Interview with Matt Kelly of Dropkick Murphys in advance of July 1 Fox Theater show

Here is the full e-mail interview in advance of the group’s July 1 show at the Fox Theater in Pomona. Tickets can be found at Thanks so much to Kristine Ashton-Magnuson for the e-mail interview. 

From Matt Kelly (drums) of Dropkick Murphys
June 23, 2011
Q: Has the process of writing songs gotten harder or easier since starting in the mid
1990’s and why? I ask because it took four years to put out “Going Out in Style.”
A: *** Haha… The saying goes, “you have your whole life up ’til then to write your first
album, and a couple years to write each subsequent one.” I guess your early primordial
ideas go into making your first album, and a lot of your early inspiration goes into it.
Subsequent records are a bit more of a challenge, but once you ease into your own style
it becomes more natural. The reasons for the last album taking so long to come out was
mostly family-related stuff and guys wanting to be with their children, a couple of which
were newborns during that 4-year stretch. There were also a couple weddings in the
mix, so as a band that puts family first, we did just that. We toured here and there, but
to write and record an album can be very time-consuming, so there really wasn’t a lot of
time to devote to the 8-10 hour days, 6 days a week, for three months or so that it took
to write and record the album. Eventually, time was in our favor, and *boom*, we were
all set. ***
Q: Who was your favorite guest to work with on the “Going Out In Style” album and
A: *** Lenny Clark. The guy is a class-act, funny bastard. His wife was a sweetheart, too,
and contributed to a couple backing vocals. I mean, having a comedian (and a great
one at that) in the recording studio is hilarious; dude’s a natural funnyman. ***
Q: Did you or other band members worry the title “Going Out In Style” might make
people think the group was retiring? Did the Warner Bros. record label in any way
try to influence the sound or select a possible single for you?
A: *** Haha, we brought it up, but the double entendre made it more mysterious in
hindsight. As far as our label, it’s Born and Bred, under the Independent Label Group;
so as the name implies, for all intents and purposes aside from manufacture, distribution,
and advertizing, we do what we want. The people at I.L.G. are great and supportive, but
aren’t in any way intrusive. We do what we do, and we dictate the terms at every turn.
Q: Is there a favorite song or one that has the most meaning to you (like “Take ‘Em
Down,” etc.) from “Going Out In Style” and why?
A: *** I like “Broken Hymns,” as it’s a little different and a challenge to play live. It’s longer
and more “epic” if you will, and I keep up a constant on the snare, snare rim, and hi-
hat, adding more and more kick drum as the song progresses, keeping the energy
restrained. It’s not the type of song we’ve done before so it’s a little change of gears
that’s quite refreshing. Also, I really dig the Civil War lyrics that Al wrote. ***
Q: Has there ever been a time where you’ve gotten sick of playing “Tessie”
or “Shipping Up To Boston?” And why do you think those songs connect with
people so much?
A: *** Now and then, but very rarely. The only time I get sick of “Shipping” is when you
see these kids who’ve jockeyed to the front of the stage and look like they’re bored to
death, until we play that song, and then they disappear. With “Tessie,” not so much, as
it conjures up a lot of good memories from ’04 and ’07; though when people chant “Let’s
Go Red Sox” at our gigs it gets a little stupid. We’re not a sports team. Other than that,
yeah it’s a fun song to play, it kind of reminds me of the FACES or something. ***
Q: The band has cited its influences as The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Stiff Little
Fingers and The Pogues (please correct me if I’m wrong). Do you hear your sound
influencing other bands and if so, who and do you consider it a form of flattery or
not and why?
A: *** Yeah, those are definitely our biggest influences along with the Ramones, AC/DC,
and maybe Slapshot and Gangreen. Maybe our sound influences other bands, but
I hear a lot of bands taking different influence from the Pogues than directly from us.
Maybe what we do gives them the idea to do a band, but I don’t hear a lot of Dropkicks
clones out there. The few I have heard (not gonna name names) sort of bums me
out, as I always like innovation as opposed to imitation. It’s easy to play a very niche
style and have an instant audience, but if you carve out your own style it’s a hell of a lot
more satisfying and has a lot more integrity. I’m not saying we reinvented the wheel or
anything, but I can say with confidence that we have a pretty recognizable style and it’d
be nice for imitators to try and push the boundaries a bit. ***
Q: Has the bands support of union and working class causes ever chased away fans
that you know of and has that ever been a concern? Why or why not? Why don’t
more bands support the same types of causes? And are you in favor of a union
for musicians and has that ever been something the band has discussed?
A: *** I imagine there must be a few, but if you need a band’s values to directly mirror
yours, maybe your beliefs/values/politics are on shaky ground. I personally listen
to bands and have friends whose politics run the gamut and are often diametrically
opposite of mine, but I have my values and have thought them through. People should
take time to think out their opinions and be sure they’re their OWN and not just recycled
soundbites. We welcome everybody, no matter their opinions. We’re here to have a
good time. We’ve stood for what we have since day one, and never hidden it. “Boys
On The Docks” EP came out in mid-1997, and the song was being played since earlier
that year, so it’s never been a mystery where we stand. It’s up to each individual band to
involve themselves as little or as much as they would like. I hate bands preaching and
soapboxing this or that from stage, but if they’re just saying something quick and then
the lyrics do the explaining, then fine. There’s a difference between “here’s where we
stand” and “here’s what you should do.”
As far as a musician’s union, we’re part of the American Federation of Musicians, Local
9-535, the Boston Musicians’ Association. Have been since about ’98 (if I remember
Thanks so much for the interview! -Matt Kelly, Dropkick Murphys ***