You love the fuckin’ riffs?
Northern Ireland rock band Therapy? recently performed at the Concorde2 in Brighton, UK. Before hitting the stage, HMA had the chance to speak with Michael McKeegan and Neil Cooper (respectively the bass player and the drummer of the band) about the cover album of their 14th studio album “Disquiet”, the single “Still Hurts” and how they are still plugging away after all these years.
HMA: About your latest album ‘Disquiet’ and its cover, did you follow a process with the artist? Can you tell us more about the concept of the album?
Michael McKeegan: We worked with the performance artist Nigel Rolfe. We’ve known him maybe 20 years now, I suppose, maybe a bit more. He’s worked with us on some other albums and stuff. When we recorded the album, we knew that we wanted Nigel to come and do something. We didn’t actually have a title or anything, so we just sent him the tracks and he had some images and stuff from his performances that he sent over to us. The cover was a kind of standout image.
Neil Cooper: Obviously, with the way the album was kind of the concept, the initial concept, is almost like a look back or look now at the person from the “Troublegum” album. Nigel also did the cover for that.
HMA: Oh, interesting!
MM: And Nigel’s the guy with his head in the bin.
HMA: Ah, I see.
MM: So, now his head is out of the bin. There’s a lot of things that we quite liked about it. I think he’s going to add some kind of images to tie in. The shots are taken from Nigel’s performances, so it’s quite interesting how it does come together rather than it is, here’s a brief going in front of that. It’s quite an organic thing that we get. We get shots of the performances so it’s kind of interesting.
NC: It’s interesting to go through it. There’s I think rather than a post-static shot, I think it’s got that energy of the performance. I think that’s what makes it unique then just him a still life type, or a still image.
HMA: Do you feel that your album covers represented well Therapy? as a band as well as the music?
MM: Some more than others, I suppose. With Nigel, he’s done three album with us now, four actually, so we’ve got a good relationship with him, and they seem to work well. Our first two mini albums, “Babyteeth” and “Pleasure death”, they were both done with the same artist, and they were quite surreal drawings and stuff. That kind of fitted the chaos and the chaotic finding our feet of those earlier records. It depends sometimes, something really simple is good as well. There aren’t any of the covers that I dislike, I’ll put it that way. I think everyone has worked well.
HMA: Do you have any favourite one?
MM: I think this one is great because I love it when it comes up on my phone. When it comes up with all the different albums I think it looks really good alongside the other stuff. The colour palette is probably unusual for a rock record, it’s really easy to have everything dark.
HMA: I actually like it. I think it’s very good.
MM: We’re now getting vinyl back, it’s interesting, but before with other formats, back in the day when you had vinyl, then going to CDs, and now it’s the phone and different images work. Very different formats in that sense. That’s something that you just never really know, I think when we put something together “that’s the album and this feels right with that image”.
NC: Sometimes depends of the reactions, it’s kind of you to ask 10 people what that represents they’d probably give 10 different interpretations and I kind of like that, rather than a black album with a skull, you know, “we’re a rock band”. I think artistically a lot of records, musically and lyrically, there are a lot of genre restrictions or things that are quite stereotypical. Also with the imagery, skulls, flames, the whole kind of thing can be clichéd. I think we’ve always had this kind of more surreal kind of… we do think about it a little bit more and we’re open to having a mostly white and red album sleeve, which with rock bands, any shade of black as long as it’s black, you know, that kind of mentality.
HMA: With titles like ‘Helpless still lost’, ‘Still hurts’, ‘Words fail me’, etc. there is a deep sense of melancholy. A Therapy tradition? Can you tell me more about these lyrics?
MM: Andy writes all the lyrics, however, I think in general it’s a darker look at life. There’s an element of humour in there, of dark humour as well. I find a lot of it very relatable as well. I think from talking to people who like our music, they can find elements … they don’t find it … they find it quite uplifting because they can relate to it. It’s not like “I’m alone” … it’s positive energy I think. There’s optimism there. I know what you’re saying … it’s easy to say they’re dark, but they’re realistically dark. I do find it optimistic. I do personally. Life’s not an easy to full stop. It’s that kind of positivity and maybe turn a bad situation into a good situation, or just being a bit happier with what you do have than what you don’t have.
HMA: On your site, we read ‘Helping the afflicted since 1990’. Who do you think the afflicted are, what are the afflictions, and most importantly why would they seek Therapy?
MM: That’s kind of atypical of our sense of humour. I think we always say, I find it a very cathartic thing playing in the band. I think a lot of people in modern living, people need a release. Some people get into the sport, we’ve got an artistic outlet with the band, some people go and drink 20 pints and start a fight, because that’s how they have that release. I think you need it. It’s kind of a way of letting off steam. That’s the joke with regard to helping the afflicted. I think everyone’s afflicted in their way … we include ourselves.
HMA: The video for ‘Still hurts’ we see a possible father/son collision. Am I getting it right? Is there an underlying message or story??
MM: Actually it’s the same person. It’s the duality of who you are when you’re young, and who you are when you’re old. Maybe sometimes the same things are still the problems.
NC: I think it probably works because the character in the Troublegum album is kind of written from quite a stereotypical teenage outlook on life, and this is maybe that same person 20 years later. What’s changed? I think it also works on a level, from our point of view, what’s changed in our personal lives. The song ‘Still Hurts’ still hurt now but you’re better at processing them, dealing with them, coping with them. It’s about that. You learn as you go along and you hopefully get more … those things maybe never go away but you’re easier with them, or better with them.
HMA: How is tour going so far?
MM: Tonight is the first night.
HMA: Oh what’s happened with the Bristol and Gloucester dates?
MM: Yeah, we had two shows rescheduled, it was meant to start Friday.
NC: Because Andy got sick. He had the flu and he got a chest infection and stuff, so he was really sick, so he couldn’t really sing. It wouldn’t be fair to expect him to do the good shows like that, so we moved those, they’re now in March, and this is the first night.
HMA: Has the crowd changed since 1990?
MM: It’s crazy. You do get a generational thing now. Parents are now bringing their children. I think there’s even been grandparents, parents and children at some of the shows. So it’s kind of those 3 generations, but we’ve always had quite a diverse crowd. I think we get a lot of punk and metal fans who like the energy of the band. We get quite a lot of people who maybe are more into the mainstream or alternative music that just like the tunes, the melodies and stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is probably in the last 5 years, a lot of people who maybe were 20 listening to us in the ’90s, they’ve gone off, got married, done their thing, and now they’re coming back because now they have more free time. I’ve noticed a lot of people have been saying “Tonight is the first time I’ve seen you in 15 years” and stuff like that.
NC: It’s good to see. There’s always a younger crowd as well that’s been coming in the last 10 years, I’ve noticed. There’s younger people in the front and then people who are a bit older. When I go to a concert I stand at the back also. That’s not a slight.
HMA: What about the mosh pit? Still spinning after 2 decades?
MM: Yeah. It’s like a lot of those things, it depends on where you are. Friday and Saturday night is always crazy. When people have work or college the next day, they’re normally a bit more sedate. It’s good. We’ve a barrier tonight, but normally we’ve stage divers and all sorts of …
HMA: Okay, that’s it, guys. Thank you very much, Michael and Neil, for the interview and look forward to the show!
Interview by Vixena – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.