Therapy? frontman and guitarist Andy Cairns talks transitioning from trombone to punk and alienating audiences.
I got my first real six-string...
“I was 11 or 12. The happiest accident came when a neighbour of ours rapped the window one day and said, ‘Your son likes all that punky music that’s about. I’m going to throw this out, but would he want this semi-acoustic guitar?’ I didn’t know how to play guitar. I was a trombonist in the school orchestra, so I could actually read music. But whenever I looked at people on the TV playing guitars I just thought what they did was pure sorcery.”
A word for my idols
“I’ve always had guitar heroes. When I was a kid, I could listen to and watch Geordie from Killing Joke play all day because he looks so effortless. But it’s an absolute symphony the sound that he has. And it’s the same when I watch someone like Duane Denison from The Jesus Lizard, or Kurt Ballou from Converge, or even Wes Montgomery. They are guitar heroes to me. I like people who viscerally move me.”
A lesson from ‘BB king’…
“I was a member of the Boys’ Brigade, and there was a guy who I went to the BB with and he could play a bit of guitar. I said, ‘Can you show me something?’ And he’s like, ‘Here’s an E. Here’s an A.’ And a few weeks later he’s like, ‘Well what kind of music do you like?’ I said the Ramones and the Buzzcocks and he said, ‘For God’s sake! All you need to learn is barre chords.’ When he showed me a barre chord and when I realised I could move the same shape up and down the neck and play Ramones songs that was when I started writing.”
“What got me writing riffs was that I got bored with playing the guitar, and my two heroes were Peter Hook from Joy Division and Jean-Jacques Burnel from The Stranglers, so when I was 14 I got myself a bass and I learned the first four Stranglers albums, all the Joy Division records.
“But when I discovered Hüsker Dü and all those melodic punk bands, bands like Killing Joke, I went back to playing guitar. But then I found that all my riffs sounded like basslines. I think that’s why songs like Screamager and Die Laughing, if you listen to the riffs of those songs, they are all pretty much like melodic basslines.”
“There was a period in the ’80s when no one would come to Northern Ireland, for obvious reasons. Me and my friends at school would go and see anyone who came because it was a gig. Jesus & The Mary Chain, The Human League, Metallica, Lloyd Cole, The Smiths and the UK Subs... I would have gone and seen anybody, and I think that [influence] trickled down.”
We hope you like our new direction
“In 1995, we were meant to follow Troublegum up with a bigger, more super-charged version to sell two million records, and move from big theatres to arenas. What we did do was start listening to This Mortal Coil, early Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and the Afghan Whigs.
“We brought out this album with slightly poetic musings for lyrics and cello quartets all over it [Infernal Love]. Mr Flannel Shirt and Mr Metal really didn’t like that at all. They didn’t buy into it. A little triangle man with the beard, the cut-off denim jacket and the SG? That they could get. Cellos and a moustache? Absolutely no way.”
Therapy?’s new album Cleave is out now on Marshall Records.