EXCLUSIVE: It's been another vintage year for Therapy?, with the release of the critically acclaimed 'Hard Cold Fire' seeing the Irish-Anglo trio revitalised. "We wanted to write an album that wasn't a lockdown, 'woe is me' album. We said that people have had enough", says Andy Cairns as we sit down for a chat at Stonedead Festival. Currently in the middle of touring for the what's proved their highest charting U.K. release for twenty-five years, they're also looking forward to a very special anniversary in 2024. "It's happening", Cairns exclaims when asked about plans to commemorate three decades 'Troublegum'. Lunacy booth; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Andy, how the hell are you?
Really good man, thanks. It's good to see you again.
You're here at Stonedead Festival, and how have you found it so far?
Absolutely brilliant so far. The people are lovely, and I love the venue. The signing session was great. We met people there from Finland, we met people from Ireland, we met people from Germany; a really, really good crowd. I love the setup; everything's been very well looked after, and of course, there's a good Irish contingent backstage.
You've had another great year, with the release of 'Hard Cold Fire' which received a brilliant response.
The album was good because we had it written during lockdown, and we wanted to write an album that wasn't a lockdown, 'woe is me' album. We said that people have had enough and have suffered enough, so we chose all the energetic up-tempo songs. It was our first record in twenty-odd years to get into the charts, which we were absolutely stunned at, in countries in Europe as well. We're really pleased with it, and what happens after this is, we've got two more festivals, and then we've got touring right up until Christmas. It will be in the U.K. just before Christmas, and we'll be coming to Ireland at some point next year. But the U.K. will be the last three weeks of December, then Germany. Holland, Belgium, and places like France.
You once again brought Chris Sheldon back to work with you on the album, and he obviously produced 'Troublgum' ; has much changed in the process between then and now?
Well, no. He's technical., and he's obviously very au fait with modern recording technology, and he's up to speed. The thing about Chris is, he's the kind of person we could not see for two years, and when you see him, it's like you've just carried on the conversation. He was such a big part of the Therapy? story in the early '90s. Whenever we did 'Cleave' on Marshall records in 2018, he actually came out of retirement, because he's just a mixer now. He's married, but you know, he's got children, and he lives in North London and he's got his own studio, and the whole stress of recording wasn't really for him. But he loved mixing, and he did a lot. He worked on 'Rocket Man', the movie [Elton John biopic] and things like that. He was doing that, but then we asked him to produce the record, and he said; "I don't do that anymore". Then we got a phone call saying; "yeah, I love it", and he loved the experience on 'Cleave', so we did 'Hard Cold Fire', and we hope we're getting him to do the next one.
What does he bring to Therapy? as a producer?
It's really good because he knows us inside out as people. He knows what the strengths are, and it makes things a lot better. So in the studio, if he doesn't like something, he's not tiptoeing around the artist going; "I don't really like this direction"; he can say; "that's not working", and we'll respect that. Similarly, if we feel really strongly about something, he'll take it on board. Making music is supposed to be a joyous thing, it's meant to be a cathartic thing, and he certainly adds to that experience.
Back in the band's early days, you were the main song writer, but these days it's a band effort; what's changed?
What's changed the most is digital file sharing. In the past, we would have got together and I would have a boatload of ideas, and I would have played them and then at the end of the session, everyone thought, "well, that's what Andy does". But because we've all got our own little home studio setups, I'm getting stuff all the time, from Michael [McKeegan, bass] and from Neil [Cooper, drums]. There's a song on the new album called 'Woe', which has got great riff, and that was Neil. He sent me an email and said; "I'm not a guitar player, but I've got a little synth; could you play this on the guitar?" He sent me the riff, and I played it back through a Marshall amp and send it back to him and said; "something like this?", and he went; "perfect". Also, something like 'Poundland of Hope and Glory' was mostly written by Michael.
So it is all about the freedom to share ideas?
It's the things like, you know, I'll just go; "this is too good to use" and then we'll collaborate a little bit on that, and we'll add to that, For some reason, I think, obviously those two lads can sit at home and listen to stuff and play it back, and the glare is not on you. You know, like if there's three of you in a room and you go; "have you got any riffs?", all of a sudden you're under pressure, whereas someone can send you one at Tuesday night at half past eight and go; "have a wee listen to this, and if you don't like it, no bother". Then I can listen to it perfectly, rather than a bunch of feedback wailing from the amp and all!
Going back in time, and 28 years ago today you were on stage at Donington Park, as special guests to Metallica; what are your memories from that day?
Well, it's bizarre, and there's one long story to that. They were thinking of putting us on the bill because Lars was a fan, and the record company said; "Lars Ulrich wants you to play at their show at Donington, but he's never met you". So the record company said; "Slash's Snakepit are playing in Paris, and Lars Ulrich's a guest, and Lars would like to meet you", so the record company flew me and Michael McKeegan over to Paris to meet Lars before the show.
What was Lars like when you met him?
We had a beer with him. We had a chart and he said; "I really like you guys' music; would you be up for doing it?" and then we got chatting about music, about Ireland. That was on, I think, Thursday night, and then on Monday morning we got called saying; "yeah, you're on the bill". But they also played a warm-up show in Heaven in London before, and we were invited down to that, and we got to meet them and hang out with the rest of the band, so I obviously got to meet James Hetfield, who's a bit of a hero of mine because the way he plays guitar; I love his style. I got to meet Kirk, and Kirk asked me where I bought my shoes! I was wearing these really bizarre, black teddy boy shoes, and he wanted to know what shop it was, and I remember writing down this shop in London.
What are your memories of the Donington show?
The gig itself was, it was more I enjoyed the Donington the year before, '94, because it was more of a festival. I think this was, even though it was Monsters of Rock, it was really a Metallica show because they'd been away for a while. But it was good. They treated us really, really well. They took us out afterwards. They went to a club in Birmingham, and they they gave us seats right beside them, they chatted to us. bought us drinks; they were lovely. I wouldn't hear a bad word said against Metallica, but I think gig-wise, punter-wise... Ironically, I meet more people now that preferred that gig to the one we did in '94. People have said; "oh, it was amazing", and I wasn't sure. Maybe it was because we were higher up the bill and I was nervous. Maybe because it was Metallica's gig. It's a bit like the 'Infernal Love album.
I was just about to mention that album; those two shows were from two different eras really; '94 was 'Troublegum', and '95 was 'Infernal Love'.
Yeah, exactly. But it's nice to meet so many people that were at that Metallica gig who'd tell me that's the gig that got them into us, which is brilliant for me because I remember at the time not being so convinced. I knew we played well, but didn't know how much of an impression we made.
It was approaching the end of an era, because a few months after that Fyfe Ewing left the band; did you see it coming even then?
I think it was obvious at that point that Fyfe, bless him, that he didn't like touring. He'd never felt comfortable doing festivals, he really, really didn't. Going on tour was torture to him, and we had so many gigs planned that even whenever Graham Hopkins joined the band in '96, the first gigs we did were left over ones that were from when Fyfe was in the band. It was for the best. It was not played out as nice or as happy an ending as it could have been, but it could have been a lot more bitter as well, which is good.
I have to talk about 'Troublegum' because next year, 2024 is its 30th anniversary.
It's happening [laughing]!
That's what I wanted to hear! What exactly is happening?!
We are doing, at the minute, there are 26 'Troublegum' shows across Europe. It'll be some in the U.K. We can't tell you, but we know where they are, and we know when they are, but we can't announce it. It will be U.K. 'Troublegum' shows, there will be Irish 'Troublegum' shows, there will be ones in Scotland and Wales, and there'll be Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary; there will be all over the place. The last time we did this I think we did two in the U.K. or three, and a handful in Germany, but this time around, because it's the thirtieth, at the minute there's 26 and counting. Funnily enough, because we've got the early part of the year quite quiet, we're writing the next album, so we hope to have it written before festival season so that we can enjoy the festivals and the 'Troublegum' shows.
Are there any plans for a thirtieth anniversary vinyl and CD reissue?
Universal [music], yeah, we've been in touch. I mean, to be fair to Universal, every time there's any kind of 'Troublegum' milestone, they're in touch. They're very good, the people that we talk to. We keep open channels because it's our best selling record on Universal. There have never let it go out of stock, and it's sold across the world, so every time there's any kind of thing they're straight onto our management or vice versa.
I'm imagining they're bound to do a special edition to celebrate.
That's in discussion. There is discussion; the 30th anniversary reissue of the coloured vinyl. We're looking to see if there really are any unreleased tracks or any other unreleased live tracks, and we're looking at old MTV concerts and stuff. Yeah, so that's all being looked at. We had a meeting about that early August with the band and management, and that's on the table, yeah.
What's it like for you as a musician to be revisiting that time 30 years ago?
I like it, because I play a different way. Whenever I made the album I was a different musician than I am now. I'm a far better guitar player for a start, but the naivety made me take risks that me as a more experienced guitarist wouldn't take now. So whenever I go back and listen to some songs I'm going; "oh my god, what was I doing with those two chords?" So I like going back to it. We did it before but I think this time, we'll be a bit more relaxed, if that's the right word. It's going to be a genuine celebration; it's thirty years, man, it's a big thing.
How will you prepare for that, as a musician?
So what I'll normally do is I will go into my little mancave at the start of the year, and I'll put the album on headphones. I'll try and dig out the pedals and the guitars that I used. Some of them, obviously, are ancient and will need changing, but I'll try and get it as close as possible to the record. We want to do something with it live, rather than just... The last couple of times we've done this it's been playing the record as it is on the record, but we might visit some of the live shows from '94 and see what way we really changed it live and maybe intergrade some of that. Like, we did little bits of elongated sections in our version of 'Isolation', and something like 'Unbeliever' we had a little spoken word singing bit at the start. 'Trigger Inside', sometimes there was a longer intro and feedback, so to bring in something like that might be quite interesting.
It's almost theatrical, in a way.
It's just something a bit different.
'Unbeliever' is such a great track. I love the drop D sound on it.
We got that from Helmet. We toured with them in '93, and I said [to guitarist Page Hamilton]; "what tunning do you use?", and the thing about 'Unbeliever' about the tuning is it's not drop D, it's; D A D A D D. The first and second strings are both tuned in unison to D, so when you play both strings, they ring slightly out of phase with each other. In the pre chorus bit, if you play it as a barre chord, it kind of rings slightly out phase. A lot of people think it's a chorus pedal, and it's not; it's just the way the guitars are tuned. It's a really good tuning to mess about with, but if you get clean sound on it, you can get all kinds of little folky bits going on.
We've covered so much, but before I let you go, what's coming up for Therapy? for the rest of the year?
We've got a festival in a few weeks time in Belgian, we've got another festival in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and then we head off, I think from the third of October right up until, I think December the 17th is the last gig, so it's all across Europe, finishing with three weeks in the U.K.
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Therapy?'s 'Hard Cold Fire' is out now, via Marshall Records. For all things Therapy? visit the band's official website.