take them home for tea and scones with my Grandma. They were well spoken, freely giving of their time, welcoming us onto their rather plush tour bus (all mod cons), gave us a beer, shook our hand, and were as pleasant and considerately interested as any band could be. We interviewed bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper (ex-Cable, whom indie fans of a certain age will remember for being noisily ace). Andy Cairns is commuting in on the train from the Cambridge village where he now lives (cue another surprise: the village in question is picturesque and quaint and quiet as can be - not exactly the sort of place someone that sings about Jeffrey Dhamler, rape, and dark subject matter would reside; or so I think anyway! Plus - picture Andy Cairns on a train to London, a little surreally conspicuous, no? Or maybe that's more because I used to take said train). So, the questions about James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Andy's lyrics were shelved. The night's gig took place at The Garage, a venue that surprisingly the band have not previously played, and the sound and setting was ideal. Following on from The Joy Formidable, it's the venue that Therapy? chose to record for their upcoming live album (due next year, we're told).
How's the new album being received on this tour?
M: It's great, yeah. When we finished the album we were all really, really happy with it, and it's good to see what the reaction is from the fans. And playing it live is a big thing. We did a short tour in May and we played the whole album every night.
What are your favourite songs?
M: Bad Excuse for Daylight. When you start playing the songs a lot live, they take on a new life. That's been happening a lot with the new songs.
Are you tired of playing Screamager?
M: It's one of those songs that I think is really well put together. It feels very natural to play it. And obviously, we see the crowd reaction is to go crazy (laughs). So, not at all. Though we wouldn't soundcheck with it that often!
Have you played the Garage before?
N: I played here with Cable. Funnily enough, it was here that I bumped into Andy, at a Rival Schools gig. I was in a band called The Beyond [late 80s prog metal band], and Therapy? and Beyond did a tour together in the 90s, and just by chance I bumped into him at this gig in 2002. And I was just passing him at time, and he said he needed a drummer. And he said he'd give me a ring.
What goes on, on tour?
M: We're not really Motley Crue, put it that way. It's actually quite chilled out. Sometimes you see bands on tour, and it's like kids in sweetie shops; it's terrifying.
N: I think we all appreciate that we're gonna be on this bus for seven weeks. We're settling into it. I'm sure there will be parties. There's eight of us, and you can see it's not massive. But everyone's respectful of each other. But its not been mad or hedonistic.
M: At festivals is where it can all be… 'cos they're one-offs, and you go there and maybe there's bands that you're friends with that you haven't seen in a while, and it's a bigger party (laughs).
Who are you friends with?
M: We had a really good summer. We met the guys from Clutch again, and the Def Leppard guys. And now we're touring with Ricky Warwick. We were just talking about people in bands you know and the characters, there's always gossip.
Have you got any gossip?
M: No bombshells recently. The one thing me and Ricky were talking about were how nice David Mustaine (from Megadeth) is. I think a lot of people perceive him as not a very nice person, but when we met him he's been brilliant, lovely, really cool. Ricky was saying he interviewed him for Metal Hammer once, and he was very honest and open, and they were good friends for a while.
Any Spinal Tap moments on this tour?
M: Normally, you just misjudge something. You fall over.
N: We played Cardiff when we were on tour with the Wildhearts. And there was this classic situation. It was a big place. University gigs, there's always someone running around trying to be efficient with a clipboard. The dressing room was miles from the stage, and they came and said: “Right, right, you're on.” And they said, “You've got to go to this room, and you'll hear the intro music, and then you've got to come out.” they took us to this room, and we're all just waiting there, looking at our watches, thinking “When's anything gonna happen? Who's gonna come in and tell us what's what?” We were meant to be on at half past, then it was twenty five to, then it was twenty to. Then eventually, we were found. And the crew came running in, saying: “You're on stage! you're on stage!” It was pure Spinal Tap, we were following him. It was like: left right left right. Never follow a man with a clipboard. We looked a bit daft on stage.
What're you listening to on the stereo at the moment?
N: We had a Diano evening.
M: Early Iron Maiden recordings. What became as the Maid in Japan EP.
N: Night before we were listening to Scroobius Pip, and LCD Sound System. I'm old-school, I carry a CD player. But the lads have got iPods. We have a system where we play a song each, it goes round in a circle. We have DJ wars, though - you've got to lift the party!
What's the worst thing someone's put on?
N: Probably one of Michael's Venom b-sides!
M: This brilliant black metal band.
You've got this metal fest coming up in Leeds. I was wondering, what would be your dream line-up for an imaginary perfect festival? Dead or alive?
M: The Dead Kennedys with Jello Biafra. Faith No More. Clutch probably.
M: Yeah, they'd only be allowed to play up to Master of Puppets (laughter).
N: Slayer would have to be in there.
M: Maybe a wild card like, Lady Ga Ga. Something nice and bright and breezy.
What bands today that are influenced by Therapy?
N: That's weird to say that.
M: A lot of bands say: “You were an influence”. And I genuinely don't hear it. There's obviously certain elements that we use that a lot of rock bands use, the line up and the way stuff sounds. Some quite industrial sounding bands say it, but you don't necessarily hear it. It's a weird concept.
What are your favourite new bands?
M: Future of the Left are very good.
N: I've got a band coming out on my label called Die Chihuaha Die. They're from Cardiff. They're really kind of Bronxy angry Welsh men, shouting a lot.
M: There's a band from northern Ireland called Dutch Schultz, they're really good. There's a band called Horseback from America - sort of Clutch meets Godspeed you Black Emperor!. Really dark, pyschotic vocals. Probably not gonna be on Radio One any time soon (laughs). Cashier Number Nine from northern Ireland as well. But I can be away from home and bands can come and go and split up within six months. They do sell-out shows and then split up. It's very incestuous, if you've got a guitar you can be in different bands quite easily.
What do you think about bands like Gallows and Fucked Up?
M: I love Fucked Up. Great band. People always go on about punk this and punk that. And there's some guy with a Mohican and they sound like GBH and Discharge. Which is all well and good, but it's not really very forward-thinking.
N: Some of them don't even sound like GBH or Discharge. It's like Coca Cola punk and it's bollocks.
A lot of the emo and boy punk bands…
N: Yeah, you listen to the production and it's literally pop production, warm vocal and a bass drum. And it's like, where's the fucking guitars and the rest? Why have you picked up on Gallows and Fucked Up?
The thing is with metal: there are not really many new bands that are in the mainstream anymore, whereas those two are.
M: And The Bronx as well. They don't sound too sugary. There's an energy to it, which Gallows have, and Fucked up - there's a lot going on in their records, it's not all Big Flag.
A lot of it has turned into boy bands and selling it to teenagers.
N: Totally. I mean, what everyone forgets is what everyone forgets from the Sex Pistols onwards (and obviously Malcolm McClaren involved, etcetera), it became a marketing thing. We all listen to the same sort of records, and whether it's Art Blakey on Blue Note, or jazz records, or you've got techno or whatever. There's what you would know as a punk kind of attitude that's there all the time. And I think a lot of kids think that to be punk you've got to just spike up your hair and play pop tunes. But it's an attitude, do you know what I mean? realistically, nowadays you get stuff that's wquite gentle and its' more punk than the loudest scream - it's about an approach, about doing what you want to do. Whether it's the Dead Kennedys or techno DJs or whatever who are literally doing it on their own. And that's what I think is lacking now - with Greenday and blah blah blah. Greenday are brilliant, and obviously back in the day, they've earned what they've got, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the youngsters are looking at that and thinking, well, that's how we've got to be. The term punk has been hi-jacked. The attitude is still there in a lot of forms of music.
M: Even if you listen to those Black Flag records, they're all quite different, some of them are really quite proggy sounding. Long instrumentals and odd time signatures. It probably would've been easy for them to clean it up a bit, get a bit more melodic, iron it up a bit, but they didn't - and that's why I respect Black Flag. I think the Dead Kennedys - they didn't really look like punk guys - they looked like weird guys who had an anger and an energy. They just played really well together. And that's how you get little pockets together. Not because you go chasing the mainstream, but because you just do it, because it's the only thing you know [how] to do.
Who's the most punk band around, in terms of that ethos?
M: Even bands like The Prodigy - they exist out there on their own. So many bands have tried to copy them, and they always… I saw them live for the first time in about eight years, two years ago. And it was fucking unbelievable - just really aggressive, super tight. And it would have been easy for them to go on and just go “Here's the Hits, you've paid your money, now fuck off.” But they were really aggressive, they were fighting the bouncers. It was really edgy.
N: They're quite full-on looking and sounding. The attitude underneath it all is the same. I think it's the longevity that underlines what a band is all about. Someone like Slayer, they still do what it says on the tin. They have evolved, but they've not moved away from what they always set out to do. Shellac, bands like that. We do what we do, trends come and go. With Shellac, you had all the chin-strokers back in the day, and then they're out of fashion, but they're still doing what they're doing. And that says a lot about a band.
What bands have you got signed to your label, Neil?
N: It's literally just a small thing that me and a friend in Derby run. There's no big financial thing. We just pick up on bands we like. We had a band called Swound, and one called You Slut - who're a bit post-proggy punk, they're amazing. Die Chihuahua Die. And a band called Kidnapper Bell who're XTC meets Fugazi - melodic, left of centre guitars. It's very DIY. We deal with bands and personalities we like. It's nice working with bands who just want to get out there and do some shows.
Are you going to do a live CD?
M: We're gonna record tonight's shows. I've seen worried looking sound technicians! We'll record two or three other shows. We'll have about 30 or 40 good songs to choose from. We might release it next summer. Next year's our twentieth anniversary. This is our little celebration. We might make another album next year, but we want to work away and get it right. And we'll do an anniversary tour as well. 20 years of us!
Would you ever use your songs on Guitar Hero?
M: It's an interesting way for younger kids to hear about bands, older bands - Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that. My wife's totally obsessed by it. I had to buy her it.
Do you play it?
M: I'm bloody awful at it.
It's different to playing electric guitar.
M:It's totally different.
Is it killing off the playing of real instruments?
N:I don't think it is, actually. We're in a weird time, and I think, youngsters… listen to me! Youngsters! In my day… (laughs). People moan about kids sat there playing games and not being outside and whatever, but I think there's a lot to be said for people who were too young to hear Highway to Hell or whatever, digging out all the old rock records, because of that. And also, what is bizarre, I teach drums when I'm at home, and a lot of the kids who do play, do enjoy playing that as well. So for us, we were sat in our bedrooms playing along to records…
M: I think if you find you really like music and you really get into it, you'll find you want to form your own band. I always say no matter level it's at, being in a band is a brilliant thing, for - say, if you're 14, 15 - learning social skills, and team work, all those kind of things you only learn when you do stuff together. And if you band never ever plays a gig, but you really enjoy doing rehearsals, it's really fun being in a band. It's a good outlet. Some kids don't want to play sport, for example, and it's a really good way to have a hobby, to get out those frustrations.
N: One of my hands has just fallen off. [he means his watch]. (laughter).