Band History by Andy Cairns
Northern Ireland, 1989. Andy Cairns from Ballyclare and Fyfe Ewing from Larne meet at a gig of local bands. A mutual taste in music and attitude drives them to decide to start a band. Their influences include Big Black, Sonic Youth, Rapeman, Hüsker Dü, Butthole Surfers, The Undertones, That Petrol Emotion, Captain Beefheart, Motörhead, Mudhoney, early Metallica, Fugazi, The Stooges, Loop, Funkadelic, Can, Belgian New Beat, Trance, Techno, Hip Hop (Public Enemy) and Jazz (John Zorn).
They decide on the name Therapy?—it’s short and easy to remember.
Rehearsing in Fyfe’s bedroom after school and when Andy has time off from the factory he works in, they put together their early material with Fyfe on drums and vocals and Andy on guitar and vocals. Easter/summer they go to a small studio on Belfast’s Lisburn Road and put down their first demo, including: Bloody Blue, Skyward, Body O.D. and Beefheart/Albini, with Andy filling in on bass duties.
Needing a bass player to complete the line up they recruit Fyfe’s school buddy Michael McKeegan on bass. Michael, an energetic and enthusiastic metal fan, is influenced by the same music as the boys but also adds to the party: Voivod, Carcass, Napalm Death, Black Sabbath and various Grindcore, Black, Speed and Doom Metal.
They play their first gig that summer at Belfast Art College organized by Giro’s gig collective, supporting Decadence Within. Later that year they record their second demo in a studio in Lurgan. The tracks are Multifuck, Here Is, S.W.T. and Punishment Kiss. They play more gigs round Northern Ireland and decide to record their own single.
The Meat Abstract single is recorded early this year at Homestead Studios, Randalstown with engineer Mudd Wallace. The 7” vinyl single is released on the bands own Multifuckingnational Records. 1000 copies are pressed up. English D.J. John Peel plays the single, as do Northern Irish D.J.’s Mike Edgar and Johnny Hero. The band sells the single in Caroline Music Records and Heroes and Villains Records in Belfast, as well as at their gigs. It soon sells out.
That summer they do their first UK tour supporting brilliant Derby band The Beyond. Taking any support slots they can, Therapy? open for Fugazi, Loop, Ride, Inspiral Carpets, Teenage Fanclub, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Tad.
At a Revolting Cocks / Silverfish gig in Edinburgh that year they give a copy of their single to Leslie Rankine from Silverfish, who passes it on to their record company boss Gary Walker of London based Wiiija Records.
Wiiija and also head of their distribution, John Loder at Southern Express show an interest in the band. Going back to Homestead Studios the band record the rest of what will be their first album, Babyteeth.
Babyteeth is released in July of this year. The band tours the UK again and starts doing press, raising their profile. The John Peel Radio Sessions and relentless gigging keep the band busy. They also do a major tour opening for Minneapolis noise rockers Babes in Toyland. Babyteeth goes to no. 1 in the English and Irish Indie charts. Towards the end of the year the band go into Southern Studios in London to work on their second album with engineer Harvey Birrell.
Pleasure Death is released in January on Wiiija/Southern Records and goes to no. 1 in the UK Indie Charts. Quarterstick records in America, run by Corey Rusk, releases Caucasian Psychosis, a compilation of both the Babyteeth and Pleasure Death albums. Mass touring follows with the band making their first forays into mainland Europe, doing well in Germany and France before returning to do their first major festivals at Reading and Finsbury Park in the UK and the Feile in Southern Ireland.
That summer the band signs to major label A&M Records and heads to Loco Studios in Wales, again with Harvey Birrell, to begin work on their next album. That October the band releases Nurse which makes the UK Top 40 Album Chart. Teethgrinder, the album’s single, makes No. 30 in the singles chart. Magazine front covers with NME and Melody Maker follow, as well as the band’s first trip to the USA where they do their own small headline tour and open up for The Screaming Trees in New York. They end the year with a sold out tour of Britain and Ireland.
The band starts the year in Black Barn Studios, Oxfordshire recording the Shortsharpshock EP with producer Chris Sheldon. Released early that year the lead track Screamager goes top 10 in the UK and lifts up the band’s profile even more. The band play English charts show Top Of The Pops and the following tour is sold out.
The band makes the cover of Kerrang! magazine and return to mainland Europe for a successful tour. During the year the band release further singles Opal Mantra and Face The Strange EP (featuring lead track Turn). Both these make the UK top 20 and see the band appearing on numerous TV and radio shows and on the covers of various magazines.
The band makes the most of the interest and tour as much as possible in as many countries as possible continuing their reputation as one of the hardest working bands around. A two month US tour sees them opening for two of their favourite bands Helmet and The Jesus Lizard while they begin to make many appearances at European festivals.
After the summer the band return to Homestead Studios in Northern Ireland to start writing and rehearsing for their new album. They go from there to Chipping Norton Studios to do recording and tracking and then on to Rak Studios and The Church Studios in London to do vocals and mixing, all with Chris Sheldon. The band still manages to squeeze in a British and Irish tour to end the year with.
Early in the year the band release the Nowhere single which picks up lots of radio play and goes top 20 in the UK. On the back of it the band release the album Troublegum which goes top 5 in the UK and also charts in various other countries. The album not only contains Screamager, Turn and Nowhere but also future singles Die Laughing, Trigger Inside and (in Germany) the Joy Division cover version Isolation.
The album is a critical and commercial success and gives the band a chance to play even more gigs around the world. They tour America with Henry Rollins, Tad, Swervedriver and others as well as doing their own shows there. They also make it to Japan for the first time, playing two memorable sold out nights in Tokyo.
The European tour sees the band building on their increasing fan base especially in Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, Scandinavia, Spain and Austria. They also play Israel. That summer they also play the Castle Donnington, Monsters Of Rock festival.
The year ends with Troublegum topping many end-of-year polls. The band picks up a Kerrang! award for Best Album, a Mercury Music Prize nomination and a nomination for Best Rock Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards. The bands’ work rate went through the roof with constant touring, record releases and press.
The band starts work on their new album at Real World Studios in Box, just outside Bath, England with producer Al Clay. Also present at the sessions was cellist/guitarist Martin McCarrick who had previously been with Siouxsie And The Banshees and had added the strings to Troublegum’s track Unrequited.
The overall dark tones of the album were embellished by Martins’ string arrangements on tracks such as Bad Mother, Stories and most effectively on the bands cover version of the Hüsker Dü classic Diane. The album was to be titled Infernal Love. Later that year Stories, Loose and Diane were all released as singles in the UK, all going top 40.
Diane was a major success on mainland Europe, however, going top 10 in many countries and picking up an award for best single in Belgium from Humo Magazine. Touring the album took the band as far afield as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Australia, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. The band even had a minor radio hit with Misery in the US. The relentless work was however taking its toll.
Early January Andy gets a phone call from co-founder Fyfe to tell him he was leaving the band, stating he would “go mad” if he carried on. Early March, after many auditions, Graham Hopkins from Ireland joins the band.
At the same time Andy and Michael ask Martin McCarrick to join the band full time, he accepts. Deciding that there’s still touring for Infernal Love to do, the band spends most of the year playing together as a band getting used to working as a four piece. They depart for a US tour supporting Girls Against Boys, then head on to Canada for a further month of dates before returning back to the States to open for Ozzy Osbourne. They return to Ireland where they record two covers by The Misfits and The Smiths for various tribute albums and then back to the European tour circuit.
Most of this year is spent writing and rehearsing, with a few festivals thrown in. The band starts going to studios for short periods of time, slowly starting work on their next album.
In the beginning of the year the band finished their new album at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, London. Produced by Chris Sheldon, it was the first album featuring the new four piece line up. The year started well enough with the band doing a secret middle slot in London between the then fledgling Scottish band Idlewild and current champs of rock, the Deftones. The gig was well received and got great reviews for the new, fuller sound.
The first single off the new album Semi-Detached, Church Of Noise, received radio play and entered the UK top 40. A sold out tour of the UK followed to promote the single and the album release followed shortly, going top 30. At this time the band headed off for Europe. The next single Lonely, Cryin’, Only was released soon after and saw the band doing a lot of press as well as television shows in England, Ireland, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland and Austria. The band hit the Euro festival circuit hard that summer, including a third appearance at the legendary Torhout/Werchter shows in Belgium.
About this time it became apparent that all was not well at A&M England, the label to which the band was still signed. Promotion for the album was scarce and it was finally settled in August that the label would be closing down, leaving Therapy? still committed to a hefty European tour until Christmas. The band themselves were told by the Universal Group (who owned A&M) that they would be moving to Mercury Records, also on the Universal roster. The band even went so far as (at the request of Universal) recording a video for the staff of Mercury saying “looking forward to working with you”, etc.
However, a double blow happened later that month when not only did the band get told that there would be no home for them at Mercury but also that Semi-Detached would not be getting a release in the USA through Universal. Nevertheless, the band stuck to their commitments and with no deal, no promotion and Andy and Michael paying the road crews’ wages, finished the tour as planned.
This year got off to a bad start with drummer Graham Hopkins breaking his arm after a bad fall. With no label, no drummer and a crappy drum machine, Andy, Michael and Martin holed themselves up for weeks in Ritz Studios in Putney, London. Fucked off, they started writing songs for the bands seventh album. Having been disillusioned with the world of corporate rock that they had found themselves in, they began pounding out riffs, noises and feedback as if their life depended on it.
Graham joined the fray in March and in June they headed off to Great Linford Manor Studios in Milton Keynes, England to make their new album with P.J. Harvey’s producer, Head. Working furiously round the clock for nearly six weeks, the band lived in a world of their own, listening to everything at full volume. By this point they had signed a worldwide deal with ARK 21 Records run by former IRS boss Miles Copeland. October saw the release of Suicide Pact—You First.
There was no single and the album charted in the UK just outside the top 40 but the band were playing with a born again fierceness and determination which saw a ferocious European tour with many unforgettable shows. The uncommercialness of the record meant that sales were down and radio wasn’t playing it but that didn’t stop people from turning up and having their heads fucked. In fact, on this tour some of the theatres they played got bigger.
The album made many of the rock papers’ end-of-year polls. Visions Magazine in Germany even went as far as to include Suicide Pact—You First in their top 50 albums of the ’90s. Even Rolling Stone gave it a great review.
This year saw the band releasing a ‘best of’ as a way of getting out of some money still owed to Mercury. So Much For The Ten Year Plan—A Retrospective 1990-2000 had various tracks from the bands ‘career’ and proved an excuse to go on a lengthy tour playing whatever the hell they wanted from the last ten years.
The band toured continuously and had a few prime festival slots including Bizarre in Germany, Pinkpop in Holland and Witness in Ireland. In August they played the only sold out show of the weekend at the South By Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas and had a blast in Europe with their good friends Clutch in tow. November saw the band in Ritz Studios, Putney again preparing for their next album.
The band head to Seattle in the American North-West to start work on their next album with legendary producer Jack Endino. The band want a more live rock and roll feel to their new work and Jack helps them achieve that over the course of the eight weeks they are there. Augmenting their sound with the help of Barrett Martin (Queens Of The Stone Age, R.E.M. and The Screaming Trees) on percussion and various friends on vocals and guitars (Clutch, Black Halos and Mr. Endino himself) the band have a blast and let themselves go.
They not only record the album itself but also a cover of Turbonegro’s Denim Demon for the Alpha Motherfuckers album on Bitzcore Records and several other tunes, including covers of the Black Halos’ Blood Sucking Freaks, legendary Irish punk band Rudi’s Big Time and also an insane original piece called Valentines Day 2001 which ends up sounding like Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits jamming in a jazz club at the end of the world.
It’s not all work and no play though. While there, the band take in great shows by Mudhoney, Supersuckers, The Melvins, Tad Doyle’s new band Hog Molly, The Catheters, Clutch and Nebula.
Inspired and ready for action the band return home in March. Due to various record company fuck ups however, Shameless is not released until later in the year meaning that the excitement and momentum the band had built up is somewhat lost. A short American tour of the east coast is a minor success but with no new record to promote it seems very strange at times.
The single Gimme Back My Brain receives single of the week in Kerrang! and The Guardian but is lost among record company ‘faux pas’. Trying to make up for lost time the band embark on a grueling autumn/winter tour of Europe where the cold weather and busy schedule sees all the band falling ill and feeling exhausted.
They are also getting a familiar nagging feeling that, once again, all is not well with either their drummer or the record company. What started off as a year with so much promise, ends in fatigue and uncertainty. The only thing making the whole exercise seem worthwhile at this point is the support of their fans who have been great throughout. The final two gigs of the year in Belfast and Dublin confirm this and bring the band home with some comfort. Two days before Christmas Graham Hopkins leaves the band.
A strong sense of déjà vu was around the band at the start of this year. No drummer, no record deal. Taking some much needed time off the band spent a while in their respective homes getting their heads together and beginning to write new material.
Some dates had already been booked for this year—a three week Scandinavian tour and a handful of European festivals. Determined not to let anyone down and, more importantly, to have a bit of much needed fun the band turned to their friend, Three Colours Red drummer Keith Baxter to help them out. Keith fits in well for the shows and learns an incredible amount of songs in a very short space of time. The tour, give or take the odd gig, was a success, as were the festivals.
All that was needed now was a drummer and a deal. Over the summer Andy met ex-The Beyond/Cable drummer Neil Cooper at a Rival Schools gig in London. Neil offered his services and after a hastily arranged gig in Portugal with him behind the kit, the band knew they had found their man. By the end of the autumn they had also found a new home, a worldwide deal with Spitfire Records.
By December the band were in Parkgate Studios in Hastings with producer and soundman Pete Bartlett working on their new studio album. Ironically enough, for a year with no deal, no drummer, no new releases and very few gigs the readers of a Northern Irish rock magazine still found time to vote Therapy? Best Irish Rock Act.
So far, so good. The new record High Anxiety is finished and ready for release on May 5th. Neil has proved himself to be an exceptional drummer. Many people close to the band claim his energy and style of playing make the band sound like themselves again. After a low key 2002 the band intend to make up for lost time and spend as much of this year on the road or in the studio. Rock on!
The year began with a difficult decision by Andy, Michael and Neil to sack Martin. Although a talented cellist and fantastic guy it was becoming increasingly difficult to work with someone that wasn’t a team player. The decision wasn’t taken lightly and the first few months without him missed his sense of humour and appreciation of the absurd.
The band immersed themselves in work and after a brief writing session at Andy’s house the band moved to Stanbridge farm in Sussex to demo the tracks with producer/live engineer Pete Bartlett.
Just as ‘Babyteeth’ had been a reaction to the dull music around them in the beginning and ‘Suicide Pact You First’ had scraped off the residue of chart alt-rock, ‘Never Apologise Never Explain’ was an attempt to enjoy being a raw power trio again after the somewhat slicker ‘High Anxiety’ of the previous year. Influences ran from T? faves Fugazi and Shellac to newer bands like Lightning Bolt. The goove element began to creep back again with tracks like ‘Rock you Monkeys’ having a drum and bass feel.
Without wasting anytime the Parkgate Sudios was used and the album was recorded and mixed in two and a half weeks in order to keep energy levels up. The vocals were done in a cupboard to add to the claustrophobic sound.
Soon after the album was in the bag a UK tour sharing the stage with the Wildhearts started and some of the songs were played live.
After this the band played many European shows and a number of European festivals with the album finally being released in September.
It soon became a favourite among the T? fans who prefer their band when at their most abrasive and songs like ‘Die like a Motherfucker’and ‘Polar Bear’ have remained in the set to this day.
Having returned to the three piece format that they so loved seemed to give the band members a kick up the backside and the feeling of a gang mentality was firmly back in place.
This year saw the band tour from the get-go going to many countries in Europe. Highlights were a French tour and some fantastic Turkish shows and among the festivals the band played Download and The Bulldog bash.
The second half of the year was a series of musical chairs with the band hopping from gigs to rehearsal spaces to get writing and rehearsing new material. By the latter part of the year a batch of new songs were ready, a producer and studio were picked and the band had relocated to a cottage in the Midlands to run through the songs in preparation for the album.
In January the band took a batch of songs to the legendary Jacobs Farm studios in Surrey, England to record their new album.
Jacobs had helped produce such fine albums as The Smiths ‘the Queen is dead’ and Marc and the Mambas ‘Torment and Toreros’ as well as ‘Love’ by the Cult, ‘Crawl’ by one of Neil’s previous bands The Beyond and ‘Defective Breakdown’ by Ulster punks, The Defects.
The producer was Pedro Ferreira who had worked on The breakthrough album by the Darkness, ‘Permission to Land’.
Over a very cold and snowy January the band worked round the clock to get the album finished. This was broken up in the middle by a visit from BBC Northern Ireland who’d arrived to do a documentary on the history of the band.
The album was released in April to great reviews and a higher press profile than ‘Never Apologise Never Explain’ and managed to chart in the UK.
The band embarked on a Dutch tour with The Apers and Heideroosjes and followed it up with lots of European shows and festivals including supporting Guns ‘N’ Roses in Dublin
The second half of this year was relatively quiet but the earlier months had seen the band explore new ground, taking in the French island of Reunion, east of Madagascar, a lengthy tour of the Balkan states, into Asia with Russian shows and then back to Europe.
In the meantime the three album contract with Eagle Rock/Spitfire records had expired and it was time to look for a new label.
Darren Edwards at Eagle Rock had suggested a label in the North East of England, Demolition records. A meeting was set up and by the end of the year Therapy? were signed and already preparing to write for the next album.
After lots of hectic touring and tight recording schedules it was decided that the next album wouldn’t be rushed
2007 also saw Therapy? invited to Canada for the NXNE festival where they played a critically acclaimed show to a sell out El Mocambo theatre.
By the end of January some new material had surfaced from sessions in The Hive studios in Derby, England. With the tunes taking propulsive drum beats and grinding guitars (plus a newly reactivated interest in Dub sonics) the band approached legendary producer Andy Gill from the band Gang of Four for work on the album. Hearing the rough demos Gill accepted the challenge but wasn’t available until June. The chance to work with a figure who was a personal influence on Andy Cairns guitar playing (listen to ‘Deep Sleep’ off Nurse) and a collective influence on the band (he’s produced Jesus Lizard and Killing Joke) was worth holding off a few months for.
The band and Gill recorded the tracks over the summer and then relocated to the producers own stdio in London to add overdubs and start mixing.
The album wasn’t quite finished after Gill’s tenure and as he wasn’t available in December the album was finally finished and mixed in at the end of the year by the rest of the band and engineer, Adam Sinclair.
A first time trip to Malta for concert was followed by the release of Crooked Timber in March. The reception of the album was tremendous by fans and critics alike and saw the band pick up great reviews in a wide variety of media. The video company Sitcom Soldiers made a short for the title track and this received more TV play than the band had seen in years. To top things off the band earned a silver disc for sales in Europe just six weeks after it had come out. There was an initial jaunt to Europe to promote the record followed by a string of high profile festivals such as Sonisphere in the UK and Czech Republic, Oxegen in Ireland, The Damnation in the UK and special guests of Die Arzte at their stadium show in Linz.
After barely a breather the band then embarked on a lengthy European tour for two months bringing them up to December.
By the end of the year there definitely felt like a renaissance in the bands fortunes of late and healthy ticket and record sales buoyed the bands confidence.
The bands first live album had been planned for release this year with the band hoping to use digital recordings from the ‘Crooked Timber’ tour of 2009 as the source material. However, the London show was full of indelible glitches on the sound and a mooted Dutch one lacked the required atmosphere and energy. As a last minute resort the bands manager and agent suggested a three night residency at the Water Rats venue in Kings Cross, London.
The hastily arranged Therapy? fest proved fruitful with the three nights eventually forming the live album ‘we’re here to the end’ which saw the light of day later that year on Blast records, a branch of Demolition records). People flew from all over the world (New York, Chile, Brazil, Finland, Japan, Ireland, Belgium, Holland to name but a few countries) to see the band perform in a tiny but famous venue and to be part of the bands legacy.
During the summer the band had performed their ‘Troublegum’ album in full at the Sonisphere festival in England, this led more requests from various theatres in Europe so a 20th anniversary of Therapy? was put in motion and it saw the band return to bigger venues than they’d played in recent years.
In December after a few rehearsals of new material Neil Cooper took to Blast studios in the North East of England to put down his drum parts.
Fairly quiet on the gig front with a few notable exceptions (opening for the Prodigy in Europe, Halloween show with Skindred and a fantastic Ulster Hall, Belfast, co-headline with the Answer) the year was spent trying to complete work on the new album.
Bad weather had left the studio inaccessible for a few weeks so the project was put back a while, during which time more material was written, leading to even more recording sessions.
Eventually the album was finished after the summer, and not wanting to risk putting it out near the end of the year a release date was put in for early 2012. In the interim period a video was made, again by Sitcom Soldiers, of the track ‘living in the shadow of the terrible thing’.
February saw the release of ‘A Brief Crack of Light’ which was met with nearly universal acclaim and garnered the band a record deal in North America (the first since 2003’s High Anxiety). T? took part in a tour of the UK with Skindred and the Black Spiders in March and in the summer played a lot of European festivals, among them a triumphant homecoming headline slot at the legendary ‘Glasgowbury’ festival in Northern Ireland.
The last two months of the year saw the band take to the road for the ‘brief crack of live tour’.