DS Exclusive Interview: Mike McColgan (Street Dogs) discusses new album, re-recording old albums, and-no-moshing-allowed-venues

DS Exclusive Interview: Mike McColgan (Street Dogs) discusses new album, re-recording old albums, and-no-moshing-allowed-venues

On Sunday September 19th, I headed down to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to catch a show that included Left Alone, Flatfoot 56, Devil’s Brigade and Street Dogs. The show was incredible.

Before the show I met up with Street Dogs frontman Mike McColgan backstage to talk about the new album, the recording process, as well as potentially re-recording older albums, and what it was like playing at venues where there’s no moshing allowed. You can read about all that, as well as what’s up next for the band, in the full interview here.

Their latest album Street Dogs was released on August 31st through Hellcat Records.

DS: I’m here with Mike McColgan from Street Dogs. What’s up, Mike?

Mike: We’re on tour with Flatfoot 56, Devils Brigade, Continental, and Street Dogs. It’s been amazing so far. We’ve been out for 10 days and tonight we’re in Providence, Rhode Island, so it’s close to Boston. The response to the album has been overwhelmingly good, more than we anticipated. Life is great. All of our goals have been shattered so anything from here on out is cake. We’re very fortunate for what we have.

DS: I like the album a lot. We wrote a favorable review…(Mike enthusiastically interrupts)

Mike: I did actually check out the Dying Scene review. Hellcat/Epitaph keep us up to date with all that stuff and I thought you guys definitely got it. You guys got what we were trying to do and the review shows that you guys actually listen to it, haha.

DS: I’ve been listening to a couple of tracks non-stop, my favorite track is Bobby Powers.

Mike: Yeah, Bobby Powers is THAT figure in your life when you’re young that tells you all the right things when you’re young and rebellious and you don’t want to hear anything from anyone and you got all the answers and don’t want to hear from old folks. But when you get a little older and wiser, you realize some of what you were being told were things you should listen to. “Remember when” and “where is he now,” I get the message. It’s definitely a personal one.

DS: One thing I like about the song is the transition from mid-tempo to balls-to-the-wall at the end. It’s a great transition.

Mike: We had a couple of songs like that. Another is 10 Wood Road in which we transitioned from a folk intro to another full on punk song. Even in Portland, it’s full on blistering punk and in the chorus gets more melodic, more anthemy. There were some interesting things we tried to do on this record that came out good, you know what I mean? We feel it’s our best and I say that because we all collectively, all 5 guys, feel that way and I don’t think we’ve made a record where all 5 guys have felt like that. I don’t think it’s us bragging or trying to sell more records or anything like that. It’s just that we were proud of it and the new songs have translated very well live and the crowds have been digging on it.

DS: So is tonight’s show going to be very new-album heavy or you guys going to mix it up?

Mike: I think we’re going to play 5 or 6.

DS: That’s a good amount!

Mike: We like to have enough of the new, but not too much. We like to have a mixture of old and new alike, we’re not going to play the new album from beginning to end. We’re not that band

DS: But it WOULD be cool, though!

Mike: Well, yeah haha. I think for the ardent fan it would be!

DS: I’m sure there’s going to be people in the audience tonight that will be singing along to every word of each new song you play. They pick up an album and they listen to it non-stop, memorizing every word.

Mike: There’s been some nights we’ve gone up to 6, 7, or 8 new songs. I think it’s our first album that you can listen to from beginning to end. I don’t feel that the other albums are like that. Although they’re all good and I stand behind them and I believe in them, they’re all very different and capture different time periods for us creatively. This record is a beginning-to-end album, you can listen to the whole thing.

DS: Yeah you can. So what was the inspiration behind writing this album? Did you approach writing differently?

Mike: We always approach writing differently. We write whatever we want to write and we say and do whatever we want to say and do. That’s always been the mantra. For instance, you go back to State Of Grace. That’s when we tried to stretch the parameters of the group a little bit and be a little bit more creative and try different things. That’s where we were creatively. With this record, we worked out more songs than ever before and I think it was the songs with the harder edge, a meaner kick, a little faster, that made us feel better and they were strong. A song like Oh Father could have fit really well on State of Grace and it’s just indicative of that fact that we try not to make the same album twice. We try to write all sorts of different kinds of songs and not be a one-trick pony. I think when we go in, we try to work out as many songs as possible. This is a record that found us angry again, sort of like we were on Fading American Dream and I feel that the more aggressive songs were the better ones that we have. And we have melodic songs but we really felt the aggressive songs were better. Having 18 songs on the album and then having a deluxe version with 21 is a testament of the work we put in. We had 4 separate rounds of pre-production and a 5th of tracking. We said to ourselves, “How many bands on their 5th album make their best album?” not many, and that was our aim. The fans are definitely getting behind it.

DS: It definitely feels like it’s your guys’ best album. Did you guys write 21 songs total or did just 21 make the final cut?

Mike: 21 made the cut, 18 on the regular. We actually had upwards of 32 songs. Down the line, we’ll probably have retrospectives or b-side releases but we felt the 18 were really good. The other 3 that are on the deluxe, bordered on making the record too, like The Ballad Of Detroit, Greed, and Pedestal. Those were difficult to make. I think we knew we had a good record when we had that many songs…

DS: and have to actually cut one

Mike: Yeah, exactly, so we knew we were in a good spot. Working at The Blasting Room with Jason Livermore and then having Johnny Rioux and Rick Barton co-produce the effort was instrumental to everyone being focused and everyone being efficient and working hard. It’s such a good environment to make a record. Ft. Collins, Colorado, is a fucking great city and we were up there in January and February, we were all focused. It was just great. I don’t want to make a record anywhere else but The Blasting Room and we’ve all said that. It’s such a great room, so many great records have come out of there

DS: Do you have a favorite song on the album? Which song can you say is one that you want to play for everyone and stands out as personal for you?

Mike: I’d have to say 10 Wood Road is one of my favorites. Oh Father is a favorite too. It’s not only personal to me, it’s personal to all 5 guys. Those songs I really love to perform. I love In Stereo too. There’s a prevailing attitude of pessimism out there and people feel like sheep, that they have to do this or they have to do that, and they have to capitulate to what society expects them to do. No one controls your life, you have your own free will to say and do what you want, and that’s the message of that song. That was a song where we really felt we wanted to say something, kind of a message of self-empowerment.

DS: What made you guys decide to re-record Figher?

Mike: Well, a lot of our fans had complained about not being able to find the song, like an actual physical copy on CD/Vinyl, and it’s one of our biggest songs live. Whether we’re touring in Europe, Japan, the US or anywhere else, so what we wanted to do was give it to our fans. We all talked about it and said “Lets re-record it, it could be maybe be an exclusive b-side or make the album or something” but when we listened to it, we decided that it fits on the album

DS: It does fit on the album. It’s an amazing version. I like the original, the original was outstanding but with this one? It was so good that we [me and my friends] were saying that you guys should re-record your other records, make them new again

Mike: there’s been talk about maybe re-recording Savin Hill but that’s one thing that we’ll explore down the line. People always complain about not being able to find the albums. In punk rock, people want actual physical albums. They don’t really want iTunes. It’s different than other genres in music because people want to see the script, the lyrics, the artwork, they want something to call their own and they want to be off the beaten path. It is about being different. When we re-recorded Fighter, we recorded it the way we do it live. That was one of my biggest misgivings about the original. I felt that vocally, it went in too soon. Now, when we re-recorded it, I felt that the riffs and the melody got a chance to set itself up and breath a little and then the vocals would come in after that. I felt that’s the better way to approach the song.

DS: It’s a nice touch where you sing, “Kenny Walls this one is still for you.”

Mike: It is person specific, yet at the same time, it seems a lot of people that follow us tend to gravitate towards that song. A lot of people can identity to that song and it’s helping them out in their lives and helping them out to some degree and we like hearing things like that.

DS: Kenny had a sister, right?  I remember at the show from when I first came out here for school, the day after I got off the airplane you guys had an acoustic show at Newbury Comics in Braintree?

Mike: Yeah, Braintree

DS: Yeah, in Braintree! I was standing next to a girl who was yelling for you from the back, trying to get your attention. She was like “you know that song Fighter? Yeah, that’s about my brother” and I was like “wow, crazy!” and she told me the story.

Mike:  I think after he passed, I didn’t talk for 3 days and then decided to write the song.  After I did, I kind of broke down and everything and we went in and recorded it. It was a special moment, a really big moment. For me, that song and Savin Hill are the best songs on that record.

DS: Overall, it’s a great album

Mike: Yeah it is. It’s an album where we’re just going for it.  There are no huge expectations on you or any pressure, it’s just a bunch of guys that for somehow, for some bizarre reason got a record deal and we were having fun and going for it. And then doing stand up with Al Barr and Ken Casey on Savin Hill was awesome. Having those 2 guys come out and hang out with us was fucking dynamite. A lot of kids really love that song, it’s like Dropkick Murphys and Street Dogs standing hand in hand in the middle of the ring. It’s a special song and a special record.

DS: So what’s up next after this tour?

Mike: After this tour, we’re looking at potentially doing some shows in November. I know we’re doing the Wreck The Halls tour and Flatfoot 56 will join us on that tour. So will the Have-Nots. We’re talking about going to Europe and I know Devil’s Brigade will go on that one with us, same with Flatfoot 56 and hopefully Continental. In March, we’re looking to do the Crooked Drunk Sons tour again and that’ll probably be a month-long tour. We’re also looking to get to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

DS: The first time I ever saw you guys was in November of 2007 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. You guys opened for Tiger Army. That was a great show.

Mike: That was a great fucking show. I recall inciting a circle pit where it was prohibited to dance that way

DS: Yes it was, I remember that.

Mike: And I thought that was bizarre for a show that Street Dogs and Tiger Army were going to be at.

DS: How do you feel about playing shows where security guards tell you that you can’t dance a certain way?

Mike: I’ve never felt comfortable with that. I think that show was a clear indication of that.

DS: Nick 13 brought it up a couple of times throughout the set, he kept saying, “If the kids want to fucking dance, let them dance”

Mike: Yeah, he’s really good about that. He’s rock solid. Tiger Army is awesome, they’re labelmates, and going on tour with them was amazing. We were of the same mindset where if the kids want to dance, let them fucking dance. This isn’t a poetry reading, this is fucking punk rock, rockabilly, psychobilly. Let the kids have a good time, that’s what they’re there to do.

DS: That’s it, Mike. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Mike: No problem, man. Thank you. I like Dying Scene, you guys are always on top of everything!

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