Celtic-punks first supergroup here! LA based The Walker Roaders consist of a Pogue, James Fearnley (vocals and accordion) and former members of the Dropkick Murphys (Marc Orrell) and Flogging Molly (Ted Hutt, a founding member of the Mollies and later producer). Musically, The Walker Roaders are closer to the Pogues then DKM or FM though even closer to James two post-post Pogues bands, the 1990’s Low & Sweet Orchestra and the more recent Cranky George but with stronger Celtic melodies then either which meshes so well with his north of England grittyness.
“Wife, I thought to myself, children forgive me for what I do this night, terrible as it may be, for this is Ireland in the rain of an ungodly time.…Where the dead must go to die” -Ray Bradbury
From Ireland they come. A land of terrible beauty, to use a well-worn cliché. A place forever at war with it’s past, yet eternally connected to it. Forever in love yet combat until the end of time. Yes, to be sure, the story starts with the land itself. A land symbolized by Green. Green everywhere, as far as the eye can see. Even green shadows. This Green land – a symbol of life? What of the contradiction? Green with life, but a history full of death. A land of hope, but a people forced out into exile. Where life itself flourishes. Where the dead go to die. A history filled with heart-swelling victory and even more so with deep seeded loss and regret. A story within a story within a tragedy. And a people more resilient than a people ever were. And out of this land, rebels were born.
Within this piece, I want to give a brief history of early rebel musicians like Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, and explore how being Irish has shaped them and the men that have followed in their whiskey-stained boot steps. Devices such as themes of rebellion, freedom, war, drinking, sex and more drinking are prevalent in all of their works. Being an Irishman and growing up in certain circles shapes the way one views life, ones attitudes and beliefs. It is no secret, then, that the rebel Irish musicians who inhabit this piece, whether born to Ireland herself or born of the great Irish Diaspora which history tells us of, have shared experiences that contribute to the uplifting, sad and angry music they make and the uncompromising way they live their lives.
“I started singing folk songs after realizing that they were not as square as I had been led to believe.” -Luke Kelly
Born in Dublin in the year of Our Lord 1940 was Luke Kelly. Luke grew up in the rough, tough-n-tumble dockside area of Dublin. A strong working-class upbringing had a huge effect on this future leader of the legendary folk ensemble, The Dubliners. Luke, at first, rejected the idea of doing folk music. He opposed the idea, thinking, as many do, that folk was simply fluff. Upon closer inspection, however Luke realized the themes contained within the songs were hardly light-hearted material. Luke immediately related to the themes of the Irish folk song, themes any working-class member of Irish society could: drinking, fighting, loving, living and dying. Matt Kelly of the Dropkick Murphys once noted that “folk songs are more punk than most punk bands songs anyway.” And right he was. Luke Kelly and the rough and tumble cast of characters who make up the Dubliners did folk how it should be: from the gut, no bullshit. The response they got was immediate. Their version of “Seven Drunken Nights” made them the toast of the folk scene and concerts everywhere sold out. They were a smash! Hit albums and tours continue to this day. Their status as legends is secured. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who “looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height” to quote an accurate description I once read.
Terje Oye’s excellent website describes the Luke and the Dubliners influence as follows: “The number of artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols, is endless. They have brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never would have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the folk music, the instrumentals alone, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again.” Sadly, Luke Kelly passed due to cancer in 1984. The world lost a great man, but the influence left behind remains even to this day. Luke and the lads certainly did bring folk into the spotlight, and proved what attitude, heart and belief could do for a group, and their influence on those who came after looms large over the Irish music scene to this very day. If there is one group that Luke Kelly and the Dubliners could claim are closest to their own hearts, one most true to their own visions and one whose influence among generations of future musicians is nearly as great as their own, it would have to be the almighty Pogues, led by Shane MacGowan.
“We were heavily influenced by The Dubliners who I thought were the band that demonstrated Irish pop music the best.” -Shane MacGowan “A Drink With Shane”
Shane MacGowan was born in Kent, England, on Christmas Day, 1957. Although he grew up with firm Irish roots, his tale differs from Kelly’s in some ways, but the parallels do run deep. MacGowan’s father, Maurice, had grown up in Dublin, and his mother, Therese, had grown up on a farm in Tipperary. Shane actually lived in Tipp during his early years, and spent the summers of his youth there. He was surrounded by traditional Irish music and had many relatives who played instruments such as the banjo, fiddle, accordion, tin whistle, etc. All of this would stay in his memory for his lifetime and would contribute to the masterpieces he later produced with the Pogues. During his early school career, Shane had an acknowledged gift for writing and most other subjects. Shane spent his hours reading old Irish poetry and in time learned to write his own rhymes. He seemed headed for an impressive scholarly career, but it wasn’t to be for Shane, though. He got kicked out of a prestigious private school for illegal drug possession and was bound for greater things.
Before embracing the folk of his childhood, however, MacGowan would come up in the blossoming punk scene of London in the late ‘70’s. Shane became a face on the scene early on after the infamous ‘ear-biting’ incident at a Clash show would land the bloodied Irish teen on the cover of London’s largest newspaper. The energy, violence and power of the punk scene would also leave a lasting impression on the young Shane and he began to harness the creative energy he possessed, with his life-experiences of being a young London Irishman. After a few semi-successful tries and one damn fine group, the Nips, Shane decided to put his two natural musical loves together, Irish folk played with the breakneck energy and bombast of punk rock.
Shane has always acknowledged that his main influence for the Pogues was Luke Kelly and the music he made with the Dubliners. Add to the mix the excitement Shane felt after seeing the Sex Pistols for the first time, and a unique vision was born. “ I never understood why it took me so long to make the connection,” Shane said “I had a mental block that said Irish music was one thing and pop was another.” Spider Stacey tells of going to shows with Shane and going back to his flat, where they would put on Dubliners records and sing along. He recalls Shane playing along at top speed on an acoustic guitar until it suddenly became so obvious that they couldn’t believe they hadn’t thought of it before. Play the folk songs at the Pistols pace, complete with the filth and the fury. The kicked around at various bars in London, using various names like the New Republicans, until they finally solidified the line-up and a name was chosen: Pogue Mahone, Gaelic for “kiss my arse.”
The Pogues went from conquering London to conquering the world. It wasn’t long before Shane’s “Poguetry” had everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Tom Waits to Elvis Costello watching in complete awe at the sheer spectacle of it all. The Pogues could go from a drunken, rambling bunch of hooligans to a soulful, even beautiful group making some of the finest Irish music of the last century. And Shane did so under the watchful tutelage of the Dubliners, respecting what had come before and even collaborating with them on occasion. The Pogues, today hold a huge influence over the current punk scene and most every city has a band or two that cover a Pogues tune. They are, more than ever, in vogue. One band that aided in this popularity resurgence is Boston’s own Irish-American mouthpiece, the Dropkick Murphys.
“Until I heard the Pogues, I wasn’t Even Sure If I Liked Irish Music” -Ken Casey
Ken Casey’s Boston-Irish immigrant family experience is in many ways very similar to Luke Kelly’s own. Casey’s father passed away at an early age and his main father figure in life was his Grandfather, John Kelly. Kelly was a union-organizer, working with longshoreman on Boston’s docks. Coming from a working-class upbringing and the struggles of the everyman that accompany it were a large part of Casey’s childhood and were forever intertwined into his psyche. He, like Luke Kelly, used these experiences to tell the personal tales found in Dropkick Murphys songs such as “Boys on the Docks” which was written for and about John Kelly. The Irish working-class experience had shaped the band the Dropkicks are today.
Another parallel to Luke Kelly is that Casey, by his own admission, had Irish folk ‘shoved down his throat’ at an early age and wasn’t sure what he thought of it. At family get-togethers, parties and wakes, it was always the background piece, always propelling life along, for better or worse. I speak from experience when I say that hearing these songs at funerals and wakes, one can begin to associate them with life’s darker moments and sometimes this creates a prejudice of sorts.
In his youth, Casey became involved in the legendary Boston hardcore scene of the early ‘80s, seeing bands like SSD, Jerry’s Kids, DYS, Gang Green and the like. He credits these and other bands of the genre with inspiring him. “I have to say it inspired me into the whole lifestyle which eventually led to the music and making music” Casey said. So punk rock and hardcore was Casey’s earliest love, but what about Irish folk? How did Casey go from a lukewarm feeling about it to the fire he now possesses for it?
Ken Casey says he wasn’t sure what he thought about folk until he heard the Pogues. The Pogues, for Casey and so many others, gave the younger Irish generation a voice. About the folk/Pogues connection, Casey says: “I hated it as a kid,” he recalls, “but it was smashed into my head so much that I gained an appreciation for it as I grew older. Then when I saw The Pogues, I started to make the mental connection between their music and folk music. So when we started the band we figured we’d just combine folk music with punk and see what happened. I think you could take any one of our songs and play it on an acoustic guitar in a pub.” Casey, like Kelly, had to admit to himself that the folk music of his ancestors wasn’t ‘square’ but was a powerful voice of an oppressed people. With some help from MacGowan, Casey embraced it. So, Luke Kelly’s influence shaped MacGowan, who in turn, influenced Casey. The circle remains unbroken from Ireland to London to Boston.
The power and ‘punkiness’ of Irish folk lies in its subject matter and the way it’s delivered. Much of the material that runs through the Dubliners music deals with the Irish struggle for freedom and the wars and loss that accompany it. “The Foggy Dew” “Off to Dublin in the Green” and “Roddy McCorely” all tale tells that no pop song would dare. They celebrate the lives and deaths of Irish rebels. Pride in ones heritage shines through many an Irish folk song as well. Ireland and being Irish is celebrated with a glee only the Irish seem to muster. Luke Kelly covered classic after classic of these type tunes, from “A Nation Once Again” to “The Town I Loved So Well” written by Phil Coulter specifically with Kelly in mind.
Shane MacGowan also celebrated Ireland and it’s rebellion with classics like “The Broad Majestic Shannon” and “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” but he spent many a tune singing the praises and scouring the gutters of his home turf – London. As a young London Irishman, MacGowan gave a unique and slightly different view of the Irish Diaspora. Surely classics like “The Dark Streets of London” “Lullaby of London,” “London, You’re a Lady” “A Rainy Night in Soho” and the rest tell the unique tale of what it’s like for the displaced Irish in Her Majesty’s Kingdom. Shane, too, covered many the rebel song over his recorded career, including “Paddy Public Enemy Number One” and has been doing “A Nation Once Again” live. In his new book “A Drink With Shane MacGowan” he says he regrets not joining the IRA and laying his life on the line for Ireland and Shane always said his mother came from an IRA family. Rebel with a cause, indeed – to get his message across through a folk/punk rebel hybrid.
Likewise, Ken Casey sings the praises of living in Boston and the American immigrant experiences and hardships his family have encountered – again, a uniquely different Irish tale, but with common threads connecting to both Kelly and MacGowan. “Yes, we have Irish backgrounds, but we’re an American band and we don’t go after the Irish-American community as a fan base on purpose. We’ve always had songs about Boston, and we’re spouting off about the Bruins or whatever. We’re carrying the Boston torch with us. Sometimes I think we should get a couple of bucks from the Chamber of Commerce for promoting tourism. We’ve had so many kids from other parts of the country and from different scenes come up to me and say, ‘I’m moving to Boston; it sounds so cool, you have so many different bands,’ and then they move here and it’s cold and people are mean, and they’re like ‘This place sucks, I’m getting out of here’” Casey laughs. Still, it is easy to see that the Boston Irish pride and fierce loyalty burns deep within the Dropkick Murphys.
It’s not all pride, rebellion and war in Irish folk, though. The good times, complete with gallons of booze, is another required tale in the canon. From the Dubliners “Seven Drunken Nights,” “Whiskey You’re the Devil” and ”Whiskey in the Jar,” the Irish make a case for the stereotypes of being the world’s greatest boozers, and Ireland being ‘the birthplace of good times.’ The Dubliners not only sang about boozin’ but also the Church-frowned upon subject of illicit sex as well. They played “Monto” with a wink and a nod, knowing that the Montgomery Street area in Dublin, which it is based on, is notorious for prostitution. Likewise the men saying goodbye to the women in “The Holy Ground” are the sea-bound sailors of Cork and the women they were with, prostitutes.
The Dubliners drinking exploits soon became the stuff of legend. Taking a cue from them in both song and action was Shane and the Pogues. Shane’s songs are full of boozy characters in drunk tanks, of love lost and mourned for over whiskey after whiskey, of drunken priests and fathers, of soiled, drug-addicted prostitutes and the like. Shane, Spider and the rest of the boys also came under much scrutiny for their drinking habits. Friends eventually intervened for fear of Shane’s life, and, according to some, his drinking led to his dismissal from the band. Shane remains as optimistic as ever, acknowledging that he drinks when he chooses and loves to do so. (For those concerned or those who have him as a choice in their local death poll, Shane actually didn’t look too bad the last time I saw him play a few months ago in Chicago.)
The Dropkick Murphys albums are also full of the celebratory drinking song, covering such anthems as “The Wild Rover” and “Finnegan’s Wake” but Casey often times approaches drinking from a cautionary standpoint, having spent early years in barroom brawls and drunken stupors. Songs like “Caps and Bottles” and “Curse of A Fallen Soul” attempt to steer the wayward soul away from mistakes older, wiser men have made, but like the lives of their friends and family, many Dropkick Murphys songs have unhappy endings. Untimely death is a theme of much of the band’s work, and songs like “Noble” are cautionary tales as well as tributes to the deceased. “Yeah, these are people I knew,” Casey says. “I would go to the wakes of guys who died of drug overdoses, and I would see friends there who were drunk or high themselves, and I couldn’t believe it. I just want to tell them they’re going down the same road that killed a friend.”
The connection between Irishmen like Kelly, MacGowan and Casey and the various forms of folk music they all chose to communicate their stories with isn’t accidental. The Irish, on their home turf, in London and in America, have been treated as less than human. Starvation at home, and no work and horrid conditions in London and America equaled some of the hardest immigrant experiences ever encountered and the music itself was a release. The music spoke of common themes of rebellion and loss, rebellion and success, love and death and glory – all real life themes the Irish encountered. All real life themes to help keep their chins up. Music, as a medium, is powerful, but it acts as a medicinal device as well. It helps heal the soul in times of woe. So, it became, naturally, the voice of the working-class and the oppressed. Irish folk has always celebrated the underdog. From the IRA soldiers fighting against British oppression in “The Patriot Game” or “Johnson’s Motor Car” to the young immigrant arriving in New York scared and bewildered in the Wolfe Tones “Streets of New York” and Shane MacGowan and Ken Casey are insuring that this is not soon forgotten.
Coming from Irish backgrounds, and sharing traits and experiences dictated by heritage and history, it is no surprise then that the three ‘Irish Rebel Musicians’ evolved the way they did – honest and uncompromising, with a ferocious lust for life in it’s good times, and all the while keeping the faith strong during the bad, and, most importantly, retaining their uniquely Irish visions. So, it seems, that the “land of terrible beauty” which has a history so steeped in pain and loss, has produced generations of Irish sons, both at home and displaced, who are and were dedicated to seeing the music of Ireland preserved for eternity.
By Sean Holland
March 11, 2016
Scruffy, lots of people are very excited to hear you have become a Mahone. How did joining The Mahones come about?
I have been long time friends with Finny and Dom…they’re like family to me. Katie is like a little sister and the rest of the fellas have always been fun to hang around. I have played off and on with them and toured many times with them and it’s always been a great time.
What attracted you to join the Mahones, you go back a long time with them right?
I have known Finny and crew for over 20 years…we go way back. They’re great friends and I consider them family.
How will the sound of the Mahones change with you aboard?
I don’t think much about the signature sound of the Mahones will change much…I think the only change is that you may here some Bagpipes here and there. I will share whistle duties and some backup vocals.
Are you moving back to Canada?
I will always have a home in Canada, but I’m staying in Boston. I love this city and am quite content here.
How are relations with Dropkick Murphys?
I wish them all the best.
What are the Mahones upcoming plans to record and tour?
We are working out lots of dates and are excited to get to work. I will be in the studio for a few days coming up next week to do some preliminary work and you can expect to hear some great new music!
Bruins or Canadians?
Without hesitation…Boston Bruins.
What have you been up for the since you left DKM?
I have been working with a new charity called 22kill, bringing awareness to veteran suicide. Staying busy with arranging fund raisers and helping in my community as much as I can. I went to school to become an EMT and love helping people in need. Being a father to 2 boys keeps me pretty busy and I squeeze in as much playing with other bands as I can.
Favorite Mahones song?
Hmmmmm….I’ve always been partial to ‘Back Home’….has a lot of sentimental meaning to me. Of course the usual staples….Drunken Lazy Bastard, Is This Bar Open ‘Til Tomorrow and a night of debauchery that Finny and I shared in Hamburg, Germany a few years ago called ‘The Pint Of No Return’…haha. It was a hell of a night chasing the ghost of Brendan Behan….
Irish Whiskey or Scotch?
Scotch…I usually drink Lagavulin 16 or any Islay whisky….
‘Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum’ Your Piper-at-Arms, Josh ‘Scruffy’ Wallace
October 27, 2003
Dropkick Murphys Interview With Al Barr, and Mark Orrell aka (The Kid) October 27, 2003 Portland, Oregon
We got ahold of Al and Mark, for X-58 Radio (a local radio station) before the Portland gig at the Crystal Ballroom, Here’s what we got…
I know you guys have come along way since the barbershop basement days, where do you see the Dropkick Murphys in 3-5 years?
Al: That’s a tough…That’s hard to say, I mean we’re always growing, (know what I mean) in numbers in the band (laughs).
The Kid: We can’t predict the future.
Al: We like to think our music is growing and not changing, but getting better, hopefully. So just doing pretty much the same as what we’re doing now, we’re just trying to put out the best music we can, and touring…
The Kid: We’re pretty healthy, so I figure we’ll still be around…
Al: well some of us..(laughs) Some of us have been avoiding the doctor for years.
Brian/S’n’O: You’ve been leaning more & more towards using traditional Celtic instruments, Is that going to continue on future recordings?
Al: From the inception of the band, we’ve always used those instruments. In the studio records like Sing Loud Sing Proud, we got guys in the band that were in the punk scene, but played Celtic instruments, so we were able to take that on the road. Before we had a ceiling, so we weren’t gonna put alot of those intruments on the records because, If we can’t recreate it live, it’s a bumout, know what I mean?, Now we have the instrumentation, so we will continue to incorporate that.
The Kid: We’re looking at a didgerido player. He’s gonna be coming in for the next record. It’s gonna be pretty cool.(Trys to keep a straight face – but starts to laugh)
Al: Yeah, we’re gonna fly him in from Australia (laughs) No, that’s not gonna happen.
As of today, who are your favorite bands? Extra points for naming Hudson Falcons.
Al: Not the Hudson Falcons.(laughs) Although they are friends of ours. I’m being honest, but favorite bands right now? Jesus, the new Joe Strummer record…
The Kid: The new Joe Strummer record is REALLY good.
Al: Yeah the new Joe Strummer record, and I don’t wanna cheapen that answer with any others, so i’d just say the new Joe Strummer record.
Tell us about the Boston Bruins gig, you guys have lined up.
Al: Well, what we’ve been told is we’re gonna play the FleetCenter, on the 15th of November, when they play Vancouver, and we’ll see how that goes, I mean it’s the first time we’ll play…
The Kid: At the FleetCenter, at a sporting event.(Laughs)
On the ice or what? (laughs)
The Kid: No, they’re taking out handicap seats and building a stage for us, so it’ll be pretty cool. We wanted to play in between the periods, that would be cool. Hopefully people will stick around for the set after the game…
Al: We’ll see who sticks around and see who throws shit at us!
The Kid: Ahh, It’s too loud!!! (regarding some “older” fans)
Heather/X-58: If you were on the ice, i’m sure people would stay! (laughs)
Al: Maybe we’ll just rush the ice, and…
What do you think of this whole Celt-Punk genre? And do you think websites like Shite’n’Onions are doing a great job? (This question was originally for Ken, who i’ve been told is an S’n’O fan)
Al: I ‘m not really familiar with the website (Bastard – that the last time we’re ever nice to you – S’n’O), and obviously there’s a lot of bands that are doing the whole Celtic punk thing. There’s a lot of bands bands that have been doing Celtic music for a long time. I think with the Dropkick Murphys, we’ve always been a punk band first, and then we incorporate the celtic influences later. But yeah, there’s alot of bands doing it, and doing a great job with it. We are just doing what we do, and letting the people decide.
What was it like working with Woody Guthrie’s lyrics on Blackout?
The Kid: An honor. Al: Yeah, It was an honor, and a daunting task to be asked to write music for unpublished lyrics for someone as great as Woody Guthrie, know what I mean? We had music already that was written. We were calling the music for that “Reggae Ramone” actually, because it sounded like a reggae meets The Ramones song. So we had that music, and actually Kenny and I were in the basement of his house looking though the Guthrie lyrics saying “How in hell are we gonna tackle this job?” because it’s not something we though of as being easy. We had a little handheld cassette recorder of our band practice in the background with these guys playing the music to what became “Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight” and Kenny picked up the lyrics to that, and was reading it, and (the music) just happened to be playing, and said “What do you think of this?” and we said “yeah that’ll work!” and it just kind of fell together.
The Kid: Hopefully, he’d not rolling around in his grave right now.
Al: Hopefully we did him proud. I think in spirit, it’s in line with what he was all about.
Brian/S’n’O: Especially with your background…
Al: Right, it’s in keeping with the whole thing.
So, any chance of flying me out to the St. Paddy’s Day show in Boston?(Laughs)
Al: We don’t even know where we’re gonna be doing this and where we’re gonna be doing that. Know what I mean, we know we’re gonna be playing some shows in Boston, but there’s now talk of possibly doing some West Coast shows in California that same week. So we don’t really know. (looks at the mic) Don’t plan your calanders around what I just said, because that could all change tommorow. We definatley will be playing Paddy’s Day week. Definatly be playing shows in Boston. As far as how many? Last year we did four…
The Kid: Seems like, No, we did five.
Al: We did five?
The Kid: No, four, but it seems like every year we add a day on.
Al: Or they try to add another day..
Brian/S’n’O: A whole work week!
The Kid: Exactly.(Laughs)
When you guys were in elementary school, and the teachers asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you guys answer to that?
Al: I Don’t know if would have answered a Singer, but since I was in grade school, I was singing in concert choir. I was always singing along with Elvis, or The Beatles, when I was 10, or 11.Then when I was 12 or 13, I heard some harder stuff like punk, you know, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Clash, that kind of stuff. So I always loved music, & I always loved singin’ along. I had a little Hi-Fi, you know, it looked like a suitcase, and you could open it up and it was a record player.
Heather/X-58: I had one of those.
Al: Yeah you know what I mean. I would always just sing along with music. My father gave me all his Beatles records, my first record was a “Hunka, Hunka Burnin’ Love” by Elvis in 4th grade. I think you get caught up.. Everybody tries to outdo themselfs with the whole (little snotty kid voice) I wanna be a spaceman,I wanna be a fireman,a policeman, oh yeah? well i’m gonna be a friggin’ G.I. Joe. ya know? (laughs) But yeah, I think I’ve always loved singing and loved being on the stage. Like I said, since I was a kid, I was doing the concert choir and stuff, so we’d perform in front of all the old folks, and parents, and that kinda thing, so.
The Kid: I kinda wanted to be a hockey player. I was playing hockey, like for the Lakers, back in Worchester.I always wanted to be a hockey player, I looked up to Wayne Gretsky, and Bobby Orr and stuff. They were always my favorites. Basically I wanted to be a hockey player. I don’t have a long drawn out story like Al did! (Laughs)
Al:(laughs) That’s just cause i’m long and drawn out!(laughs)
What’s your favorite song to play live?
Al: Right now, i’d say the “Workers Song”
The Kid: “Workers Song” yeah, Definatley, it’s a rockin’ number.
Al: It’s like you said, a rockin’ number. Just the way it kicks in, and the way the audience responds to what the lyrics are saying. You see everybody singing along with that, and as soon as we kick that song in, everybodys eyes bug out, and they’re psyhced. Know what I mean? It gets the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.
What’s your favorite album of yours?
Al: I’d say Blackout.
The Kid: Blackout, yeah, yeah, definatley.
Were you influcenced by The Pogues?
Al: I would say that musically…Obviously there are influcences there because The Pogues were doing, what we were doing, years ago, but more in the traditional sense, they had that punk edge, just because I think Shane MacGowan’s attitiude more than anything else, and the time that The Pogues started in London, there was a punk explosion going on at the same time, and his other band The Nipple Erectors were also definatly a punk band for that time period.
We as a band have never sat around, I mean when it comes to writing we don’t sit around to music and write like… I don’t know, I’m 35 years old. I get my influences when I write music from my daily life. So that’s kinda how I write.
So, how many of you are Irish? Or have Irish in you?
Al: I’d say everybody in the band except me.
The Kid: I’m half Irish, & half English.
Brian/S’n’O:Your part English? (Laughs) So you guys are the butt of all the jokes in the band?
Al: and I’m the Scottish Kraut, you know what? First of all, (stares at the mic) I don’t wanna be Irish. (Everyone laughs) Because the curse is true!
The Kid: Al’s holding up his pinky right now! The Irish curse.
Al: The Irish curse, I don’t wanna part of that. I don’t wanna stuff socks in my drawers! (Laughs) So, you can have the Mick’s. The Mick’s can…You know.. Whatever. My oldest friend, Peter Donovan’s a Mick, I love him. I’ve grown up with Irish my whole life, Irish American, but, yeah, I’m a Scottish Kraut.
Heather: I’m Irish, & German, so I can make the beer and then drink it.
Al: There ya go!
Brian/S’n’O: (Laughs) Either way around huh?
Heather/X-58: Either way, it’s good. So, what’ your favorite beer?
The Kid: (points at a bottle) Budweiser brand beer.
Al: I don’t drink beer anymore, I drink dark rum. That’s what I’ve found keeps me out of fights, headaches, and hangovers.
The Kid: Everytime Al drinks beer he loses some teeth. (laughs)
Brian/S’n’O: Really? Nice work! Yeah! (thumbs up)
Al: Not really, not alot of fun, I don’t recommend it to the kids out there.
Is there anything you want to add?
Al: (pauses) Ahh……No. (laughs) Thank-you for the interview, we appreciate the interview, but we’re not much on the whole soapbox thing… You kids out there you need to do…Y’know? No, just live your life, and we’ll live ours, and if we’re in town, come check it out.
The went on to play a hell of a show.
Interviewed by Brian, and Heather, from X-58 radio (A big thanks to Matt for scheduling the interview)
Irish punk legends Stiff Little Fingers started their fall American tour at the Paradise – a Boston club they haven’t played since their first Stateside trip, 21 years ago.
Some of the NFL’s New England Patriots made the Paradise notorious a few years back when they stage-dived onto regular-size people at an Everclear concert. It’s understandable how a brutal, high-octane band like Everclear can whip anyone into a stage-diving frenzy; nonetheless the negative attention led authorities to close the Paradise for code violations.Now back in business, the Paradise looks exactly like it did before the closing, with its polished, Euro-hip decor. The joint may host techno dancing much of the time, but it can be a great venue for infrequent big punk shows. The room is fairly small and shallow, with its wide stage looming nearby wherever you stand, creating anintimate atmosphere. Tonight it was sold out. Younger scenesters and fans filled the floor, and the old fogies milled up on the balcony.
Lost City Angels were a perfect choice to open. The talented five-piece band of punks play upbeat, melodic hard rock songs on the long side with tight arrangements and cool dynamics. A lot of the kids up front sang and shouted along as the singer, a natural-born performer, and the harmonizing bassist belted out their original anthems. The crowd was suitably warmed up when LCA finished.
On a Celtic punk note, the sound guy played the Tossers, among other music, over the P.A. during the agonizingly long set change.
Finally, everybody’s favorite ‘80s-Irish-mulleted little guys took the stage in matching “Stiff Little Fingers” soccer jerseys with their respective last names stitched on the backs. The crowd went nuts to a few old hits like “Nobody’s Hero.” Explaining that they’re hoping to get a new record deal, the band soon trotted out several brand-new songs, not one of them bad ordifferent from what you’d expect. A standout was the slow reggae number “Listen to Your Heart.”
The last new song Jake prefaced with “I don’t know about you, but I am sick to death of seeing five young boys in vests doing backflips and calling that music…this is a song called ‘I Believe In the Power of Guitar and Drum.’” The anti-MTV anthemic ode to rock and roll snapped the crowd out of their temporary funk, the song’s sentiment alone getting fans to pogo again. “I see we’re of like mind on that one,” Jake said as the band finished to loud roars.
Next up was “No Surrender,” and a fight broke out. The combatants were quickly ejected. “To our more boisterous brethren up front,” Jake good-naturedly chided at the end of the song, “We’re up here singing about reconciliation and peace, and you’re fighting! Get a boxing license.” Soon SLF kicked into awesome mode with a string of old hits: “Wasted Life,” “Fly the Flag,” “Tin Soldiers,” and finally “Alternative Ulster.” Pogoing and singing along were at all-time highs. Their set had already clocked in at an hour and five minutes, but the boys came back for an encore, covering the Clash’s “White Riot” and closing with “At the Edge.”
It seems that over two decades SLF have lost none of their energy. Jake’s singing voice is as plaintive and hopeful as ever. And the band seemed as happy and excited to be up on stage playing as the crowd was to see them.
By Pat Kennedy
Punks, Skins, Hardcore kids, Psychos…All were in attendance as the American Pride Tour rolled through Chicago on Friday night, October 19th. Heading up to the venue – the Vic – I noticed the familiar faces of Chicago’s finest skins and punks that normally roll out for the DKM, but what amazed me was the sheer variety of the crowd. Not that it should have. America’s finest bands in three categories were in town. Tiger Army, the west coast’s premiere “Psychobilly/Punk/Rock’N’Roll” three piece, NYHC hardcore legends, the mighty Sick Of It All and the ever popular trailblazers of American Paddycore/Mickrock, the Dropkick Murphys.
As show time approached, the greasers adjusted their quiffs, the skins looked hard and psychos flooded the front. You could almost hear the switchblades gleaming and the pomade drying as Tiger Army scampered up on stage first. Being a fan of all things psycho, I readied myself. The Army played a helluva, albeit short set. This is a group that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Playing such hits as “Nocturnal” and the Army anthem “Never Die”. Nick 13’s crooning and the hard-driving, haunting, howling sounds from the band left the psychos dying for more. Newer numbers like “The Power Of Moonlight” and “FTW” were already audience favorites, as the crowd wrecked along to every word. If you’re not familiar with Tiger Army, imagine a gang of 50’s rockabillies cutting an album with the grit of the Clash, and lyrics influenced by old horror movies and Glenn Danzig. Maybe Gene Vincent meets the Misfits meets East Bay Hardcore? Stand-up bass player Geoff Kresge was amazing – quite a showman he was – all energy, pacing back and forth like, well, a caged tiger (yeah, yeah…bad, bad pun.) Nick 13 kept the crowd moving, and all in all, I wish they would’ve played for another 30 minutes, as their material is definitely strong enough to warrant it, and they kept the crowd involved the whole time. American roots music updated with a punk rock flair and horror show style. Hell, I even saw some skins smiling. I haven’t had this much fun with greasers since Fonzie donned water skis and jumped a shark all those years ago.
Testosterone levels were running high, and the change was aching to be picked up, as New York’s Sick Of It All followed. If you’ve seen SOIA, then no explanation of what followed is necessary. Motherfucking Mayhem. As Ken Casey noted, these guys ain’t no openers – there were TWO headliners for tonight’s show. Lou Koller made sure that everyone took care of each other as the band blasted through hit after fucking hit. I have always been a fan of the bands older material, (although I do also dig their newer stuff) and was pleased to hear them represented by “Clobberin’ Time” “GI Joe Head Stomp” and “Us Vs. Them” among others – it was a virtual hit parade. SOIA also pulled out all the stops on newer ball-busters like “Call to Arms” and cuts from their latest “Hello Pricks” and “Disco Sucks, Fuck You.” Band-wise, Pete Koller is a sight to behold: total fucking energy, never stops moving throughout the whole set. Near mid-set, Lou asked everyone to play the “Braveheart” game, re-enacting the scene from said film where Wallace and the Scots charge the Irish portion of the English-ruled Army (the Irish were the expendable ones, after all) and rather than commence combat, they stopped and embraced. So, the game went: rather than run headlong into one another and ‘battle’, stop and embrace. It was positivity and unity like this that the crowd (and country) needed to have thrust their way. All this from fuckin’ Yankee fans, I couldn’t believe it… (just kidding, I’m just bitter that my fucking “normally-worthless- yet-this-year-first-place” Cubs blew it in the last 3 weeks of the season this year. They say rooting for lovable losers is honorable, but Jesus Christ, can we catch a break sometime soon? More opinions on that later.) While America and New York may have been wounded, Sick Of It All are on the scene making sure that we kick start ourselves, brush off the ashes and head right back into the good fight. Cheers, gentlemen.
After SOIA left the stage, the crowd was treated to an unannounced surprise. The Chicago Police Emerald Society Pipe and Drums band took the stage. The Chi-town pipers/drummers set consisted of patriotic American tunes like “God Bless America” and I swear at one point I heard strains of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as well. It was amazing to see the band’s lead drummer, well into his fifties, playing almost punk-rock speed as the crowd spurred him on with chants of “faster, faster.” When I talked to him post-show about how well he and the band had played, he just smiled and said “Hey, I’m a fan, just like you.”
Being a piper myself, I knew the pipers and drummers were paying a hefty tribute to those lost in NYC on 9/11. They were, in words stolen from the aforementioned film “Braveheart”: saying goodbye in their own way, playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes…..Then, they broke into the familiar call to arms of “Scotland the Brave” and I could almost hear Mills Lane’s raspy mantra in the air: Let’s Get It On.
If patriotism, positivity, hard work and guts represents the necessary tools for the old-school American success story, and the results could be personified into a band, that band would be Dropkick Murphys. Ken Casey has created an Irish-American band based in punk rock, Oi! and the American working-class tradition, but one that expanded into so much more. The cliché review of “this band represents American values and the working man….” never rang more true, never sounded less clichéd, as that is exactly what the Murphys are about. Having seen them in their earliest appearances in Chi-town (playing Thurstons with the Business was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen) I can tell you they have been about these messages since day one. In the wake of recent events, I can think of no other band that could heal a cities battered and wounded subculture like the Murphys. As the lights dimmed, the familiar strains of Boston legends DYS “Wolfpack” started over the speakers (and I chuckled as the hardcore crew next to me asked themselves who it was.)
The familiar crowd chant “Let’s Go Murphys” echoed off the cavernous ceiling like a packed Wrigley Field and the band responded – The Murphys took the stage like a band possessed, like men with missions. The usual hit parade was present and old classics like the opener “Do or Die” and “Never Alone” had me front row and fighting off a sea of the mad. My favorite from the new record “Heroes From Our Past” got my boots moving, as did the normal drinking anthems “The Wild Rover” and “Finnegan’s Wake.” As is now tradition, the ladies flooded the stage for “The Spicy McHaggis Jig” (including some particularly well-endowed ladies at that) and Spicy looked slightly bemused by it all, shaking his head and laughing.
Spicy was like a man-at-arms all night, playing his “instrument of war” as if the bands lives REALLY DID depend on him, like Scots Pipers did all those centuries ago. Mark Orrell is a wonder-kid, with Angus Young-style flash on the lead guitar, balanced out by the equally grand James Lynch, who is more like a guitar version of bass player John “The Ox” Entwistle of the Who – all power, no mess, no fuss, just pure impact. I couldn’t hear Ryan Foltz as well as I have in the past, which might’ve had something to do with the fact that I was front row, stage right the whole night. I know from the past, however, the kid’s a talent, playing both mandolin and whistle, both of which are a bugger to play. Matt Kelly, as usual, keeps things moving, and his mix of punk rock/Celtic-style drumming makes him the best in the biz. Al Barr, as most know, is a legend. Barr controls the chaos and winds the crowd up when necessary and brings them back down when needed. He definitely is exercising more vocal control and range with the Murphys than he did with the Bruisers. Ken Casey – well – Ken is the visionary. Thanks to Ken, the world of punk rock is enlightened. While Oi! comparisons don’t really fit musically anymore, the spirit is the same – sounds from the streets created by neighborhood guys who lived it. Giving the laborer a voice. Rallying around the country’s needs. Seeing that patriotism isn’t viewed as a negative. (Anti-Flag anyone?) As a songwriter, Ken is, to me, like a Brendan Behan figure. A working class kid who’s been through a lot and who knows how to string sentences together to evoke emotional responses from his audience. It’s as simple as that. Call-and-response. Big choruses that fit right in at any barroom sing-along. Lyrics that make the old fellas in the neighborhood nod and wink, inhale their smoke, take a pull off their well-worn flask and bask proudly in the glory Casey evokes in his songs. And a wicked bass player to boot. Too bad he’s a Bruins fan. Go `Hawks.
The event offered numerous thoughtful surprises – the band dedicated the old classic “John Law” from the “Tattoos and Scally Caps” 7″ (has it been that long?) to all the policemen and firemen who lost their lives battling the terror that was 9/11. I don’t know if I’ve been happier or more proud to hear a song in my life. “Far Away Coast” packed a similar emotional wallop, in tribute to the soldiers that are defending God’s Country as we speak. The audience themselves came alive and embraced the unity the Dropkicks preached – There were soldiers embraced with skinheads, cops arm-in-arm with punks (yes, it’s true) and greasers and psychos and just regular guys and girls. It was a sight to witness. Ken stopped several times to point out that America needs to remember their forgotten, to honor their fallen – to never forget. He led the crowd in “Amazing Grace” and noted that a portion proceeds from the show are going to the New York Firefighters 9-11 Relief Fund.
When all was said and done, when the last strains of “Skinhead on the MBTA” were no more, the boys thanked the crowd, packed it up and left the stage. No encores. None were needed. This show was about American Pride, not band pride. Point well taken. The Murphys came to us that night like the boys from the old brigade, called back into action when we need them most. They came to town to raise the flag high and raise spirits even higher. Mission accomplished, lads. Slainte. Much thanks to them, Tiger Army and Sick Of It All.
By Sean Holland
Just got back from a really great DKM show here in Jet City! DKM rocked The Showbox with a nice, tight, energetic, fast-paced show that left little time if any time for the good sized crowd to catch it breath moving from song to song briskly but orderly. (If orderly can be used in this context.)
Starting off with “You’re Spirit’s Alive”, they moved through some of their new stuff, naturally, like “Sunshine Highway”, “Walking Dead”, “Citizen CIA”, “The Burden”,”Captain Kelly’s Kitchen”, “warrior’s Code” their older stuff, “Worker’s Song”, “Which Side Are You On?”, “Skinhead On the MTBA”, the “Spicy McHaggis Jig” with the ladies in the crowd on stage of course and ended with a cool cover of “Halloween” (yes, the one by the Misfits!) I’m sure I might have left one or two out but my ears are still ringin’. They never do “Good Rats” though…
During the set they also did a rather subdued version of “Fields Of Athenry” in honor of fallen USMC Sergeant Andrew Farrar who said in a letter to his family that he wanted the Murphy’s version of the same to played at his funeral if he didn’t make it back from Iraq. Sadly, he did not. The band has done a special limited edition of this and has made some copies available for sale with all proceeds going to the Farrar family.
On a side note, Ken Casey did a really cool thing during the show. There was a mohawked young kid at the front of the crowd with his father who was apparently having a bit of a problem with the crowd so Ken had one of the roadies get him out of there and on the side of the stage for a breather. Marc Orrell gave him a neat up close show as well.
Good on ya lads!
The opening acts, Lost City Angels and Gang Green were pretty good too. (Darkbuster was supposedly on the bill as well but I didn’t see ’em.) LCA did a nice set but the highlight was Marc Orrell from DKM doing vocals on Gang Green’s cover of “Sin City” by AC/DC. Speaking of Orrell, this guy is a dynamo on stage! He rarely takes a moment off and is gangbusters throughout.
Afterwards, there was a meet and greet along with a benefit for the Farrar family at a local pub. This was great fun as well with the band meeting everyone and auctioning off some signed goodies.
I was struck by how “everyday” these guys were. They were having a great time meeting and talking to everyone and didn’t come off with any kind of negative vibe at all. This was a great ending to the night.
All in all it was well worth the time and money. If you have a chance to see them, do it, you won’t be disappointed.
Definitely better than both their Moore Theater and Warped Tour gigs but those were venue related. The Moore HAD seats all the way to the stage, thus no pit, until there was some creative “redecorating” and the Gorge, as great as it is, is too big. Dropkick Murphys are best enjoyed in close and with full volume.
Thanks for the awesome show guys! See ya next time…
Review by The Blackstuff