by: MICK BURGESS - 2010-8-28 22:21:39
email: mick@ metalexpressradio.com
Last year you released your latest album Crooked Timber which was well received by fans and critics alike. In July you released a Deluxe Gold Edition of the album. Why have you decided to do this?
Basically the record company said that they’d like to give it another shot as it`d been out for a year. They wanted to know if we’d be up for it and they just wanted to put some more stuff on it. We talked about it and as there was stuff released in dribs and drabs. This tends to happen as we’d released a single which included a couple of tracks and then a couple people we know did some re-mixes. It doesn’t happen all at once when you record an album. We did the album then went home and later we recorded some B-sides. The record company thought it would be a good idea to pull all of these together and repackage it and give it a new lease on life. It’s our 20th Anniversary this year and we’re up for anything at the moment so the time is right to do something like this.
Is this a limited edition version or will it be a regular release?
This’ll be a limited edition. The way people buy music these days is a bit different now. There’s obviously the initial hype when the album comes out and then it’s the next month and you haven’t bought it. A lot of records that I buy I tend to pick them up a year later. So it gives those later buyers a chance to pick it up now. We were all very pleased that the label had the belief in the band and wanted to give it as good a shot as possible. I don’t think any of our previous labels have ever done anything like this for us. So it’s good to get it back out there so if you illegally downloaded it the first time round now you have no excuses!!
For fans who have already bought the initial album, what have you included to tempt them to buy this version?
We didn’t actually think that we’d make people buy this twice. We thought this would be for those who’d dipped in and out of the band's career and bought the odd album. If any one has already got the album, there’s a couple of re-mixes on it that they might or might not like; there’s a couple of B-sides that were only previously available on download only so now they are available in physical form. There’s fans that like to collect everything that we do. There’s bands out there where I buy everything that they do, sometimes I’ve bought something just because it has a different coloured sleeve. I remember buying the Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks in the banned pink sleeve as well as the yellow one just because I loved the Pistols. It’s more aimed at those who haven’t got round to buying it yet but if anyone wants to buy it who already has it then that’s their prerogative. If anyone hasn’t got any of the B-sides or is curious about the more experimental side of the band then it’s could be of interest to them.
There’s a number of “sample mixes” including new mixes for “Exiles, “Magic Mountain” and “Bad Excuse for Daylight”. Why did you decide to replace the original versions of these songs with sample mixes?
We were going to use movie samples and these were originally going to be part of the album but we couldn’t get them cleared in time. There’s four tracks on the album with samples but we were up against the wire recording wise and we decided to put the samples on during the last two days of recording then our management came in going “No, no, no…we don’t want to get sued for this!!” So at the last minute the engineer pulled them off the album and the album went out without the samples. Then Eric and Ged from our record company looked into it and said we could use them. So we thought that this time we’d put it out with the samples as we’d originally intended. We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t release it this way originally but we didn’t even mention it at the time. Now songs like “A Bad Excuse For Daylight” work better with the samples in it as that’s how it was originally meant to sound. There’s some very dark samples from a British movie from the `70`s called Moratz Saddam where the Marquis De Sade addresses the concepts of nature. There’s also a sample from a German actor in “Exiles” and that was also our original intention. I suppose you could say that the songs were able to stand on their own without the samples but this is how we wanted them to sound originally.
Who did you get in to work on the new mixes?
Michael dealt with that side of things. We were very lucky that we have such a good circle of contacts with other bands, not necessarily Rock bands, we just approached a few people and said we had a few tracks and gave them the stems and let them do whatever the hell they liked. When we got them back some worked out great and others didn’t work so well. The “Slugsnot” remix is quite different from the original and the Bon Ra remix of “Exiles “is really good too. We got about 10 remixes in total and picked the ones that we thought best suited the album.
The title track is also a new mix of the original called the “Breathless Mix”. How have you rearranged this one?
This is just a different mix from the one on the album. Andy Gill mixed the first version and there was a few things that we didn’t like with it so Andy and Adam remixed it before it went on the album. This mix is the original version by Andy and it has a different vibe to it and different vocal effects. We were listening to really bizarre electronic music at the time we recorded that and that influenced our ideas at the time. We called it the “Breath FX” mix as when I sang it in the studio I always ran out of breath. This version is a bit more unusual so for those who bought the single on download last year they can get a different version of that song on this album.
In addition to the 10 songs that were featured on the original album you have added an extra 4 songs. Two of these “Low Winter Sun” and “Don’t Try” weren’t included in any form on the original album, Were these B-sides or outtakes from the original album sessions?
The drums were recorded at the album sessions but they didn’t get finished until later in London and we basically ran out of time so couldn’t include them on the album “Low Winter Sun” was meant to be on the album but we gave ourselves a certain length of time to do the album and we over stretched things a little and ran out of time so we decided to use these two songs as B-sides to our singles.
As well as the usual download format it was released in a rather fetching gold digi-pack. Even though we are now in the digital age do you still like the idea of a physical release?
I certainly do, however I do buy downloads and stuff from internet sites but there are certain bands where I always buy the physical copy. If there’s something I’m quite interested in hearing and it’s £5.99 then I’ll give it a go and download it but if it’s something I really like then I’ll always wait for the physical copy.
This year represents Therapy’s 20th anniversary. It’s incredible to think that this all started 20 years ago. How does it feel for you looking back on your career?
It’s mad really and you do sometimes have to pinch yourself. I still perceive us as a “new band” in our approach to things as we always want to do different things to move forward. We never do the same thing over and over again. Some bands seem to get to a certain stage where they just seem to take the easy option but that’s not for us as there’s always new things to try, places to play and new faces in the audience so that keeps the passion and interest going for us. With a band like Rush you never know what they are going to do next but it always sounds like Rush. They are a very unique band and we like to keep evolving as a band too. I couldn’t imagine going into the studio and going “Right!! What’s the formula?” I think with those bands that start just churning it out, that tends to happen very quickly. With Therapy that’s never happened, we don’t have any fixed formula. It’s not as though we sit down and say “Let’s write something new”, it’s just in us to do that naturally.
You’re going to mark this occasion with your first ever live album although you did release an exclusive web gig song/video download from your website a couple of years ago in 2007. Are you looking forward to getting this out there?
The Web Gig was a bizarre thing that we did with cameras in a rehearsal room and filming that without an audience. In hindsight it was quite good fun to do but it wasn’t the same as having punters there. It’s was just us three in a rehearsal room. It doesn’t really translate that well although it was quite good fun at the time. This is our first real live album recorded in front of an audience so we’re very excited about it.
Where did you record these shows?
We did three sold out nights down in London at The Water Rats. People travelled from all over the world from New York, Mexico, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Holland and Finland. People travelled from all over the place so there was a real sense of an event. By the time we went on stage we were almost superfluous to the evening. We got a great deal of material from those.
Are you covering pretty much your whole history?
We played songs right from our very first single, “Meat Extract” right up to “Exiles” which is our most recent single so it’s pretty much spread across 20 years. We did a different set each night but some tracks that we knew we’d have to put on the album, our hits for want of a better expression, we played these two or three times over the three nights so we’d have a safety version of them. In all we recorded 40 different tracks and when we listened to them only 2 weren’t good enough to make the album. “I Am the Money” from The Shameless album where a vocal effect back-fired horrendously and “Lonely, Cryin`, Lonely” which I decided on the night to sing in totally the wrong key. We even tried to fix it but it just sounded like Alan Partridge singing it!! It was awful. All of the other 38 tunes will make it onto the album. Once we started to listen to the recordings and I shouldn’t sound so surprised we realised that they do sound bloody great! Some of those songs we’d never really played together. We’d rehearsed them but not played them live together so it was a big risk.
How did you choose which songs to perform?
We looked at all of our twelve albums and we did it album by album and decided what we had to play so with Troublegum we had to do “Screamanger” , with Crooked Timber we have to do “Exiles”, “Enjoy The Struggle” and “Crooked Timber” itself. Then we picked songs that we just fancied playing. That was the best part for me as some of the albums that were done such as One Size Fits All that we did a few years ago, we didn’t particularly pull off well in the studio environment but some songs from that such as “Rain Hits Concrete” and “Sprung” actually sound like we wanted them to sound when we did the album originally so now we think of these as the definitive versions of them. There’s a track we did on our second album called “Fantasy Bag” this is the best version I’ve ever heard. We’ve played that song live for years but there’s just something in this version where it just came together on the night.
Did you select the best performances from each night or did you release one show in its entirety?
We picked the best recordings over the three nights of the songs we played on multiple nights but many of them were played only once and fortunately most of them turned out really well.
How did you feel when you listened to these recordings of those shows?
Absolutely fantastic. The funny thing with live recordings and we’ve done a few before, is that you can listen to them and some of them have problems with the way they were recorded or sometimes the crowd doesn’t sound loud enough or there’s certain aspects of the playing that weren’t energetic enough but with this it just seems the vibe and feel of those evenings at the Water Rats just comes through on the recordings. It’s not just about our performance, everything needs to come together at the same time and capture that feel of the show on the night. We wanted the recordings to sound live as so many live recordings these days are reworked and things played over the top of the recordings which kind of irons the whole thing out. We wanted a live album with a real feel to it that captures the atmosphere of the whole evening and we were referencing If You Want Blood and all the classic live albums from back in the day and we were wondering how it was going to translate when someone downloads it. We are adamant that the recording itself captured the whole atmosphere of the evening. We tried to keep the atmosphere of the live show throughout the recording and we thought about Cheap Trick Live at The Budokan, The Ramones It’s Alive and Thin Lizzy`s Live and Dangerous and one of the big features with these was the room mikes so we made a point of setting up room mikes to capture the audience. What a lot of bands do is keep the mikes quite low as you get a lot of echo off the walls of the club and some live albums have a very dry sound and they have this sort of canned laughter type of effect at the end of the song when the push the crowd levels up. A lot of stuff like Budokan has a lot of the room in it and we liked that so we made sure we miked up the room like that so you can hear a lot of the crowd and people chatting away, screaming out of tune and clapping out of time, as you know that’s what happens at a gig. We kept all of that in.
Will you be doing a special edition for the collectors out there?
When we got the contract through from the boys at the record company it said that they wanted 15 tracks and we have delivered 38 tracks!! We were going to record some acoustic songs and we thought rather than recording versions just with voice, acoustic guitar and tambourine as we’ve done that loads of times, we decided to do them with drums and bass and some synth noises. We’ve got this really weird synth sound as we were listening to “Subdivisions” by Rush so we got the synth set up and we did 5 songs that aren’t on the live album an we did reinterpretations of them and that’s going to be on a bonus CD with initial copies of the album.
What about a DVD of these shows will that surface at some point?
We didn’t record these shows onto film but we are going to record a couple of shows over the summer which the lads from the company are going to get somebody to record. We’ll probably record one in Europe, maybe Holland and one in the UK. I think they’ll be recording our Sonisphere show at Knebworth later this summer.
Do you enjoy playing the large festivals or do you prefer the intimacy of the clubs and theatres?
I used to go to quite a lot of festivals when I was a kid and I loved the whole event. I’d go to a festival knowing maybe two bands and I’d come out liking four or five more bands. When you go to a festival as a band yourself you think of it as a whole event. I remember getting up really early to go to the site so I could get there an plan the whole day. That’s what it’s all about; it’s not just about my 45 minutes on stage. If we turn up at some of the bigger festivals and we are low down on the bill we’ll pick 35-40 minutes for a “party” set. If we`re higher up the bill and more people know us we’ll pick a set suitable for that. At a club it’s more intense and we’ll play for around an hour and a half. If we played a town six months earlier we’ll need completely different set when we play there again. It’s a lot more intimate and it can be more exciting but with a festival set it `s a matter of going in to it thinking that we are part of this whole event and it’s not all about us.
Does it add to the buzz knowing that there may be people there who are not familiar with your music but who could go away after the set and become new fans?
That’s a great feeling. You can literally get someone walking away from the hot dog stand going “Fucking hell! these are alright!!” That is always one thing you’ve got to have in the back of your mind. You can have crowds who aren’t going absolutely mental but at the end of the set they will. It’s all about moving forward and keeping things fresh. It’s not as though we think that the punters that are into us ARE into us and we’re not bothered about anyone else, we always have to have an eye on the person who might not even know who the band are. I remember when we played Download last year in one of the tents and the tent was rammed and it was a beautiful day. We started playing “Exiles” and there were these two Emo girls with Peaches Geldorf hair walking away and we started the riff and literally they threw their chips into the air as they dashed towards the stage. I saw them over the heads of 8000 people sprinting down and starting to dance. They obviously loved that tune so it was great to see a reaction like that.
You`re currently sitting in the Blast Recording studio. What have you been doing while you’ve been here?
We’ve been here for a few weeks mixing the live album and also working on the reworkings of the other songs. Often when we’re mixing we sit around all day then put our input into what we wanted from the mix. We had all this equipment lying around so we decided to rework some of our songs during our downtime. A lot of time during the mixing process is just the engineer tweaking stuff and we come in and say how we want things changed or whatever. As we had all this equipment here we thought we’d have a blast and just mess around and see what we could come up with rather than just a straight forward acoustic thing. Acoustic versions just tend to be the same guitar parts but just un-amplified and quieter and we didn’t want to do that. These reworkings have nothing to do with the new direction of the next album or anything like that; we just wanted to do something different with some of our tunes. We stripped the songs right back to the bare bones and rebuilt them from there so they sound unbelievably different to the originals. We didn’t have enough to time to write new material for this and rather than just stick some nonsense on there that we’d knocked up a few minutes before we wanted to do something different and fresh.
What songs have you been reworking?
We did one from the first album called “Animal Bones” which was originally very full on Industrial almost like a Ministry song. We did it with just the bass and the drums but we recorded it with a lot of distortion and it’s tuned a lot lower and sounds much heavier. We did a song from our second album called “Prison Breaker” which Michael was listening to John Carpenter, the soundtrack guy who did The Fog, and he got this really synthy sound on his bass. We did a song called “Rise Up” from the album Never Apologise, Never Explain which is very soundtrack sounding. The melody is still there and the lyrics are too but the actual sound is a lot tougher. A lot of the bass synths wouldn’t be out of place on a Rush album.
When can we expect the live album to hit the streets?
October, we’ve been told. It’ll be coming out through Demolition. The re-release of Crooked Timber will be out in July and the live album in October.
Many years ago you were signed to A&M Records. How does being on an Indie label such as Demolition compare to being on a major?
We did four albums with A&M in the `90`s. I still see a few of the guys from the A&M days, they don’t work there any more though, I’m a season ticket holder at Chelsea and I still meet a few of the people that I worked with at A&M at the match. In the 90`s we’d get a lot of money thrown at us for videos and recording and that dwindled down over the years. We don’t get as much now but we know what we do and we do it within our means so that’s the way we work and it suits us fine. These days unless you’re a really hot band that people are expecting big things from or a big, established artist then pretty much bands seem to be on a similar budget. One of the big differences is with an Indie like Demolition is that they tend to have good ideas. Demolition have been totally cool. Even though we’re up here in Newcastle and they are just around the corner they just leave us to get on with it. They could be here every day seeing what we are doing but they aren’t, they leave us to do our thing. When you deal with the major labels they are always asking you to do shit because they are trying to get you out to the masses and to get to the masses you tend to be dealing with people who can take or leave music. At least with a small label I find that they are more focussed on who we are and you don’t get lost. Bands can become a cog in a massive machine whereas we feel that Demolition have an eye on what we are doing and how we should be perceived and it just saves so much time and shit. Back in the 90`s we used to have a bet when we went to a new place as to what T-shirt the guy they sent from A&M would have on. Their main bands at that time were Soundgarden, Monster Magnet and Therapy. Well, they wouldn’t wear a Therapy shirt so we’d bet on it being Monster Magnet or Soundgarden and more often than not we were right….and it was always brand new too!!!
So Demolition aren’t one of those labels who sign you up then try to change your sound?
You know, I can never understand why that happens. Where is the logic in that? I always think that if I’m running a record label and I signed a band like Dream Theater I’d think what was it that people liked about them and it’s the long songs, the virtuosity and instrumentation. I wouldn’t want to turn them into Bon Jovi because there already is a Bon Jovi. It never works the other way, “You guys need some 30 minute tunes!!” Ha! Demolition are absolutely brilliant and just let us get on with it. They know what we are doing and leave us to it. Ged actually said to us that he didn’t even want to hear the rough mixes of the album; he just wanted to hear it when it was done and that’s a nice approach. It’s a nice vote of confidence.
Before we finish, it has been a sad time for Hard Rock music with the passing of Ronnie James Dio. What are your memories and thoughts about him and his music?
When I was growing up, my mates were either into Punk or Metal and because it was all “outsider” music we all hung about together. Holy Diver was a massive album with all the people we knocked about with and that’s how we got to know about him. I always remember a really sweet story about him when we were signed to A&M in the `90`s. Our front of house sound engineer Chris Leckie who ironically enough ended up working with Dio, was a massive, massive Dio fan. We were in a hotel in Europe once and Chris was very excited as he’d just met Ronnie James Dio in the hotel lobby. He’d gone up to him to say hello and said he was on tour with a band called Therapy and he ended up having breakfast with Ronnie James Dio. He said he just sat down with him chatting while they had their orange and their toast and he was asking Dio as a fan about all these stories and he just sat and answered them all. He could have just said “Get stuffed, I’m having my breakfast” but he didn’t, he sat and chatted with him and that didn’t just make his day, it made his month. He was on cloud nine and kept going on about it. That sort of story sticks in my mind even more that the music as that is something that, that person will remember for the rest of their lives. Chris then we went on to work with Dio sometime after that. We saw him more recently at a festival where he played the whole of the Holy Diver album and he sound absolutely great. We’d just come off stage and got washed and we all went band, crew and all en-masse to see Dio play and he was great and had such a fantastic voice.
It sounds like this year could well be your busiest yet with your 20th anniversary, your live shows, the Crooked Timer re-issue and your live album. Will you have time to do anything else or is that pretty much you sorted for the rest of the year?
We’re doing a new album this year and we’ll be back in this studio in August doing the new record. We’ll be writing in between gigging and recording. The plan is to get it out next Easter but for that to work we’ll have to have the bulk of it recorded this year so we’ve got a month of studio time booked in Newcastle in August so we’ll get cracking with the new material then.
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