In conversation with Matt Kelly of Dropkick Murphys…
Ahead of a European tour including four UK dates, and an appearance on The Other Stage at The Glastonbury Festival we chatted to Dropkick Murphys drummer Matt Kelly about the themes behind the current ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ album, that return to Glastonbury, and a certain Mr Trump…
LTW. Matt, thanks for taking the time to chat; it’s good to have you coming back to the UK to tour the new ’11 Short Stories’ album.
Matt Kelly: Hello & thanks for having me!
I know when my colleague Johny Wah Wah spoke to Al and Ken back in late 2016 he finished with a Celtic quiz – they did miserably by the way! We won’t go there again, but maybe we could finish on some specific Bostonian questions!
MK: I take no responsibility for the answers to the Celtic quiz, hahaha…yeah, sounds good.
LTW. Would it be a fair assumption that appearing on The Other Stage at the Glastonbury Festival is likely to be a band highlight?
MK: Well if it’s anything like the last time we did it, we’ll be playing to people leaving their tents, relieving themselves, and brushing their teeth, hahaha! Seriously though, Glastonbury is obviously legendary, so let’s hope we do it justice.
LTW. Like you said it’s not your first time at Glastonbury, you last played The Pyramid Stage way back in 2002 – that followed the ‘Sing Proud, Sing Loud’ album released a good 18mths earlier; does having a new/current album to promote make a difference to the show?
MK: See my above comment about people brushing their teeth!! On a serious note, I think the fifteen year interim of touring and getting our name out there, combined with a new album, will help us. I’m looking forward to it.
LTW. The new album was released in early January, clearly it was written prior to Donald Trump becoming the US President, though that possibility was on the horizon; did that influence the lyrical content, or will this be something you look to address on a future release?
MK: No, it didn’t influence lyrical content. I think it would be like shooting fish in a barrel… and every band and their dog will be writing a song about Trump…
LTW. The general reaction to the album was very good, personally I think it’s a return to form, a resurgence even, you must be pleased with the response…
MK: Thanks very much, it kind of FEELS like a resurgence weirdly. Yeah we’re very proud of the album and happy with the response. You know, so many different people take the album different ways that the response can seriously be confusing sometimes. A positive response is always appreciated though! Hahaha. There’s the old adage about trying to please all the people all the time, et cetera… so we just stick to what we love to do and hope for the best!
LTW. So, do you receive a widely differing response from the various countries you perform in; you play across the globe, how different is the reaction in the Far East or Sth America for instance?
MK: I think that Europe and South America have the best overall crowd reactions for us, but I think that it’s just the way people react to joy in those cultures. It’s not like they’re more passionate about our band, but that they go absolutely bonkers mad during the gigs, and that in turn excites us even more.
The phenomenon in the Far East(Japan) was always this: The band comes out and there’s respectful applause. The band starts. The audience goes shithouse ballistic, singing every word… The song ends… respectful applause. Repeat 25-28 times.
Post-gig, talking to the people who were singing every word, you realize they don’t speak a lick of English aside from the lyric sounds they’ve memorized. Talk about dedication to a band you love. I listen to plenty of foreign language bands and have zero idea what they’re saying — especially when the song titles and lyrics are in, for instance, Japanese!
We really have the greatest supporters and seeing the different ways people react, dance, or “celebrate” our band is truly a pleasure even for an elitist, super-sussed, dickhead like me!
LTW. What is your personal view of President Trump; the band collectively have a long history of alignment to left leaning politics, worker’s rights and are declared Democrats…
MK: I’m not a Leftist or a Democrat (though most of the band are registered Democrats), but then again I don’t like our Commander-in-Chief acting like a buffoon. Then again, when the media is owned by people who despise him, the sheep are spoon-fed opinions, not facts, and lap it up.
He’s done some good and done some bad. As far as public relations, not so good. As far as the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, there’s a win. We’ll see what the future holds.
LTW. So have you noticed a change in the general atmosphere in the US, and beyond?
MK: There seems to be a serious polarization in people’s politics lately. Everyone seems to be going extreme left or extreme right and both having that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us!” attitude… both are ideologies that are dangerous to our country.
LTW. All things considered, can you see him lasting out his first term?
MK: I don’t know – I’ll still vote the way I did in this past election: with my head, not my heart. I’m sure I’ll STILL be disappointed with the outcome!
LTW. I think that’s a common feeling wherever you live; I was going to suggest that heading to Europe might have offered the chance to unwind, though recent and continuing events here, I’m thinking about the Manchester and London terrorist attacks which have certainly raised the general level of concern; is that something you have to consider when touring?
MK: Definitely! Playing a high-profile gig like Glastonbury and other festivals on the European mainland, that is in the back of our minds of course.
Were not going to let it affect us — that would mean They win.
I’m sure I speak for the whole band when I say that our hearts go out to those touched by the recent wave of terrorism. I have many friends in Old Blighty and fear for their safety when this sort of cowardly atrocity happens.
LTW. Cheers! On a lighter note, like I mentioned, it’s good to have you back in the UK, I’m looking forward to the tour, and will be at the Liverpool show; you’ve not played the city for a couple of years; I was wondering if Liverpool has any link or connection with you – particularly the Irish influence upon the city and that of your home city of Boston?
MK: You know, I can probably count on one hand how many times we’ve played Liverpool over the years. Gotta say though, the times have been memorable. I think I distinctly remember each time we’ve done it, and also once spent a day off there having taken over a pub and watching American football playoffs with our local friends The Unseen.
Last time, after a typically great Liverpudlian response, we and some friends stood outside the venue late into the night quaffing Belgian strong ales and catching up. I think that, aside from our covering “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the Liverpudlian connection therein, I can’t say there is a connection for me personally.
LTW. I was born and raised in the Liverpool area – I still live and work here; as such and perhaps due to saturation I despise the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ track – but somehow you have managed to create a version that I enjoy!
MK: Hahaha, well thanks! Here to help, we are!
LTW. I’m aware the lyric inspired your cover, based on the current heroin addiction sweeping across the USA; are you aware of the history of heroin in the Merseyside area, particularly back to the mid to late 1980’s?
MK: Yeah, I had heard about the heroin problem back then. It’s really sad stuff… you try and talk sense into somebody. I’m from a town called Leominster in Worcester County, forty miles west of Boston, proper carrot-crunching territory….we had a huge heroin problem in the late ‘80s-early ’90s when it was basically kept out of the Boston neighbourhoods by the more “health-conscious” cocaine dealers. I lost a lot of friends and acquaintances to that crap. Terrible stuff.
LTW. You started your own charity The Claddagh Fund that looks to support people with addiction issues; how much hands-on work are you able to get involved in these days?
MK: Yeah, and in addition to that we raise money for inner-city kids and returning – sometimes disabled – veterans.
Some of us do a bit of hands-on stuff in our personal time, but for the most part we help raise money and get it directly to those in need by giving profits from gigs, having fund raisers, etc…Some charities can be less-than-transparent with where their money goes; we try and stick with the top-tier ones where we can be sure it goes to help the needy directly and not to line some fancy director’s pockets.
LTW. I presume you are aware the track is the adopted anthem of Liverpool Football Club – were you aware you will have alienated the blue (Everton FC) side of the city?
MK: Not that, as a band, we care for Association Football, but yeah. We sort of ‘adopted’ “YNWA” for the reasons I’ve just mentioned, and not as a football allegiance.
LTW. Lastly, will you ever come back and play The Rebellion Festival; the organisers are keen to have you back, you were last there for (as it was called then) Holidays In The Sun back in 1999, and then the Berlin HITS Festival in 2000 – every year the DKM name is the one people are calling for…
MK: I know, we’ve been asked. It’s been a matter of bad timing, really. I’d love to do it again!!
Morecambe was really fun, and all the bands in the backstage bar were very friendly and gracious to us Septics. I went to Rebellion (Blackpool) in 2006, too – I don’t know that my liver has ever recovered, and I was introduced me to the delicacy that is whelks though. Yes!
So; the Boston questions – get 3 out 4 right and I will be happy to buy you a beer in Liverpool, a proper beer – none of that US ‘Lite’ stuff!!
A. The ‘Fig Newton’ biscuit is named after a Boston suburb; what are the biscuits called here in the UK?
MK: Hmmm….. “Fig Newtons”?
Wrong! You need to get the next three right or you will be going thirsty…
B. In January 1919 21 people and a couple of horses were killed in a Boston industrial accident, what substance was responsible?
MK: Easy! Molasses – that was in the North End. It was something like two million gallons or something. Yowza!
Back on track, keep it going…
C. What is the name of the oldest pub in Boston?
MK: Hmmm… it’s either the Bell In Hand or the Green Dragon; I forget which!
LTW. Covering your options Matt!! It’s the Bell, you said it first so I’ll give you the point, finally…
D. What was Boston’s problem with Christmas, it wasn’t a legal holiday until 1856 – was the city that miserable??
MK: No idea? Maybe the very anti-Catholic/papist sentiment in Boston?
I’ll give you that one as well, it was an odd form of Protestantism; more importantly – the beers are on me mate; see you in Liverpool.
Dropkick Murphys – UK Tour Dates June 2017
Sun 25th June – Glastonbury Festival
Mon 26th June – Rock City, Nottingham
Tues 27th June – Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline
Wed 28th June – O2 Academy, Liverpool
Thur 29th June – O2 Academy, Bournemouth