DROPKICK MURPHYS' KEN CASEY
interview and illustration by vinnie baggadonuts

MIX TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC, GOOD OLí PUNK ROCK 'N' ROLL, SOME WORKING CLASS VALUES WITH A FIGHTING SPIRIT, AND AN EVER-SWELLING FAN BASE, AND YOU HAVE THE INFAMOUS DROPKICK MURPHYS. MY MAIN MAN HECTOR HOOKED ME UP, AND I HAD THE PLEASURE OF CHATTING WITH DROPKICK MURPHY AND HELL OF A NICE GUY, KEN CASEY. READ ON, MY WAYWARD SONS.

Vinnie: How you doing?

Ken: Iím doing alright.

V: You guys just finished up touring, right?

K: No. We just started a new one last night.

V: It started last night?

K: Yeah. We kicked off a tour with the Sex Pistols last night.

V: I didnít know it had started yet. Whatís that like?

K: Itís cool. The tour started in Boston, which is our hometown, so that was a good show. Contrary to what everyone thinks, the Pistols are actually nice guys.

V: Yeah?

K: Yeah. Weíd played with them before at their anniversary show in London. We hit it off with them then, so itís gonna be a fun tour.

V: So, you played Boston already. Every year your St. Paddyís Day shows seem to get bigger. I know how your fans are-- how the crowd is-- and itís insane how packed the place will get. Did the crowd wind up being louder for you guys than for the Sex Pistols?

K: I wouldnít say that. The venue we played in is on the water. Itís one of those places where Elvis Costello, Foo Fighters, and big acts like that will play. I have been to a bunch of shows there, but I never once saw anyone actually go in and watch the opening act. People usually just have a drink and hang out outside. But I think we had as many people watch us as the Sex Pistols. Even though it was a punk show, being the Pistols and all, there was still a rock show element to it. There were seats in the venue-- there was no dance floor area, but it went really well. People started tearing the seats out. Thatís what I was hoping for.

V: Nice. So, did you get much time off between Warped Tour and the Pistols tour?

K: We had a week. You get home, unpack, do your laundry, pay your bills, and then start packing again to go.

V: You donít take your family on the road with you, do you?

K: Actually, I do part of the time. My wife and daughter will come on a Sunday and stay for two weeks. They really canít hack it for much more than that. My wife starts to get freaked out trying to be a mother while traveling on a bus with ten guys.

Both: (laugh)

K: It kinda gets old quick. But if I go out on a six week tour, sheíll usually come out for a couple weeks, to break it up so itís not so long. I mean, we have the best job in the world, and weíre the most fortunate people. Iíd say the only downside is that I wish I was an 18-year-old kid with no ties (laughs) and nobody at home to miss. The only downside I can see to this whole music thing is that. Most of the guys in this band are definitely rooted in Boston and get really homesick, you know?

V: Well, whenever Iíve seen you guys, itís different for me than seeing other bands. I just feel like you are the guys you know growing up who you really want to make it. Youíd see them on the street and say, ďMan, I hope those guys make it someday.Ē When I see you guys-- itís totally weird-- but I feel proud of you, and I donít even know you.

K: Thatís awesome. Thank you. I wish more people shared that feeling. In punk rock, you know, you feel like your fan base is rooted against you sometimes. (laughs) Like they're wanting you to fail. And I know where theyíre coming from, to a degree, because I used to go see bands when I was growing up, and there would be 200 kids there, and youíre like, ďYeah!Ē But next thing you know, itís 500 kids, and youíre like, ďThis is okay, but itís getting kinda packed.Ē And then it gets bigger, and youíre like, "Who the fuck are all these assholes?!?"

Both: (laugh)

K: And Iíve been guilty of that in the past. I think it took me until I got in a band to understand what goes into it behind the scenes; what it takes to get a band to stay afloat. I donít expect everybody to understand the whole workings of being in a band. But I think we try to cater to the people that listen to us, just as much as we try to cater to the people that donít listen to us. There are a lot of bands that have success and forget where they came from and who their core fan base is.

V: And you guys involve the fans a lot, too. I donít think Iíve ever seen a show of yours where the fans didnít wind up on stage.

K: Well, for us, the eighth band member is the crowd. The audience is what makes the show good or bad. And they always make it good.

V: So, you guys seem to be doing really well with the new album.

K: All the records have gradually gone up in sales, and thatís what weíre hoping for: to climb up the ladder a little bit. Because bands that shoot up overnight bottom out really quickly. So, itís kinda working out how Iíd hoped: a band steadily growing so that itís not an overnight success type of thing.

V: I saw you did some stuff with the Boston Bruins, too; a charity game.

K: I think thatís when I know weíve reached all our goals; that weíre just as big as we need to be. When I start getting calls to play in a charity hockey game with the Bruins. (laughs) Thatís all I care about.

Both: (laugh)

V: Are all the other guys in the band big hockey fans?

K: Yeah. But not as big as me. (laughs)

V: So, whatís different now than when you started playing?

K: When we started we were driving in a van, lugging our own equipment, playing in peopleís basements. And now weíre on the Sex Pistols tour, and thereís three catered meals a day. (laughs) And we have a big dressing room. Thatís because of the Sex Pistols, obviously. But itís gotten easier. You still have the demands of being away from home, and that actually gets harder. The better the band does, the more you wind up working. Iíll say I want to tour no more than three months this year, and the next thing I know weíre doing eight months. How the hell did that just happen? (laughs) But itís definitely gotten easier. You know, weíre guys that are used to having real jobs, so musicís easy. Even when youíre touring in a van and lugging your own equipment, it beats spending all day laboring.

V: This might be a dumb question, but when you have larger amounts of time off, do any of you guys go and get a factory job or something?

K: No. I sometimes joke that this band has me busier when Iím at home than when Iím on the road. We try to answer all our mail ourselves. We come home and each get a stack of 200 letters. Then thereís all the daily runnings of the band you get caught up on when youíre home. Sometimes I feel like being on tour is easy because you just have to focus on that one thing: playing that show. Then you come home, and you try paying your own bills, trying to get your own life in order, and things keep coming in for the band. It keeps you really busy. There is definitely no time for going back to the day jobs right now.

V: And Iím sure thatís fine by you, too.

K: Yeah. The way I look at it with day jobs is, I know that timeís coming. It's just a matter of how long I can hold out for. (laughs)

V: You know, for me, this is a big honor to interview you. Not only because of your music but because of the stuff you guys do outside of music. When I heard a couple years ago about the Pittsburgh Warped Tour stop where you werenít gonna play because the stagehands were on strike, that blew me away. You never hear of bands doing something like that. Have you found it easier to speak out against injustices and get more attention doing it, with the band getting more popular?

K: Well, bands get a microphone and some people in front of a stage, and the next thing you know, they wanna be politicians instead of being in a fucking punk band.

V: Yeah.

K: Itís not our goal to set out and change the world. I mean, when we run across situations where things that we believe in are being taken away from people, obviously we wanna walk the walk. We donít just want to be a band that sings about organized labor, but then crosses the picket line on a strike. That stuffís complicated and can get very convoluted. But we happened to know a lot of those guys, and those guys had worked on other shows of ours before. So to pull up to the venue and see them standing there, sweating their asses off in the middle of the day,.. whose side are we on? Theirs, or the corporation running the venue?

V: Yeah.

K: So, for that particular day, it was the right thing to side with those guys.

V: That was really cool to me. And I agree with you, but itís not just with music. I know a lot of artists who get attention, and then they start force-feeding their beliefs to you.

K: Yeah. I mean, as a whole, musicians arenít the most educated bunch. (laughs) Not to say that there arenít some, and I donít want to seriously take away from people who do work hard for causes they believe in. But too many people get up there harping at people, preaching about this and that. And I donít think some of them know what they're talking about. (laughs)

V: So, you got to work with Shane MacGowan, and go into the Guthrie Archives and record some of his lyrics, which I thought was pretty intense. But I always imagined you guys would team up with Joe Strummer on something.

K: You know, there had been talk of that a bunch of times, but the trouble was just coordinating time, you know? We never expected him to be passing away so soon. It definitely,.. you know, we knew Joe, so that kinda hit real hard on the band. And then, after the dust settled and we were over the initial shock of it, we realized that it would have been real cool. You know, 20 years from now, after the band is done, weíre gonna look back on that and say, ďHoly shit. We did a Woody Guthrie song. We got to go in the studio with Shane MacGowan." But to have been able to add Joe Strummer to that list would've been amazing.

V: Yeah. Is there anyone else that you want to record with?

K: I donít know. There will always be a wish list, you know? Get Angus Young in to do a guitar solo. (laughs) But not really. Itís like I said, getting Shane MacGowan into the studio and recording with him, how do you top that? I mean, Strummer would've topped it. But you canít really top it now, so why try?

V: Yeah. I noticed after your Sex Pistols shows, you have some shows with Unsane and Roger Miret and the Disasters. Is that gonna be a full-on national tour?

K: Yeah. The Sex Pistols tour ends in Los Angeles. Then we'll do a two week tour with those bands, which ends on September 20th. We have a few days off after that. But then we do a whole U.S. Tour with The Casualties and Roger Miret and the Disasters. And then weíll go back out again.

VISIT KEN AND HIS FELLOW DROPKICKS HERE.

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