Interview: Al Barr of Dropkick Murphys

words by Christopher Connal | photo by Jackson Ellis
| Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Al Barr and Dropkick Murphys performing a St. Patrick's Day show at the Avalon in Boston, MA, 3/14/04

Originally published in Boston Heights issue #1

Once again, Dropkick Murphys played a sold out St. Pat’s weekend at the Avalon. Coming off a tour of Europe and a recent DVD release (entitled On the Road with the Dropkick Murphys, Epitaph), the band was kept themselves busy as they planned a Saturday charity breakfast with Nick Boynton of the Boston Bruins, as well as a fan and band attendance at the Bruins game against the Buffalo Sabres. There were several surprises during the weekend, including a classic performance of the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” for which singer Al Barr dressed up as Shane MacGowan. I had the chance to interview Al as the band headed to the West Coast and Australia before they return home to play the Hampton Casino Ballroom on April 25. Here, Al talks about the big weekend, the DVD, fatherhood, and his home state of New Hampshire.

(After a brief mix-up over the interview schedule…)
Sorry about that anyway.
Well, it’s alright, it’s not like I’ve got to have fuckin’ candles lit to do an interview.

Well, we’d appreciate it if you did.
I just didn’t think you’d want to listen to me chew my food while we talked.

Yeah, pleasant as that must be…So you guys [DKM] are in L.A. right now, huh?
Yes, we’re in L.A., but we’re still on European time, because we were in Europe and then we did the five shows at the Avalon.

Still exhausted then?
Heh heh…I think we’ll be exhausted until we get home.

How was the recent Europe tour?
It was good, best one so far. Very successful. All of the shows were sold out in Europe with the exception of the Italian shows, because we’ve only been there once I think. Even those shows were [well-received] though.

Do you have a favorite place to play over there?
That’s a tough one. I enjoy the Netherlands, I like the U.K. Every place is different though, and you don’t get to see a lot when you’re over there.

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Well, I just want to let you know that it’s snowing back home so I hope you enjoy the sun out there.
Yeah, it’s one of the times when that [the weather has] actually worked out for us. I just had a baby with my wife, you know, so I worry about her because I’m not there to do the shoveling.

True…How did you think this weekend [St. Pat’s weekend at the Avalon] went compared to the past few years?
I thought it was the best one so far, for sure. For sure.

What were some of your highlights?
Well, let’s see, every night we tried to do a special song, you know, we did “Baba O’Riley” one night. Then for the last show, Sunday night, I did a Shane MacGowan impersonation.

That was pretty funny. Was that your idea?
Well we were just figuring out how to do it, and—I forget who it was, Kenny or somebody—suggested wearing a wig. I was thinking about it, too, but it just kind of happened. We were gonna do the song anyway, but I decided to dress up for it. Were you there for Sunday?

Yeah, I was. Nobody around me knew who it was at first. A few people actually thought you really were Shane for a while…
Really? (Laughter)

I said, “Look at him, he’s standing on his own, it’s not Shane.”
Although, I couldn’t find the mic at first so that was true to character. I was reaching for the mic and it was standing in front of me the whole time. Then as I realized that I wasn’t finding it, I thought it was helping me toward my character.

And you had a couple of bottles with you up there.
That helped, yeah.

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How was the Bruins game?
You mean the benefit breakfast, or the game in general?

Both.
The benefit went really well, we raised a lot of money [for the Nick Boynton Diabetes Foundation]. I’m not sure how much exactly, but a lot of people came and gave generously. As far as the game goes, you know, they won after they forced them [Buffalo Sabers] into overtime, so we can’t complain there either.

Are you going to be homesick for St. Pat’s this year, or are you excited to be out in L.A.?
Well, I wouldn’t say we’re excited to be out here exactly. It’s kind of weird actually, because you know, we’re going to miss having St. Patrick’s day at home so I think we’re all a little nostalgic and homesick, but that’s just the nature of the beast, you know? And that’s not to say that we don’t appreciate the fact that we’re able to do the shows that we’re doing. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s tough being away from family and everything.

How is fatherhood treating you, by the way?
It’s wonderful. Best thing I’ve ever done, you know? Well, best thing I’ve ever tried to do.

When will you take your son to his first Murphys show?
He’s already had it. My wife brought Strummer this weekend, they were just backstage, but…I just decided I’d like to have him there with me so we just got a room down the street. He was the biggest hit of the weekend, I’d say. (Laughing)

Did you get a little Clash shirt for him yet?
No, actually we haven’t found a Clash shirt yet. We got some AC/DC ones and a “Mommy’s Little Monster” one, but no Clash yet.

So I heard that new song on BCN yesterday, which sounded pretty good. Are there any other new ones you’re working on?
Not ones that we’re ready to share with the rest of the world anyway. That one was kind of on the fly as it was, you know what I mean, but we just figured that instead of doing the same old fuckin thing, we thought it’d be cool. Now for something completely different!

They’ve been playing “Walk Away” a decent amount on BCN, has that affected or helped you guys at all?
They’ve been playing us a lot on BCN?

As far as I can tell anyway.
I didn’t know that myself because I’m not…well, it’s cool to hear of course, and we appreciate the support, but whenever I’m in my car and listening to BCN it’s some terrible sports metal band or something.

I was wondering what that Dropkick Murphys hockey team was that came out on Sunday. [At the Avalon, DKM called a hockey team onstage sporting jerseys reading “Dropkick Murphys” and holding a trophy.]
That’s the official Dropkick Murphys hockey team.

Are they in a league around here? What did they win, anyway?
(Cracking up) What league are they in? Man, I don’t know! They’re not professional, that’s for sure! I don’t know what class it’s in. They take it pretty seriously though.

Do you ever go to their games?
(Still cracking up) No…no, Kenny does, and I hear some talk about them. I know a few of them, and I’m proud to see that they won that championship and that cup, which had a 1997 date on it. This fuckin’ ghetto cup, man. I was like, “you gotta get a current date on that cup.” What’s with that?

How’d you like the finished product of the DVD?
We’re real happy with it. There’s a point when you go through something and you’ve got to let it go, you can’t just over-analyze anything. The bottom line is that we just wanted to put something out for the fans that kind of showed the lighter side of us behind the scenes. We just wanted to give that slice that you don’t see every day. That was the point, and we achieved that; it’s fuckin’ four-and-a-half hours long. I’ve already met people who say they watched and enjoyed the whole thing though.

Hopefully not in one day…
No, I’ve had a couple of people say that they have. I’m like, “you’re crazy!”

Jesus…I’ve watched a bit of it — I was wondering if that was a tradition between you and Kenny to slap each other in the face before each show.
Yep, it is. That’s what we do. It gets us fired up. It works, because there’s nothing worse than getting slapped in the face. I’d rather get punched in the face.

I noticed that you’re from New Hampshire.
Live free or die, baby! (Laughter)

I grew up mostly next to Manchester.
Manchesta! Manch-Vegas!!

Hell yeah. I was curious if any of your other bands played the Savoi.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve played there. Actually, I destroyed the bathroom one time at the Café Savoi. Well, it was already destroyed anyway, what am I saying?

Yeah, I didn’t even know they had a bathroom at first.
I had the beer shits so bad I just fuckin’ destroyed it. We also played some other theater in Manchester, I can’t remember the name of it now. You can’t say you’ve cut your teeth in New Hampshire without playing a couple of good Manchester, and Concord, shows. I think in Concord we played at like some pool hall where they’d have bands come in and play three sets. It was one of those things where we set it up with somebody, got there, and then realized they wanted us to play three sets and we were like, “No, n-n-no, we’re not a frickin’ cover band, we’re a fuckin’ original street rock and roll band, we play one set.” So we agreed to disagree.

Did you grow up in New Hampshire, then?
I was born in New Hampshire; I spent a great deal of time in New Hampshire. But, I mean, the music scene being the way it is, if you wanted to do something, and get legitimate gigs, you knew you had to go to Boston. I was setting up my own shows as a kid, in Masonic Temples and Knights of Columbus Halls. Those kind of things make things happen in your own town, but you always wanted to [get gigs in Boston.]  I’ve lived in a bunch of different places: New York City, Phoenix, Arizona. I’m definitely grounded in New Hampshire, though.

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