Street Dogs Interview - Mike McColgan | ThePunkSite.com
|Band: Street Dogs
||Member: Mike McColgan
The Kathedral - Toronto, Onatrio
March 6th, 2009
In a day and age where many punk rock bands talk about being true to the roots
of punk and hardcore, few bands embody the true spirit of bands that came before
them like The Clash. I had an opportunity to interview The Street Dog’s
prolific lead singer Mike McColgan in Toronto as the Crooked Drunken Sons
Tour made it’s stop at the Kathedral. Thanks to Keith from Epitaph for setting
Start out by introducing yourself and telling us why you are here?
MM: Hello my name is Mike McColgan and I am the lead singer of the Street
Dogs, and we are on the first annual Crooked Drunken Sons Tour. Tonight we
are in Toronto playing at the Kathedral with The Asher’s, which is Mark
from the Unseen new band as well as Hostage Life. We are going to rip the Kathedral
up tonight. I am looking forward to it!
LB: Well you have answered my first question already then. So the Crooked
Drunken Sons Tour is going to turn into an annual event?
MM: I’d like to think that it would be. We are here tonight with the
bands I mentioned and when we get to Portland, Maine we are going to pick up
the Swingin Utters and further down the road we are going to pick up Shot Baker,
so it’s an exciting tour and something I’d like to see become an
annual thing for sure.
LB: Oh man it’s been years since I have seen the Utters, why couldn’t
you have brought them up to Canada this time?
MM: I think they are busy doing their own dates right now, and by luck it
just turned out that our tours merged up in the same place on the east coast
of the US.
LB: With a name like Crooked Drunken Sons Tour it sounds like you guys might
need some up front bail money. Any craziness yet?
MM: I think people that will come to see the Swingin Utters, or The Street
Dogs, or The Asher’s will get a little rambunctious they like to tie
their drink on, bark at the moon a little bit, wear a kilt, and smoke too many
smokes. They might get punched every now and then but hey like you said that’s
what bail money is for right.
LB: So tell me about the good will you are providing on this tour
with food donations, as well as a single “War after the War”.
MM: Well the food bank idea is just in lieu of the difficult times we are
in. We just wanted to see if people could kick in some canned goods to give
to the local food bank. We just want to do the right thing.
The single “The War After The War” is coming out March 10 on iTunes
and all the proceeds are going to go for Arms for Veterans, and that’s
to assist veterans who are severely disabled and can’t provide for themselves
or their families and find adequate housing. We just want to put our money
where our mouths are and do the right thing. We are not trying to pat ourselves
on the back or get any special recognition anything like that. It’s just
about doing the right thing. That’s just what we strive to do. I think
most people aspire to do more and be more than they actually are and this is
just a case of that.
LB: Now touring around North America they way you are right now at a grass
roots level are you seeing firsthand the negative impact of our faltering economy?
MM: When you to speak to fans they talk about losing jobs or their parents
losing jobs so you hear a lot of firsthand accounts of just how bad it really
is out there and how its exacting problems on every day Americans, and Canadians.
I was talking to some people in London Ontario last night that have lost jobs,
so it’s not just regulated to America.
LB: Big time especially in that part of the province. There is so much manufacturing
in that part of Canada that needs a lot of help.
MM: Yes so I could see them being affected by the big three and having a difficult
LB: Have you always been involved with social activism, or have you
reached a point in your life where you feel it’s important to give
MM: I think probably dating back to 2006 with “Fading American Dream” I
just aspired as a person to help out where I could and take my good fortune
and luck of being in a band that’s able to tour and record and use it
as a positive force by supporting OXFAM America or helping out local food banks,
fire halls, etc. It just want to do the right thing and it’s as simple
as that. There is no master plan or scheme. Whether I was in a band or not
I think I would just want to do the right thing.
LB: And like you said putting your money where your mouth is right.
MM: Yeah it’s important for this band to do that. The song “War
after the War” is a special song. Me and Marcus (Street Dogs Guitarist)
knew it from the minute we jumped on it, and all the money that is generated
from that song will go to people who can’t help themselves.
LB: Are you playing that song on this tour?
MM: We fooled around with it today but it’s not there yet. Maybe on
the tenth or around the tenth we will try it for the first time. The rhythm
section has a real tall order on that song. The strings are really intricate
and we just want to get it right.
LB: Your lyrics heavily focus on politics and the current state of
affairs, I am wondering do you feel it is your role to be an entertainer
or and educator?
MM: Well we never fashioned ourselves as spokes people or politicians. That
is something we emphatically stated on the front side. I think we are just
socially conscious and we just want to do a proper service to the genre punk
rock. We don’t want to write about incipit trite useless rehashed fluffy
subjects. We want to write about things that make us mad, glad, happy, or sad.
Things that stir our souls and politics just happen to be one of those things.
Labor issues just happen to be one of those things. Relationship issues good
or bad are another one of those things. We talk about drug abuse we talk about
life and love. We are always trying to expand our parameters of what we say
and up until now the things I just mentioned have been the primary force behind
the script of lyrics for the Street Dogs up until this point.
LB: Well with the way things are right now in the world you must have plenty
to say and write about.
MM: Yes there certainly hasn’t been a shortage of inspiration.
LB: I was in Boston last year for the first time, and seemed to be
a city that’s very deep in tradition as well as sports. I am just wondering
what was the attitude towards being a punk rocker in the city back in a time
where it wasn’t so acceptable?
MM: Well for me, I have always loved punk and the music, but I can’t
say in all honesty that I had liberty spikes, leather jacket, a mow hawk, or
lived the true punk life. I was a townie and still am. I love the Boston Bruins,
the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Celtics, and the New England Patriots. I think
when I was in junior high it was The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Elvis Costello,
The Alarm, and early U2 that shook my world, pissed me off, and made me want
to write songs. And then further down the line I started listening to heavier
punk and hardcore music, but it was late 80’s early 90’s that I
started to inter face with punks and go to shows and started getting tattoos.
So I guess I would fashion myself a townie punk. I am not a traditional punk
at all. And I think punk rock saved me back in 1992. Me and some close friends.
LB: How did it save you specifically?
MM: It just got us off the wrong path and on to the right one. It’s
a good thing.
LB: I think a good punk band/song can call your bluff a bit and challenge
you to change and hope for a better world. Would you agree?
MM: I think I found myself back in ’92 a very angry man. Like a heat
seeking missile. You know I was prone to physical altercation and self-hatred
and prone to drinking a lot. I was on a mission to destroy myself. I think
punk rock saved me, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude towards it.
LB: Do you feel like you guys bridge a gap between the old and the new school
of punk rock?
MM: I think we are true to the roots of the genre and the spirit of punk rock.
We are doing everything on our own terms stylistically and musically. We want
it to be about the music and live performance. It’s not about fashion
and things of that nature. We want it to be about substance and what we are
saying, and how hard you are cutting your teeth for the people who have come
to see you. And whether its 60 people or 600 we have a duty to pour our blood
onto the stage and give it everything you have. We are staying true and staying
LB: Well that attitude you have set you apart from every other band
on the Warped Tour this summer. I remember walking into the gates this summer
it was so goddamn hot at 1:30 in the afternoon, and I mean you guys delivered
a smashing intimate performance that made me feel like I was in a concert hall.
Not to mention you stared a circle pit that had a circumference of a half a
mile during your cover of Rise Above. I personally don’t think many bands
can garner that kind of energy in a setting like the Warped Tour.
MM: Thank you. I love the challenge of it. I love looking a doubter in the
face. I love looking someone in the face who is jaded and doesn’t like
us. I love that! It’s not going to stop us. It’s not going to slow
us down. We are running down the track like a silver bullet express. I have
a lot of faith in this band and the songs we play. And it continues to shock
me of how much this band has achieved in a short amount of time. It shocks
me that I got a second chance at it, and it blows my mind every day. I never
thought that would happen.
LB: Before your recent album “State of Grace” came out
I read a posting from you talking about the new album and how you were drawing
from an array of bands which some I expected like Thin Lizzy, ACDC, U2, SLF
etc., but some caught me off guard like Michael Franti, Bloc Party, and TV
on the Radio. How essential is it to you as a writer to have a variety of influences
that fall outside the punk and hardcore boundaries to newer creative rock bands
like TV on the Radio?
MM: Well it’s not essential at all. It just is what it is. I mean as
people and musicians we like what we like, and that can be anything from punk
rock, death metal, pop, calypso, and soul and indie rock. I try to keep an
open mind and keep my fields of objectivity open as far as music’s concerned.
First and foremost we all love punk rock and we don’t want to deviate
too far from that, but at the same time I would be a fool to shut my ears to
different types of music. I think it would become bland and I would be selling
myself short. Try just eating one type of food when there are many types available
to you. I think you would be selling yourself short. That is an analogy I think
would describe what it is like to listen to one style of music.
LB: Your releases all have their own sound, style and character. I also think
there is a lot of progression from album to album. Is this a conscious effort
or a natural desire to progress, innovate and challenge?
MM: I think unbeknown to us it’s a natural progression. I think we,
really in an indirect direct way, we try not to make the same album twice.
I think with the group of musicians we are with different opinions and musical
influences we have that it’s possible for us to do the same thing. It’s
just good to know that there are four records out there and I feel it’s
a good body of work and I am really proud of it, and it feels good that it’s
all different and it has its own flavor like you said. I love Savin Hill as
much as I love State of Grace as much as I love Back to the World or Fading
American Dream. Once you record it’s forever fixed to your name, so for
that I am proud of our music.
LB: I feel most people reading this know your history and know your resume,
so bring me to the point where you were working as a Fire fighter in Boston,
and when did you started to have the desire to get back to the stage?
MM: Well late in 2002 me and Johnny Rioux and a couple of other guys were
making music just for fun, and Johnny said it was just like poker night with
the guys getting together for fun and using the music as a release or an outlet.
But that turned into a demo and some shows regionally and couple of supporting
shows for Flogging Molly which turned into a tour and then another record.
So in 2004 it was time for us to either shit or get off the pot. We just knew
at the time that we had to go for it. I think there was that unspoken truth
that if we didn’t do it we would be 60 years old sitting on a porch in
our rocking chairs and saying to ourselves, I wish we had taken that shot and
wondering what if. There will be no what if. We are fighting the fight and
going city to city block to block country-to-country. Some of the stuff we
have gone through in this short time just boggles my mind how we are still
together. You can hear that in songs like “Free” off the new record.
LB: What makes your lyrics and your art so valid and legitimate to
me is your life story. You have marched with fellow soldiers and fought in
the gulf war,
fought fires, and screamed your lungs out in dirty bars, concert halls, and
festivals all over the world. Many artists can point their fingers and shame
this and condemn that, but they take such an easy stance. You have seen a lot
of problems with your own eyes at grass roots levels. Do you feel you’re
past experiences mean you have more to say?
MM: No not at all! When I read the bio of the band and the writers are saying, “Mike’s
done this and Mike’s done that, and Mike’s gone through this and
that”, I feel reluctant about that sometimes. The last thing I want to
seem to the world is like some sort of bragger, or hero, or been on some kind
of pedestal. I have character defects and feelings and trappings. I don’t
walk on water and I am no role model to anybody. At the same time I just try
to show up every day and do a little better than the day before. I have a big
heart and a lot of effort in my tank. I don’t want to compare my insides
or outsides to other people or other artists. I have nothing to loose or gain
by being involved. I just do my best at whatever I do. Anything else takes
focus off the music. It’s about the music! It’s what we are doing
out here. We are not trying to compete with other bands. We are here to cut
our teeth, smash the hall, and set it off. We want to let people forget about
life for a bit when they come see us, and we are doing it the old fashioned
way. We are earning it and I like our chances.
LB: Who are some artists you admire that have walked their talk?
MM: The Clash! Joe Strummer, Mic Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon. First
and foremost. The only band that ever mattered and are more relevant today
than they were in their own time. I am not afraid to say it either. I think
a band like U2 definitely walked their talk. They have been a force for positivity
and have helped impoverished people. I think Bono gets a lot of shit for it
because people just think he is trying to up his stature and be a big egomaniac.
But I think he does a lot of good. I think Elvis Costello and his wife Dianna
Krall do a lot of good as well. There are so many examples for me. I think
Dylan has done a lot of things under the radar and Billy Bragg has done a lot
for poor musicians and for less fortunate people. All that stuff is inspiring.
These are people who are taking their popularity and fame and doing something
good instead of being ego maniacs fighting with other musicians, smashing up
cars, and going to rehab. So those are a few examples.
LB: My favorite song on the new album is San Patricio. I love hearing some
good Irish history, and I had never heard of this story before. Could you tell
me a little more about the song and when you first heard of this group of soldiers?
MM: Reading “A Peoples History of the United States” by Howard
Zinn brought that to my attention. That’s a pretty compelling story.
It’s a great story because here are some Irish nationals running into
two forms of repression. English people who have always looked at them as second
class citizens who were in the United States as American leaders and officers
and then these Irish nationals run into hospices and are drafted into the army
and told to kill fellow Catholics and rape and pillage without any regard for
morality or decency. And they just turn around and stand up against it. They
did the right thing. And talk about bravery, honor, and courage. You are facing
certain death and you do die eventually, but you still do the right thing.
How many people are fucking willing to do that? Not many. Me writing a song
and singing it. Not a big deal. Yeah fine. Well and good. Let’s think
of the people who went and did it. They deserve all the praise in the world.
LB: You have written so many songs about Boston over the years. With
a city that’s obviously so heavy on your heart I am wondering how you
are adjusting to life in California?
MM: It’s pretty complex. I mean LA is ginormous. And most of it is geared
towards Hollywood and the entertainment industry. But there is a real solid
unsung working class there that works hard every day and tries to take care
of their families. It’s pretty cool.
LB: Well it looks to me like you guys have to hit the stage pretty quick.
I just want to thank you for the interview, and is there anything you would
like to say, or what is in the immediate future for the Street Dogs?
MM: I think we’re looking at touring more for State of Grace and looking
to get back in the studio and writing a break neck punk rock record. I mean
I feel like we want to red light the engines and crack the canons and go for
the jugular on the next one. We are hoping to get into the studio in late fall
or early winter.