AOS Presents: Matt Kelly from the ‘Dropkick Murphys’ as they prepare for their 20th Year Anniversary Tour.

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Belfast, Boston, Interview, Music, Punk Rock, Sound, World Music
The Dropkick Murphys - American Celtic punk band formed in Quincy, Massachusetts.

The Dropkick Murphys – American Celtic Punk band formed in Quincy, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Kelly Brett. Matt Kelly, bottom-right.

AosHello Matt Kelly (The Dropkick Murphys) Welcome to ‘Architect of Sound’. Firstly i would like you to tell us a brief Introduction about yourself for our viewers?

MK: *** Hi Paul, so yes my name is Matt Kelly.  I’ve been drumming and touring with the Dropkicks for nineteen very quick years now.  I’m usually the guy you might catch a glimpse of in the back row of photos, upstage behind the drum kit, or browsing at the local record shop or bookstore. ***

AosHow did the ‘Dropkick Murphys’ come about?

MK: *** Four guys in a barbershop cellar trying to do Clash, SLF, and Generation X covers, and carving out a pretty unique sound while they were at it.  We love early Boston hardcore, the Pogues and Dubliners, ’77 American, UK and Irish punk, the early Oi! stuff, AC/DC, the Macc Lads, classic rock, stuff like the Clancy Brothers and Wolfetones, and so many others… and I think somehow all those influences are audible on any Dropkicks record in one capacity or another.

Our early output was described as the “Pogues beating the crap out of the Ramones” or something like that.  That sort of describes some of our more rudimentary songs, which are usually the most popular, haha.  ***

AosWhat age did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in Music and what were you doing before?

MK: *** Me?  I was four years old and I wanted to have tattoos, a motorcycle, and be in a band (saxophone at the time, but four years later I attacked my Dad’s drums).  Before that I wanted to be the Incredible Hulk— so as futile a dream being a professional musician is, odds were I’d succeed at that before being dosed with Gamma radiation and transforming from a mild-mannered Matthew to the green behemoth that is the Incredible Hulk… thank God!  My clothes would all be torn to shreds by now! ***

AosWhat age did you start playing Drums and do you play any other Instruments?

MK: *** I started playing drums at the age of nine, so that makes sixty-one years behind the skins for me… I do play the bass guitar pretty competently and I play the six-string razor like a bear eating spaghetti… yeah so I play drums and am a “major rager on the four-stringed motherfucker”…. ***

Aos You have been in the Dropkick Murphys since 1997.  Your first full length album ‘Do or Die‘ was produced by Lars Fredriksen from Rancid on Hellcat Records.  How was that as an experience having your first full album recorded and produced by Lars Fredriksen from Rancid?

MK: *** It was great.  I wasn’t all that familiar with him or what he’d bring to the table with the band… but then again I’d never worked with a producer before… All I knew was that he’d produced the Swingin’ Utters’ “The Streets of San Francisco” LP, which was and still is my favorite ‘90s American punk album.  The sound, and the “crafting” Lars did with the songs they re-recorded for that album, really impressed me, and definitely impressed the other, older guys in the Dropkicks.

Working with Lars in pre-production was great, and he had a lot of ways of tidying up or even revitalizing older songs, and in the studio he had a lot of great ideas as far as guitar tones and capturing the live excitement down onto tape.  “Do Or Die” would not have been the same record (and I mean it would have been severely lacking) had we not worked with Lars.

That once-perennial Punker taught us so much about the studio and production, and I’m thankful for his help and advice to this day. ***

AosIrish Heritage is a key factor and influence for the ‘Dropkick Murphys’. Do you and the band have family connections in Ireland? 

MK: *** Well I have cousins in Ireland, as do almost all of the guys in the band, but we’re not all wicked close with them or anything.  We’re more about the American Irish experience than trying to put on that we’re all personally FROM Ireland.  It’s songs that have been in our families, played at parties, family gatherings, etc. ***

AosHow does your past Irish heritage along with living in Boston Influence you guys musically and lyrically?

MK: *** Well, when you write about your surroundings and what you know, and you live in a place like Boston where that stuff is so prevalent, you tend to write about it.  We’re proud of where we come from and our ancestors, and that all plays into our band.  ***

AosWhat was ‘the Dropkick Murphys experience like recording the track ‘Good Rat’s’ with Pogues lead singer Shane McGowan and have you been influenced by other Irish bands such as Stiff Little Fingers and the Pogues?

MK: *** Oh man that was hilarious.  We got to the studio at 5:30 in the afternoon and Shane had just got out of bed.  He gets into the room with a cosmopolitan in hand(a nice breakfast beverage?!!), and sees our old manager Darren Hill, whom he immediately mistook for some unheard of rock musician from New Jersey… “Bruce!  What are YOU doing here!” he says…. Yes, he thought Darren was the Boss!  So yeah we cheered Shane on as he bellowed out the good stuff onto tape, and it was basically a blast!  He wanted to do another song, so that’s why he also sang on our version of “The Wild Rover”.

As far as influence, the Pogues and SLF are two of our all-time biggest influences.  Of course the Undertones, Rudi, the Outcasts, etc., were absolute gold, but the Pogues and the Fingers were up there with the biggest ones for us. ***

AosI watched ‘Dropkick Murphys’ play Belfast, Northern Ireland many years ago around St Patrick’s DayI see you guys are coming up to your 20th year Anniversary tour and are playing a host of shows in Boston during the St Patrick’s Day week.  What has been your favourite St Patrick’s Day show throughout your 20 year history and can you touch on any past crazy touring stories?

MK: *** Belfast has always been great to us.  We have some dear friends from up that way, some of whom are still with us and some of whom aren’t.  As far as touring stories, last St. Paddy’s was pretty insane in a logistics sense.  We did seven gigs in a four-day span, then went to the airport the following day, set up and played an acoustic set in the terminal, hopped a red-eye plane with a couple hundred supporters, got about 45 minutes of sleep, and played two gigs on 17 March at Vicar Street in Dublin, one of which was recorded for Palladia channel and something else.  That was an absolute whirlwind!!!!!  We pulled it off in the end, but what a good night’s sleep we had that night!!!!!!  ***

AosWhat is your favourite ‘Dropkick Murphys’ album?

MK: *** That’s really tough to pinpoint, as when you’re intimately involved in each album, each one is personal for any number of reasons.  Musically I really couldn’t pick a favorite.  I suppose if I had to go on pure memories, my favorite would be the first one, “Do or Die”, as it was my first time doing pre-production on and spending time on a full-length album.  It was all new to me as a twenty-two year old working with a producer and not having to constantly watch the clock and settle for less as far as getting good sounds, the number of takes we could do, or spending time on mixing.  At the time, I was amazed at the outcome of the album and the sense of accomplishment that we all felt.  Between the songs and the actual sounds, the band and Lars had put together a really fun album.  Not that I can listen to it these days!  The drumming makes me want to defenestrate myself, but that’s just me, hahaha.  ***

AosYou’ve had many popular hit tracks over the years now such as ‘I’m shipping up to Boston, The State of Massachusetts, Warrior’s code and Rose Tattoo.  What is the story behind the band’s track ‘I’m shipping up to Boston’ appearing in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning film ‘The Departed’?

MK: *** Between knowing people who have gone on to such things as film and production, and people in those industries sometimes having decent taste in music(as well as bands like us, haha!), we’ll get contacted for such things.  We say no to a lot of them, but if the shoe fits…  It was a bit of the “right place at the right time”, which is a major way of how things end up working for us.  We consider ourselves very lucky to get such opportunities.  Somebody got that song to Mr. Scorsese, and he took it from there…***

AosThe last album titled ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood‘ was released in 2013.  Can we expect to hear a new ‘Dropkick Murphys’ album in the near future?

MK: *** Yeah, we’re currently sorting through a bunch of stuff we’ve written in the last couple years, and(as some people have seen and heard) we’ve played a song or two out on tour… We don’t have any studio time booked as of right now, but I’d wager that sometime next year we’ll get in the studio and put some stuff down to tape.  We’d rather spend the time on an album and release something we’re proud of than to put out an album for its own sake, you know? ***

AosFinal Question, Guinness or Whiskey, what do you prefer?

MK: *** Well neither one is my preferred tipple, but if I had to pick one of the two it’d be Guinness.  I dig New England IPA’s and good gin, or a nice real ale, or a nice German lager, or… Buckfast Tonic Wine, or… pretty much anything except whiskey.  I’d take whisky over whiskey any day though… a nice Islay malt once in a blue moon… The one Irish whiskey I dig is Coleraine.  James, my sister, and myself polished off a bottle of the stuff once when snowbound at my old apartment. ***

Aos. Many Thanks for talking to ‘Architect of Sound‘ Matt Kelly.  It has been a pleasure. We wish you all the best for your 20th Anniversary Tour in the forthcoming year and hope to hear from you shortly.

MK: *** And thanks to you, Bibby.  Have a great week.  -Matt K.


The Dropkick Murphys, photo credit by Sullivan. Used by AOS.

The ‘Dropkick Murphys’ 20th Year Anniversary Tour kicks off at the House of Blues in Cleveland on 17th February 2016 and wraps up with the band’s traditional hometown run of Boston shows St. Patrick’s Day week.  The Band kick off their 20th Year Anniversary European tour in Cork, Ireland on the 7th June 2016. To see if the ‘Dropkick Murphys’ are playing a gig near you, click on the band’s website tour link below:


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