INTERVJU: Andy Cairns från Therapy?

Nordirlands finest, Therapy?, är på gång med nytt. Albumet “Cleave” är en spegling av den värld Andy Cairns och vi andra just nu lever i med Donald Trump och Brexit. Vi ringde upp Andy för att språka lite om det och en del annat, som att exempelvis Cliff Burton spelar en roll på nya albumet:

Our bassist Michael McKeegan, one of his favorite bassists of all time is Cliff Burton and he also writes for a bass guitar magazine here in the UK. He had to review a Cliff Burton effects pedal for the magazine and he turned up at rehearsals one day and said ”Look guys, I meant to send this back to the magazine, but I´m gonna buy it.” He brought in the box and there´s a picture of Cliff Burton in his flares and t-shirt. We said ”Well, plug it in and let´s see what it sounds like!” he plugged it in and he sounded just like Cliff.


Let´s talk about ”Cleave” You worked with Chris Sheldon again?

Andy: Yeah, we brought him out of retirement. He was retired for three or four years and he only did mixing. He has a studio in his house in London and he´s a family man. He didn´t produce anyone for years. He said ”I like to spend time with my family and mix albums because you can do that in the evenings.” We were meant to do the album originally with a producer called Tom Dalgety (Pixies, Ghost, Royal Blood) who had done our last album, but then he got a call from Ghost to do their ”Prequelle” album and they´re a way, way beigger band than Therapy so he just went ”Sorry guys!” He did the right thing. I mean, he could´ve worked with us for peanuts or work with Ghost who´s a stadium band. We basically said ”Ok, what are we gonna do?” Somebody in our management said ”Well, what about Sheldon?” and we said ”Well, he doesn´t produce anymore. Why don´t we produce it ourselves and get Sheldon to mix it?” We phoned him up and he said ”Oh yeah, I´d love to mix it!” but five minutes after we put down the phone he rang back and said ”You know what, fuck it! I´ll produce it.” (laughs) I went ”Really?” I was getting texts from musicians and friends ”What have you done? Chris Sheldon is back.” That was brilliant because quite a few people in the last three years have been ringing him to get him to work. For us it was great because we´ve done so much work with him in the past. He´s a really good guy and really good to work with. Good fun.

I thought we´d talk about a few of the songs. Let´s start with ”Expelled” I think the lyrics go something like ”I wasn´t born pretty, I wasn´t born rich, everything I´ve got, I´ve had to fight for it”?

Andy: That´s just about the way that the world is going at the minute. ”Cleave” means two things, to split down the middle and divide or it means to cling to and bring together. It started off with the whole Brexit thing and the whole Donald Trump thing. It seems to divide people down the middle, so every single song on the album to a certain extent, is about division and it can be about how we deal with it. ”Expelled” is about how I felt growing up as someone who was working class and how I was constantly told by the government, by society and by the media that you´re working class. ”Here´s your path! You go to school, after that school you leave at 16 and you go to the factory or you go and work in the supermarket, then you´ll get a small house in a small area, a small mortgage and you´ll have two kids and that´s what you get. That´s the way the world works. Accept it.” Obviously that´s a generalization, but that was how people felt and obviously people don´t fit into boxes. Everyone is different regardless of what society is. There were people that I knew that were working class, but had physical problems or dental problems or handicapped physically and these people were put in the box like everybody else and they were just expected to get on with it. It´s saying ”How come we got ourselves to this place where we just felt cast off and expelled from the rest of the world?” We´re allowed to look at beautiful things through the media of television, but we´re not allowed to have them. I got the title first and there are a lot of people getting lost between the cracks in the modern day and you think with all the information we have at our fingertips and all the wealth that we have, how can we let people get lost in this world?

True. Another cool track is ”Success? Success is survival”

I have to think Leonard Cohen for that title. When he died, and we´re all big Leonard Cohen fans, there were a lot of documentaries on TV about him and there was one that followed him on French tour in 1972, I think, and they were backstage with him and they said to him ”How do you judge success?” and Leonard Cohen went ”Success is survival.” Again that fell into the thing in this day and age, no matter how much aspirations people want you to have or like to make you believe you have, all you really need is just staying with your head above the water is enough. My wife works for a charity and she looks after homeless people and I think that song was written where she wanted to raise some money for a house. There was a shelter for homeless people that the local government was going to close down, so I think 10 of us slept on the street over night where the homeless sleep to raise awareness and to raise money. It was incredible. How anyone lives their life like that and you´ve got Brexit banging on about immigrants and these people got nowhere to go. They´ve got nothing in this world, absolutely nothing and whenever I heard that quote of Leonard Cohen I said ”Thank you, mr Cohen! That´s exactly true.” Anyone that´s in a rock and roll band or anyone´s that´s on television or anyone´s that´s listening to the Kardashians can think that success is getting that brand new car you always wanted or success is going on that holiday to the Seychelles, but for 98% of the world success is survival.

You mentioned the Kardashians. Do you know Gary Holt from Slayer? Have you seen his t-shirt ”Kill the Kardashians!”?

Andy: No. (laughs) That´s great!

It´s fascinating how you can make that amount of money and become such a celebrity from not really doing anything.

Andy: It´s an art in itself. The other big thing over here is ”Love Island” I have an 18 year old son and he´s not into it, but all his friends are. It´s all aspirational television and it´s all about brands and what brands we want to wear. It´s not easy to be a teenager now. It´s incredible.

Another track I like is ”Save me from the ordinary” The intro, first time I heard it, kinda made me think of Cliff Burton and his bass playing.

Andy: Well, I´ll let you in on a secret. It´s exactly based on Cliff Burton. Our bassist Michael McKeegan, one of his favorite bassists of all time is Cliff Burton and he also writes for a bass guitar magazine here in the UK. He had to review a Cliff Burton effects pedal for the magazine and he turned up at rehearsals one day and said ”Look guys, I meant to send this back to the magazine, but I´m gonna buy it.” He brought in the box and there´s a picture of Cliff Burton in his flares and t-shirt. We said ”Well, plug it in and let´s see what it sounds like!” he plugged it in and he sounded just like Cliff. Whenever we were doing that song, we said ”Well, keep the pedal on!”, so he´s actually playing the Cliff Burton pedal on that song. Originally the intro for that song was a lot longer. We just wanted a bass solo. (laughs) Cliff Sheldon actually came in and said ”Look guys, I know you like Cliff Burton, but this is ridiculous.”

I like the title. People don´t wanna be ordinary.

Andy: It´s about doing something with your own life and your friends around you. It´s not even just something that you´re told to. I´ve seen a lot of parents and some of my old school friends and you can still work 9-5 in an office and have a great life. It´s not saying ”Don´t do that!” It´s saying ”When you get up in the morning and go out your front door today, turn left instead of right.” It´s just about breaking off the routine and the whole song is… I know from personal experience, if I do the same thing every day day after day, I get depressed because it seems like I´m on a hamster wheel. I just found that if I do something different, like if I go to a different bar for a change or go and visit another concert hall, it just makes my mind open up and it really makes me come alive again. The song is really just about that. It´s about shaking things up in your own life.

The final song I wanna talk about is the last one on the album, ”No sunshine” I really like the guitar that comes in around the 1 min 30 sec mark.

Andy: There´s a Swedish connection to that. There´s this really famous technician called Biffen. I think he was on a reality show many years ago?

He was. But he´s worked for In Flames and right now I think he´s worked as the tour manager for The Hellacopters.

Andy: Oh, is he? I know he used to work with Nicke (Andersson) and all that. The connection is that he used to also work for Jim Dunlop pedals and he knows I´m a pedal junkie for guitars. He brought me along from, I think, the Jim Dunlop custom shop, and it was a phaser, but it was on a rocking treadle like a wah-wah. You could adjust the phase as you played it. He gave it to me and whenever I went in to record with Chris Sheldon he was going ”Ok, we need an unusual guitar sound. What have you got?” and then he said ”What´s that orange thing over there?” and I said ”Oh yeah, Biffen gave me that years ago and I haven´t used it really. ” I plugged it in and he went ”Right, that´s what we´re using.” That´s where that came from.

You´re celebrating 30 years as a band next year, right?

Andy: We will and we´ll probably celebrate in 2020 though, but we formed the first weekend in December in 1989. That´s when we got together, but we didn´t release our first demos and our first single till 1990, so we might start the tour next year and then finish it in 2020. We are gonna do a special 30th anniversary tour.

How does it feel? 30 years is a long time.

Andy: Someone did send me a cutting. In 1992 we did a big festival in Ireland and Rolling Stone magazine came over to interview us and they said to us backstage at the festival ”You´re about to release your first major album. Do you guys see yourselves like The Rolling Stones?” and the journalist says that all three band members burst out laughing and said ”Don´t be ridiculous!” and here I am speaking to you 30 years later. (laughs)


That year you signed with A&M Records. Did you tour with Hole that year as well or was that later?

Andy: We did. It was amazing. We toured with Hole all around the UK and it was fantastic. We had met Courtney a couple of times because we were living around London and we were spending time between Belfast and London. We went to see Hole open for Mudhoney at the Astoria and we went backstage and ended up getting really drunk with Courtney and Eric (Erlandsson). A month later they were gonna do their own tour and we got a call from them ”You guys wanna do this tour?” I absolutely loved it. It´s one of my favorite tours I´ve ever done since I´ve been in the band. They could not have been better people to us. They treated us really, really well. We never had to put up with any bullshit from them. There were a couple of times when Courtney were doing interviews actually and Eric asked me to come up on stage during soundcheck and play a little bit of guitar just to help out at soundcheck. They were amazing people. I like Courtney Love a lot. She´s a really fierce woman and to have a woman that strong and powerful in rock music is great. She did not take any shit from anybody. If she got to a concert hall and the doors weren´t open so the band could load their equipment in, when the guy turned up she´d say ”Where the fuck were you?” She did not take any shit and she didn´t give a fuck. As a young guy in a band that was just really kinda starting out, to see someone do that… she didn´t do it for the sake of doing it, she did it whenever she thought her band was being mistreated and it was really inspirational. They were great in those days and they were fantastic and all really nice people. The shows were all sold out, so I have nothing but good memories. And there was this cool band from the UK called Daisy Chainsaw. They were on first and they were incredible. Really, really good.

What are your memories from that time and the whole grunge era and grunge killing off Sunset Strip?

Andy: Whenever I look back at it, I don´t think it was as big as it was made to be. I mean, I remember when ”Appetite for destruction” (1987) came out and I come from a punk background, so I was never really into hair metal. All my punk friends were going ”Oh my God, you gotta see this band! They´re like the Sex Pistols and Aerosmith.” and I remember going when I heard it ”This is the Sex Pistols with another singer.” and I didn´t know how it had gotten to Guns N´Roses from some of that awful hair metal, but then agian when grunge came along, everyone would go ”Oh my God, this is so different! Nirvana is so different from Guns N´Roses.” I thought ”Hold on! Both bands are on Geffen, both bands got a white Anglo Saxon singer and if you look at the logos, it´s exactly the same type set. So literally the only difference is that one solo might play really quick, pentatonic blues licks and the other guy plays noise solos. Hair metal had a confidence and an arrogance whereas grunge was a lot more down beat and all about… it was like ”I hit myself and I wanna die.” whereas hair metal was ”I wanna get laid and I actually love myself.” It was all rock music played by white dudes from America. My personal thing is that I grew up on Hüsker Dü and Minutemen, Fugazi and all that stuff. A lot of those grunge bands we did a lot of shows with. We did an American tour for two months with Jesus Lizard and Helmet all around America and we did a tour of Ireland with Tad and then we did an American tour with Tad and we did some American shows with Rollins Band. ´92-´94 we played with a ton of American bands. We did a show with Screaming Trees in 1992.

What was Henry Rollins like back then?

Andy: He was great. I think the thing that we bonded over was… we had a song called ”Nowhere” that was released as a single in 1993 and he really liked it. I think he heard it on MTV in his hotel room and they aske dus to do the tour. We were all big fans of Black Flag. He´s so intense but a really nice guy. He went to the gym a lot, but we bonded over Thin Lizzy. He came into the dressing room three of four gigs in and we were all quite nervous and he went ”You guys are from Ireland? You guys like Thin Lizzy?” and we went ”Yeah, of course we are! Everyone loves Thin Lizzy in Ireland.” and he went Yeah man, they`re one of my favorite bands.” We just chatted about Thin Lizzy and that was it. That was great.


Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen