Fanboy three: Therapy? man Andy Cairns on supporting his teenage heroes The Stranglers
David Roy chats to Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns about supporting his teenage heroes The Stranglers on their new tour
THERAPY? leader Andy Cairns can't wait to support The Stranglers next weekend at The Ulster Hall, the same Belfast venue where saw his punk heroes in action as a teenage fan.
"I had a group of friends and when we were all 13,14,15, our favourite bands were Joy Division, the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers and The Undertones," recalls Cairns, singer and guitarist with the veteran Irish alternative rockers.
"We all had various musical instruments and wee bands. I was a bass player and my heroes were Peter Hook and Jean Jacques Burnel. So I knew every bassline on the first four Stranglers albums inside and out.
"I saw them live at The Ulster Hall back in the day and absolutely loved them. I was really really obsessed with them, so this is kind of a big deal for me personally, because I'm such a fan and Jean-Jacques Burnel had such a big influence on my life as a musician."
Like many other 'first wave' Stranglers fans who will be attending shows on the upcoming month-long Stranglers/Therapy? tour of Ireland and Britain – which kicks off next week with a trio of Irish dates in Dublin (March 1), Limerick (March 2) and Belfast (March 3) – Cairns is also looking forward to reconnecting with a few like-minded old heads from back in the day.
"There's people from school I haven't seen in years who are going to the gig, so I'm going to meet up with as well," enthuses the Cambridge-based Ballyclare man.
Cairns formed Therapy? in 1989 with bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Fyfe Ewing (Ewing departed in 1995, current drummer Neil Cooper joined in 2003), with the trio going on to enjoy both indie and mainstream chart success throughout the 1990s.
The band recently finished recording Therapy?'s forthcoming 15th LP with producer Chris Sheldon, the man who helmed their breakthrough 1994 album Troublegum.
With The Stranglers concentrating on their earlier albums for the tour, I wondered what Therapy?'s approach to this rare run of opening slots might be – especially with a new album's worth of songs in the hopper that they must be dying to play live.
"We had a little bit of practice [at being an opening band] when we supported Sisters of Mercy in London for two nights," Cairns tells me.
"We found out within the first five minutes that there was really good cross-over between our fans. Because it's only 45 minutes, you want to keep the energy levels up – there's no point in going into our Ulster ballad Six Mile Water [from 2000's Suicide Pact – You First] which is six-and-a-half minutes long.
"So we'll do something similar to what The Stranglers are doing – and we're also thinking of maybe chucking in a cover or one new song every night just for the hell of it."
Many Therapy? fans will remember them paying tribute to The Stranglers while at the height of their Troublegum-era fame, recording a raucous cover of Nice 'n' Sleazy (from the Guildford group's third LP, Black and White) for the b-side of the single Trigger Inside.
Rest assured, you won't be hearing that one during their opening 45-minute slot on the upcoming tour – nor would the Therapy? frontman be too keen on joining the headliners onstage to provide guest riffage during said number.
"I've got this weird thing about meeting my heroes," explains Cairns. "I really really like it, but with things like that [guesting on stage] I kind of freeze a little bit. I kind of still like being a fanboy, I just like watching them play.
"I still don't really feel like I'm in a rock band or I'm a musician half the time anyway, but whenever I meet people in bands that I really like, I become a total fan.
"And whenever they mention 'oh yeah, I like your band too', I've almost kind of forgotten that I'm in a band of my own – I'm like, 'oh yeah, *that* Therapy?!'."
Happily, as you might hope given their imminent extended jaunt around these islands together, most of the awe-struck hero-worshipping has already been dealt with at this late stage.
"We met them two years ago in Holland when we did a show together," confirms the Therapy? leader.
"They were even better then than when I saw them back in the day – they were great. We got to know them a little bit the night before the gig and the night after the gig, so it was a really good ice breaker. I think it will be a really great tour for everyone."