Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys Talks "Going Out In Style" and More
Fri, 11 Mar 2011 13:14:51
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With Going Out In Style, Dropkick Murphys have made an album that's deeper and more intricate than most big budget studio films out there. Boston's favorite troupe of Irish rockers tell a detailed story of the life of Cornelius Larkin on Going Out In Style. Basically, the record recounts Larkin's life from his funeral looking back on a myriad of exploits and experience. It's unique, undeniable, and unforgettable. "Hang 'Em High" could be the perfect anthem for The Patriots to storm the field to, while the title track is the band's catchiest and simultaneously most heartfelt. It's an album that needs to be delved into, and that's why it's one of the year's best…
Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Going Out In Style, peeing on Sluggo's couch, the Claddagh Fund, Boston, and so much more.
Have you gotten even closer to Cornelius Larkin now?
Oh yeah! I think it's meant to be something that takes on a life of its own. As the character was constructed both in Michael Patrick MacDonald's writing and my own idea for formulating the outline, it was important for Cornelius be something that could grow into different avenues and a larger thing. It's a little open-ended so people can apply it to their own lives instead of a straightforward story. I absolutely feel like the story has developed and grown, and it continues to.
How much of you guys is in Cornelius?
There's definitely a lot of Cornelius in all of us—whether it's actual stories or traits we've inherited. Particular stories that we've made part of Cornelius's life are in fact stories of our relatives and grandparents.
Where did the funeral parlor idea come from?
The song "Going Out In Style" was the first song we wrote. That's what got me thinking about the whole concept. We were going to do this out-of-control Irish wake-slash-party at a big funeral party. Then I thought, "Well, let's think back further about this person's life." It was fairly quickly into it too. We were on a pretty good deadline during the writing process. I was going to scout out a funeral home for the photo shoot and video for "Going Out In Style," and we were probably only on our second song, but we knew we had to multi-task if we wanted to get things out when we were aiming to. There was a body in the casket when I went to look at it and I started thinking the guy was probably in his '80s and I wondered what his life was all about. It made me think that was one day of the guy's life his final hurrah, but what about the 80 years leading up to it?
There are a lot of stories tucked into that one song.
There are a lot of references to inside stuff, things that have happened in my life and some of the other guys' as well as people's names. It's always nice to namedrop friends and family because they get so excited—unless you're taking a shot at them [Laughs]. I know some of the stories are embarrassing for myself. There's a line about pissing my friend's couch, and that was something I did when I was 15. I woke up in the morning. It was an L-shaped couch, and the kitchen was next to the living room. I slept on the couch, and we'd maybe drank a little too much and I had a little accident [Laughs]. I decided to move to the other side and take off all of my wet clothes so I woke up in the morning on the dry side of the couch with his parents looking at me. It was a good morning [Laughs]. It wasn't just a little awkward…
That was "Sluggo?"
Yeah, my friend's father's nickname is "Sluggo" [Laughs].
Was it important to do heartfelt songs like "Memorial Day" to balance that fun out?
I think we've always tried to do that. If someone makes an album with 13 happy songs on it, they're probably on drugs to make them happy [Laughs]. There are ups and downs in anybody's in life, especially you're making an album to encapsulate a character's whole experience of life on this earth. It runs the gamut of emotions from love and respect to grudges and feuds to parties to memorializing people. We're using song to let family and loved ones know how important they are. It's all kinds of different stuff.
When you're writing, do you generally tend to read and watch a lot of movies? Do you pull influences from outside of music?
It's more from life, what I see with my own two eyes, than from books and movies. Maybe subconsciously it comes across like that, but this is the first we ever thought of it like that. Especially with thinking of a video so early on in the project, we definitely thought of the whole thing in a more visual aspect this time.
What song stands out the most for you?
We just finished the video for "Going Out In Style." I really like that because it's like the culmination of everything. It says, "There are ups and downs to life but enjoy it and keep a smile on your face." I like that sentiment that the song brings. It capitalizes on the light-hearted nature of the whole thing. I like to play "Broken Hymns" the most. We played that live at a charity event, and we haven't played too many of them live. Musically, it's so dynamic.
Would you ever want to play this album from start to finish live?
We would like to do that actually. When you get a new record, I don't know if you want to bombard people with everything at once, but I think that's something to think about. Maybe after the record's been out for a while, or next St. Patrick's Day, we could.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Everything from old stuff like On The Waterfront and Once Upon A Time In America to anything Martin Scorsese. I do watch a lot of movies!
How important is Boston to everything you do?
Boston is a very instrumental part. Going back to the fact that's how we got our start. We really never would've been able to be a touring band. We didn't have a booking agent. We didn't have a label. I had my own label just putting out little singles and "45s for local Boston bands. In the mid-90s, The Rathskeller (The Rat) was like Boston's version of CBGB's. Both of them are no longer there—rest in peace. We were filling like 600 or 700 kids on Saturday or Sunday afternoon at all-ages matinees and every band wanted to come play here so we were able to set up these shows and bring in seven bands from different cities and put on an eight-band all-ages matinee. We'd give the out of town bands all the money. They'd go home and say, "We just went to Boston. It was amazing! We played to all these kids!" We weren't the only band from Boston. When we'd go into these other cities, these bands who were hosting us in return were dragging people off their couches doing whatever they could to fill it to make their town seem as good as Boston. It had so much to do with the punk scene in Boston and how good it was at the town. A lot of us are big sports fans. I've always sort of resented the supposed punk rock ethics that if you like sports and you listen to punk rock you're a jock and you can't. I was always into both. We'd always be talking about sports on stage and going in the face of what you were supposed to be and do at that time. You're going into New York, talking about the Yankees sucking, and people are throwing bottles at you [Laughs]. All of that together formulated into us being so associated with Boston. There are so many characters and great stories to write about here. It's a good connection with the band. We are very localized in things we do like with charity. We have very big families so we are generally connected to just knowing a lot of people. It puts you in that realm. If you did "Six Degrees of Dropkick Murphys" in Boston, everybody's probably going to know somebody. It's a small city like that. All of that together has us so stapled as a Boston band.
What's up with the Claddagh Fund?
The Claddagh Fund is planning some cool stuff around the St. Patrick's Day time. We're doing one whole show that we just announced at The Paradise. It's a smaller venue, and we're doing 100 percent proceeds go to Claddagh fund show there as the last of our St. Patrick's Day shows Sunday March 20th. A couple of the other shows we're having some big after parties that The Claddagh Fund will benefit from. We've got a bunch of great events planned, and we're starting to lay the infrastructure for some work in other cities. We've got our hands full.
Have you heard Going Out In Style yet?