‘The Meanest of Times’
(Born & Bred Records)
"No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary, and you can see it in them, and they know it, too, but then the times get to them, and they wear out their brains learning what folks expect, and spend their strength trying to rise over those same folks."
Annie Dillard (1945 - ____) US author
Celt In A Twist: Boston ’s Dropkick Murphys double –distill the Irish-American experience with a full-frontal assault of Celt Punk ferocity and with a heart as big a Fenway Park . Their new album, The Meanest of Times explores the challenges of growing up as inner city youth. Al Barr, the sandpaper voice that powers the Dropkick’s message joins us by phone. Al, this is a real treat to have you on the line with us.
Al Barr: Well thank you man. I appreciate it.
CIAT: How would you preface The Meanest of Times to the uninitiated?
AB: We like to consider ourselves the AC/DC of what we do. You're always going to get what you get with the Dropkick Murphys which is your Celtic and your punk mixed together but I like to say The Meanest Of Times is a cake that was baked all at once in the sense that there's less separation between the Celtic and the punk on each song, where as on our past records you would get a song that's more punk rock and another that is more folkie/traditional and its all more fused together on this album. So, we've kind of fine tuned it a little more as we've gone along.
CIAT: That's what I'm feeling from it, too. Punk has always been about anarchy and aggression. When did it develop a conscience, Al?
AB: I never really saw it that way myself. I mean, yah, aggression, definitely! But the whole anarchy thing ... I was never one to bow at the alter of anarchy because if you really break it down it's kind of a hippie ideal. It's not going to work. You need some kind of order. To me, punk rock, in terms of the family ... family has always been important to us in the band, growing up. Even when I was going through that stage when you're a kid and you feel kind of alienated from your parents, the people closest to me were other punk rockers. And, growing up in the '80's there weren't a lot of other punk rockers so those were the people who had my back when my back was against the wall, you know?
CIAT: Another musical development our listeners might not be familiar with is Oi and your distinctive vocal style. Did you just wake up one day sounding that way?
AB: It's been an on-going, developing thing. I've been singing in bands for about 25 years. This is the way I have kind of cultivated it. It is what it is (laughs).
CIAT: You've just come back from a wonderful experience. You and the band were in the parade for the Red Sox, playing on a float. Here in Vancouver we have a perpetually losing hockey team called the Canucks. So, what’s it like to have a hometown ball team like the Sox win the pennant twice?
AB: Oh, it's amazing man! Who would have thought they would do it twice? It's crazy! And, to be out there celebrating it with the star players on our float, dancing around and celebrating it with the people of Boston , it was an amazing experience. Awesome!
CIAT: You’ve got your Celt In A Twist and we have Al Barr from the Dropkick Murphys on line to talk about their latest album, The Meanest Of Times. Click on the banner at worldbeatcanada.com and win tickets to their sold out show at the Commodore Ballroom on November 6th. Al, what inspired the focus of this album on the trials of inner city youth?
AB: We write about what we know and personal experiences growing up and people who have touched us growing up and what they have gone through and that's where we get our inspiration from and draw from our creative juices, if you will.
CIAT: Did you guys go through that yourselves?
AB: You know, every experience we sing about, someone in the band has either gone through or has been touched somehow by it.
CIAT: On your album Blackout, you were honored to be given access to the creative archives of Woody Guthrie. Are there any other iconic songwriters you’d like to take a crack at covering or have access to their songbook?
AB: For me, I have, may he rest in peace, Joe Strummer. I'm also a big Steve Earle fan ... Bill Bragg as well. I love all those guys. You know, 'I'm Shipping Up To Boston' is also lyrics from the Woody Guthrie archives. That's a song we found doing 'Blackout'. It was just scribbled down on a piece of paper. It was literally, "I'm sailor peg and I've lost my leg, a climbing up the topsails. I'm shipping up to Boston ." We were like, "Let's grab this and see what we can come up with later."
CIAT: There's a great You Tube clip of you guys playing that one, I guess maybe it is in Fenway, I'm not sure, but there were these cute, little Irish step dancers in front of you.
AB: Yah, that was Game 7 against the Indians.
CIAT: One quick question about The Warrior's Code; what is the Sunshine Highway ? It's always been one of my favorites of yours and I don't understand the reference.
AB: The folklore behind it is that the Dropkick Murphys' name comes from an old dry-out house in Boston that was started by a guy named John Murphy in the late '50's, early '60's. And, the drunks would refer to the road leading to Dropkick Murphy's house as 'The Sunshine Highway'. The folklore was that they would drink the rest of the booze that they had and then smash the bottles on the Sunshine Highway .
CIAT: We’re going out on one of my favorites from the new disc, Al. It's a piece of pure punk pop called 'Surrender'. Can you set this up for us?
AB: Yah, that song is definitely close to my heart. It's actually one of my favorite tunes on the record, personally. What it's about is, you grow up and you think you're completely different than the tree you come from and it's amazing sometimes the apple doesn't fall so far from the tree. And, that can be good stuff or bad stuff.
Al Barr was interviewed by Cal Koat on October 30th/07 for broadcast on Celt In A Twist, AM 1470, CJVB
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