Dropkick Murphy’s Tim Brennan – Interview

By now you have either heard of Dropkick Murphys, heard one of their songs (probably "I'm Shipping Up to Boston") or just know the name Dropkick Murphys. When a band achieves success strictly through working hard and word of mouth it is a special thing. Dropkick Murphys is a band that if they were to play my hometown in Illinois would probably play a small club, but in Boston, their hometown, they’re playing Fenway Park. Recently I got the chance to chat with Tim Brennan about the new album “Going Out in Style,” their upcoming concerts at Fenway Park as well as sharing the same stage as Bruce Springsteen and fellow Boston band Aerosmith.

Zoiks!: How excited are you to play at Fenway Park?

Tim Brennan: It’s gonna be amazing. Fenway Park and the Red Sox is something that all of us in the band have grown up with, and it’s a really big deal for us, and the fact that we get to play a show there is really amazing for us.

Z!: Baseball Field concerts tend to be the most memorable, like the Beatles at Shea Stadium or Billy Joel at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, and then Aerosmith at Fenway. Now you guys get to do that, and not only that, but you sold it out in less than an hour, was that surprising to you?

TB: Oh yeah, of course. A lot of people were telling us that we wouldn’t be able to sell out one Fenway show let along two so it was a big surprise to us. We have the greatest fans in the world, and when we do stuff like this whether it’s St. Patrick’s Days shows or whatever, a lot of our fans are up for traveling to big shows like this, and they’re the greatest, and it’s because of them that we can do what we do.

Z!: How did the Fenway show come about?

TB: It’s something that we’ve talked about wanting to do, especially since we got involved with the Red Sox back in 2004. We just sort of had to wait for the right time, and we just put out a new record in March, and it was received pretty well, and we’ve been playing a lot of shows on that. So it was just the right time. And the fact that everything fell into place and people bought tickets for it. It’s gonna be great.

Z!: Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that you’d be involved with the Red Sox in any fashion, especially if they’re gonna win the World Series?

TB: No, of course not. I mean I don’t think any of us in our wildest dreams thought that we would do any of the things we’ve done as far as hitting milestones. I don’t think when this band first started anybody would have thought that we’d be playing at Fenway Park, but we just sort of role with the punches and do what we can do and occasionally good things come out of it!

Z!: Is there any chance you guys could pretend you’re from Chicago and turn our teams around?

TB: (laughs) I don’t know how willing to accept us the people of Chicago would be (laughs). It’s definitely nice that anybody thinks that we might have had anything to do with a win.

Z!: Earlier this year you released your seventh album “Going Out in Style” which is a concept album. Who came up with the story and character of Cornelius Larkin?

TB: It was something that we were all throwing around. We had always talked about doing, not necessarily a concept album, but something that had a theme to it, and the record as far as the songs go, you can listen to a song outside of the context of the rest of the record and it still stands alone. It’s not the type of concept if you’re missing part of the story you just can’t enjoy it. So it’s sort of a loose concept. It’s more of a common thread that runs through all the songs. When we were writing our record, we had all the music done and were working on lyrics. As they got the first handful of songs done there was a definite line that could be drawn throughout each one of them, and so we just sort of had to fill in the story and flesh it out a little bit. We have a friend of ours Michael Patrick McDonald whose an author sort of continuing to flesh out the story, and we’re looking forward to seeing that part of his book.

Z!: How was it different writing and recording this album than it has been on the previous albums?

TB: This is the first time we ever worked with a producer, and this guy Ted Hutt, he’s an English guy who lives out in California and has a lot of experience with bands like us. He came in during the writing process and sat in the room with us and listened to us write songs and helped us really push ourselves to get the best thing musically and lyrically that we could. We spent twelve hours a day for a couple of months writing songs and then we went right into the studio and Ted was with us the whole time. It was so nice to have an outside ear that could give us honest opinions about what we were coming up with and push us to write the best lyrics we could and write the best music that we could. It took a little bit of the pressure off of us because it wasn’t just us sitting in there banging our heads against the wall trying to come up with new stuff. We had Ted’s opinion, which was invaluable to us.

Z!: With seven guys in the band, how do you keep seven guys with probably at least a little bit of different influences somewhere, happy with the music that you’re creating?

TB: Well we’re all on the same page as far as what Dropkick Murphys is and we know what we want the songs to sound like and where we want to take it, and obviously when you’re in a band that’s pegged as an Irish rock band or whatever, there’s certain boundaries as far as writing songs, but we tried to sort of push those as far as we can while still staying within the realm of Irish punk and just hope that we can continue to come up with interesting stuff.

Z!: You have several guest appearances on this album, most notably Bruce Springsteen, you guys have a bit of a history with Springsteen, especially you, how did that relationship begin?

TB: We met him because his son was a fan of the band, and we got a call one day we were playing in New York City at Roseland Ballroom and we got a call saying that Bruce was gonna be showing up with his son that night. He came down before we played, and he came into our dressing room and introduced himself and his son and chatted with us for a little bit, and then he watched the show. After that he invited us to come see him in Boston. Myself, Jeff, and Ken sat in with the E-Street Band and played a few songs, and he’s just been so gracious to us. After we played with him in Boston he said, ‘oh someday I’ll return the favor,’ which of course he didn’t realize it was more of a favor from him to us, letting us come play with the E-Street Band. Nonetheless he came to one of our St. Patrick’s Day shows this year and played a couple of songs with us, and again I think that was two favors to us as opposed to one and one.

Z!: I’ve been a big Aerosmith fan for as long as I remember. You guys got the chance to play with them and share the stage with them a few years back. What was that experience like?

TB: That was pretty cool. I mean it’s daunting to find out that you’re not only gonna be playing such a huge place, but opening for Aerosmith, one of the biggest rock bands of all time, not to mention a Boston rock band. We’re all Aerosmith fans, and we all had a great time. It was definitely a memorable experience. We had fun. We feel a little out of place playing with these huge bands sometimes, but they make us feel at home.

Z!: You’ve gained success the old fashion way by word of mouth and just working hard, playing shows and putting out music, which isn’t really done as much any more. Was that route intentional or did it just kind of happen that way?

TB: It’s just sort of the way that we’ve always operated since the band’s inception. They started in ’96, I joined in 2003, it’s always been sort of a “do it yourself” ethic. Even when we were on record labels and stuff it was more our own thing, touring, and promoting ourselves just like you said, word of mouth and just trying to keep that going, and it’s just sort of worked out well for us.

Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at @bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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