Therapy? – Andy Cairns Interview Part 1

 Andy Cairns of Therapy? interview part 1: Rig Rundown.

Andy Cairns and his band Therapy? are prolific recording artists with a career that began in 1989 and continues to this day, having achieved fourteen studio albums to date. In Part One of his interview at The Audio Production Workshop, Andy talks about his guitars, amps and pedals from the earliest Therapy? gigs to the present day. 

Epiphone 335 Dot

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The first guitar Andy ever recorded was Epiphone's budget take on the Gibson ES335, a semi-hollow guitar with an arched top and f-holes like a mandolin. It was made famous by artists like Chuck Berry and BB King after it's introduction in 1958. Equipped with the same basic electronics as a Les Paul or SG, they produce a thick woody tone that overdrives well. Their resonant characteristic does have one drawback - they can be prone to feedback at high volumes, although less so than true hollow-body guitars like the Gibson ES-175.

Fender Twin Reverb

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The Fender Twin Reverb is venerated for it's huge high-volume clean sounds. If you can imagine the sound of a clean electric guitar, this is probably the sound you're thinking of. Perhaps surprisingly then, several guitarists over the years have released the high-gain potential of these amplifiers. Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana are two notable proponents of this (very very loud) way of obtaining a heavy distorted tone. Andy's earliest guitar tones ware achieved this way.

Peavey Hotfoot Distortion

In order to achieve the high-gain tone he was after, Andy needed to pair a distortion pedal with his super-clean Fender Twin. Discontinued some time around 1990, The Peavey Hotfoot Distortion fit the bill. 

It's circuitry was similar to the ProCo RAT, although it did have significantly more gain on tap.  If you were trying to emulate this sound today, You might wish to consider a modern ProCo pedal, such as the "You Dirty RAT".

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Fender American Standard Telecaster

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The Fender Telecaster has been heard on countless recordings spanning every genre of modern music. It is a solid, reliable workhorse of an instrument with no-frills construction and a simple electronics package. Dark and mellow-sounding on the neck pickup and bright and twangy at the bridge, this split personality makes this a very versatile guitar. Andy adopted this guitar around the time of their second EP and it was his mainstay until making the switch to the Gibson SG Standard in 1993

Gibson SG Standard


The Gibson SG was originally offered as an updated Les Paul with a thinner and lighter body that was easier on the shoulder, and modernised looks. There was one problem: Lester himself hated it and asked Gibson to remove his name from the guitar. So the company re-branded it "The SG" (or Solid Guitar) and a legend was born. 

With the same electronics as the Gibson Les Paul, the SG delivers full-bore rock tone in a lighter package. It's set-neck construction gives it the sustain that Gibsons are famous for, and the shallower neck profile makes it ideal for fast lead breaks and chugging staccato riffs.

Marshall JCM 900 Dual Reverb

One of the greatest combinations in rock music is a Gibson guitar and a Marshall valve amplifier. Eric Clapton, Slash, Angus Young, Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore... The list goes on. As much as the Fender Twin on it's own provides the archetypal sound of clean electric guitar, then this combination is the sound of rock. Andy started using these amps in around 1993 and currently uses two heads and two Vintage 30-loaded Marshall 4x12 cabs on stage.


The Marshall JCM 900 was launched in the early 1990's as an answer to thrash and metal guitarists quest for more gain. A common practice was (and still is) to place an overdrive pedal in front of an already-distorted JCM 800 or Plexi amplifier to increase sustain and enable the amp to cut through the mix. The JCM 900 Dual Reverb has a unique preamp that includes circuitry similar to an overdrive pedal in it's first gain stage, thereby increasing the gain available and creating a "tighter" sound. You can - of course - use an overdrive pedal in front of a JCM 900 to create even more gain and sustain. However, with Andy's current choice of axe, this is hardly necessary...

Gibson SG-X

Basically a stripped-down no-nonsense take on the Gibson SG. This guitar has a single high-output Gibson 500T pickup at the bridge with a coil tap which enables snappy telecaster-like tones. For yet more gain, Andy's guitar is equipped with active circuitry which he uses to push his amps even further into distortion.

Andy acquired one of these by accident - he now owns four! The guitar itself is no longer in production, however the 500T pickup that is responsible for it's aggressive tone is available and can be fitted to any humbucker-equipped guitar.


Boss Pedals

There are two pedals that have remained on Andy's board since the very beginning: The Boss digital delay and Stereo Chorus.

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These two pedals are industry-standard devices in their own right and serve to add thickness and texture to Andy's sound.  They are hugely versatile stomp boxes and can be found on the pedalboards of thousands of guitarists the world over.

Coming soon in Part Two, Andy talks to us about his favourite recording experiences over the years. Don't forget to have your say in the comments - tell us about the artist, gear and techniques you want to see and hear at The Audio Production Workshop.