Interviewed by Francijn Suermondt
Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Formed in 1989, Therapy? have been one of the hardest working rock bands and a mainstay on the touring and festival circuit for 29 years. Their most recent album ‘Cleave’ was released in May and they completed a 22 date UK and Ireland tour supporting The Stranglers earlier this year. Myglobalmind.com were privileged to have caught up with Michael, Neil and Andy at Ramblin Man Fair this year.
FS – I’m chatting backstage at Ramblin Man Fair with Andy, Michael & Neil from Therapy? How are you? You are playing this afternoon on the main stage. Does the fact that this festival is not as heavy as many you play at, bother you at all?
T – Not at all, we think it is great!
FS – So you don’t feel the need to change your set at all?
Michael – No I think we have been quite lucky in the fact that we have played on festival bills with bands such as Slayer and Nepalm Death, but also with bands like REM for example, so we are kind of in a good spot with this. The days of going to a festival and hearing ten bands that sound the same are kind of gone and people want that variety. I think people are a lot more open-minded, so we are just doing our thing you know?
FS – I was talking to Deen Castronovo recently, he used to play with Journey and is now drummer with the Dead Daisies and he said that the UK and the European fans are more open minded compared to the US fans, do you find that when playing there?
Michael – Well we haven’t played festivals in the USA for quite a long time, but I definitely agree that it is more eclectic in Europe, you can go to a festival in Europe and see Pink, Machine Head, Alanis Morrisette and Therapy? All on the same bill on the same day on the same stage. Which is great, and that’s the way it should be you know, to be honest festivals are a day out for the punters it’s not about someone saying ‘I’m great’ …it should be about the day out for everyone else.
FS – You went back to being a three-piece in the at the beginning of the 2000’s, do you think having only three of you helps with your creative flow, choosing tracks for an album and your recording process?
Neil – I just think as a three-piece it just works really well for us, I like the fact that each component is vital to our sound for us. You know, if Andy is off his game the whole song sounds naff, if I am off mine it affects us, and I really enjoy that kind of intensity that that brings. Is it part and parcel of that gig or the writing process in that sense and the recording you know? So I don’t think when we were a four-piece we were terrible or anything like that, it’s just that as a three-piece we are more focused.
Michael – Yes a lot more focused I think, everyone knows their role and everyone is really digging in and ups their game with the gigs and the recording and creative side, so it is good. It definitely refocused the band. And we started to forget about stuff that maybe wasn’t that important, so it’s been brilliant, kind of almost a rebirth for us.
Andy – We started as a three-piece so it felt natural to go back to a three-piece.
FS – You started back in 1989 and how do you think the music industry has and how has it helped or hindered you? If you had to start the band all over again in 1989 or now, which would you choose?
Andy – I think realistically I would probably start it now, to be honest, that was a long time ago. None of us had mobile phones or laptops, there was no internet and when we toured Europe everyone had different currencies. From country to country there were no Euros it was harder to keep in touch with people. Also, there weren’t as many venues to play, not as much media, you couldn’t get your music across unless it was through two or three of the big rock magazines. So I would start the band today if I had that choice.
FS – Even though there is maybe more competition?
Andy – If you are asking me if I was the young me doing it I would say no way to now! We were in the right place at the right time and that is what made us what we are.
Michael – We were lucky as well as we kind of got a lot of experience being signed to a major label and stuff and with that comes a certain wisdom I suppose you realise that we are not comfortable doing that, but are more creative doing this …. So we can shine. It was a good education to come through that classic music business journey.
FS – You paid your dues ….
Michael – Yes, and you learn to deal with things better.
FS – You have been on the road with many bands including Helmet, The Stranglers and Jesus Lizard, what has been the highlight of life on the road so far?
Michael – Well…. The Stranglers…
Neil – I was just about to say the same thing!
Michael – You know it is nice, 29 years into it, that you can still meet lovely people that treat you really well and with a lovely audience too. There are always these brilliant new things that come along and that was definitely one of the highlights, we are all big fans of The Stranglers and they were absolutely brilliant to us and we had a great time.
FS – Your new album ‘Cleave’ will be released in September, so what can you tell us about the background to this album?
Andy – Well the album is classic Therapy with catchy riffs and was produced by Chris Sheldon who we collaborated with on our biggest album of the 90 ’s. So this has a classic Therapy sound with a 21st Century twist. A lot of the feeling behind this album, was due to the fact that a lot of people in the world now seem to be at loggerheads with each other and ‘Cleave’ is one word in the English language which means ‘to spilt or sever something’, so we are trying to look at things from all different side with what is going on in the world. This one is more of a recognisable therapy production it has all the drum traits and guitar and vocals which we are known for. We do have a tendency every now and then, every two or three albums, to throw a curve ball out there and make a really strange one. But this is one of the more fan accessible records.
FS – And what was the feeling behind that, do you just like to mix and match, what was the reason for making this one more accessible?
Andy – No the last album before was called ‘Disquiet’ and half of that record was very, very melodic and when we toured it, one of my favourite tours of ours over the recent years, we found that the punters loved that part of it the most. And not only that, we felt really good playing the songs….
FS – Of course, it is as much for you as for the punters ….
Andy – Yes, if we are not enjoying it, they will not be into it either …
Michael – We spent quite a bit of time rehearsing it, so everything was very much locked in before we went into the studio. Sometimes in the past, we went in with maybe seven or eight songs completed and maybe four more to work on, and then when we go into the studio it can sometimes drift to another musical area. But this time, we went into the room and it all felt really good straight away, we had all the vocals and backing vocals in place so it was quite logical to go in and do it like that ….
FS – So it all just felt right from the word go …
Michael – Yes exactly, it all clicked ….
FS – If you had to choose a favourite album that you have recorded what would it be?
Michael – I have a real soft spot for ‘Baby Teeth’, our debut album, just because that was our kind of a first step and it started the whole thing rolling for us.
Neil – I would say ‘Never Apologise, Never Explain’ which was the first album when we went back to a three-piece. I still listen to that record and it just makes me smile (laughs) it just sounds like three blokes having the time of their lives! Yeah, I love listening to that record!
FS – It makes you happy!! That’s so important!!
Andy – I’m really into the one we did call ‘Disquiet’, the one I have mentioned already.
FS – So what Hot Off The Press news do you have for us that maybe people don’t know already?
Michael – No … nothing top secret, we are pretty much an open book!
FS – And my last question is if you were having a dinner party and could invite 6 guests dead or alive who would they be and why?
T – Ooohhh 6?
FS – you can have 6 between you if you like ….
Neil – I would say …. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley ….just because I could!
Michael – Ummm, I would invite Phil Lynott and Jean-Jacques Burnel from The Stranglers and we could bore everybody talking about bass guitar!
Andy – Gianfranco Zola, as I am a massive Chelsea fan, and Nina Simone, because she would get the party started!!!