EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Al Barr, singer Dropkick Murphys


LOS ANGELES, February 11, 2014 — The Dropkick Murphys released their first full-length record in 1998. Later that year, Al Barr replaced lead singer, Mike McColgan, on vocals. After releasing eight full-length albums, Dropkick Murphys are Boston punk legends. They’ve seen their music played both at sporting events and in Martin Scorcese’s The Departed. Al Barr took some time to speak with Wells On Music regarding the Dropkick Murphys’ upcoming St. Patrick’s Day tour among other things.

Scroll below video to read the interview.

Kevin Wells: What bands initially got you into punk rock?

Al Barr: It was in the later part of my eighth grade year. I discovered The Clash and the Ramones and the [Sex] Pistols. And then there’s hardcore, I guess, with bad Brains, Fear, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, you know, the usual [bands]. There were no distributors of punk rock at the time. You couldn’t go on your computer and get punk rock. You had to trade tapes if you wanted to get music. You had to go and fetch the good things. Punk rock was like a hidden treasure, you know? You had to go look for it. It wasn’t something that was just readily available because nobody wanted to listen to punk rock. It wasn’t a money maker so nobody wanted it.

KW: Are there bands that you have wanted to play with that you have not yet played with?

AB: For me, we’ve gotten to play with a lot of amazing bands, both touring and festivals. It’s been an amazing time. There’s a lot of really great bands that have started up in the last few years, you know, straight rock n roll bands that nobody’s heard of. There’s a lot of bands that we hope to play with, but right now, I feel like we’ve gotten to do so much. We’re really lucky. I can’t think of any band where I’m like, oh we gotta play with them. We got to play with Rose Tattoo in Australia. We played with Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros the year that he passed away. We’ve toured with legends like Agnostic Front and Sick of It All.

KW: You’ve played in some pretty cool venues, as well, over the course of your career. What is your favorite venue that you have played?

AB: That’s a good question. That’s a tough one, man. We’ve played thousands and thousands of different places. Places that stand out in my mind, I would say, not necessarily favorites, but we played the bottom of a ski run one time, this ski trail on a mountain. That was interesting. It wasn’t my favorite. We’ve played in prisons, we’ve played holes in the wall. We’ve played really beautiful rooms. There’s a theater in Stockholm, Sweden that we’ve played a few times. It’s amazing, it’s all wood and fancy paintings. The Rock and Roll Church in Amsterdam where I got pulled off the stage one time. It’s hard for me to say. Brixton Academy in London! How’s that?

KW: Were you surprised at how big I’m Shipping Up To Boston got?

AB: The whole thing was a surprise. When we got that song in The Departed, we couldn’t believe that was actually happening. When it got used in a Simpsons cartoon, we couldn’t believe that was happening. I mean, it’s platinum and a half in terms of sales. Did I ever think in my career, 30 years ago, that I would be able to attach my name to that kind of success? No, absolutely not. So, was it a surprise? Yeah, it was definitely a surprise.

KW: Who made the call to Jonathan Papelbon to tell him he could not take the song with him when he left the Red Sox to play for the Philadelphia Phillies?

AB: You’ve got the non-sports guy on the phone. I’ll stop you right there. I’m the non-sports guy. So, no sports talk with Al Barr. [laughs] No sports talk. I literally don’t pay attention to any of it. At least I’m honest. [laughs]

KW: Dropkick Murphy’s will start the St. Patrick’s Day tour towards the end of this month. What made you expand the St. Patrick’s Day shows into a three week tour?

KW: This is the 14th year we’ve done the St. Patrick’s Day residency, as I call it, in Boston. However, what we used to do ten years ago, we’d start the tour in Boston because that would make sense, right? The thing is, after doing those shows, we’d leave Boston with our heads in our laps because those shows take it out of you. We realized if we start a tour two or three weeks prior to the Boston shows, we go in more seamlessly and they just become more shows on the tour. That way, when we get into those shows, all the stresses of family and guest lists and all the different songs you gotta play every day and everything, that becomes a lot less stressful when you’ve got, as I call them, tour legs; when you’ve been out on the road for a while.

KW: Do you have any other tours planned for later in the year?

AB: We’ll be in Europe for about a month and a half this summer. We’re gonna be up in Canada, yeah, we’re gonna be doing a lot of shows here.

KW: Have you guys started working on the next record at all?

AB: No. No. You know, with the St. Patrick’s Day tour, we like to pull out a lot of the back catalogue. So, that involves a lot of dusting, a lot of Hoovering, as I call it, you know, getting ready. We’re just coming off of a four-month hiatus. Our drummer, Matt and his wife, Liz, just had their first baby. The time we spent off the road was personal time. It’s just not time yet. Signed and Sealed isn’t that old, you know?

KW: Christmas records seem to be all the rage these days. You did a Christmas song on your last album. Would Dropkick Murphys ever consider releasing a full-length Christmas album?

AB: I will f**king light myself on fire before I am ever a part of anything like that. [laughs] Yeah, no, not interested. I think we considered it and then we realized our fans don’t want that, let alone, we don’t want that. You’ve been to a Dropkick Murphys show. Look around you. Do you think they want a Christmas record? Do non-religious fans want a Christmas record from Bad Religion? The guys are friends of mine, but I think the answer is, “No.” The thing with a Christmas record is the only time it’s relevant, obviously, is Christmas anyways. I got three kids. I want to spend Christmastime with my kids. I don’t want to be out singing Christmas songs with my band, for Christ’s sake. [laughs]

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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