M IC H A E L MCKEEGAN, THERAPY?
BASSISTS
eaders of a certain vintage and taste in unsociably loud music
will recall the early work of Therapy?, the trio from Larne,
Northern Ireland, which soundtracked the 1990s for many of
us. Bassist Michael McKeegan has been penning an advice
column for this magazine for ages now, and given that he's in
one of the finest power trios ever to come out of these sceptred
isles (only Motorhead rocks harder) and knows a thing or two
about life at the low end, it was about time we gave the great man the cover.
Actually, there are two pressing reasons to get McKeegan in front of the
BGM
tape recorder, the first being the celebratory reissues last year of two classic
Therapy? albums,
Infernal Love
(1994) and
Troublegum
(1995). Rambunctious, raw
and full of infectious tunes, those early albums still sound fresh today. Probably
because, as McKeegan admits, the band - also featuring Andy Cairns on guitar and
vocals and Fyfe Ewing on drums, although Therapy's long-time drummer is now
Neil Cooper - weren't taking life too seriously at the time.
“There's a carefree naivety to the old songs, which I envy, in a way!”
laughs
McKeegan when
BGM
catches up with him backstage in London. “You would never
hold the stuff up as a good example of what to do in a song. It was all recorded to
tape, live with the drums, and to be honest with you I was a little bit out of my
depth. Your mindset in that situation is just to wing it: you think to yourself, 'What's
the worst that could happen? You can always track the bass again!'”
Is he the kind of musician who enjoys looking back at his early recordings, we
wonder? “It was definitely fun going back through all that stuff,” he says, “but we've
never really looked back. We are really grateful for the career we've had, of course,
but at the time we just didn't really think very hard about things. Sure, I would
have recorded the bass differently now, but I might have cluttered the song up or
somehow made it so that people couldn't relate to it as well. I never look back at my
early recordings and cringe, that's for sure.”
"W HEN IT CAM E TO SLA P P IN G , B IL L GOULD OF FAITH NO
M ORE W AS THE A C C E P TA B LE FACE OF S LA P IN THE 8 0 S "
Asked how he got rolling as a bass player in the small town of Larne, then as
now a quiet rural spot best known for the ferry terminal to the Scottish town of
Stranraer, and McKeegan tells us: “I'm one of three brothers, and we had a band
called Evil Priest back home in Larne. My younger brother wanted to play drums,
the older brother wanted to play guitar, and to make a band someone had to play
bass. My path was set from an early age!”
He continues: “W e were all into AC/DC, Deep Purple, early Iron Maiden and so
on. Then we heard Metallica's
Kill 'Em All
and got into Venom and Slayer as well.
Then death metal came along: Evil Priest was a death metal band, although very
rough around the edges. Then I met Fyfe, our original drummer, at school, who
was into the Dead Kennedys and the Clash. Andy was already in a new wave/
punk band when I met him, and we learned from each other: I'd show him an
album by Kreator and he'd show me one by the Ramones, so somewhere in the
middle was where we met.”
Racked by 'the Troubles' though Northern Ireland may have been in the 80s and
much of the 90s, this didn't seem to affect the music-loving community back then,
as McKeegan explains. “People didn't really go out after dark, but when they did go
and see Siouxsie & The Banshees or whoever, they generally left their prejudices
at the door. We all liked different music in Therapy?: I liked bands like Fugazi, and
Andy was also into Fugazi plus James Brown and Funkadelic, so we were quite an
open-minded band. It's probably that small-town thing, because there are only so
many people who are into music that wasn't pop, so you got exposed to Discharge
and the Exploited, and then you'd meet someone whose older brother was into Rush
or whatever.”
Looking back, he muses: “Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s was quite
backward in a way: apart from Belfast, no one ever played in towns there.
Metallica and Anthrax and Sacred Reich came over and the anarcho-punks would
come over, but you wouldn't see Bon Jovi or whatever. Mostly the gigs would be at
leisure centres!”
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