Dropkick Murphys


Vocalist, bass player, union man and long-suffering Boston Red Sox fan Ken Casey talks beer, tin whistles and AC/DC with Truepunk.

Archival July 2003 Interview by Steve Tauschke | steve@staff.truepunk.com | with The Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey.

You seem to improve with every release. What are your thoughts on the new record Blackout?
We're happy with it and I'm very excited about it but it's a question of being asked about our own music. We just make it and let other people listen to it and decide if they like it.

What's this thing you use called a tin whistle, an instrument of traditional Irish folk music?
Geez, that's a good question. You've stumped me. It's obviously been used in traditional Irish and folk music but it's also been used in a lot of American folk music. But I think when people hear the tin whistle, their first association is probably with some form of Celtic music.

Was traditional Irish music part of your upbringing?
I come from a place where everyone's parents or grandparents were from Ireland and anytime there was a function or party they didn't put on music to cater to the kids, it was dedicated to them so it was always adult music. It was just ingrained in me before I necessarily decided I actually liked it. Obviously I heard the Irish balladeers playing in the household and everybody singing the songs and knowing the words and that kind of sticks in my head; it's how I learnt the songs. For years I knew the songs and would sing them as a kid but I always thought it was grown-ups music and it wasn't for me. It wasn't until I got into my teenage years that I started to appreciate it.

That community spirit seems to have rubbed off judging by the shared vocal duties in the band.
I think that's more from the punk rock thing where we're just a bunch of guys playing the music. The crowd who comes to support us is what makes the show, to me. So far be it for us to tell the people who make the show that they can't participate in it.

You're from a working class background obviously?
Yeah, Boston's kind of a funny city because to a lot of people it started as a real hard-nosed blue collar city. But it's the tale of two towns because it's also a big university town and those two worlds are very separated. I didn't go to college and I was raised blue collar. My dad died when I was like 5 years old but my grandfather, who basically raised me, was a longshoreman and a union organizer so I kind of come from a union family. And then I went and married into one too - my father-in-law is a union president.

Given the solidarity in the band, was it tough to see your bagpipe player Spicey leave?
Not really because we tour at a tremendous pace and like I said, we're working class kids who stumbled into music, not life-long musicians. So we've had a couple of people leave over the years just because they met a girl or whatever. It's not necessarily the life that we all envisaged. The guys who continue to be in the band are overwhelmed with the opportunity to continue to do it and are grateful. But some people, from the first time they pick up an instrument, they know they want to play music and don't care if they're sleeping in the dirt. You're like a gypsy, traveling around the world and removed from your roots so it's kind of a tough juggling act from how we were raised. And that's gotten the better of a few members.

Do you enjoy being a tumbleweed?
I don't enjoy parts of it at all but on the other hand I never got out of Massachussets when I was a kid and now I'm traveling all over the world and meeting people who I now call friends. I try to look at the glass as half full. It's kind of strange not being grounded all the time but on the other hand when in the hell in my life would I have gone to Australia or Japan or Europe or even California if I hadn't been in this band. I also have a wife and child who support what I do and they come with me a good portion of the time. So I'd hate to give the illusion that any of the guys in the band are ungrateful. We realize that we have a very unique opportunity that I'd say probably less than one per cent of all bands get. It's a pretty awesome thing to have happen to you.

Speaking of touring, tell us about the time nudists turned up to one of your shows in Dublin?
You know, they enjoy a drink in Dublin. We've played Dublin many times before but we've never had people taking their clothes off left and right. As much as I enjoy a chaotic show, it got a little messy towards the end. But it was good for a laugh.

How are things with Hellcat at the moment?
Well, we've been with the label since its inception and we signed in the first year we were a band putting out 7" on our own. We weren't even a touring band, we all had jobs. The guys in Rancid are music fans and they have their ear to the ground. They picked up on our singles and heard the band and so we got a call from Tim Armstrong asking if he wanted to do a record with his new label. We thought it was a joke at first but we've become friends and have had a long relationship with them. This will be our fourth full- length album with them. Six releases in six years.

I notice you've released a 12" picture disc on the label that includes a version of AC/DC's Long Way To The Top.
It's gonna be five songs from the new record and then Long Way To The Top. We've always covered AC/DC songs in our live set. We've done TNT and Dirty Deeds. A band with bagpipes needs to do an AC/DC song so it seemed like a natural song to do.

So do you throw it in the live sets?
Of course!

You guys are known for your drinking prowess. What's your favourite drop?
The band's most requested beer is probably Guinness, if we can get the good stuff. If not, then a good old fashioned American Budweiser.

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