When Dropkick Murphys released their fifth album, 2005's The Warrior's Code, I was working for Skinnie Entertainment Magazine. The editor, Hans Fink, set me up with the interview as a favor because by 2005 I had written articles for just about every section the magazine had, including sports and comedy.
Of course this band is one of my all-time favorites, although I have to confess that I really didn't care for The Warrior's Code. 2011's The Meanest of Times proved that the 'Murphys still had plenty of firepower left. "Surrender" is my favorite song by this band, next to "Worker's Song" from Blackout.
Tim Brennan, guitarist and vocalist for the band, was a very friendly person to talk to, although I could tell that the band had been partying quite a bit the night before.
JTD: Hey man, thanks for talking to Skinnie Magazine.
TIM: No problem. Thank you.
JTD: Where did you get the name Dropkick Murphys?
TIM: The Dropkick Murphys was one of the first dry out clinics in Boston, started by a local boxer. There’s a song on the new album called “Sunshine Highway” that talks about it.
JTD: The Dropkick Murphys have always been very patriotic. I’ve been to your shows and have noticed there are a lot of American flags and everything. Did 9/11 reinforce this?
TIM: Obviously, to a point. Everyone had it to begin with, but 9/11 was a good reminder. It became more prominent, after 9/11. The American Pride Tour wouldn’t have happened, otherwise.
JTD: “Citizen CIA” has a very political message.
TIM: More or less. It’s a “what if?”
JTD: What if the CIA was using a temp agency to hire people, or something like that?
TIM: Yeah. “Why not pay for college? You’ve just graduated from High School, so join the CIA.” If the CIA is just hiring anyone, something’s wrong…so the song is hypothetical, not political.
JTD: Yeah. Once you choose a slant, it’s like you are labeled and put into a category that you’re stuck in.
TIM: We never had a political slant…Republican, Democrat, whatever. We always had songs about the unions, but once we did a song that ended upon on the Rock vs. Bush album. We got emails and letters from people who were just angry.
JTD: It gets messy.
TIM: That’s not us. We don’t want to just be known as a political band.
JTD: Do you feel the L.A. scene gives you as much support as you get on the east coast?
TIM: We do. The shows are great, so it feels like it. The fans really like us out here.
JTD: But I’ve always admired how you guys are very loyal to your Boston origins. You’re not some band that just moved on and completely forgot where they came from.
TIM: Obviously. I think where we came from, that New England mentality, really keeps us grounded.
TIM: We’d never move away from Boston.
JTD: I can’t imagine you guys moving to Beverly Hills.
TIM: Yeah, that’s not us.
JTD: When are you going to do another Who song? Your cover of “The Kids Are Alright” was epic. I like it more than the original.
TIM: Thanks, man. We actually do “Baba O’Reilly” too.
JTD: Really? Wow…
TIM: For our live shows. We almost recorded it for “The Warrior’s Code,” but we play it live. We don’t play the very end, though. It’s an abridged version. But the band loves The Who.
JTD: Is it because they kind of represent the early punk scene? The Who really helped to start it all off…
TIM: Well, obviously, I mean, they weren’t a total punk band, but you look at Pete Townshend, and he was just pure rock and roll.
JTD: When did you first incorporate bagpipes into your music? Did the audience take to that right away? It’s very distinctive.
TIM: I think the band used them when they first started out.
JTD: Onstage, too?
TIM: No, at first they just had their buddy Joe Delaney, but then they just went with pre-recorded bagpipe music. Later, they actually had a piper with the band onstage during the shows.
JTD: I like bagpipe music. I’ve been to some highland festivals, and I’ve always felt that bagpipes symbolized rage and rebellion. It goes along with the punk spirit.
TIM: Totally. I agree. I think they fit.
JTD: What’s it been like performing a cover of “Tessie?"
TIM: We played it in New York, and we really should have had a fence to protect us. The crowd hated it. They started throwing bottles and everything.
JTD: Really? Ha ha! I never thought of that…
TIM: Yeah, it was like that one bar scene in The Blue Brothers. I didn’t think about it at the time, but we played “Tessie” the crowd just hated us…it was terrible. So the next night we’re going up on stage, still playing in New York, and I saw it on the set list…
JTD: Oh no.
TIM: I told Ken “No,” but he insisted, so we played it anyways, every night in New York. I just learned to dodge the bottles. There were some people who just laughed it off, but some people in the crowd were pissed.
JTD: Fuck, man…danger and excitement.
JTD: Did the Red Sox call you up and thank you?
TIM: I don’t know…they gave us free tickets, let us go to Fenley Park, so yeah, they were more than thankful. We didn’t have carte blanche of the whole stadium, but it was close.
JTD: That still must be pretty incredible, being a part of baseball history like that.
TIM: I don’t know if we were part of baseball history, but it was still great to be there.
JTD: Could you please explain the song “Wicked Sensitive Crew?" Were you guys just sick of Emo rock, or what?
TIM: Not really. It was originally just a dig at me from Ken--that was the idea--a song about being sensitive. About looking around at the pop punk, you got kids with tough tattoos singing about being sensitive. None of us are in a gang or anything, but we just thought it was funny, so we recorded it.
JTD: I remember being at a Social Distortion concert and hearing Mike Ness talk about how, back in his day, if you had a green mohawk and tattoos you’d probably get your ass kicked, and now everyone at the mall looks like that.
TIM: Yeah, totally. It’s weird…it was a style…people who were punk were just dirty, but now there’s a whole different sort of scene.
JTD: What was it like for you guys, playing in Ireland?
TIM: Pretty crazy. When I first joined the band, I figured we had fans in Ireland. I thought at first there’d be a few people who wouldn’t like what we are doing with their traditional sound, bagpipes and stuff like that. But no, we were well received. The fans really like us. We even got to play with Cait O’Reardon from “The Pogues.” People loved it.
JTD: Well, thank you for talking to me today. I really appreciate it.
TIM: Yeah, be careful with that “Three Straight Guys and Ken” thing. That might get me in trouble. (Laughs).
JTD: I will. Good luck on the tour.
TIM: Thanks man, thank you.