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Al Barr - vocalist, Drop Kick Murphys
May 9, 1999 - Maritime Hall - San Francisco, CA

On tour with Motörhead during this last spring, Dropkick Murphys made their rounds pounding out their Oi! sound to fans both old and new while introducing new singer Al Barr. Al shared a few minutes with us backstage to spread the word about Dropkick Murphys and give us a little insight on the oh-so-misunderstood concept of 'Oi!'.

K2K: How long has the band been around?
AB: The band has existed since January 1996. I've been in the band an entire year. The old singer quit in the middle of a tour. He didn't like touring. He hated it. The debut album sold 50,000 and in the middle of all the success he walked away from it. My old band, the Bruisers, used to play with the Dropkick Murphys ten years before that. What happened was that they told me that they had always wanted me to sing for them anyways so, one thing lead to another and there I was. I had done my band for ten years and I didn't feel like doing it anymore anyways, so it kind of worked out. So in a year I've done over 150 shows with Dropkick.

K2K: Are you from Boston?
AB: Yeah, the band is from Boston. I actually live in New Hampshire so that I don't pay those Massachusetts taxes.

K2K: What is the basis of the band? Is it political?
AB: No, not at all. Our politics are more "working man". Mainly like, it's not like we're fighting for the "working man", it's just that we all come from that background. We all had the jobs. We all worked. Also we're all Irish and so we have some of that ingrained in us.

K2K: If you were to hit the real big time, would you expect the whole punker backlash of being called a "Sell Out"?
AB: Oh yeah. That definitely happens to anybody who gets to a point were they're on top. I think in some respects you want to go the commercial avenue to reach as many people as possible, but we're trying to keep our integrity as we do these things that we're not used to doing. Like we just played a show where we saw a bouncer beating up a kid. We stopped playing and jumped in to stop the bouncer. We don't feel like we're going to turn our backs on our fans, but our fans may get alienated if we were to that point, but we're hopefully going to live by example. Who can say?

K2K: If you get to the point where you are making a lot of money, would you continue preaching your "roots" and where you are from?
AB: I think that definitely enjoy being at a bigger level because of the benefits that will come with that. It would be nice to be able to bring my wife out all the time and afford to do things like that. At the same time I don't see myself changing in terms of my values and what my plan is with my children. I don't see that changing. I don't see success changing me because where I came from a year ago and the band that I had for ten years never really went anywhere to where I am now where the record I just put out with these guys in six weeks sold over 25,000 which is unbelievable to me. I mean in the big picture it's just a drop in the bucket but where I came from it took me ten years to sell that many records. So, what I'm trying to say is, I haven't changed thus far so I don't see it happening.

K2K: How did you like touring with Mötorhead?
AB: It's been great. It's kind of surreal, you know, because I've been a fan for years. I was six years old when he started the band and Lemmy's just always been here. The day I met him, I was in a club in Vancouver. I got there really early. I heard these cowboy boots walking up to the club and I thought, "that's gotta be Lemmy", and sure enough there he is. I mean, I've seen Mötorhead before, but never Lemmy. He's just really cool. I'm in awe. It was a real honor to me.

K2K: Who does most of the songwriting?
AB: When I joined the band, the new album that I'm on was written already. They had written it at the time the old singer quit and I joined. The bass player and guitar player and drummer all write music. The bass player writes most of the lyrics and the drummer and guitarist work out all the music. I plan to be fully involved in the next record.

K2K: Do you think that your lyrical style will be the same as the old singer?
AB: No, my voice is totally different. The old singer also didn't write vany of the lyrics at all so it's not really influenced by him at all. The one thing that I never liked about the band was the singer - not personally - I just couldn't stand his voice. I just thought he sounded like a flogged seal. That was me. It was obvious that they sold past records with him.

K2K: Are you a "message" band or a "party" band?
AB: Yeah, there's a message in the music, but we really feel like it's up to the interpretation of the listener. When we write a song, we know what we mean by it, but music's a free thing. We don't relegate that. We just do what we do. We consider ourselves a punk rock 'n' roll band with Irish influences. We like to go up there and have fun. We're not out to change the world, but if we make someone think about their life or we bring something to their life that makes their life more positive, then that's a good thing. Great. We're not trying to start something. We're not fooling ourselves with ideals. We'd like to be thought of, if we last that long, about five years down the road, as the AC/DC of punk in terms of putting out good records but you know what you're going to expect. It's going to be rock 'n' roll.

K2K: Are you an 'Oi!' band?
AB: Well, 'Oi!' gets a confusing, kind of twisted, media. 'Oi!' basically is a working-class call that is rooted in England. We've got 'Oi!' punk influences from the 1977 so that's where that 'Oi!' thing comes from, but we also have rock 'n' roll influences, Irish influences. So we've kind of mixed it all together and we have some 'Oi!' in our music and we happen to say, "Oi!" sometimes.

K2K: What does 'Oi!' mean to you?
AB: 'Oi!' to me means unity. It's a call to unity. People who say it, from a standpoint, it's basically "where we're from", like sticking together or sticking up for yourself.

K2K: I've been at a show where I was told that I (at the time of having long hair) did not have the right to say 'Oi!'.
AB: That's not true. That's people misinterpretting what it means. The thing is that a lot of people out there have their own ideas about things. I've been listening to 'Oi!' music for seventeen years. I think there's a lot of people with a lot of fucked up ideas of what it is. Some people think it means "White Power". People are really confused.

K2K: How would you explain the actual idea of 'Oi!'? Is it a song style or a singing style?
AB: It's a chanting sing-a-long type of thing. Not really folk, but it's folk because it's for the people. It's very simple. The bass is louder than the guitar in traditional 'Oi!'. My first band were traditional 'Oi!', very British sounding. Bass was louder than guitar. Drums. Lots of chanting. It's really basically street rock 'n' roll.

K2K: So, it's for everyone?
AB: Oh yeah, 'Oi!' is for skins, 'Oi!' is for punks, 'Oi!' is for Herberts, 'Oi!' is for everybody. "Herberts" are longhairs. That's another British term. I don't use it because I'm not British. 'Oi!' is for everybody though - black or white. The Skinheads [movement] came, it started in 1968. There was a guy named Rodney Moreno was in the band called The Opressed. He explains it the best. We hung out in Reggae clubs with Rastas and Two-Tones. That's where it comes from. They came up with this working-class their own kind of brand of street rock 'n' roll.

K2K: In a sense, Mötorhead could be considered an 'Oi!'.
AB: Yeah, you check out the original 'Oi!' albums from England and you'll find that Mötorhead is thanked on them. Mötorhead is totally loved by all the old skin bands - Cockney Rejects, the Four-Skins, all those bands.

K2K: When are you actually going to record the next record that you'll be part of?
AB: Well, we just released "The Gang's All Here" that came out on St. Patrick's Day. We did a 6 1/2 week tour supporting that and then Mötorhead. We're basically touring a year for this new record. We'll be recording again right around the 13th month after this record.

K2K: Have you ever played with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones?
AB: Yeah, they took Dropkick on our very first tour. Dickey Betts is a good friend of ours. Dickey and I actually sung together on a Mötorhead tribute album that just came out called "Built For Speed". We did "Rock And Roll."

K2K: Have you ever played in Aerosmith's club (Mama Kin)?
AB: We boycott Landsdowne Street. That's where all those clubs are. We have a song on the new record called "Pipebomb On Landsdowne Street". Basically because the bouncers beat up the kids. They have a show and then overcharge the kids and then kick everybody out and then recharge everyone to come back in and dance to disco and Marilyn Manson. We just don't go for that. They don't care about the kids. They don't care about the scene. They just care about money. So we don't support it.

K2K: Don't you think it's dangerous to have a song called "Pipebomb On Landsdowne Street"?
AB: We've received a lot of flack for it. You know what it is? I think it's dangerous if you take it that way. It's like we put after the song in the lyrics on the album - "It's a shame that now-a-days no one can take a joke". It's just a joke. Like if we had said 'Scud Missle On Landsdowne Street' it wouldn't have been as serious because noone's going to come and shove a scud missle through the door, but someone could.

K2K: What do you think of all that happened at Columbine? Who's to blame now that the media is blaming music amongst other things?
AB: Who's to blame? Those fucking kids. First of all, I just heard from Skarhead that there's a video that the kids made and showed at school of a fake thing of them walking down hallways with guns shooting kids dressed as jocks. They showed that at the school before this happened. So, I think a teacher saw that video and kids. I don't think music had anything to do with it. I think it was fucked up people who did a fucked up thing. To make more out of it is a frustrated human being's way of trying to take something that doesn't make any sense and never will. All that I can say is that we were in Denver that day playing when it happened. Out of respect we did not play "Pipebomb On Landsdowne Street", but then, they wanted a third encore and we had to play it.

K2K: Any last words?
AB: Stick to your guns.

Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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