Just one of the main attractions of December’s No Sleep Til’ Festival are the Dropkick Murphys. No strangers to our shores in both headline and festival capacity the band has been busy knuckling down on a new album which should be in the bag before the visit, and released early in 2011. Deborah Konopnicki caught up with lead singer Al Barr to talk about their involvement in the festival, getting to play alongside all of their friends and his dislike for the new and ‘precious generation’ of bands playing on the Warped tour. Click below to expand this post and check it out. Tickets for No Sleep Til’ are on sale now.
Hi, Al. How are you?
Good, thank you. How are you?
Pretty great thanks. What’ going on with you at the moment?
We are working on the new record! We’re working very hard on it too.
Yeah, I read that you guys were hoping to have it recorded by the end of the year. How is that travelling along?
Good! I mean, we’re got a lot of work to do but it’s going really well. We’re moving forward and it’s looking good. It’s sounding really good! The songs so far are sounding good but there is still a lot of work to do. The plan is to have it written and recorded this year and to have it out early next year.
So you’ll have all of these brand new songs ready for when you touch down in Australia in December!
Yeah! There’s a lot of great bands on the bill that we’re looking forward to seeing too. We don’t need an excuse to come to Australia. We love Australia. Let me tell you something, it’s wintertime in New England and having a summer holiday in the middle of winter sounds pretty good! There are so many great bands on the bill which is always nice as well, so we’ll get to check out some great bands, catch up with old friends and hopefully make some new ones. The Decendents are playing, so I definitely want to see them. We know the guys from Frenzal; we always kind of just give each other shit.
You guys have toured Australia quite a bit in the past. How do you find your Australian fans compare to your fans back home?
It’s funny. I always say that Australian fans are similar to the ones in Ireland. There’s just a lot of passion for the music. We find that in the shows that we play in Australia and in Ireland. We’re lucky that we have really good fans everywhere but it seems like they got he extra mile in Australia and that’s always nice because we always try to give as good as we get.
Well, I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and assume that your most hardcore fan base is in Boston?
You, know it’s funny. We do well in the states and Boston is a strong place for us but we do REALLY well in Germany for example. They really love the bagpipes, or whatever you call it in German. We’re lucky to have a good crowd wherever we end up. We’ve been touring the hell out of Germany for 12, 13, 14 years now. Obviously we’re fortune in that we have loyal fans there. When people turn up to the shows it’s not like it’s surprising but we’re grateful that people show up. Folk music is apparently really big in Germany and they love Irish folk in Germany, so the fact that we’ve mixed flashes of Irish folk with punk music, they really dig that.
This year you guys only played a selected run of shows on the Warped Tour. Was there any major reason for only playing selected dates?
Well, the days of us doing that tour and doing that whole thing; we really don’t have it in us anymore. We’ve done that tour so many times and have done the whole thing. The tour has really kind of changed. The core people that run the tour are still there and they’re great, but just the bands that are on there are different. The bands and the music aren’t what they used to be. Where it used to be that you’d be on tour with Rancid or The Bouncing Souls; friends of yours that you hang out with after you play your grueling half-hour set, you have the rest of the day to hang out with friends which is great, like summer camp! It’s really just not like that anymore. We’re a bit older now, so our days of just hanging out aren’t what they used to be. Most of us are family men and have kids and that kind of stuff. We kind of selected the dates of places that we haven’t played in a long time. We did those because we weren’t really interested in doing the whole thing. A lot of places we had already done, so we just figured that we’d hit the places that we hadn’t been to in a while and check up on some people that we had been neglecting and then go back and hit the songwriting again because we really want to get this record out. The thing about the Warped Tour is that is it really grueling in the sense that you’re out in the hot sun. You get to places like Arizona or Texas and part of California and up in parts of Florida and it gets really brutal. When bands that are in tour busses say, “Oh, the Warped Tour is brutal”, I go “You know what dude? You’ve got a half-hour where you’ve got to play a small set. The people that work the tour, selling the merch and setting up the stages, they are the people that I really feel for. They are the people that are really suffering and doing what I would call a gurgling warped tour. When you get to the level when you’re on a tour bus, come on. What are you really bitching about? You get out of your air-conditioned tour bus for half-an-hour, play a set and then get back in the bus. There’s worse fucking jobs to have. Stop your whining!.
Would you say then that the new generation of Warped Tour fans are a little bit precious?
I’d say theirs is a lot of preciousness. You know, it’s funny. I was saying this in another interview; the first thing they asked me was “What bands are you excited to see at Warped Tour?” I was like “Errr, I don’t know any bands that are on Warped Tour!”. I’m out of touch. I know of The Wiggles! I listen to what I listen to so I don’t know. They have all of these new bands and I’m just like “What the fuck is this music?! What the fuck is that hairstyle?! What the fuck are they wearing?!” and then I’m like, “Holy shit, I sound like my god damn dad”. All of a sudden I’m like “Oh, these fucking kids”. In all fairness, they’re just doing what all 20-something-year-old kids want to do and god bless them. I hope they have fun. Good for them. But you know what, most of it wasn’t my cup of tea. That’s for sure.
Do you think that you’d be less inclined to play the Warped Tour in the future or are you still going to play a few shows here and there?
I think that we’ll do a couple of dates if Kevin wants us to do it again. I think that we’ll do a couple of dates here and there but I don’t think that doing the whole thing again is on the cards. I just don’t think that we’re built like that anymore. I just don’t think that we can do it. We’d probably end up having to kill people and bury them and then get away with it. It just gets hard.
There have been some big things happening in the Dropkick Murphys camp recently. You released I think it was around 10,000 copies of your music video in a few places in Boston. What was the idea behind that?
Well the thing is that we did this video for the hostile union workers that were having trouble and we kind of did an acoustic set in Boston in the middle of the day kind of thing. We were told that there was going to be a protest and there was going to be police there. We got all of these images in our heads of like crazy happenings going on, and then it was like middle-aged ladies and older men. It was very peaceful and it certainly didn’t feel like a protest. Anyway, we started off doing that and then they filmed us playing the song and then they put this video together. You know, it took a lot of time for them to do it. I live an hour north of Boston so I wasnt actually there that night. I’m aware of what was done and obviously it was a good cause. We support it. It’s ridiculous that these hospital workers are working in hospitals but they themselves couldn’t get any healthcare. It’s ridiculous. It’s a tough situation. In any event, that’s just the story behind it.
Did you get any feedback from the video? It was touching on some pretty heavy themes.
Well, no. The thing is that it was JUST released. They took so long to do it. I’m not saying that in a “What the fuck?” kind of way, I’m just saying that it’s been two years since we shot the thing so I kind of forgot about it. You kind of shoot something and you go, “So, when are we going to get to see that?” and it got to a stage where we were thinking that we’d never get to see it, so it’s been two years and they finally put the thing out. I don’t know why it took so long. It just took forever. I’ve just seem some of the footage, but I haven’t even seen the video in it’s entirely yet! I’ve been so wrapped up. We’ve been spending hours on a rehearsal stages working on this record. Some of the guys that were there at the event have seen it and said that it was a good video and I’m like, “Well that’s cool! I’d love to see it!”. These things happen sometimes. It’s not a big deal. There are bigger fish to fry. What these people are struggling with and fighting for is more important then our stupid video coming out. If it adds to the cause then so be it. That was the point of us doing it. We just kind of wanted to lend our hand and lend our support.
Earlier on this year you released your “Live In Lansdowne” CD/DVD that did exceptionally well! Were you expecting such a positive response from you fans?
We didn’t know what to expect. Our reasoning behind putting out a live record was because there have been a lot of line-up changes and there have been a lot of records that have come out. We kind of wanted to encapsulate what had happened to the band. One this day at St.Paddies it was our tenth year of doing this in Boston so it was cool to have that and be able to put that out there. We didn’t really have any expectations for it to chart or anything like that so when it
did we were like “Holy shit! That’s really cool!” Again, that was a nice surprise but we didn’t have any expectations.
This is a question that I’ve seen asked a number of times but it’s still quite fascinating to me, being a fan of your music and then seeing it become such a staple in the mainstream. Obviously everyone is very well aware of the fact that your song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” was used for the Australian Football League promotion videos. It still gets massive coverage on TV and at the games. Ill be sitting next to older people at the football that hear the song and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s the Dropkick Murphys”. That still spins me out. Have you found that it has opened up doors for you in terms of letting your music reach new people?
Oh, yeah! We noticed that in the states when we got involved with the Red Sox and when we got involved with the Scorsese film. All of a sudden we were on the radar of people that never knew who the hell we were. Why should they? That was definitely a cool thing. That definitely moved us into a different audience. I always say that the people that download the song, which has now reached over a million downloads or more, if those people went out and bought the record when they heard it, in a perfect world wouldn’t that be great? But that’s not the case. Some people download the song because they like it, they might check out some other songs on iTunes and think that they’re crap, but they just like that one song. You see sometimes at shows too that everyone is having a good time and in the middle of the crowd there’s just this one dude that looks like he’s freaking waiting for a bus, just waiting for that one song he came for ‘Shipping’. It’s like, “Sit back, it’s not coming for a while!” We didn’t write the song for that movie. All of the things that have happened since, it’s been great. We’re not complaining because it’s awesome! We’ve never looked at ourselves as a band that wanted to write hits. We’ve always put out records, we’ve always toured and that’s how we’ve gotten our fan base over the years. That’s always been our way of doing things. We’ve never changed things and we never plan to.
Just going back to your new music for a second, are any of the songs ready to play live yet?
No, they’re not ready. I’m not going to sit here and say that they’re going to be ready for when we get to Australia. We might have one or two that we’ll play in a perfect world but we don’t know yet. We’ve got enough of a fucking catalogue that we can hopefully keep people happy. We would love to be able to debut a couple of them though, and I know that we’re going to try. We’re music fans first ourselves, so when we go to see a band, what do we want to see? Do we want to see only new stuff? No. People want to hear old songs. We do a bit of all of the records that we’ve done. We try to do at least one or two songs off of each record. Usually we focus on the last two or three a little bit more. We definitely. like to play some of the oldies, I guess you could call them that!
Is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to about coming to Australia this time around?
You know, we first came to Australia in 1999 and we fell in love with the country then and there. We’ve always loved being down there. There’s just a great feeling and the crowds are great. What’s to complain about? Getting there sucks though!
It’s a days worth of travelling, isn’t it?
Yeah, when you fly there you lose a day but when you leave you get in on the same day, so that’s a little strange.
Just finally, what is your plan until you get down here in a couple of months? Are you just going to be 100% focused on the new record?
Yeah. We’re going to be flat out until we basically leave. The plan is to get this thing up and ready and recorded and then get our asses down under.