Therapy?'s Andy Cairns on celebrating 30 years with Abbey Road greatest hits record and Irish dates
Irish alt-rock legends Therapy? are about to release Greatest Hits (2020 Versions), which captures the trio tackling their biggest 1990s tunes at the world-famous Abbey Road studios in London. David Roy spoke to bandleader Andy Cairns about making the record and their imminent 30th anniversary tour
RELEASED on March 13, Greatest Hits (2020 Versions) offers Therapy? fans a fresh and cohesive sounding 2020 take on 12 of the band's classic tracks produced by their regular collaborator Chris Sheldon, who delivered the 1994 Top 5 smash album Troublegum and last year's acclaimed Cleave LP.
The album includes key Therapy? singles/live staples like Teethgrinder, Screamager, Nowhere and Die Laughing, plus a bonus 'live bootleg' disc representing each of their 15 albums. Die Laughing also features a guest performance from the band's long-time rock and roll chum James Dean Bradfield of Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers, who contributes backing vocals and lead guitar abuse to the Troublegum favourite.
"We've been mates with James for a long time and we've known for years that his favourite Therapy? song has always been Die Laughing," explains Ballyclare-born Cambridge-based singer/guitarist Andy Cairns, who founded the band with bassist Michael McKeegan and original drummer Fyfe Ewing in 1989.
"I remember the first time we played it to him was when us and the Manics were both on tour in Japan in early 1994. We were hanging out with James on a day off and we played him a cassette of Troublegum before it had been released. When he heard Die Laughing he went 'Can I hear that again? That's amazing'.
"So it was good to get him involved and I think he has added a lot to it as well. He said 'shall we share the solo?', which is really only a couple of bars, but I thought he should play the whole thing. And he added a few little bits and pieces which made it a bit more exciting."
Welsh Therapy? fans will be hoping that the Manics' frontman is available to reprise his cameo live with the band when they play Cardiff on their upcoming So Much For The 30 Year Plan tour, a jaunt to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic debut single Meat Abstract and which also features a pair of dates on home soil at Dublin's Olympia Theatre and The Limelight in Belfast on September 25 and 26 respectively.
The tour's distinctive title is a nod back to Therapy?'s first ever anniversary milestone, 2000's compilation So Much For The Ten Year Plan, released during a difficult period for the band as they readjusted to life as a genre-defying independent act in the wake of their mid-90s major label-backed success.
"We're in far better shape now in terms of concert attendances and how the band is perceived," says Andy of Therapy? today, who are now seven albums into a creative purple patch which began when Derby-born current drummer Neil Cooper joined their ranks in 2002.
"That was probably our nadir to a certain extent because the public didn't know where to 'put' us, the press had certainly turned against us and the band wasn't really getting on that well. But we've had a really amazing settled line-up for the last number of years and we all get on as friends not just as musician mates.
"We're going to a lot more places these days as well – in the next few months alone we're playing in Turkey, Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, France, Holland, Austria and Germany."
As for what prompted the band to re-record some of their classic tracks at Abbey Road, it seems that Chris Sheldon put the idea to them when plans for a commemorative live album at their record company Marshall's new studio and gig complex fell through.
"Sheldon has a good relationship with Abbey Road so he suggested just doing our 'greatest hits' there," Andy reveals.
"We thought it was a brilliant idea, so then the discussions started about what songs to do. Chris Sheldon is always the voice of reason. He said: 'Just do your 12 most successful songs in the UK and Ireland'.
"It's always great working with him: he's very intelligent and has a really good ear, and he doesn't see the point in wasting any time. He'll say, 'let's come in at 10am and nail these three tracks. If they're crap, we'll do them again after lunch'. He's not going to spend two hours talking about 'the colour of flange' – which a lot of producers will do, believe me.
"We want him to do our next album as well. Hopefully he's onboard – unless Guns N' Roses or Aerosmith call first."
Although Therapy? have mixed records at Abbey Road before, this was their first time recording in the legendary studio which has been a place of pilgrimage for Beatles fans ever since they immortalised their recording base on the Abbey Road EP with its iconic zebra crossing cover shot.
"We were in Studio 3, so that's where [Pink Floyd's] Dark Side of The Moon was recorded," Andy tells me.
"My favourite Beatles album is the White Album and I think Dear Prudence and Julia were recorded in Studio 3 as well.
"We recorded everything in one day, so I got down there really early to set up. It was unbelievable: at a quarter to eight in the morning there's still 30 or 40 tourists doing the walk across the zebra crossing.
"The receptionist said it goes on 24 hours a day. You can go out at half-four in the morning and there will still be 10 or 11 people out there taking photos."
To their credit, Therapy? decided not to re-enact the famous Abbey Road EP cover shot, settling instead for some commemorative pics under famous Abbey Road Studios sign. And, while it may have been easy enough to pick which 12 songs to record for the new Greatest Hits album, the set-list for the imminent 30th anniversary tour is proving much trickier, as Andy explains.
"Every single song on the record will be in the set," he says, "and then we need to come up with another 10 to 15 tunes. That is going to be an absolute nightmare, because we have so many records and some of our B-sides are absolutely loved by our punters as well, which means we'll always leave someone out."
Andy adds: "I know exactly what that's like: I remember going to see The Smiths at The Ulster Hall and waiting for them to do my favourite song, Reel Around The Fountain. They never played it and it ruined my week!"
:: Therapy?, September 25, Olympia Theatre, Dublin / September 26, The Limelight, Belfast. Tickets via Ticketmaster.ie. Greatest Hits (2020 Versions) is released on March 13, buy via Fanlink.to/therapy2020