The Dropkick Murphys have been a stake in the punk community's spokes since they came together back in 1996. Worlds away from the genre's typical bands, the group has seen a steady rotation of members since its inception. Built on working class principles, a love of ale and a penchant for urgent riffs and melodies, DKM's sound has evolved into a unique fusion of steadfast rock 'n' roll and Irish folk music. It may not be fucking Pennywise, but fans of the Pogues and Rancid have been high-fiving each other on their bagpipe-doused sound since '97's Do Or Die.
Speaking of Rancid, it was Tim Armstrong who inked the Dropkick's to Hellcat. And while the business arrangement has brought forth four studio albums --- including the super, just-dropped Blackout --- founding bassist and spokesperson Ken Casey says he never went out of his way to align with the label.
"We never tried to get signed. We were just releasing our own records around Boston and somehow Tim and Lars [Frederiksen] got turned on to us."
"When I got a call from Tim looking to sign us, we were just a hack band," Casey remembers, laughing. "We hadn't even quit our jobs; this was just a hobby. So I was kind of half-thinking it was a friend of mine busting my balls and I was a little rude to Tim. I didn't want to seem like I was falling for it hook, line and sinker. And as I'm talking to Tim, my call waiting clicks in and it's Ian MacKaye from Fugazi --- because at the time I also booked shows in Boston. He's like, 'I hear you book shows,' and I'm thinking, 'Oh, man, someone is really getting me good. So I hung up on Ian. Later found out it really was him. Anyway, the two most famous people I had probably ever talked to in my life at the time called me in the span of five minutes."
Fast forward to 2003: The Dropkick Murphys have sold hundreds of thousands of albums, and logged countless miles bringing punk rock to the masses. But doing so has come at the expense of some members.
"Living the gypsy life in a touring band has taken its toll on some of our members over the years," Casey admits, citing the 2002 departure of bagpipe player Spicy McHaggis, who lasted one album and tour before exiting. "Still, for us, the opportunity to travel the world is such a rare opportunity."
With vocalist Al Barr, drummer Matt Kelly, guitarist James Lynch, multi-instrumentalists Marc Orrell and Ryan Foltz, plus new 'pipesman Scruffy Wallace, Casey will again be hopping the globe this year, beginning with appearances on each and every Warped Tour date. Bringing forth new anthems like "Walk Away," which Ken says "is about deadbeat dads" and "Worker's Song," which comes out in support of America's unions, the Murphy's take pride in putting a little substance behind their snarl.
And the forceful, chant-along "Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight" attests to the level of respect and evolution DKM has attained. Not just the album's namesake, it's the Dropkicks' explosive punk attack steering a rare Woody Guthrie lyric. Offered up by Guthrie's daughter Nora at the urgency of her son --- a fan of the band --- Casey says, "I hope he's not rolling over in his grave. It's the hardest song on the record because we were like, 'If we're gonna do this, we're gonna tear it up.' And that M.O. kind of speaks to everything we do."
By John D. Luerssen