Interview: Al Barr of Dropkick Murphys
Tue, 01 Jun 2010 08:00:56
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Dropkick Murphys are no strangers to Warped Tour. The band's first run on summer's most punk rock traveling circus was in 1998 and, 12 years later, they'll be rocking Warped once again this year.
Given that the band has played the tour more than a few times, vocalist Al Barr has got all kinds of crazy stories from Warped. He sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about his best memories from Warped Tour, what fans can expect from Dropkick Murphys' set at Warped this year, free coffee and donuts on the time of the road and the time the Misfits scared him.
What do you like about Warped Tour?
Our first time doing it was 1998, and the band was fairly new in terms of playing a national tour. It was a great way to go out and play for people who may be coming to see another band and had never heard of us and to make new fans and friends. It's always a long, fun summer. Through the years, as we became more established, Warped was a good way to launch new records because we'd play for wide audiences. It's going to be an interesting experience this year because the tour has changed a lot. The last time we did it was five years ago, so we saw the tour go from being punk rock summer camp to a cross-section of bands that are more on the emo tip. There weren't as many bands for us to relate to the last time we played it, but we're kind of older [Laughs]. It's a younger dude and dudette's tour. We're going to do what we do though.
Do you have a favorite story from the tour?
We've done Warped many, many times and there's always something that's happened. I think the thing that I always liked about Warped Tour is the fact that Kevin Lyman [Tour Creator, Producer] has never been like, “Well this band's bigger so they're going to get this slot and that band's going to get that slot because they're shittier." Years ago, there was a band that got pretty big for their britches and their career blew up. They had a radio hit that blew up for them while they were on Warped Tour. They were on the side stage, and the singer got drunk and went into Kevin's bus. He got in his face and said, "This is bullshit! We should be on the main stage. You should kick one of these stupid bands off the main stage and put us on because we're selling like 500k records a week and blah blah blah." The band the guy was talking about was an act Kevin actually managed at the time unbeknownst to him [Laughs]! Kevin just said, "Oh, you want them off the main stage? Well, come on!" The guy was like, "Where are we going?" Kevin just responded, "Well, we're going to tell them what you said." A few of the other bands found out that these guys were making a stink. I know several members of these bands went and paid these guys a visit and gave them a stern talking to. The band actually left the tour for a week as penance. When they came back, their tails were definitely between their legs [Laughs]. My point of that story is the fact that no one is bigger than anybody else when you get on Warped Tour. The people decide, and rock star attitudes aren't tolerated. I've always respected the tour and Kevin Lyman for that.
Do you have a favorite show that you saw in the summer as a kid?
I've seen some great shows. In the early days of Warped Tour, it was always great because I'd get to watch some of my favorite bands. I'd see the Bouncing Souls, Rancid or The Transplants. It's really great to get off stage and, sometimes, be lucky enough to play back to back with these other bands. You'd run off to the other stage and watch your favorite bands after you finished your set. That was always a treat.
As a kid, what were some shows that inspired you?
I grew up in the early age of punk rock and hardcore so I was lucky enough to see Youth Brigade, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, etc. Early punk rock really inspired me. As a kid I'd go to all-ages shows. There were these older guys that had a van and they'd pick a bunch of us up. They'd drink a gallon of vodka and drive [Laughs]. It was always an interesting ride [Laughs]. We were like 14 or 15-years-old, just doing whatever we could to get to the show. When I was in 7th grade, there was this Who concert in Ohio where these people got crushed to death, so my parents made it clear that I was never ever going to a rock concert. They were scared to death that would happen to me. I got into punk rock a year later and my parents didn't know anything about these all-ages shows. They had no idea what went on—moshing, stage-diving and the whole thing. I was like, "I'm going to a show." They'd say, "What's a show?" I'd go, "An all-ages show." They'd reply, "Oh, go ahead." I'd come back bruised and beaten. "As long as it's not Judas Priest—you want to go see Black Flag, Circle Jerks or Suicidal Tendencies? Go ahead; have fun!"
And you were driving with the guys drinking too, right?
Oh yeah, definitely. It's funny. I was talking to one of my friends just the other day because we were reminiscing about getting into the Zero Mentality van and driving down to see shows. I remember clearly going down the highway with these guys. There was a sign over the highway that read—and you're talking like early 80s right now—"Have you been drinking? Pull in here. Free donuts and coffee." It was amazing! We pulled into this truckers' parking lot, and it had tables of coffee and donuts. There was a line of people just schnockin'—getting coffee and donuts. I was thinking nowadays that would have just been a big sting operation with cops waiting to arrest people, but back then it was like, “Have you been drinking and driving? Well pull on over and get some free coffee and donuts!" [Laughs] It was off 95. I didn't give a shit about the coffee but free donuts, hey! You'd get your 10 dollar stipend for the week from your folks or whatever. That's got to last you for the week. It costs $3 to go to the all-ages show, so if you can get stuff for free, that rules.
Did you get to see the Misfits in Boston?
They were playing a Church in Cambridge! actually and it’s so funny because my friend Curtis—actually he was the one who put that show on—showed me a picture of that gig and I was like, “I was at that show!” I didn't even know who the Misfits were. I knew they scared the shit out of me [Laughs]. I was like 14 or something. It was crazy at the time, you know?
How long is your set going to be on Warped Tour, like 45 minutes?
We're hearing they upped the time a bit. We're hearing that it went from a half hour to 45 minutes which is cool because a half hour is like boom and you’re done, you barely get warmed up. You get an extra 15 minutes. In the club, we play an hour and a half, plus. It’s cool to be able to put in a little longer. The Warped Tour is a different animal. I've got a 6-year old and a 17-month old. But my friends who've I grown up with, have got kids that are 19, 16. They're listening to music that I just can't… I’m becoming my parents [Laughs]. You swore you’d never say these things, but all of a sudden you find yourself going, “PUNK KIDS!” [Laughs].
Will you be going to Warped Tour?