Modern Fix

DROPKICK MURPHYS – interview by pr!


Like a fine wine, Dropkick Murphy’s gets better with age. This third release is, in my opinion, their greatest, with a dash of everything that sounds good. If you listened to their first album, with their old singer, you can feel the intensity but I don’t think the sound had caught up with the feeling. On this album, it’s defiantly there. So now, the third release from Dropkick Murphy’s is out on Hellcat Records, and we decided to catch up with Ken Casey and see what he’s up to.

PR: the Dropkick Murphy’s were born in 96 in Boston, as a band of friends, and you quickly got a following. Has anything changed over the last five years?
Ken Casey: Yeah, it feels better, I mean, people appreciate your music, and its all that much more fun to play.

PR: Did you ever think it would become like this?
Ken: Oh no, not at all. But it didn’t happen overnight, it was like, step by step, growing each year, took a lot of work. Since it didn’t happen over night, it’s not a complete shock, but you can look back and see when we started we were playing for 10 kids, now we play for a thousand. Each time we played, the crowd started growing, one, two three hundred kids, that’s when we knew we were doing something right

PR: It must have been nice to have the assistance of Lars (Fredericson, of Rancid) on your first full two lengths?
Ken: Yeah, we basically recorded those in a friend’s studio for ten bucks an hour, so we had some experience going into it.

PR: You took over producing on Sing Loud, Sing Proud, right?
Ken: Yeah

PR: Was that your choice, or..?
Ken: Well, it was kind of a mutual thing on my end and the bands, I was kind of the guy that could do it, and I worked with Lars so I was familiar with the process. I mean, Lars is helping all these new bands, and it was kind of selfish for us to keep asking him, but I think it worked out.

PR: Well, personally I guess I’m a little biased, being a fan, but this new album sounds better production wise, then previous releases. It sounds tight, and I get the feeling you spent some time on it.
Ken: It took six months to record, but it was spread out during touring, so it probably came out to about three weeks, really.

PR: It really seems like there was some soul put into it, you know what I mean?
Ken: Yeah, see when we were recording, there was a lot of pressure, just with the new things we were trying, but we just tried to have fun and do it, and have it come across as we’re having a good time.

PR: Totally, you can listen to the CD and feel that attitude. Not as good as seeing Dropkick Murphy’s live, but close. So, the new album came out on February 6th, any special guests making an appearance?
Ken: Live?

PR: No.
Ken: Oh, on the album. Yeah, Shane McGowan, Colin McFaull from Cock Sparrer, and Desi Queally from Plumber. It was an honor to have them on our record, knowing what they have done, it’s amazing.

PR: How was Shane to work with? He’s kind of a walking piece of history.
Ken: (laughs) He’s a walking piece of a lot of things. He was great, it was very entertaining. He was well lubricated, but no matter what state he was in, you put a microphone in front of him and he snaps right into it. Great guy.

PR: So, you’ve written most of the lyrics on the album?
Ken: Yeah, but we’ve got more contributions from everyone else in the band, so it’s just not all me. Now, with their own instruments, they don’t just play what I tell them, they really add a style to our music, so it comes out sounding a lot more real.

PR: Well, I noticed especially with the addition of the bagpipes, it’s almost become kind of a thing, and your adding more instruments that aren’t used as much in today’s bands. Are you experimenting, or adding more roots?
Ken: Well, I think what it is, is that right off the bat we used those instruments, but it was only at local live shows where we could find someone to step in and play. It’s hard to find young punk rock men that can play that kind of music willing to tour. So basically, now that we’re a bigger band, we can add it to the music and not just have to only include those instruments in certain cities.

PR: Well, you guys have a pretty heavy dose of Irish sound in your music. What’s the response, playing in other countries, especially Ireland?
Ken: It’s great, I mean, Ireland doesn’t really have a backlash of anti American bands, except like, House of Pain or something. I mean, we’re Irish, but we don’t mettle in the politics or anything. We’re Americans and we just use a sound.

PR: So you’re not Dropkick Against the Machine?
Ken: (laughs) No. We try to concentrate on the sound more than a message.

PR: I don’t know if many fans are aware, but last year Dropkick Murphy’s and The Business did a split together on Taang! Records. How did that happen?
Ken: We had some time off, and Curtis from Taang!, originally from Boston but relocated to San Diego, called us and asked if we wanted to record some fun stuff. It was supposed to be a single but it turned into a record. It wasn’t very serious, and I don’t think it’s the greatest sounding album. It was just done light hearted, but it was fun.

PR: I reviewed it and that’s basically what I said. If you weren’t a Dropkick fan, you might not ‘get it’. It seemed like just a fun CD with you covering each other’s music. Especially that cover of The Who.
Ken: It was all stuff we probably wouldn’t do on a record so it was nice to be able to get it out on the comp.

PR: Ok, from a new listeners perspective, someone unfamiliar with Dropkick might go to a show and see some violence, see some skinheads and attribute it to DM being a skinhead band. As expected, the difference between racist and non-racist skinheads can be hard to tell and whether a band is or isn’t can be even harder. Is that frustrating when your band can come off with a false image?
Ken: It’s ironic because our skinhead fan base has decreased more and more. Anytime you’re a band like ours, your original fan base tends to be more skins. Also, there aren’t as many skins, so if you draw 100 people, and 15 are skinheads, then you draw 1000 people, and the same 15 are there, it’s a lesser percentage. So it’s a lesser population. Yet, now we’re getting more of the ignorant view where people think we’re a racist skinhead band. Racist skinheads get all the publicity anyway because of the media and they like to bundle bands with that type. And when it comes to violence, well, I think there is a certain amount at any show, and anyways, we don’t promote it. We can’t control who comes to a show.

PR: I agree, I’ve seen other maybe smaller groups, and when half the crowd is worrying and concerned about the pit, like a boxing match, it’s kind of disheartening in a way.
Ken: It’s too bad that shows turn out like that. Hopefully people listen to the music rather then concern themselves on fighting and the such.

PR: When Mike left the band, due to personal reasons, and went his own way, I was impressed that you kept it together and forged on. Was there a backlash from fans?
Ken: There are always some fans… I mean; you can’t switch singers without that kind of thing. There’s always people saying, “Oh, I like the older singer” it’s more fashionable, you know? I mean, my band, well, it’s our band. We didn’t even think about stopping what were doing, didn’t even cross my mind. As a matter of fact, I think it gave us more strength. But on the other hand, we had so much success with the first record that people, well, as they say, you have your whole life to write your first record then two months to write your second. I feel like, ‘The Gangs All Here’ was a good record, but wasn’t as much as a good record because we were so hard pressed trying to make a good release with Al singing. So it wasn’t fair for Al. You also have to keep in mind, Al did that record less then three months into the band, so it wasn’t a good capture of Dropkick.

PR: One of the songs on the new record, ‘Fortunes of War’ involves the story of the punk getting attacked by some jocks in Texas.
Ken: Well, we were on tour in Texas in the fall of ‘98, and a bunch of kids came. A kid names Jason introduced himself and told us his brother had been killed by a bunch of jocks and that we were his favorite band. They played us at his wake at his funeral. So we dedicated the show to him. We followed the story, and when the killer was sentenced he was given 10 years probation. That’s when it became a national story and we had really been following it all along. So we just wrote the song because this guy got away with murder. Even though he really didn’t because God knows he did. It’s a tragedy

PR: Out of all the members of your band, the guy in the spotlight recently is Spicy, your smoking, drinking underage bagpipe guy. He reminds me of Belushi reincarnated.
Ken: (laughs) Yeah, you know, he does. He’s defiantly a character, a minor celebrity. I can’t really describe him. I mean, we’ll be at a show, and before we get on, I can see Spicy in the crowd, drinking with the 15 year olds and he aint that much older. It cracks me up.

PR: (laughs) I saw one of your singles was on the Dave Mirra BMX video game on the playstation.
Ken: Really, I don’t know. I’m not a video game player, but I know we gave permission to be on a game.

PR: I know you have to know about this. Your song playing in the pub on the HBO show, ‘Soprano’s’.
Ken: Yeah, they told us we’ll be on there so I had this picture of an Italian mob shooting up this Irish bar and it turns out to be his daughter at a college frat bar so it was disappointing. But it was cool anyways.

PR: Well, I’d like to see a Dropkick song on the show, ‘Oz’ too.
Ken: Yeah, that would be cool, as long as it wasn’t during a prison rape scene.

PR: True. You only have about 5 or 10 minutes of Oz when there isn’t massive male anal rape, so it might be tough to fit a song in. Anyways, when your not playing on tour, what are you doing?
Ken: Hanging out with my wife and dog, answering fan mail, and doing other band related things.

PR: Are you working with Flat Records?
Ken: Yeah, it’s kinda working with TKO Records too.

PR: The presidential mess has split America in two. Who did you support?
Ken: Gore. My family is mostly democrat. Growing up in a union life you always go Democrat. I don’t like either candidate that much, but dislike Bush heavily.

PR: Yeah, it wasn’t a good thing for America, the whole Florida deal.
Ken: We were touring in Europe at the time so it was funny to hear people talk about it over there. It was worldwide news. Kind of amazing.

PR: Little personal question, are you pro-life or pro-choice?
Ken: Well, I’m pro-choice.

PR: You think the militant pro-lifers that attack doctors and clinics are just as bad as the church bombers?
Ken: Of course, any extremist groups are usually pretty wacko.

PR: Here in California, we passed Proposition 36, which basically states a person caught with an illegal drug, whether its pot or coke, on a first offence sees no jail time and instead gets treatment. Does that sound like the start of a nationwide solution?
Ken: I think it would help. I know a lot of formal criminals that turned their life around and are now successful people. And you know, if you throw them in jail they wont have as good of a chance to recover from a mistake.

PR: Do you support drug decriminalization?
Ken: Uh, well, (laughs) I don’t know how exactly it would work. I think it has the potential. I mean, you see other countries like Amsterdam where you don’t see any crimes. But America has so many problems. I think it would just mean the government gets all the money instead of the drug dealers.

PR: Has the Internet helped your band?
Ken: Yeah, I don’t think it was helpful a few years ago. We were kind of anti-internet until we went to shows and people would hear all sorts of rumors, thinking we got in fights or got killed. It was out of control. Now, yeah, we use the Internet and it’s just great. We can talk to fans, put on our videos and reach people we couldn’t before.

PR: What’s your impression of, my term, ‘media whore music’, like Kid Rock and Papa Roach?
Ken: I don’t know, I mean, I’m really against rap and metal mixing. The two things need to stay separate, please don’t combine them, it kills me.

PR: So we can’t expect mass marketing of Dropkick Murphy’s, like on cereal boxes?
Ken: Um, no, I don’t think… well, I guess if it was a cool enough cereal.

PR: Like Lucky Charms?
Ken: Nah, that guy’s kind of weak. Maybe Count Chocula.

PR: What five CD’s are you listening to right now?
Ken: Shit, I just moved, let’s see. Swinging Utters – Streets of SF, the new Lars Fredericson and the Bastards demo, Thug Murder, which is this all girl Japanese band, Blood for Blood, and the Vigilantes – Destiny.

PR: Anything I missed?
Ken: You covered it all, I think.

PR: Anything to say to the fans?
Ken: Check out our record and we’ll be on tour hopefully in your city soon.

Not too shabby. I think it’s lot harder to describe Dropkick if you haven’t heard any of their albums, so I suggest a virgin listener to go to and take a gander at some of their music available online. Better yet, catch them on tour, with Swingin’ Utters, Lars Fredericson (of Rancid) and the Bastards and others coming to a town near you. You’ll like what you hear.