Top of Mind: Ken Casey, Extended Version
Dropkick Murphys Frontman, Publican, Philanthropist, Lucky Bastard, 41, Hingham
MRB: Just as you’ve said your life has changed in some ways, stayed the same in others, how do you feel about Boston? It’s a big city, so it’s had to evolve. How have you seen that happen both in terms of clubs, and the city’s image and culture over the past 15 years? After all, you have the Mandarin Oriental right across the street here, and that’s been a big change for Boylston Street.
KC: It’s interesting that you say that, because I just had a friend who moved to San Diego about 16 years back. We were hanging out and we’re driving around town, and when I picked him up, he kept saying, “What’s this? That wasn’t there!” Yeah, there’s been a lot of change. But like you said, any major city has to evolve and grow, and with the good economy we had, we had a lot of changes. There has definitely been a lot of change in the nightlife. Obviously for me, you’re doing different things and going different places than you did in your mid-twenties. From a musical aspect, the landscape of the Boston club scene really had a huge impact on the band. I will go so far as to say the biggest thing that we had going for us – I won’t say luck – is that we owe all of our success to the punk scene that was going on here in the mid-’90s in clubs like the Rat, which obviously was like our CBGB.
[NOTE: Just in case readers have already forgotten - which would be a sad thing in itself - the Rathskeller was the legendary club in Kenmore Square that was not only the home for Boston hardcore punk bands, but was also the launching pad for the Cars and the Pixies. After the Rat closed, the building was razed to make way for the Hotel Commonwealth.]
It afforded us the opportunity to have a place to play and develop our fan base, and it was just amazing to us. Take Jimmy Harold, who owned the Rat. He’d say, “You want to take the downstairs for a matinee? Fine, 200 bucks.” And the reason I credit it with all of our success, was this is how we started to tour. The hardcore punk scene in the mid-’90s was huge in Boston. There were so many bands that could fill the Rat, and I’m talking bands that had nothing more than a single or two out. You had ourselves, Ducky Boys, Toxic Narcotic, Blood for Blood, and you’d start out with a 1 o’clock matinee, which would have six or seven kids, and a 4 o’clock matinee, which would have six or seven kids. Then you’d do an 18-plus night show, and you sold out the club. Every band on an underground level in the country wanted to play Boston, because they knew they would play to a full house. So what we used to do is put on these eight-band bills, all-ages matinees. We would headline. We still had our jobs and everything, so we would give all of the money we made to the out-of-town bands. So we would have a band from Chicago, a band from New York, and a band from Philly, and in a single one-day show here, we’d come out of that with seven bands from seven other cities owing us a show. They would have such a great show here that when we would go to their town, they would work so hard to get bodies in the room for us, saying, “We just went to Boston, and they’re huge in Boston.” That’s how we got going. And ironically, it came a little bit out of that whole sports mentality – like “Our city is better than yours” – because people were really blown away by the Boston punk scene, by how intense it was, how many kids were coming to shows. We were going to all these cities; one weekend we’d do Baltimore, New York, DC, and then do Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and we’d haul ourselves anywhere for 15 hours. You’d leave on a Thursday night and haul