BY GREG PRATO
This past February saw the release of the thirteenth studio album overall by Therapy?, 'A Brief Crack of Light,' which proves to be another heaping helping of alterna-noise-metal. Vocalist/guitarist Any Cairns was gracious enough to recently answer a few probing questions about Vladimir Nabokov's stature in rock n' roll, tight snare sounds, white shirts, and the use of question marks in rock band's names.
SK: How would you say 'A Brief Crack of Light' differs from previous Therapy? albums?
Andy Cairns: 'A Brief Crack of Light' brings some conflict between tuneful rock and concrete guitar work tied up with rhythms that have modern influences. The lyrics have tried to keep questioning and some of the guitar f/x are more full on than previous albums.
SK: I understand the album title comes from a quote by the late Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, the same gentleman that is mentioned in the Police song, "Don't Stand So Close to Me." Why do you think Mr. Nabokov is so popular with rock n' rollers?
Andy Cairns: No idea. Sting used to be a schoolteacher in Northern Ireland, and I started reading Nabokov indirectly after reading Samuel Beckett. The Ulster
education system is one of the best in the world.
SK: The tight-as-a-mosquito's-ass drum sound on such tunes as "Living in the Shadow of the Terrible Thing" and "Plague Bell" is reminiscent of Lars Ulrich's similar drum sound on Metallica's 'St. Anger.' Was the band nervous mining similar sonic terrain?
Andy Cairns: With all due respect to Lars, Therapy? has been using that drum sound since our debut single 'Meat Abstract' which was released in 1990. A pinging, ringing snare has always been part of our sound.
SK: Which songs from 'Light' are you most happy with and why?
Andy Cairns: 'The Buzzing' is my absolute favorite because it has different sections that are so much fun to play and record. It starts out 'In My Head'-era
Black Flag before going into black metal tremolo picking, into a free jazz section followed by dub section ending on a slow Sabbath riff. The lyrics are inspired by Samuel Beckett's masterpiece, 'Not I.' I also am fond of "Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder,' as the atmosphere we wanted to get (walking a city, wired and lost in the wee small hours) came into place.
SK: Judging from the album's front cover photo, was it a wise move for the gentleman to wear a white shirt if he's going to be digging in murky mud?
Andy Cairns: It's never a good idea to wear white, so unforgiving...
SK: What are some of your memories of the heady early '90s alt-rock explosion? Who were some notable bands from the era that Therapy? toured with? Who were the most polite? Who were the biggest wankers?
Andy Cairns: The best bands we played with and also the coolest guys/gals were Babes in Toyland, Hole, Helmet, Jesus Lizard, Tad, Rollins Band. We did some shows with Metallica and Ozzy and they were decent people too. The biggest wankers were the Brit indie bands.
SK: Do you agree that 'Troublegum' is the band's best album? Why or why not?
Andy Cairns: I agree it's the most popular. Catchy songs, major record label PR machine, catching the zeitgeist. It's not my favorite though, that either
goes to 'Babyteeth,' 'Suicide Pact - You First,' or 'Crooked Timber.'
SK: More than two decades into the band's career, how is the band getting along at this stage?
Andy Cairns: We get on better than ever. A policy of total honesty with each other has meant that simmering resentment is kept to a minimum. We're all still in love with music and enjoy touring, so the whole thing never seems like a
SK: Since Therapy? hail from Ireland, which Irish singer do you prefer most - Phil Lynott, Bono, or Enya?
Andy Cairns: Phil Lynott or Enya.
SK: What are the future plans for Therapy?
Andy Cairns: We're going on a massive European tour to end 2012 and are currently putting together ideas for a box set to come out next year. If the reaction from the US is good enough we'd dearly love to come over and tour in 2013.
SK: Who are some modern day rock bands you fancy?
Andy Cairns: Personally I like Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan - the album 'Blot Out the Worthless Sun' has got amazing guitar playing on it, really unusual style. Almost like Helios Creed meets East Bay Ray. I'm also loving Arctic Flowers from Portland - great tunes.
SK: And lastly, is it really necessary to have a question mark after the band's name?
Andy Cairns: No, but it's been there for so long now it's become part of what we are.
A Conversation with Andy Cairns of Therapy?
BY GREG PRATO