Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys talks about the new album, touring, parenthood, and the Bruins A David O'Connell Interview
Louder -Tell us about the new album "Blackout".
Ken Casey -It's kind of hard talking about. It's tough to put into words. It's our 4th album together, it's in line with the other albums. If it ain't broke don't fix it, you know? We recorded it in the same studio, and I produced it again as well. It's a little more rock and roll than the other, with the loud guitars, but still has the folk in there too.
L -It does sound a lot more straight-laced rock and roll than the past albums. Were there any different influences on this one, or were you listening to something different at the time you recorded?
KC-Nothing new really. We just try and make each album have it's own identity. It's definitely not what were listening to at the time, more just trying to visualize what the album concept should be.
L- Tell us what it was like going through the Woody Guthrie archives, how you got the chance to do that, and how you put them together and added music to them.
KC -We got the chance to go down to NYC, and dig through the lyrics with his daughter, Nora. We had to wear these special white gloves, because some of the papers were over 60 years old. It was like holding a piece of history. We went through about 12 songs. We had already written the music to "There's Gonna Be A Blackout", we just had to arrange the lyrics to it. We tried to make the song the opposite of Woody's, and it became one of the heavier, harder songs on the album.
L -What is the song "The Outcast" about? As soon as I heard it and read the lyrics, it sounds like it was made for "Mystic River" written by your friend, Dennis Lehane.
KC-Well. I've only read part of the book. I read at a 2 year olds pace (laughs). The song is basically about being on the outside, looking in. I don't think it's directly personal to anyone in the band. Maybe I should give it to Dennis and get it in that film! We were supposed to be in that movie. Clint Eastwood liked one of the songs on this record, but we didn't record with a metronome, so it wasn't in perfect tempo with the film. They were going to use "The Dirty Glass" and we were going to re-record it with Clint, but in the last minute, he bumped us for his son's jazz band! (laughs) We had a lot of people bat for us in that movie-Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon-they all plugged us, but it just didn't work out.
L -You'll be promoting the new album by headlining this summer's Vans Warped Tour. Do you like the bigger "festival" type outdoor venues, or are you still a "club band" or "bar band" at heart.
KC-Clubs we definitely prefer to play. With the festivals, you're just one of many guests. When it's your own show, you get to do whatever you want, and most importantly, you're closest to the crowd.
L -Your St. Patrick's Day weekend shows have become legendary. People are coming, literally, from all over the world to see you in your element, in Boston on St. Patrick's Day weekend. You sold out 4 straight nights last year, which was an Avalon record previously held by the Ramones. Do you see yourself staying there, moving to a larger venue, or maybe adding more shows?
KC- We were thinking of moving to a new venue, but not a traditional venue. We thought about one of these huge halls in the World Trade Center you can rent out. They hold about 8,000 people. It's got to be a good venue for a punk show, though. That way, we don't have to play as many shows. The thing is that St. Paddy's falls on a Tuesday next year, and that's one more show to do. I'm always conscious of the people that go to more than 1 show. You don't want to keep doing the same stuff. They pay to not see the same show over and over.
L -This year, your old singer, Mike McColgan, came out on Monday's show and sang with the band. What was that like sharing a stage again, and what are the plans for his new bands, The Street Dogs, album?
KC- I don't know. We've been friends ever since he left. We talked about it, and we thought it would be a good way to let everyone know that we are still friends. I was scheduled to produce the album, but I didn't end up doing it. Our studio time was overlapped, and I was practically drooling in the studio. I was so busy. It would have been unfair to both bands if I tried to do both. They would have both suffered if I did.
L -Do you have any favorite bands you like to play with?
KC- That's a tough one. We've played with so many bands I love. I would probably say a lot of the hometown bands like the Ducky Boys, Blood for Blood, the Unseen and the Explosion, if I had to pick. Our next tour we're going to have all Boston bands with us.
L -Any favorite songs to play live, and what songs don't do so well live?
KC- Well, from the new album I really like "There's gonna be a blackout!", "The Fields of Athenry", and "The Outcast". There are a lot of songs that we or I like, but just don't translate well live. A lot of the mid-tempo songs don't get a great response. We don't play any "avant-garde" songs live. Not that we have any! (laughs) But if we did, we wouldn't play them. You have to play the crowd pleasers. That's what they're there for. As for the older stuff, I like "Boys on the Docks", and "Barroom Hero". Anything that gets the people excited.
L- You've slowed down a little on touring, after your daughter, Emma, was born. How do you juggle being a touring musician, a husband and a father?
KC- It is quite a juggling act. My wife is very supportive. I have a great family that is very supportive of what I do and helps a lot. A lot of the time, the family comes with me. It's not financially smart, but you got to do it. Our tour, the bus isn't always all parties and booze. Sometimes it's everybody singing Sesame Street songs to Emma! (laughs)
L -If you could play with any bands, past or present, who would it be?
KC- That's a tough one. We've already played with the Pogues when they did the reunion in London, Joe Strummer at the same show, and the Sex Pistols. AC/CD would definitely be a band I'd love to play with. Stiff Little Fingers and Social Distortion are also bands we loved growing up and would love to play along with.
L -Do you think "Time To Go" will replace, or become the new "Nutrocker" for the Bruins?
KC- Just ask everyone to request it at NESN! The guys at NESN are really good to us, and they always plug the band. We'll see whether they can hack it, or if it's a little too rowdy for their full-time song, you know?
L -Any last comments on the album, and the upcoming tour?
KC- No, not really! (laughs) I'm just looking forward to starting the Warped Tour and to play with and see Rancid. There's a lot of good bands there, and should be a good time.
L -And finally, I have to ask-The last song "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" -Personal story or not?
KC- It's everybody's personal story! (laughs) At some night in everybody's life, it's been his or her song. It hasn't been me for a while, but I've definitely been that guy!
L -P.J Stocks's contract is up. Any words to Mike O'Connell (we're not related!)
KC- If he doesn't sign him, I'll be waiting at his front door for him. Also, you need to check out www.signpj.com. Tell everyone you know.
L -Best bruin of all time?
KC- It's a tie between Terry O'Reilly and Bobby Orr
L -Who needs to go in the B's organization (players and management)?
KC- I'd like to see Terry O'Reilly behind the bench, and O'Connell needs to go. As for players, Sweeney needs to start collecting his pension soon. I think he's going to this off-season anyways.