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Dropkick Murphys - James Lynch
- June 25th, 2011
- Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
The first time I walked into the Commodore Ballroom, I knew I was in for a treat. I walked up the stairs into the beautiful, wide-open venue as Chuck Ragan was sound checking and immediately became excited. Dropkick Murphys, Chuck Ragan and The Parkington Sisters at the Commodore – is there a better concert to welcome you to a new city? I think not.
Before the show, however, I headed backstage to talk to The Murphys guitarist James Lynch about the tour, playing with Bruce Springsteen, the traditions of folk music and the small-community vibe of Boston.
Bobby: I guess, starting with the basics – you guys are five dates into this tour with Chuck Ragan. How’s it going so far?
James: It’s a blast. We’ve had a couple of days off already. It’s been a little bit of a slow start because there’s a lot of travelling involved in making our way across Canada here. It’s been good. Chuck’s great, we’ve been having a good time.
Bobby: I know when Chuck was in Toronto for NXNE, he actually stopped Dave Hause from being robbed. Does it feel like you have an extra security guy with you when Chuck’s on the road with you?
James: *laughs* Nah, he’s a great guy. We’ve got a lot of mutual friends. We’ve met briefly before but we haven’t got to spend as much time together so it’s nice to get to hang out.
Bobby: In the past few months, you guys have ton a bunch of festivals, especially over in Europe you did the Goezrock and Loud and Proud. Last May you did Punk Rock Bowling and next week you guys are doing the Hootenanny. What’s your favourite type of festival to play?
James: The festivals that we do over in Europe are absolutely incredible. It’s nothing like the festivals in the United States. It’s not specific to any one kind of music. You have every kind of band you could possibly imagine. People just go to see a bunch of different kinds of bands. No one is there just to see punk bands or just to rock bands. It’s a huge mess, that’s how I describe it; and I think eventually the American festivals will probably pick up on the same thing and create chances for you to play for people who would usually never see the band.
Bobby: What type of shows do you prefer? Like this one I think is a thousand capacity venue where has Goezrock which is like 200,000. What do you like? The smaller ones or the bigger ones?
James: I’ve always loved the smaller ones but its fun playing the big ones too. Its apples and oranges really, you know? There’sgood things to be said about both of them.
Bobby: I was watching an interview you did where you were saying that after you played the Roseland Ballroom in New York, you went out, had a few beers and then stopped at McDonalds. Then when you were driving back, the cops came by and pulled you over and was like “hey man, great show!” Was that was the most surreal or weirdest post-show compliment you’ve ever got?
James: *laughs* That one was up there. It’s not unusual for us, the cops love Dropkick Murphys. I don’t know why, it’s a good thing – we appreciate the support; but I’m always very surprised when someone like me gets stopped just for a pat on the back.
Bobby: Like “You didn’t nothing wrong, just good job!”
James: Yeah, first time that ever happened!
Bobby: Just to get this out of the way – tonight is the first of two nights in Vancouver. A week and a half ago was the Bruins and Canucks…
James: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bobby: So how are you going to handle the Bruins and Canucks rivalry?
James: We’re actually thinking that our fans are coming to the show expecting it. We’ve got something cooked up for the fans, it’ll be fun.
Bobby: I see you printed out a picture of Ken with the Cup. (Behind James was a giant print out of Ken Casey holding the Stanley Cup on the ice after game seven of the finals.)
James: Ken came to Vancouver with the team and was at the game and got out on the ice and everything. That was a great series regardless. Of course, we’re excited that we won but the whole thing was awesome.
Bobby: Well, personally, I’m an Oilers fan so I have really nothing to celebrate this year. What did you think of the whole rioting thing?
James: I don’t understand what drives people to that point. It’s a fucking game. At the end of the day, it’s a fucking game; and when people start getting hurt and stuff, it’s just ridiculous.
Bobby: The weird thing is that a lot of the press is saying that they rioted because they lost. But the thing was, being there, you could tell there was going to be a riot if they won or they lost.
James: Yep. It probably would’ve been a bigger fucking riot if they won.
Bobby: Like you obviously probably saw all the cars that were lit on fire. I know that there was at least one that was brought there specifically to be lit on fire. You know something is going to happen when people bring cars to be lit on fire.
James: *laughs* yeah, no question.
Bobby: Speaking about raucous celebrations, you guys just finished the Saint Patrick’s Day tour with the six days in Boston where every day you did something crazy with it. My favourite day was on the 18th when you actually had Bruce Springsteen come out and play with you.
James: That was incredible.
Bobby: Of course, he sang on Peg O’ My Heart on the new album; but how did you get him on stage for that?
James: It was literally as easy as asking him if he wanted to do it. His son’s a fan of the band. He’s brought his kid to see us before and he enjoyed the show and after he sang on the record we were like “if he comes to a show, we gotta ask him if he’ll do it.” He said he was more than happy to. He showed up just with a Telecaster, like no big deal, no big entourage. Showed up, plugged in, played. It was fucking absolutely incredible. He hung around, met all of our families and stuff. Sound check had an extra thirty or forty people as our families were just kicking around. It was amazing. Everything about that experience was unreal.
Bobby: So did you know well in advance that he was going to come or was it just the day off?
James: We asked and then we knew that he may come. No one really wanted to believe it until the second that he walked into the door because then you’re just setting yourself up to be disappointed. But it was a pretty big surprise; even knowing about it.
Bobby: Now, I’ve never seen Springsteen live but one of my favourite live DVDs is his Live in Dublin. Have you seen it?
Bobby: I really like it because it’s just him doing traditional songs; he has this fantastic group of backing musicians that are just phenomenal musicians and they’re just kind of jamming together, re-creating these classic, traditional songs. The same thing Chuck does kind of with the Revival Tour and, in a way, the same thing you guys do when you re-do all the traditional folk songs on your album. Do you think that’s one of the great things about the folk songs? That it can bring people from all different backgrounds, all different instruments and just put them in a room together and play?
James: Yeah, absolutely. It’s all the same thing at the end of the day. One’s a little bit faster, a little bit louder; but it’s all people’s music – telling common stories and people pick up on real stuff. That’s the common thread between all those groups you just mentioned – it’s real.
Bobby: Now, traditional music – like you said – is more of a real music but it’s also a quote/unquote “found” music where there’s no author attributed to these songs. It’s just kind of passed on through generation and generation and generation. How important is it for you to keep those songs alive and continue to cover them in your albums?
James: I hadn’t really thought about it like that until the first time we met Ronnie Drew. We were playing with the Pogues on Christmas Eve in Ireland and Ronnie was there and Spider introduced us. He came in and said “were you the ones playing Rocky Road To Dublin when I walked in today?” and we said “yeah.” He goes “you certainly did you own thing with it” and we were like “yeah, well, that’s what we do.” He said “don’t ever let anybody tell you you’re doing anything wrong. You’re keeping it alive and you’re passing it on to another generation.”
That was incredible. I had never thought of it like that. But you know, kids come to our shows and are like “I was playing your record and my grandmother was singing along with it and I couldn’t believe she knew the song.” It brings people together, it’s great.
Bobby: Which is kind of interesting about the whole idea of a traditional song which is you could go into a pub back in the day and someone could start singing it and everyone would know the song and start singing along with them.
James: That’s the same idea with our songs. Nice, simple chorus. Everyone can sing along with, everyone’s a part of it.
Bobby: But with the advent of recorded media, traditional songs have kind of gone and are be forgotten about. Like if you went to a bar right now and started singing Rocky Road To Dublin, most people would not be able to pick up on it. However, there are a new crop of traditional songs that people hear and everyone knows. Like you got Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, you got some Dylan song, you got Radiohead’s Creep [Editor’s note: Don’t forget Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire which The Parkington Sisters pulled out later that night and everyone sang along with]. Do you think we’ve kind of reached a point where we have a new type of traditional songs where people – no matter where – know these songs?
James: I think that’s a different thing. I think there are songs that have become part of pop culture or whatever, something that everyone would recognize; but I don’t know if I would compare it to folk music as in passing on stories and stuff through families. No, I wouldn’t put that in the same category as Don’t Stop Believing. And I hope that’s not what we’re busting out singing someday in a bar somewhere. I do understand what you’re saying but I think it’s a little bit of a different situation.
Bobby: Let’s talk a bit about your new album, Going Out In Style. Like we said, you had Bruce Springsteen on it but you also had a bunch of other guests. You had Fat Mike, you also had Chris from The Living End, you had the Parkington Sisters who are playing on this tour, and you also had your dad play on it. How did you get everybody wrangled up and what was it like playing with your dad?
James: It was hectic getting everybody wrangled up because we were all over the fucking world. We were in Australia right in the middle of that recording. That’s actually how a lot of that turned out. We had written the song that mentioned Fat Mike in it because he was originally from Massachusetts. NOFX was on the tour with us, so he was more than happy to do that for us. Then Chris from the Living End, we were in his town and he had a studio and luckily he let us go in there and finish up some of the tracks we had to do; so he just jumped in there and sang some stuff.
My father, I’ve been trying to get on an album since I started recording. He was a musician, is a musician and is responsible for me being a musician and it was awesome.
Bobby: So why did it take so long for you to convince your dad to finally come out and record?
James: He’s dad, you know? There’s always a better time or another song. But he was excited about it; and he was excited to have his name written next to Bruce Springsteen on the liner notes too.
Bobby: He’s probably like “Bruce Springsteen’s on this album? Okay, I’ll come on it…”
James: Yeah, exactly.
Bobby: Then with the title track, Going Out In Style, you had a very entertaining video of it which had all those people on it and a whole bunch of guests too. You had Micky Ward, you had Bobby Orr, and you had a whole bunch of Bruins come on it. What was like just hanging out with those guys for the video shoot?
James: Those are all people that we were around quite a bit. Miky’s a dear friend of the band. It’s just nice that those guys could come and help us out. They had much better things that they could be doing and the idea that they all came out to make that video fun and interesting is absolutely awesome. Every single one of those people giving up their time to do that shit for us is unreal. Like they do not have to. They are not getting anything out of it. They are not going to get more famous from showing up in our video. And it’s a blast. They’re all just fucking real people and it’s a good time. It’s an interesting life…
Bobby: In Boston. It’s kind of cool that doing a video is kind of an excuse to hang out with all your friends and relax, and party. Well, maybe not relax.
James: I wish that was the case. Going Out In Style did turn into quite a party, we caused a little more trouble at the funeral home than I think the people were expecting. But sometimes, if you’re in the right situation in a video like that, then it can be a lot of fun. Other times, it’s just “get me the fuck out of this place.” How many times do I gotta do this?
Bobby: How many times do I have to strum that one note just to get the right angle?
James: How many times do I have to pretend to play the song? Once again, if these are my only problems – then, thank you. I’ll make a fucking video, it’s not that bad.
Bobby: The album itself is a slight concept album based on a fictional character named Cornelius Larkin which is kind of an combination a lot of your grandparents – especially your own.
James: My grandfather was Cornelius Lynch and the story of him going to Massachusetts from Ireland when he was eighteen I think. He joined the military before he was even a US citizen. He went to Korea for the war, came home with a purple heart and married my grand mother. That’s what the song 1953 is about – a newspaper article I found about him returning from Korea and then getting married. It was a very cool way – I didn’t tell a lot of my family that we were even doing it. I figured I’d just let them notice as we went on, the little things that came out as we went along. It was a very cool experience, I learnt a lot about my family too.
Bobby: Was it kind of difficult for you to put your personal side so out in the open? Put your family history so out in the open?
James: No – that’s what we do. That’s the appealing thing about the band. We’re regular people with regular problems and that’s what people identify with.
Bobby: With it being based on so many of your family histories, I just gotta know – which one of your grandparents went to the hardcore Sunday matinees shows?
James: Probably would’ve been mine *laughs*. I come from a very interesting family.
Bobby: The character Cornelius Larkin is also being turned into a book by Michael Patrick MacDonald. Any updates on that?
James: I haven’t heard. The last month we were home, I got married and bought a house. Lived in it for three days and left. My head’s still spinning from everything right now – I don’t know what’s going on with that.
Very interesting though and, once again, someone who went out of his way to help us when he didn’t have to. He’s an amazing author, we’re all friends and stuff and I’m very excited to see how that turns out.
Bobby: It’s a good thing, make friends and help them out, they help you out and ultimately it turns into this great collaboration project in the end.
James: Boston is a big city but it’s got a very small town vibe to it. Everyone knows someone’s mother or someone went to school with this guy’s brother and everyone ends up bumping into each other eventually.
Bobby: So instead of the six degrees of separation, you have two degrees of separation.
James: Yeah, pretty much.
Bobby: I guess that’s about it. Thanks a lot. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
James: Nope. Thanks for coming out to the shows, we’ll keep on coming back as long as people want to see us and we appreciate every minute of it, thanks.