Therapy? have been churning out quality punk rock noise since 1989 in one form or another. And they’re about to release new album ‘A Brief Crack of Light’ and embark on a European and UK tour.
We sent Dave Jennings to chat with drummer Neil Cooper for a chat about writing and recording the album, taking the tour to some off-the-beaten track towns and what influences the band.
LTW: Your new album, âA Brief Crack of Lightâ is yet another development for Therapy?, can you tell us about the creative process?
Neil: Therapy? as a unit have never really tried to stay in the same place and we feel that if we try to steer an album in a certain direction from the start, it inevitably goes wrong.
Usually weâll just get together and jam and it evolves like that, I suppose we just lock ourselves away and make a racket.
With âBrief Crack of Lightâ we took things up a gear; we had the same engineer as âCrooked Timberâ but this time we were in the production seat. We recorded at Blast Studios in quite a strange way for us. It wasnât pre-planned but all the songs had been written and I went up to Newcastle early to lay some of the drums down.
But then the really bad weather set in and I was literally cut off for a while so I was left up there on my own with all the studio time drumming along to tapes of the songs and then the others came up and added their parts.
Itâs important everything sounds good and it all seems to have come together well.
LTW: What new influences are there on the new album?
Neil: Weâre not a band that plans a type of sound before we record an album, but looking back afterwards we can often identify little bits of sounds and influences in there. From a drummerâs viewpoint, I think âWhy Turbulenceâ may be a good example.
Iâd been listening to a lot of Art Blakey and other jazz and this sort of influenced my patterns. Andy on the other hand had been listening to some electronic stuff and probably drew inspiration from that but we never sit down and plan in advance. Itâs definitely more spontaneous and influences tend to creep in.
Andy would come with the lyrics and melodies then weâll get into a room together and riff things out between the three of us. Each song is a collaborative effort but Andy would definitely come with the theme of songs.
LTW: Itâs fair to say that Therapy? have never been a band that is content to stick with a set formula. You develop with each new album?
Neil: Yes we believe that evolution is important and try to do so with each album. Weâre really lucky because in the Therapy? fanbase there will be those who love different periods like âNever Explain, Never Apologiseâ or âTroublegumâ but they know and expect each new album to be different.
If we just tried to churn out for example another âBaby Teethâ weâd be asking for trouble, weâd almost become like a jukebox. I think the three of us are in a very good place in that if we put out a record that we love and everyone else hates, we just think âfuck itâ. It would be easy to just make a record that sounds like your record label wants it to but when the shit hits the fan and the album gets panned, these people tend to disappear and youâre left to face all the stick yourselves.
So to my mind, you may as well put out what youâre happy with and be true to yourself. Weâre lucky to have a great following who are open minded and know that the next album could be something totally different to what they expect.
Although I canât speak for Andy, lyrically thereâs probably a theme between this album and the last one, âCrooked Timberâ of a realisation of how brief life is. Weâre only here for a short time and thatâs something people donât normally think about but at some stage weâve all got to contemplate.
LTW: Production was shared between yourselves and Adam Sinclair, how did it work out?
Neil: Once weâd got the songs together we needed a clear idea of what we wanted from each instrument and itâs sort of stepped up from âCrooked Timberâ with big drums and bass and the pedal effects that Andy wanted.
Adam knew exactly how to create each sound in the studio and get it exactly how we wanted it. It was then a four-way process of mixing the album. Adam would mix it in the studio and then send it out to us at home.
A lot of the album was done remotely as we live in different parts of the country so weâd listen at home at home, make suggestions and then Adam would act on them and send it out again for further tweaks.
Often, if youâre hanging around the studio during mixing it takes forever which means you get bored, go to the pub and get pissed and youâre then completely incapable of listening to it properly anyway. You do need to be completely tuned in as from a drummerâs perspective, Iâll hear things in a rehearsal room in a certain way but in the studio little things tend to creep in that you donât notice until the mixing stage.
Itâs good to have an independent perspective at the mixing stage and some bands may leave it to the producer but thatâs something weâve never done as a band.
LTW: Andy has spoken before about the frustrations of critics trying to place Therapy? into a certain genre. Do you think people get too hung up on categorising music?
Neil: I do! We play rock band instruments and weâre noisy and passionate about what we do so to that extent weâre a rock band.
When I meet new people whoâve never heard us and try to describe our music to them itâs pretty hard and Iâm in the band! Weâre basically a punk band who listen to a lot of influences and try to come up with something a bit different.
So, I echo what Andy says, why canât we be just a band? We all enjoy creating and playing together and despite how different our stuff can be it still sounds like us. We donât go off on a tangent just for the sake of it thatâs for sure.
Punk is actually just an ethic when you think about it. In the early days it was people just trying to do something different, do their own thing. Itâs the same with the early days of techno or jazz, thereâs a purity and integrity about the beginning of these movements that really captures the spirit of what itâs all about. Itâs just when the masses get involved that everything becomes bastardised and the original spirit gets lost.
LTW: Does the band ever feel that the âNurseâ and âTroublegumâ period is used as an unfair yardstick to measure each new album with?
Neil: I wasnât in the band at the time so I canât really speak for the others but I think thereâs definitely a feeling that there was a lot going on in alternative rock around that time and âTroublegumâ was just sort of in the middle of all that.
When you release an album you never know whatâs going to happen and the guys didnât go into the studio to record it to come out and have the impact that it did. It just seemed to fit into the zeitgeist of that time I suppose.
If people asked us now to record a âTroublegum 2â we just couldnât do it because thereâs no way of knowing whatâs going to be happening when it comes out. You just go in and try to do the best you can do and then see what impact each new album has when it comes out.
LTW: What sort of setlist will we be getting on the upcoming tour?
Neil: On this tour weâll definitely be focusing heavily on âA Brief Crack of Lightâ with a few older tracks to spice it up. Weâre looking forward to it, five weeks across Europe, getting to places weâve never been before.
Itâs the same when we play Britain in December, we asked the promoter for some dates in less obvious places like Wrexham. Too often you find yourself playing the same venues in the same cities and while we do appreciate the efforts people make to come and see us, itâs nice for us to go to their towns for a change.
I remember growing up in Derby and youâd always have to travel to Nottingham or Leicester for gigs, but if someone actually came to Derby it was a big deal (still is – ed) so weâre really looking forward to it.
With a great new album and a sound that defies categorisation, but is instantly recognisable to all who love them, Therapy? are still at the top of their game and well worth catching on their upcoming dates. Check out their website for details.
Interview by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.