The Dropkick Murphys Interview

That’s right they’re at it again. Recording their latest album in less than a year after the immeasurable success of Going Out in Style, Boston Massachusetts lads, Dropkick Murphys, have released their latest album Signed and Sealed in Blood.

The album hosts yet another diverse range of songs, from aggressive punk rock to sweet melodic tunes reminiscent of folk tales from yesteryear. With a history spanning 17 years, Dropkick Murphys are still going strong and continue to be a revered, world renowned, respected, influential, and much loved band.
Fortunately for us, with the album’s release comes another tour Down Under. And what better way to grace our shores than by bringing along with them the chaos and mayhem of the Swingin’ Utters?

HEAVY caught up bassist, vocalist, and frontman Ken Casey before the impending tour.

I’m sure there are often setbacks and uncertainties involved recording a new album. Did you have any challenges to overcome in the studio?
The toughest challenge is being a band that tours a lot, so we have to stop and start recording. When you’re on a roll and comfortable and then have to put it all on hold and come back to it a month later, it gets difficult. But that is the nature of the animal. It’s not considered so much of a challenge but it’s the biggest thing to sort of rock the boat. It’s out eight album so we pretty much just roll with the punches.

You have been on a substantial amount of tours. What’s your favourite part of being on the road and what do you find are the most testing elements of this situation?
Any band would answer, or I would hope they’d answer, getting on stage and performing is the real payoff. Connecting with fans, seeing people sing back the words of songs is pretty awesome. The downside is being away from home. A lot of us have a bunch of kids and we can be away for months at a time. I can’t wait for that Star Trek teleporter to be perfected so I can go home every night. I remember the first few times I’d go to places and I was like, ‘oh I’ve got to get outta here. This isn’t like Boston. I’m freakin’ out!,’ but I think I’ve become, dare I say, a worldly individual. I’m comfortable wherever I am now.

How do you manage stressful and emotionally draining times on tour?
Actually seeing your kids and wife on the computer is really helpful, so we Skype and call. But when things aren’t going right at home, for whatever reason, you really want to be there.

My seven year old got into his first fistfight while I was away one time. I was pissed I wasn’t at home because he was all upset. But whether the stresses are happening at home or wherever you are at the time, you’ve just got to say ‘life’s life and you have to deal with this bullshit occasionally.’ Sometimes it works in your benefit too [laughs]. If something breaks at home, you would normally have to fix it, but instead you call one of your buddies and say ‘hey I’m in Australia can you go over and feed the pets’ or whatever [laughs].

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You’re all set and ready to tour Australia again. What keeps you coming back?
The people are so friendly. I always tell the story of the first time we came over. It was 1999 and one of the guitarists’ birthdays. The event organisers noticed on the passport that it coincided with the day we arrived. We got off the plane and they took us to Bondi Beach. Americans would never do that. They’re too selfish and wrapped up in their own problems to bother going ‘hey there’s a guy coming from overseas, let’s have a party for him’. That just made a big impression on us right away.

I’ve always been impressed with your dedication to you fans. I myself have gone to every one of your shows I could get myself to. You left me speechless the first time I saw you in Melbourne. I had originally seen your shows in South Australia and I had moved over to Melbourne very recently. After your show you approached me and asked ‘aren’t you normally in Adelaide?’ I just couldn’t believe that out of all the fans you have and all the people you meet, you remembered something so little to any other person, but to me it was phenomenal. You have so much stuff on your mind, yet you were still able to remember one little fan jumping around the mosh pit and going nuts to your music. It’s really appreciated.
[Laughs] I’m great with faces, but horrible, just horrible, with names.

You’re a very influential band yourselves, but who influenced you?
Obviously it would have been the punk and hardcore bands I listened to as a kid. Those old British punk bands like the Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, and The Clash. Or American hardcore bands like Gangrene, or SS Decontrol. But as for bands that had a direct influence on Dropkick Murphys, I will always say the band the Swingin’ Utters. Ironically they’re now touring with us, which is amazing. It was the mid ’90s and I was just like ‘I never thought a band would make punk rock exactly the way I want,’ and they did. It really renewed my enthusiasm for music.

Also all the other bands you meet along the way influence you. Meeting bands you looked up to like The Pogues is awesome, Joe Strummer, and lastly I would have to say Bruce Springsteen. When it comes to fans, this guy has been selling out arenas and he still acts like he is the guy playing a small venue. He makes time for everybody and it’s good to see that someone can maintain that attitude even after all those years.

Your earlier albums have a very unique hardcore and punk undertone, yet your later albums seem to be leaning towards a more traditional Celtic folk/punk sound. Has this come about on purpose or have you found it’s just been a natural progression?
It’s a little bit of a natural progression and a little bit of what we wished we could have done when we started but we just didn’t know how to play the gear yet. It used to be raw for a reason, because we weren’t as good as a band. When you do the same thing over eight albums people will get sick of it, so you have to grow and progress or people will drop you like a bad habit. Having said that, when you grow and progress people will also say ’they’re not what they used to be.’ All I know is, I think everything we do is under the umbrella of Dropkick Murphys and I can say 100% that we put our heart and soul into everything we do. And as diverse as we are, from punk or classic rock or hardcore to folk songs or Celtic punk, it’s hard to keep everybody happy. But at the same time, I think it’s the fact that we do play all those different styles that we were able to survive eight albums in.

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When releasing new tracks there’s always some apprehension as to how your fans will receive it. Did you have any doubts, or were you worried about the albums response?
I don’t think we’ve ever felt more confident about how the fans will receive the album. It really felt that it was an album that was – I don’t want to say ‘made for the fans,’ but the first four or five songs that we wrote we said, ‘man, this is the stuff people are going to want to hear from us!’ We started playing some of those songs live on the road and we really noticed that songs like The Boys Are Back and Rose Tattoo were taken aboard really well. We were like ‘wow, I’ve never seen songs received quite as well as they seem to be.’ All those things have been a kind of good hint toward how the rest of the album will be received.

You are a self-confessed democrat and play a major role in supporting the working class and workers unions. Why is this so important to you?
I think when the band first started and we wrote our first record we all still had one foot in our union jobs – that was what we were doing and living at the moment. So it was natural to write about that. Then of course as we became musicians and we we’re not really working, or being members of a labour union, we all felt like we were carrying the torch and helping get the word out on issues and maybe educate young people about how they can find strength in numbers, and how an organised union could be beneficial to them.

Speaking for America, if you grow up in the environment I did, in the city, everybody had a union job and you knew its power and strength. And as the world gets more watered down, people are separated, and more and more people are in white collar jobs in different industries, or they have kids that want to go into the trades but they don’t know the benefits, we’ve found we have a unique ability to speak to a younger group of people.

You’ve recently issued a statement of solidarity with the 45,000 Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) on strike from Verizon Communications, Inc. Will we be seeing more of this kind of dedication from you in the future?
We’ll stand with anybody who is doing things to better working conditions and the rights of the workers. We just try and help out where we can. It’s kind of a unique position to be in. And music is a fickle thing. I’ve never enjoyed being lectured at by a band, so we try to not do that. I think sometimes that can have the opposite effect. We just try and leave it to our lyrics. We put it out there and say ‘hey, check out these groups, check out these organisations, look at what they’re doing and support them.’ But it’s terrible to see what’s happening nowadays in America. Republicans have tried to make the labour unions look like the bad guys, instead of workers banding together. They’re trying to pit workers against each other and the workers are fighting over scraps while the corporations are making millions.

We see similar things over here with Australian corporations. I guess it’s a worldwide issue and if people don’t stand up against it then it’s not going to stop…
Well the worse the economy gets the more vicious it gets. It used to be that someone might be happy for his neighbour who makes five dollars more because he is in the labour union. But now things are getting hairy and people are like ‘f**k that guy that makes five extra dollars more, I want that.’ So they’re sending jobs to other countries because they cannot afford to pay those high wages. It’s more like ‘bullshit that can’t pay the wages, the company shouldn’t be sending jobs overseas.’ But anyways, don’t get me started…

Now you own your own bar, how have things changed for you, did u ever think you would be a bar owner?
[Laughs] I think I had more chance of being a successful bar owner than a musician. It’s just something to keep me busy with what little time I do have. I feel like I’m one of those people that always have to stay busy. Sometimes I over shoot the mark though and I guess the time I spend on the bar I could have used as free time, but it’s been a really cool experience.

I have a guy that I grew up with as a partner in the bar, he does the day to day running of it, but being able to go in and see the history and the design of the baseball bar was where my passion was at and not so much of running the actual bar.

Finally, the trickiest question of them all. If you were stuck on a deserted island, and only had the choice of one album to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be, by who, and why?
Oh my god! Can I tick that new Rolling Stones box that has fucking every song under the sun? I would totally pick Swingin’ Utters The Streets of San Francisco. It’s the album that kind of re-did it for me you know.

Great choice! Well we will certainly be looking forward to your tour!
Thanks. Hope to see you there!

Tour Dates:
Sun 31st March Panthers Newcastle Lic AA
www.moshtix.com.au 1300 GET TIX

Mon 1st April Big Top Luna Park Sydney Lic AA
www.oztix.com.au 1300 843 443, www.ticketek.com.au 132 849, www.bigtopsydney.com.au

Tue 2nd April Festival Hall Melbourne Lic AA
www.ticketmaster.com.au 136 100

Wed 3rd April Thebarton Adelaide Lic AA
www.venuetix.com.au 08 8225 8888

Photos By John Raptis

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Written by Dallas Vandal

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