Interview: Dropkick Murphys: Kickin' It At Warped Tour
by Tony Pascarella
Published: August 19, 2005
To fully understand the Dropkick Murphys, you will benefit from a history lesson of sorts. This lesson starts one hundred and two years ago, long before even the parents of Al Barr, Ken Casey, Matt Kelly, James Lynch, Marc Orrell, Tim Brennan, and Scruffy Wallace were born. The place is the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds, the date October 13, 1903. Now imagine the Royal Rooters, the Boston Americans' devout fan club, singing "Tessie" at the top of their lungs to celebrate the team's 3-0 win over Pittsburgh in the eighth game (that's not a typo, sports fans) of the inaugural World Series. A part of baseball legend was born on that day, and as a result, the song earned itself a cherished place in the team's history.
Boston continued to win at a blistering pace, tallying 5 titles in 15 years. However, in 1916, following their fourth win, the team abandoned the former Broadway hit as the Royal Rooters faded into the sunset. Despite winning the Series two years later, they endured eighty-six years of futility. It wasn't until 2004, when South Boston street-punkers Dropkick Murphys got ahold of a copy of a mangled recording of the song that an idea was born. Fostered by the team's vice president and Herald writer Jeff Horrigan, the project became a labor of love for the band. "When I first heard about it," guitarist Marc Orrell tells The Trades, "Ken [Casey, bassist] had this old CD of it that was really ratty and I could barely tell what the hell was going on. I could tell it was in the key of B flat, the bagpipes key, you know? We had something there. We just developed it and it evolved to winning the World Series and it came out pretty good." Pretty good, indeed. Since the band rerecorded the song, it is played following each Boston win. Orrell remarked on the rekindled tradition, "My buddy called me wasted at the game the other night screaming, 'They're playing 'Tessie,' they fucking won!'"
The Dropkick Murphys barely resemble their earliest incarnation ten years after current bassist Ken Casey teamed up with a trio of musicians who have since pursued other projects. One in particular, original vocalist Mike McColgan, has moved on to front another Boston band, Street Dogs. As a result, their sound has changed dramatically over the years. Kicking off their career with the rough-and-tumble and explosively raw Do or Die in 1997, they matured musically during the personnel changes, refining their tone and attitude. 2001's Blackout clocked in at 14 tracks, but could have been even longer according to the grinning guitarist. During a discussion about the chilling World War I epic "Green Fields of France," which appears on their latest album, he explained, "We were originally supposed to do that on the last album, but I didn't know how to play piano yet, so we saved it for this one." Yes, that's right. Not only did Orrell teach himself accordion (which he doesn't list as one of his instruments), he shreds on the guitar and holds the title of the band's pianist.
A lot of the time spent with Orrell was spent talking about the nuances of the new album. His favorite song off The Warrior's Code is one that will be passed over for fuller tracks. "The Burden," he says is, "about James Lynch's guitar. Ever since I've known James, he's had that guitar. It's always shit the bed onstage and just crapped out all the time. One day, right before we were recording the record, they were going to get rid of it. I was like, 'No, man! You've had that forever.' It's this Epiphone that we call Frankenstein. Lynch called Marc Orrell one night with good news. "He was like, 'Frankie's gonna be all right.' I told Al and he mangled it into a song." Despite the fact that there isn't a whole lot of buzz surrounding this album (a crime in this author's opinion!), Marc firmly believes that The Warrior's Code is the best Murphys album yet. "Blackout I was proud of, but I felt like we could have done better. It's just the way I always imagined Dropkick Murphys to be."
For those of you who would like to see the band in person, they are currently embarking on a European tour that will hit the Reading and Leeds festivals in Britain before returning to the United States. A stateside tour with GangGreen and Lost City Angels is in the cards, and toward the end of the year, they will invade Japan. The band's live show is something that any devout music fan should experience. "We have quite a crew working for us. We crank the hell out of the bagpipes and accordions and shit onstage." It's easy for the boisterous guitarist to keep motivated on the road. "I'm having a good time every time I go out onstage. Every time you hear the crowd cheering for you and clapping, it's always an adrenaline rush. I love it. The more we hear it, the more we get revved up and the better show we have. It's always better to see us live; it's the more intimate moment. You can get a CD anywhere. We love playing live." If that doesn't sell you, maybe the sight of the band itself will. Scruffy Wallace, the band's Canadian bagpiper, wears absurd outfits including a kilt during their performance. "He doesn't get groped as much as Spicy [Mchaggis, former bagpiper] did. People used to go under and grab the pink bullfrog. He'd get groped a lot, but Scruffy, doesn't get that much." Yes, that's right. In addition to being a crazy performer, Wallace (referred to as Canadian bacon by Orrell) has to fight to keep his crown jewels intact beneath that kilt. Despite that, the Murphys will keep toiling on across the world, spreading their brand of folk-punk to all corners of the earth. Don't worry about them stopping anytime soon. When asked what's in store for the future of the band, Marc replies assuredly, "More music and more CDs."
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