What do you get when you cross a catchy Celtic melody with high powered punk rock? The DROPKICK MURPHYS is what you get and those attending the Big Day Out 2009 in Auckland will be fortunate enough to catch the band as they visit New Zealand for a second time. After the release of their latest album ‘The Meanest Of Times’ and a full on year of touring the band are currently enjoying some relaxation time before heading our way – it’s the perfect time to catch up with singer Al Barr…
NZRock: So it sound like you’re taking a well deserved break, where abouts are you at the moment? Boston?
Al: Actually I’m the non-Bostonian non-Irish member of the band. I live in New Hampshire the “Live Free Or Die” state as we call it and so I live an hour North of Boston. I’m actually just coming from the acupuncturist, I just started this whole acupuncture thing, I’ve got this old man health kick thing going on so I’m trying out new crazy, whacky ways to try to prolong my life HAHA! I’m just coming from there right now, the appointment went on a little later that I thought it was gonna. Its wild, this is only my second appointment and its been crazy. Leave it to the Eastern medicines to kind of wake up the West as it were. I have asthma and some other existing problems that kind of inhibit my breathing so I’m getting treated for that right now and I’m definitely noticing some crazy improvements already just from two visits. Just my lung capacity. I definitely feel a little bit high from the treatment which is a little strange but asides from that it’s pretty cool HAHA!
NZRock: So it sounds like you’ll be in top shape then for the Big Day Out show you’ve got coming up in New Zealand in January.
Al: Oh yeah man, its only our second time in New Zealand so the band’s pumped to be back in New Zealand and to be part of the Big Day Out festival. It’s been something that the band has been wanting to do for a long time so we’re psyched.
NZRock: What memories do you have from your first visit to New Zealand?
Al: Well you know it was a few years back now but I remember loading up on a lot of Maori memorabilia. I think we were only in New Zealand for like three days so we didn’t get to see much but the people that were hosting us were great. They took us around to see as much as we could. We went to like a national park kind of thing were there was like all these cool Maori carvings and we got a little history lesson about New Zealand. But like I said, very limited due to the fact that we weren’t there for very long so you know, we’re psyched to go back and I want to try to absorb as much as we can.
NZRock: You guys have done a lot of touring this year as well. What have been some of the highlights for you in 2008?
Al: We always say we’ve got the best job in the world to be able to travel all over the world and play our music for people who are receptive to it, its a great honor. So you know, just going around and still supporting the new record ‘Meanest Of Times’… we were down in Australia already once this year and that was awesome. Just to travel, to tour for a living is very cool. Especially myself and some of the other older guys in the band, we have families and kids and stuff. I’ve got a second one on the way any day now so that’s kind of a double edged sword in terms of the whole family thing but its still pretty cool to be able to do this for a living you know. Sunday is the due date for my child, that’s Pearl Harbour Day for all you non historic buffs so its funny you know. My son is also born in December so its going to be a big month!
NZRock: Your latest album ‘The Meanest Of Times’ was released last year but you’ve also done a limited edition version which has like 5 or 6 songs extra songs. Are they from the same recording sessions?
Al: Yeah, all said and done I think we recorded about 23 tracks when we did ‘The Meanest Of Times’ so we had a lot of extra music. It ended up being good because I think it was one of the first times that we weren’t running around the studio going we need one more song HAHA!
NZRock: You’ve done some recording for a live album this year, is there any chance of that being released soon?
Al: We’ve done some live recordings and I know we’re going to be still plugging away on the live recordings. You know a live record… the first record ‘Live On St. Patrick’s Day’ that took many years of trial and error. I think we tried three other times to record ourselves live and every time there was something that went wrong and made it unlistenable. So there was some stuff that came out decent and other stuff… I mean the last thing we want to do as a band is get into like overdub land when we do a live record. With any live record theres always going to be some overdubs because thats just the nature of the beast – you’re taking a live recording and putting it on record you know. But for the most part we like to have the captured animal as is on record and we were able to do that with ‘Live On St. Patricks Day’ for the most part. So we want to kind of have that be the case with the new one so we’re definitely still planning on doing some more live recordings as well. It’s a work in progress we say HAHA!
NZRock: You’ve got a whole bunch of shows coming up on and around St Patrick’s Day in Boston next year. What’s the response like to the DROPKICK MURPHYS in the band’s home town?
Al: The St. Patrick’s Day shows have become a real annual event you know. I think this is our 9th year of doing it now. It started with two shows in one day and its ballooned into this extravaganza where I think this year we’re doing 7 shows in 6 days. It always an event, people come from all over the country and now all over the world to see it, it’s pretty cool. There are 7 members in the band and 7 families all converging and friends… it’s a crazy time and it’s a good time but it’s a bit crazy thats for sure HAHA!
NZRock: Does it ever become difficult having 7 people in the band in terms of you all getting along?
Al: You know in some ways it makes it a little easier because if people tire of each other theres another guy to hang out with you know what I mean. But we’re pretty much like a family in every sense of the word. Families fight, families disagree and families co-exist so a lot of that is going on and we all kind of know each others limits in the sense of this guy is better at this time of day and this guy is no good a this time of day. So we all kind of respect each other that way, we all know what we need and what we want.
NZRock: Your former guitarist Marc left the band earlier in the year to pursue different music, do you guys still keep in touch?
Al: Marc decided that he wanted to do different things. You’ve got to understand with Marc, he was in the band for the better part of 6 years. He started in the band when he was 17 and left when he was 25 so it was almost 7 years that he was in the band. He grew up in the DROPKICK MURPHYS and I think in fairness to him he wanted to see what else was out there for him. There wasn’t a rift or anything like that. Because he kinda grew up in the band kind of thing I think he wanted to spread his wings and see what was there was out there for him. We’re so busy, we’re doing our own thing so you know, we get messages from friends that know him and every now and then someone hears from him but for the most part he’s doing his own thing and we wish him the best at it. We’re busy doing our own thing and the wheels are spinning and the band has never been about one person, its about all the spokes in the wheel and that wheel keeps spinning.
NZRock: When your track ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ was played in the movie The Departed everyone was going damn that song is cool! What did that do for the DROPKICK MURPHYS in terms of increasing your fan base?
Al: Its interesting you know. First of all let me say it was an amazing experience for us. I don’t think any of us ever in a million years thought we were going to have a song in a movie let alone a Martin Scorsese film and an academy award winning film at that. Asides from whether we were in there or not Martin Scorsese is one of my favourite directors and the movie is a great movie so it was something really huge that happened for the band. But like ideally, you think that if you get song in a movie you’re going to be huge because of that. We’d established a pretty wide core of fan base worldwide prior to being in that film. I think what it did for the band was it brought it to a lot of new listeners in the sense that people whose radar we were under in terms of being a Celtic Punk band. The song was quite popular, a lot of people talked about the song and it’s been downloaded a lot but as far as all the downloads, then those people turning around and then buying our records, I don’t know. The jury is still out on that one. I will say our catalogue does pretty well every week in record sales. But we’re out there working so its always done alright. So whether or not its because of the song in the movie I don’t know because we’ve seen other records having life in them as well. I dont know, it definitely didn’t hurt us. It’s definitely been good for the band but whether or not its going to give us longevity that remains to be seen. Time will tell. We’ll go on as a band, we were never a soundtrack band in the first so the fact that we had it in there, it happened organically and it very was exciting but it doesn’t define us as a band you know what I mean.
NZRock: Do you have any parting words for your kiwi fans before I let you go?
Al: We’re really psyched to be part of this tour and to be back in New Zealand so we are really looking forward to it. We can’t wait to play to the people down there and hopefully everybody is going to have a great time.