Published on August 23rd, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Michael McKeegan Of Therapy? On The “Judgment Night” Soundtrack & Upcoming Projects
An alternative metal band from Northern Ireland, the roots of Therapy? go back to almost 30 years ago. By 1992, Therapy? had a major label record deal with A&M Records. Consistent as ever, on September 21, 2018 Therapy? — which includes lead vocalist and guitarist Andy Cairns, bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper — will be releasing its 15th studio album, Cleave.
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with McKeegan, the group’s founding bassist, about Therapy?’s past, present and future. That “past” wonderfully includes the Judgment Night soundtrack, as released 25 years ago, which paired up key hard rock and hip-hop artists of the early 1990s on each track for innovative collaborations. McKeegan kindly answered questions about collaborating with rapper Fatal for the Judgment Night before tackling what Therapy? will be up to in the near-future.
More on all things Therapy? can be found online at www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk.
Were you paired with Fatal? Did someone ask for Therapy? Were there any other artists originally paired with you?
Michael McKeegan: Yes, Fatal was the choice we were given and we got sent an advance tape of his “Timber” single which we quite liked the sound of. T-Ray the producer of the session — who’d done Cypress Hill and was going to do the Helmet/House Of Pain collaboration as well — also did the Fatal single so we were excited to be working with both of them. It sort’ve made sense to pair us up as at the time we were “new” to the American rock scene and he was just working on his debut album.
What was the creative process like for you with the Judgement Night soundtrack? Did you come up with the arrangement before hitting the studio? Were you in the studio together?
Michael McKeegan: It was all pretty spur of the moment in the studio as we were on tour and the session was booked for a day off. We’d played a show the night before so we drove up to New York after the show and loaded in to the studio the next morning. Apparently the studio was owned by Gary Katz and had done some of the famous Steely Dan and Donald Fagen albums there, so I remember thinking that was pretty cool.
I don’t think we had any of the music written at the time or at least I hadn’t heard Andy play any of the riffs previously at soundcheck for example. It was a new process for us, T-Ray had a basic drum loop which he played through the headphones and the 3 of us just jammed around various parts until we had an intro, a verse part, chorus part and so on. It was good fun, quite hypnotic just grooving off the loop. Fatal was there getting a feel for it and then he’d go into the rec room and write some lyrics and then try them out until we got something we all felt comfortable with. Then we just fine-tuned it a bit and added some samples and overdubs.
Interestingly the “DIE” sample on the song is a down tuned version of the one we had on our sampler for our song “Meat Abstract.”
Anything remarkable happen within the recording session?
Michael McKeegan: As I said it was all very spur of the moment and we all clicked good from the off. Andy kept coming up with loads of great riffs and I think T-Ray and Fatal were enjoying that, how we would just play things slightly differently or give it a twist. I remember everyone getting really excited when Andy first played the doomy riff that ended up being the intro and outro. Likewise we were enjoying how Fatal would just keep rapping different lyrics until it sat well over the music.
Talking of rapping one funny story I do recall was that we had a friend over from Northern Ireland on the tour who was hanging out in the studio with us. So whilst we were in the live room working out the tune with Fatal, he was sat in the lounge area “relaxing” with Fatal’s buddies. At one stage we came back to find him attempting a freestyle rap for the Fatal’s guys, which was met with much hilarity.
When you were recording for the soundtrack, did you have any idea that it would have the lasting impact and long-term legacy that it did? Do you look back at the soundtrack and overall experience fondly?
Michael McKeegan: No, not all all… We just though it was a cool collaboration to be involved with but still to this day I hear a lot of people talk about it and quite a few say it was their first exposure to hip-hop. We obviously liked hip-hop music but we’d never done anything with a rapper before so it was a great experience. It was a lot of fun and both T-Ray and Fatal were good guys to work with, there was quite a lot of piss-taking in the studio and general larking about. And we also all got a really nice gold disc out of it which hangs on the wall in my staircase amongst my other Therapy? ones!
Did you and Fatal ever talk or think of working together again after finishing the track? Did your work on the soundtrack lead to any other opportunities?
Michael McKeegan: We were playing New York a week or so later with Helmet so we’d loosely planned to get him down and maybe do the track live, but for whatever reason it never happened.
Did you get to see the movie? Did you enjoy it?
Michael McKeegan: Never saw it in cinema but caught it on video a while later. I quite enjoyed it and it was good to hear a bit of “Come And Die” in one of the more dramatic moments.
Judgment Night talk aside, what is the band currently working on?
Michael McKeegan: We have our 15th album Cleave coming out worldwide on September 21st this year, and I’m really excited for people to hear that and get gigging with it. It was produced by Chris Sheldon who did Troublegum” and Semi-Detached as well as the likes of Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters, and if pressed I’d say it’s like a mix of Nurse, Troublegum and Disquiet.
Yeah, so basically that and hopefully lots of touring to support it. Also in 2020 we hit our “30th anniversary” milestone, so we need to think about doing something cool to celebrate!
Is there a career highlight you are most proud of?
Michael McKeegan: For us to have come this far from a humble start in grey Northern Ireland all those years ago then pretty much everything has been a highlight! We’ve sold millions of albums, toured the world, met — and on occasion jammed — with most of our musical idols and made a lot of people happy in the process so thats all a big deal for me.
If pushed, I’d maybe have to say maybe the first time we headlined the Ulster Hall in Belfast where we’d all seen so many of our favorite bands over the years, that was a special night to be up there onstage.
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Michael McKeegan: Normally listening to music, watching movies and reading… Nothing too esoteric! I have a young family so as you can imagine that takes up most of my home-time now, hanging out with them and enjoying life.
Finally, Michael, any last words for the kids?
Michael McKeegan: I’d just have to sincerely say thank-you to everyone who’s supported and continues to support our band and music over the years. It is very much appreciated and we don’t take it for granted, hence we’re always striving to make great music and put on killer shows. Stay safe and hopefully see you down the rock and roll road sometime!