Their new album Disquiet will be released next March 23.
Lead singer and guitarist Andy Cairns speaks to Les Fleurs Du Mal about it.
LFdM: Good morning Andy, thank you so much for your time!
You started your career almost thirty years ago: How did you react to the great change in the music biz? Did it affect your songwriting process, somehow?
Andy: The change in the way the music business works has meant that living apart from each other is no longer an obstacle to writing and rehearsing. When the band began years ago we all lived near each other and very close to a rehearsal space so it was easy to get together, share ideas and then shape those ideas into songs. As the years passed the band members moved to different cities (and sometimes different countries) so any getting together involved forward planning and longer periods of time together so we could play our new ideas to one another, digest them and then see if we wanted to take these ideas any further. An unsuccessful session would have meant booking more rehearsal time and with that more trains, flights and studio fees.
With the advent of accessible digital technology we can now record ideas and send them immediately to each other using only our smartphones. By the time we hook up we've had time to listen carefully to each others ideas so we're not starting new sessions from 'scratch'.
LFdM: In these latest years there's a sort of countertrend which shows a renewed appreciation of those music genres once considered too main stream and therefore neglected, which now seem to have become worthy of attention.
I'd like to know your point of view about this, since Therapy? Has always shown a multi-genres kind of style and seemed to like also some elements of pop music
A: Therapy? have never been shy of listening to, and absorbing, all genres of music. We grew up in Northern Ireland in the 70's & 80's during violent, turbulent times. As a consequence many live bands refused to play, clubs were reluctant to open in certain areas and good independent record stores were scarce.
Out of this drought people who loved music had to make do with what they could get so a gig was a gig to us. This meant that a lot of us were not so influenced by fashion and genre as other people in big, trendy cities. Myself and my friends could go and see Metallica, Stiff Little Fingers, The Communards, The Human League, The Smiths, The Fall, Fugazi, Crass and not worry about betraying 'our tribe'. A lot of the more commercial record shops would sell chart singles so we were able to pick up a lot of the mainstream punk and new wave singles on 7"
by Skids, Buzzcocks, XTC, Bauhaus, Vapours, Ruts, Blondie, Stranglers etc.
We picked up on a lot of the melody of these records. We also loved Crass, Dead Kennedys, Birthday Party, etc but these only tended to be available, in limited copies, in specialist shops several miles from where we lived and would involve extra cash spent on buses and trains.
LFdM: For more than ten years you had such a great success, then, all of a sudden, something broke that spell in the middle of 2000. What happened?
A: No idea. I think some of our young fans from 'back-in-the-day' got married or moved on to different, less angry music. The climate had also changed and people were listening to different bands. Music moves in cycles and a few of our older fans are now returning because their kids are at college and they've got free time again!
LFdM: You played many covers, signed by Turbonegro or Joy Division. Is there any song holding a special place in your heart or mind that you would love to cover?
A: I'd love to do a cover of Dark Paradise by Lana Del Rey
LFdM: Some of your supporters since the 90's might have a heart attack listening to your most recent album. How do you think your long time fans will react to "Still Hurts"?
A: Personally, I think they'll love it. It'll be like a strong cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It's got everything they love about Therapy?, riffs, a strong chorus, pissed-off vocals and lyrics about frustration that they can relate to.
LFdM: In my opinion one of your most interesting features has always been trying to capture the widest kind of interests in the audience, winking to various music genres. Can you tell us what are your main modern influences nowadays?
A: As I mentioned earlier, we listen to everything. At the moment our drummer, Neil, is listening to The Bad Plus and Rush, Michael, our bassist, is listening to Viet Cong and Black Metal while i'm listening to deathpunk like Arctic Flowers and Infinite Void as well as some interesting electronic dub by Kahn and Kode 9.
LFdM: As I said before, your style mixes influences by many music genres, above all grunge, but revised on a more ironic level, as we can get from your latest album. What's the message behind Still Hurts?
A: "Still Hurts" is saying that you may grow older, move house, change job, get a new partner, new life or new body but the dance of words in your head you cannot change. You have to use these words to your own advantage and a good place to start is by acknowledging these words andnot trying to shut them out or shut them up. It's still okay to be angry but keep that anger positive. Stay angry, stay alive.
LFdM: To what extent do you think the music should be ironic?
A: It depends on the music. If it's too ironic it can move from intelligent and knowing style to sarcastic, withering bitterness but if it's too playful it can make the songs seem throwaway. Try not to be a smartass. Nobody likes a smartass.
LFdM: How is it important being in the right place at the right time when making an album?
A: It's 50%. Many albums through history have sunk without trace only to be discovered later on. At times, like Nirvana, it hits at exactly the right second and changes everything for years to come. With our album, Troublegum, we were at the right place at the right time. Guitar music was fashionable and you didn't have to have spikey hair or long hair to play punk or metal anymore.
LFdM: It's been quite a long time you don't play live. Don't you miss the "live" dimension and vibe? Don't you love playing onstage or is it more a matter of choice?
A: I miss playing live madly. We usually play on a regular basis but it's now been a year since we did a show. I'm lucky as i've managed to play a few acoustic dates which helps keep me satisfied, also we've been in the studio recording Disquiet and myself and Michael McKeegan also took our new project, East Antrim, into the studio and recorded an album which we hope to release later this year.
Thankfully in two weeks time from answering these questions we'll be on the road again and i'm really looking forward to it.
LFdM: Insecurity is one of my favourite tracks with Helpless Still Lost: it's Black Sabbath meeting Ian Curtis' ghost?
A: Wow, thank you! That's certainly the vibe we were going for. In fact, I think there are a lot of similarities between Unknown Pleasures and the first Black Sabbath album. They are both very atmospheric albums which have an intensity to them, are close in tone and both have a cold ambience to them. Oh yeah, both sound great in headphones with the lights off too.
LFdM: Can we say "Still Hurts" kind of completes your path in the music field? And if so, to what extent?
A: No way. We've still so much more to do in the coming years and we never know where we're going next.
LFdM: Is there any band (even of the past) you would like to play with in studio or onstage?
A: I would love to see a festival with the following line up
Gang of Four
The Pop Group
Public Image Limited
The Birthday Party
LFdM: LFdM: Is there any song of yours you loved the most for some reasons?
Thank you very much for this interview and I hope to have the chance to see you performing soon.
A: Same to you!
Interview by Michela
Edit by Margherita (Meg)