Interview: Ken Casey (Dropkick Murphys) discusses the Boston Marathon bombings and how the band are trying to help

It’s been eleven days since the fatal bombings at the Boston Marathon grabbed worldwide headlines, and only a week since the murder of an MIT police officer and the subsequent manhunt for the surviving bomber. An entire metropolitan area was, literally and figuratively, on lockdown, whether by strict orders or due to an inability to pull away from the continually-developing story. In short, living here felt like being a character in the climactic scene of a Die Hard movie, only in real time.

Perhaps no band in the last twenty years has been as synonymous with Boston as the Dropkick Murphys. In a cruel twist of fate, the band were wrapping up a tour on the West Coast while their beloved hometown was under attack and, later, under lockdown. Nevertheless, the band were amazingly quick to take action, launching a three-pronged effort to raise funds for the hundreds of victims and their families. The second of those prongs is a benefit concert at Boston’s House of Blues this coming Sunday (April 28th). In addition to the Dropkicks in their headlining spot, the show also includes the likes of State Radio, Big D and The Kids Table, the Parkington Sisters, Old Brigade and BarRoom Heroes.

Bassist and founding member of the Dropkicks, Ken Casey, took some time out of his whirlwind schedule to chat about the devastating events and how the band, and their fans, are committed to helping. Click here to check out our interview. And if you can’t make it to town for the show but you still want to help, here are links to the Dropkick Murphy’s own Claddagh Fund and the One Fund, established by the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Jay Stone (Dying Scene): As a Boston resident or Boston area resident, I know how personally a lot of people take the incidents that happened over the last couple of weeks, and I know that you guys were on tour in California during what was obviously the most troubling week in Boston at least that I can remember. Can you walk us through a little bit of the timeline of how you heard about the initial events Marathon Monday and how you were receiving your play-by-play of what was going on?

Ken Casey (Dropkick Murphys): Yeah, we were out on the West Coast, on tour, we had just come back in from Australia, and Monday was actually my birthday that day. So I looked down at my phone and saw a bunch of text messages, and I was like “Oh cool, people are thinking about me on my birthday.” And then I looked down unfortunately to see a lot of people saying “Are you alright?”, “Are you down on Boylston?” I own a bar on Boylston (McGreevys, for the record. If you’re ever in town, look it up. Dying Scene editor approved), so people that didn’t know I was on tour assumed that I was down in the area. So it was a lot people not thinking that they’d be telling me (about what happened), more just trying to say “are you okay?”. And I was just, like “am I okay? What are you talking about?” And then I went to look on Twitter and Facebook and eventually the TV, and was just, like “holy shit.” It was surreal looking at it. A street that you’re on sooo much, and an area where so many people I knew from cops that were working that day to my best friend’s family being forty feet from the blast to one of my friends being an uncle to the Richard family. It was just boom, boom, boom, one after another, people telling me scary and bad news along the way. It was crazy. I just got home on the red eye now, and it’s so great to be home and to see the outpouring of support for Boston and for anyone from Boston. You know, when we were on tour on the West Coast, people were showing up every night with signs and doing a moment of silence every night. To be able to take a club of two-or-three thousand drunk people and get them to all be quiet, that shows that it’s a serious thing. You couldn’t pull that off for just anything.

You know, nothing good could ever really come of this. The only good that comes from this kind of stuff is you see people stop and say “shit, man, cutting a guy off in traffic isn’t important,” you know. People kinda think about each other, and you can see a little more humanity lesson in the world. It’s nice to see, you know, how people have reacted in a positive way.

Right. And I think what has impressed me most, particularly about what you guys have done is just how quickly this thing has all come together. I wonder if you can touch a little bit on that. How soon after either Monday’s events or the shitstorm that was last Friday around here, how quickly thereafter did you realize not just that you had to do something, because I think you probably knew that you were going to, but exactly what you guys were going to do as a way to contribute to the various different causes that have popped up now?

Well, I think people just think “we’re Bostonians, what can we do?”. Not to compare us to the first responders in any way, but the highest end of that being people ran towards the explosions, and the lowest end being people on all levels, no matter what their circle is, saying that “we’re doing a fundraiser at my house” or the local bar or community center or playing a concert or doing a t-shirt. People’s minds have just gone to “how can I help? How can I help?” you know?

So for us being on the West Coast, the quickest way that we realized that we could help is that we have, I don’t know, a couple million people on Facebook we can reach out to through the Dropkick Murphys page. So we said “let’s do a t-shirt.” We’ve done things like that in the past, and it was unbelievable the outpouring there. Our merchandise company, the poor guys that are working round-the-clock literally had to shut down their business. They just had to stay up printing all night. I think we sold ten thousand shirts in less than two weeks. So for a place with, like, twelve employees trying to print that all was pretty daunting, so they finally shut that down and said “guys, we’ve gotta put an end to this, we’ve gotta go to bed for a while.”

So we looked at it as three stages of fundraising. It was the shirts while we were away. Now we’re home, the gear arrives on Saturday. And we felt that, yeah, we could plan a bigger event or something, but we felt like it was more important to do something immediate and to be able to do a show the day after our equipment gets back seemed like the appropriate thing to do. House of Blues and LiveNation were so cooperative. They’re donating all of their end of the proceeds as well, so it just seemed like a great way to turn it right around. Ultimately the t-shirts will raise more money than anything, but we think doing the concert is more for morale and for raising spirits as much as it is for raising money.

The third part of it we’ll announce Monday, but we’re going to do an iTunes-only musical release. Doing it iTunes is similar in that we can do it quick instead of having to press a CD. It’s a collaboration with another very charitable artist that we’ve worked with in the past, and Monday it’ll all be wrapped up and we can put something out that can raise some money. There’s no end to it.

I’m really looking forward to hearing more about that Monday. Obviously I won’t ask you to spill the beans now, but, I do…one of the things that I really appreciate about how you put this benefit show on Sunday together is that you made it early and you made it all ages. I mean I guess obviously it’s a punk rock show in that regard, but it really does sort of focus on that people can go down there with their families.

Yeah, it’s not abnormal for us to do a Sunday afternoon show, that’s how we started. But it’s not so much to be an all ages punk show, you’re right, as it was to be something that people can bring their kids too. We’d just done a string of shows for people who want to go out and party at night over St. Patrick’s Day, so we wanted this to make sure it had a different feel and more of a memorial and, yeah, people can bring their families, you know.

To backtrack a little bit, the night that all of the shit really went down here, Thursday night into most of the day Friday, you guys were still out west in Vegas or whatever. How tuned in to everything that was going on around here from the time that Officer Collier was murdered until …

Yeah, the only time I was away from CNN was when I was on stage. I didn’t sleep for, like, 48 hours.  When could you find time to find the point where you could say “okay, I’m gonna shut this off now.” I could not believe this was all happening, it seems like it would be far-fetched if it was in a movie let alone real, you know? And also just knowing that a lot of our friends were guys that were part of the whole thing taking him down, it made you concerned on so many levels that you just couldn’t break away from it. I’m sure everyone else couldn’t shut it off here either. It was just surreal.

Have you been able to touch base with a lot of the guys that you know? Obviously (Dropkick Murphys) have been big supporters of unions and law enforcement and the military and whatever in this area. Have you been able to touch base with a lot of those people that you know personally that were involved in the manhunt and see how they are dealing with it?

Yeah, I mean from the guys that were at the firehouse on Boylston to the cops that I know that were there, it’s the same thing. You know, a lot of them knew less at the time that was going on than we even did in some ways because you just didn’t know whether something was three streets over or two. You know, nowadays, people get more watching CNN than you do if you’re on the job station just waiting to be told or to see something. But we have the Boston Police Gaelic Column playing with us on Sunday, and a lot of them were on duty. There’s a lot of people that are messed up over it. And you know, there’s people that just work in the area or heard the explosions…it’s not something people are accustomed to. But what I like about it is people seem to be getting right back out. As soon as all the businesses opened back up on Boylston, they said they’ve had really good business. People trying to just jump right back into it and not let fear get to them, and that’s good. Once people start being afraid to go out, what these people did becomes a success.

Yeah, and I think that that’s something that’s maybe not unique to Boston, because maybe I’m just sort of biased from being here forever, but it seems like that sort of an act and whatever it was that they tried to accomplish, that’s not going to work here, you know what I mean?

Yeah

I think that ‘Boston Strong’ thing is real. You know, sometimes you here those catchphrases that come up sound sort of corny, but I think that does sort of resonate here, like, you know, you picked the wrong place and you picked the wrong event, because aside from just that it’s Boston, runners and the people who do and watch marathons are crazy anyway..

Yeah, right, and just the fact that the Boston Marathon is about raising so much money for charity too, on all levels, I think it was something that made people feel like, you know, we’ve gotta stand up to this, you know. And just watching what a good job everyone did, from law enforcement to everyone cooperating, whether it was staying out of the scene when they were told to or staying indoors. The only, really, irresponsible behavior was probably people on Twitter who, you know, I’ve never seen so much misinformation in my life.  But everyone gets caught up in what they hear, so I don’t mean that it was that bad, obviously, but there was a lot of it there.

I know you guys just got in off the road. Have you gotten back out to Boylston now that they’ve opened things back up and gone back to the bar? How are things, what’s the pulse down there?

I went by straight from the airport just to see everything, and I’m just going to make myself available for the next week to see any of the victims and stuff like that if it’s possible. I also know that people want some space and privacy and time to grieve too. But I know there’s a few people that are being released and are a little more available and just, basically, trying to make ourselves available to help if need be. It’s good to finally be home.

I can imagine. And all of the money raised from these benefits goes to the Claddagh Fund, correct?

Yeah, and the Claddagh Fund can give direct to the victims. We’ll disperse it direct from the Fund to the victims and their families.

That’s what I was going to ask. How does that work, exactly? Does it go to the Claddagh Fund and then you guys identify individual people or families or other charities that you know work directly with people?

Yeah, a little bit of both. Everything from victims that need help with medical and things like that and then there’s other people that don’t and who want their funds directed to other causes related to the events. So we’re in the process of trying to identify the people in need right now.

And unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of them, but that’s why really the outpouring that I’ve seen, you know, I think this area is small enough where everybody knows somebody that was at the very least impacted, everyone knows someone who was running the race or watching the race or whatever. So…

Yeah, and as someone said to me, one of the least acknowledged things so far has been some of the trauma of the first responders. All of that stuff needs to be taken into consideration, you know.

Sure, and that’s an issue that we don’t really talk about, you know? We don’t really think about the first responders because they are supposed to be the strong guys and the brave guys and the people who run into the line of fire, but you don’t stop to think about the toll that doing that takes on a person.

Well, and here, some of those first responders weren’t the people that were on the job, they just happened to be there. They just happened to be closest to it, you know what I mean?

Sure. Obviously there are a lot of people with a lifetime of issues that they are going to have to deal with and work through, but that’s, again, really why the outpouring in the community from you guys and from, really, everybody has been amazing. And so thank you, not just from the punk community but from the Boston community for the work that you’ve done and continue to do.


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5 Comments

  1. lizaeckert
    lizakateisgreat4/26/2013 2:24 PM | Permalink

    They seem like good people. I was impressed that after Al Barr got called out for using a homophobic slur he actually apologized and learned from it instead of just telling everyone to shut up and get over it like a lot of people would.

  2. jaystone
    jaystone4/26/2013 4:39 PM | Permalink

    Agreed. I actually found myself liking, or at least sympathizing, more with them after that.

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