Dropkick Murphys talk to IKIMASHO! about playing Japan, Asia & beyond…
“We were so excited to play in Japan, and when we got there, we were NOT disappointed. I was blown away by the culture, the sights, sounds, and the smells. Such an amazing country.”
Dropkick Murphys are back with a new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory, released through their own label, Born & Bred Records. The album is influenced by the band’s work with The Claddagh Fund, a charity the band established in 2009 to help support addiction recovery as well as children’s and veterans’ organizations. Many of the songs reflect the band’s sadness, anger and dismay at the opiate epidemic ravaging America – in particular, Boston and New England. The track Paying My Way is about the way up and out of addiction, and the dream of bigger and better things in life.
“Paying My Way is not just about paying your bills,” explains Dropkick Murphys founder/lead singer Ken Casey. “It’s about doing what you have to do in order to be a good person. But at the end of the day, never losing sight of the fact that doing the next right thing may lead to great things one day.”
To coincide with the album’s release, I spoke to Dropkick’s drummer Matt Kelly about playing Japan – and the band’s plans to play even further afield in the future. You can buy the new album here.
Hey guys, thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions about Japan & beyond…
Absolutely happy to do so. All answers and opinions by Matt Kelly. Thanks!
Your first tour of Japan was in 2000 right? Can you remember that tour in particular and how you felt about coming to Japan for the first time?
Oh, man; that was amazing. I remember it very well. It was the first time we played as a seven-piece band, having just acquired our first full-time bagpiper, Robby “Spicy McHaggis” Madeiros. There were a LOT of insane, drunken nights, shenanigans, and amazing gigs with the likes of Youth Anthem, Side Burns, and so many others. Such a blast. We were so excited to play in Japan, and when we got there, we were NOT disappointed. I was blown away by the culture, the sights, sounds, and the smells. Such an amazing country; so similar yet so different from the West.
How many times have DKM toured Japan now? Do you have any memorable or funny stories from your time here?
Hmmm, maybe five times? Well, one time we did Fujirock Festival, which hosts 100,000 people. Oasis and Cobra (Japan) played that. It was insane playing in front of such a huge audience. Mind-boggling really. Also, for actual video footage of our Japanese shenanigans, check out our DVD from the early 2000s, where you see dudes eating weird stuff, the great and mysterious Panther, and just the insanity of some of those gigs. Lots of “YAMATO DAMASHII!”, too.
You recently said on a live Facebook broadcast that you want to start hitting countries you haven’t been to before in Africa and SE Asia. Do you feel the atmosphere at these shows is unique as the kids have waited so long to see you live? Are there any logistical issues of touring these countries in terms of visas, transport, etc?
Yeah sometimes it can be difficult to actually gain access to these countries/continents. We had a couple gigs in China lined up a few years ago, but they fell through because we were denied visas! Enemies of the state or something like that, haha! Too bad, I would have loved to have seen such a venerable, ancient culture. Also, talking to other bands who’ve played far-flung places like Indonesia, Macedonia, and what have you, it really just piques our curiosity. Playing someplace for the first time is a real rush— people go absolutely ballistic. It’s funny because, having been a band for twenty years now, having people who have grown up with but never seen the band, actually see us and interact with us live, is just mind-blowing!
I’m originally from near Belfast in Northern Ireland. My old band toured with Runnin Riot, as did DKM. Do you have fond memories of touring with Colin & Runnin Riot?
Oh, that’s crazy, Justin. Yeah, we were really good friends with Colin, as well as with Ralph, Marty, and the rotating members like Simon, Fayzer, and their crew. We did a whole slew of U.S. dates with them years ago (also with the Vigilantes, Jeff DaRosa’s old band), and in Europe, too. Colin was just such a character, such a personality, and everybody loved him. I don’t think he had an enemy as long as I knew him. He’d stay at mine when he came to Boston for our Paddy’s Day insanity, usually with a couple other friends from the UK and Europe. It usually ended up complete bedlam. Colin’s funeral service, procession and burial were some of the most amazing outpourings of love and loss by friends and family. It was something, like our pal Colin, that I’ll never forget. See you up there, Brother! Save me a bottle of Buckie!
You guys are Boston through and through, but now that you have travelled the world and experienced different countries and cultures, if you had to live in a country that wasn’t America where would you choose?
Well the traveling has always made me appreciate what I have at home. However, if I HAD to live somewhere else, it’s a three-way tie between Melbourne, Australia, Kilmichael (Co Cork), Ireland, and a northern borough of London, England. These are three of the places I love most outside of New England.
Hope you had a great Christmas! When you wrote “The Season’s Upon Us” did you actually set out to write a Christmas song or did the riff happen and you guys thought it felt Christmassy and ran with it? Would I be right in guessing “Fairytale of New York” is maybe your favourite Christmas song? Have an amazing 2017 guys, cheers.
Let’s see… the riff and subsequent song structure was called something like “Christmas Card Song.” Lyrics were added and the melody was expanded upon….but it always had a really Christmassy-Yuletide vibe to it even before the lyrics put it over the top. It came together in a really fun way. My favorite Christmas song? “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade of course… with “Father Christmas” by the Kinks and “Fairytale…” being close seconds and thirds!
Thanks, Justin! I hope your Chrimbo was fantastic, and we REALLY can’t wait to get back to Japan! All the Best, – Matt K