Mike McKeegan is the bassist and original band member of alternative metal group Therapy?. TBFM caught up with him a couple of weeks ago ahead of their European tour…
So, the main reason we are chatting to you today is you’re about to start your European tour next week – starting in Germany, a very busy schedule. Looking forward to it?
Yes very much so. We haven’t really done a big long tour this year or with this most recent album so it’s good to kinda batten down the hatches and get out there and just go for it, so yeah I’m really looking forward to it.
Is there anywhere in particular you are looking forward to playing?
I think one thing we’ve learned over the years is if a show was really good last time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should take it for granted that that same town is gonna be great 18 months later and vice versa – one of the big thrills of it. We’re going to Scandinavia again, Sweden, Finland & Denmark. Haven’t been up there in a good few years, and then we’ve got some Spanish shows, a couple of Italian shows, one in Portugal, and then we’re finishing up in the UK. We’re doing like 13 shows in the UK whereas last time we did maybe 2 or 3 so its good, its always good to have new challenges in new towns and go back to places we haven’t been to in 5, 6 maybe even 10 years.
Absolutely, it’s going to be a very busy couple of months for you but I notice there’s no Northern Ireland stop on the tour. Have they seen enough of you already?
Ah well we actually just did a show there and we also did a festival during the summer and then we also did a Belfast show November last year, so 3 shows in less than a year, for a country the size of Northern Ireland that’s quite a lot. I love playing at home anyway, its good fun, but I think sometimes you can over-play, I see a lot of local bands my friends are in them and they play every month and people take them a wee bit for granted so its good to get out there. I think we’re very very lucky in that we’ve got dedicated fans at home and also fans right across Europe and right across the world so we’ve a great fan base to thankfully turn out in force and then have a good time at the show so it’s great.
Ah cool, oh thank you very much! Yes, that’s what I’m saying about new challenges. We were aware of the Hard Rock Hell festival and we hadn’t been there and it was great but I think, looking at the line up on the weekend we played, we might have been a bit of a wildcard. I was really looking forward to it coz I’d heard from friends that had been and they said it’s great! We had a brilliant time, it was really really cool, really well organised and it was good fun you know. Sometimes you’ll end up at a festival and it can have a bit of a pretentious vibe to it, people are a bit insular, and I just thought Hard Rock Hell, the time we spent there, it was really good fun and a really receptive audience. I’d definitely like to play there again I would.
Yeah it is one of my favourite festivals of the year actually and it was a great crowd I remember last year. I noticed you played a lot of tracks from the Troublegum era, so a lot of tracks that people knew. Presumably you’re going to be pushing the new album a lot more on the tour?
Yeah definitely, we kinda knew Hard Rock Hell there was probably a lot of people that hadn’t seen us maybe for 10 years maybe even a little bit more. Afterwards a lot of people said I haven’t seen you guys since Donington 94 or Donington 95 and that was good that we slanted the set towards that way. We were actually working on the new album at that time; I think we played 2 new songs which is always cool to do. We were not shy about playing newer songs live you know, a lot of bands don’t like to do them because they get leaked or they’re on youtube when they’re half finished but I think that’s kinda part of the process of making the song good, playing it out live. But, yeah very much so this next stint we’re going to do up until Christmas it’ll be more ‘A Brief Crack Of Light’ stuff and a lot of the places we’ve been to, we’ve done at least 1 Troublegum show and they’ve probably seen and heard those songs quite a lot, not that we don’t want to play those songs. Inevitably someone will say you played too many new songs and then someone will say you played too many old songs so I think you just have to play the stuff that excites you at that point in time and on that tour. There’ll be older songs that we probably haven’t played in 15 odd years but I think they’re ones that maybe fit in better with the sonics and approach of the new album. Obviously we’re gonna play the hits as well because I think that’s a great privilege for us to have, songs that people can really relate to and have an affinity with. I think it’s brilliant you know, we’re certainly not stuck for good songs to play and that people enjoy. If only we could play for 3 hours but physically it’s just not possible because we’re quite high energy
Yeah and we’re not that kind of band, we kinda come from more of a punk background. I think sometimes there’s something to be said for going on, doing your thing, and getting off the stage. I remember once we played in Berlin, I think we’d played something crazy like 32 songs and at the end of it the audience were just exhausted – they’d been assaulted for like an hour and 55 minutes with volume you know its a lot to take in coz it is quite loud n heavy, and as much as I love a lot of bands, I don’t really need to see 2 hours of them.
And with punk songs as well, they’re usually quite short tracks…
Yeah exactly, you don’t want to get into that, you know, costume change – hey let’s bring some dancers on and we’ll go and have a cup of tea backstage and go on in 20 minutes. But you see a lot of bands do that kind of stuff, probably more like pop bands where they’re padding out the inevitable – the fact they’ve only got one or two hits and that’s all people want to hear. We kinda like to mix it up and we just got confirmation, this is quite cool actually, that in Finland, there’s a Finnish Therapy? tribute band that are really good so they’re gonna open the shows for us and we’ve agreed they’re gonna play an old school Therapy? set list so they’ll be playing stuff we won’t play ourselves so I think that’s kind of a cool thing
Yeah that’s quite unique for a tribute band to open for the main band!
We’ve got a lot of good fans there in Finland and we haven’t been in a long time so I think it will be good and we’ve met the guys and we know the band, we’ve seen some stuff on youtube and they were really really good so we just thought well look, why don’t you fill in some of the gaps of the stuff we’ll not be touching on you know from the earlier records and they’ve come up with a good set list. I’m quite intrigued, there’s a couple of songs I don’t think we’ve played probably in about 20 years.
So how would you say the crowds compare now to say 20 years ago? Do you think it’s true and fair to say that the live music scene is dying out, in your experience?
No, I honestly don’t think so. I can only really see it from my point of view you know. I think there are too many festivals for a start; I think people just don’t have the money. I think a lot of festivals, probably got a bit greedy. It’s too anonymous, too soul-less, it almost got too big and people were just treated like a commodity and cattle, that’s why festivals like Hard Rock Hell, and in Ireland the Glasgowbury festival where we played, they’re smaller but it’s manageable. You’re given options, you don’t have to buy the same warm overpriced lager, you can bring your own drinks in, it’s like you’re being treated like a human being. We like to do the smaller festivals because its a bit more personal, people are into it, it’s a bit more laid back as well you know. A lot of the bigger festivals, there’s a lot of attitude and superstar road crews and all that kind of thing which is a bit wearing because we’ve been going like 22 years now so we’ve seen a lot of them come and go, like a hell of a lot of bands come and go, and their road crews and stuff. People are getting a bit more adventurous and they will go watch some bands playing in a squat or they will drive to a different part of town and go to a different club that they’ve not been to, to watch a band who maybe they just heard on youtube, don’t have any of their other records or even a friends recommended. So I think the live music scene is, from my point of view, or our point of view and probably at the level we’re at, I think its really really healthy. The people that are charging over the odds and putting in crappy pa’s, and stuff like that, they’ll die out, those kind of festivals will die out, we’ve seen a lot of that this year you know?
Erm, it’s really really simple. Just enjoy what you do! I think a lot of people sometimes forget that when they started their band, they were just playing in their room, for them and their band mates, and they obviously enjoyed that. And regardless of what other people think, if you are into what you’re doing, no-one can really take that away from you. If you kind of think oh there’s a scene happening over there, I think I’ll have some of that, you purposely change what you’re doing and follow that trend, you’re never gonna be ‘on trend’ you know what I mean? When we came out there was a big focus on guitar music, you know it was just literally before the whole grunge thing kicked off. We were always kind of on the periphery, we were never one of the big grunge bands because we didn’t have that classic pure Stone Temple Pilots American grunge sound, we had weirder, I suppose electronic influences and noisier things going on from the punk and metal background we came from. I think we’ve created our own little thing and its good coz because we can play with a load of indie bands and we can play with Napalm Death and we can go out there and play with, you know some big pop/alternative bands as well.
Yeah it does make you very versatile…
It’s certainly not by us going ‘yeah we gotta be a versatile band’, it’s just kind of the way we are as people and I think we probably could’ve artificially manufactured a shorter-lived, more successful career. We could have jumped on one band wagon and milked the hell out of it and probably sold a lot more records, but then we wouldn’t be around 22 years later, we would have had like 5 years of glory and then it would have been game over. And I like it, you keep going, you have good years and bad years, sometimes everyone thinks you’re brilliant, your albums great and sometimes you make something you think is equally as good or better and everyone’s a bit like ‘oh, no we’re not interested, we’re more into this scene or that scene. The entertainment industry can be quite fickle in that respect you know and thankfully we’ve got a really good core of hardcore fans that realise there is a progression, there is change, you’re not going to hear Troublegum part 2 because Troublegum in itself was a departure from the three studio albums we made before it, quite a big departure, so it was kind of a natural thing to do just like Infernal Love was, just like Brief Crack Of Light is a step on from Crooked Timber, our previous album before this one, so forward-motion, I think it’s important as well, you need to keep your mind open to new ideas and new ways of doing things
Absolutely, though I did hear a rumour somewhere that your debut album had been re-recorded and may be released at some point in the future, is there any truth in that?
We didn’t re-record it, that’s never really been an option; I don’t want to re-record it. It’s been re-mastered, just to bring the audio level and quality up to modern standards, a bit more EQ to clean it up a wee bit. It may well come out, it’s in the hands of the label who released that record at the time, the re-masters been done and it sounds great, I’m really really pleased with it and I think it’s just a matter of scheduling things. They obviously don’t want it to clash with what we’re doing with records. If it does come out as a remaster we’d promote that, we’d do some interviews, get our rose-tinted specs on and talk about the good old days you know give people a bit more background on it. I wouldn’t re-record it – I think it might have been one of the guys from Sepultura once said new albums are like tattoos, some of the early ones are a bit rough n ready but they’re kind of what you’re into at that point in time and it reminds you of that time. Being our first album, it’s got a lot of happy accents in there which you probably couldn’t recreate if you tried.
On TBFM we do promote a lot of new and unsigned bands and upcoming bands, and we do have a lot this year particularly from Northern Ireland. Are there any new and upcoming bands that you like that you seen recently that you can recommend?
Yeah there are tons of bands over here that are good bands as well. There have always been bands but some of them are a bit dubious. There’s a band called Axis Of who played with us in Cork and Dublin earlier in the year, they’re really really good, they’ve an album recorded. There’s a girl called Silhouette who’s more pop, good tunes, and there’s a singer/songwriter called Robin G Shield, he’s really really good and then you’ve obviously got, you know, 2 Door Cinema Club, they’re massive at the minute, and Cashier Number 9. It’s a good healthy time, you’ve obviously got us and Ash and The Answer and also Lafaro, they’re going to be doing the UK shows with us. There’s not really a Northern Irish sound. Everyone’s got their own little thing whereas it would have been the done thing to sound like Snow Patrol for example maybe 5, 6 years ago but now everyone’s finding their own voice, realising that diversity is good. There’s no real industry there as such, there’s a little bit of a structure and some good people but you kind of have to do a lot of it yourself, no-ones getting a hand-out, no-ones gonna hand out a record deal. When we started, it was a very similar situation and you know bands from Northern Ireland playing our kind of music… everyone wanted stuff that sounded like U2 really and we were a lot noisier. You just learn to do it yourself and sometimes it works brilliantly it works way better than you could do if you’d sat and planned it. The whole infrastructure around you sometimes falls flat on its face, but at least you learn what works, it’s all a big learning process.
In today’s day n age it’s a necessary evil, social networking – have you got yourself a Facebook page and all that?
It is a good tool you know, I remember hearing someone not so long ago they were moaning about Facebook, no sorry Myspace it was, good-old Myspace!, They were moaning and I was like, IT’S FREE, you don’t have to use it, you know when we started with our first website, it’s a lot of money just to have a crappy basic website, this is free – it is a good tool, it’s good to embrace these sort of things. You shouldn’t replace your social networking skills or substitute your actual playing or actual social skills of going out and building an audience and talking to people, it’s just another little avenue for you to get people to hear about the band. You hear all these ridiculous stories about people sitting and just hitting play or whatever and so they have a more inflated sense of importance and then they go out and play to NO people. It must be soul destroying if you think that is going to replace a proper audience who like your music enough to get off the sofa, go to a gig or put their hand in their pocket and actually buy a record or buy a t-shirt or invest some of their hard-earned money in your art you know, that’s the tricky bit! We’re not really into tweeting about what we’ve had for breakfast, it’s more keeping people up to date with what the bands doing and it’s good I like it; it’s a bit of fun.
So we can find you on Facebook, Twitter, and you have a website?
Yep, its therapyquestionmark.co.uk
Obviously you wouldn’t be thinking about social networking and websites back in the nineties when you came up with the name including a question mark!
Yeah though it did cause all kinds of confusion – are these guys not confirmed yet, why is there a question mark in their name? And we had to explain it. Once we kind of got to the point of everyone knowing what it was, it was kind of too late to lose it. I like it, it’s amazing there are a lot of people with question mark tattoo’s n stuff; it’s good a lot of people associate that with us.
Thank you very much for speaking to us Mike, have a great time on the tour I’m sure you’re gonna love it, a lot of hard work but we wish you all the best with it
Brilliant, thank you so much.
All photo’s copyright Martyn Turner photography www.martynturnerphotography.co.uk