In just a couple of days Dropkick Murphys will release their excellent new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory; we spoke to Matt Kelly (drums, bodhran, backing vocals) about how the beloved Boston six-piece assembled the project together, as well as the ideas and motivations behind the guys' extensive charity endeavours.
Q1/ Was the decision to record in Texas an effort to make a psychological break from everyday life, like a reach for focus?
Four out of the six of us are married with kids, so there’s always a lot going on at home. I was apprehensive about leaving to record at first, but the amount of work we got done is pretty amazing. We cut basic tracks for 19 songs in about three weeks’ time. We worked about 13 to 14 hours a day at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX… There was really nothing else to do except work, and the creativity was really flowing… so we really got a lot done and it was an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Q2/ The line “You’ve got heart” in Rebels With A Cause is one of the most moving things I’ve heard all year. What is the ‘heart’ that these left-behind kids possess, what does it mean to y’all?
Nice, thanks a lot! The “heart” we’re talking about is the will to succeed, to climb out of the hole of addiction and despair. It’s a compliment to the tenacity some of these kids have and their willpower to overcome the odds.
Q3/ When it comes to your charity work, do you think having a lectern means you’re obligated to use it for good, or was it never a deliberate, conscious decision – does it just happen that socio-political issues are important to your own personal belief systems? (Congratulations on your Robert F Kennedy Award from earlier this year, by the by.)
We were lucky enough to be in the position to do that sort of thing, community-wise and around the country. After a while it was hard to say 'no' to people, but we were overwhelmed and didn’t want to say no. Also, and I hate to have to say this, it was hard to be sure that some charities and benefits were 100% above-board and legit… so we started our own, the Claddagh Fund. We know we’re able to direct moneys to the areas it’s most needed. Check it out at www.claddaghfund.org.
As far as a belief system goes, I think doing charitable acts cuts across political lines and all that malarkey. It’s nice to be able to make a difference in your own community and set an example for others to hopefully do the same in their neck of the woods.
Q4/ Ken has said of the track 4-15-13 that not writing about such a momentously tragic event in the history of Boston would have been “the coward’s way out.” Did that feeling begin with wanting to make the victim’s stories known, or was it a visceral, cathartic pull to express your anguish in a more personal way?
I think it was a bit of both. The song is about that tragedy, but we deliberately tried to make sure that it wasn’t in a hackneyed way. It’s a very touchy subject and we wanted to treat it with the dignity and respect the victims and their families deserved. I hope we succeeded. In our minds we did. Not trying to blow smoke up my own backside, but I think it came out beautifully.
Q5/ Where does the photo from the album’s cover art come from? It’s such a striking image.
Yeah, that’s a really cool photo. The reason we used it is just that. It’s a striking image! Just a photo of a group of 1920s London street urchins.
Q6/ In the video you guys made about your decision to cover You’ll Never Walk Alone, Ken said he’s been to 30 wakes in the last couple of years, all for people who’ve suffered opiate overdoses. That’s a staggering number. Are these people you have met during your efforts to help the addicted, or are these friends from way back? Why do you think this situation has become so dire?
It’s a combination of both. Some of our guys are more directly connected to and involved in that aspect of things than others. Sometimes it’s just kids that we run into, sometimes it’s friends or family. Just last week, one of the guys I met when I first joined the band 19 years ago overdosed and passed away.
It’s so dire because of the availability of opiates and opioids. The stuff is prescribed like candy, and people are getting hooked overnight. You see more and more normal people who have some sort of injury prescribed oxy-this-or-that, and when the prescription runs out they realise they’re hooked. It’s not just the archetypal “junkies” anymore — it’s people who’d never dream of using hard drugs who find themselves addicts.
Now I may sound hypocritical, because I haven’t used a drug in my life aside from alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco — but it seems like cannaboid-based medication would be the obvious way forward for pain relief — but maybe Big Pharma can’t control it as much now that marijuana is being legalised in so many states.
Thanks so much for your time and congratulations on a magnificent record!
Hey, thanks so very much! We’re really proud of it and I’m glad that you enjoy it. I can’t wait to play these songs live!