Q&A: Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey On Shipping Up To Boston For Charity, Getting Advice From Donnie Wahlberg, And The Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry
This weekend, the Yankees and the Red Sox will duke it out in Boston to determine who will top the AL East. As of Thursday afternoon, the Red Sox were a game ahead. Why should a music blog care about such things? We could get into an entire treatise about the relationship between sports and music (look no further than Sports Illustrated's recent list of the all-time best sports songs), or we could simply use this as an opportunity to stoke the rivalry fires by asking the almost-synonymous-with-Sox-fandom Dropkick Murphys, who hold two of the spots in the SI list, to trash-talk.
After all, "Tessie" served as the theme song to the Boston's history-making 2004 World Series run, and "Shipping Up to Boston" is relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon's entrance music. "Tessie" featured backing vocals by several of the Sox, including baseball Judas Johnny Damon, who joined the Yankees in 2006. "We remixed it and buried his vocals," Murphys frontman Ken Casey says of the center fielder's contribution to Boston sports lore. After expressing disbelief, Casey admits "No, those vocals were buried from the start! He couldn't sing. He couldn't hold a note."
We talked to Casey about how tough it is to play in "enemy territory," how he feels about the New Kids on the Block using "Shipping Up To Boston," and the circumstances in which he might just put on a Yankees cap.
Is it weird when you play in New York because your band is so identified with Boston and the Red Sox?
It's awesome. Most recently, I happened to be up in Vancouver for Game 7 [of the Stanley Cup Finals], when the Bruins beat the Canucks. Our tour schedule had us being up there a week and half later. It was very similar, you know, to go up there and rub it in people's faces or vice versa, where you have it rubbed in your face. I've been on both sides of that, and New York for us is just that times 10. I think it's summed up well just by a kid that came over the barricade in Vancouver and he was pumping his chest, saying, "I love you guys, man" and he stops and he just gives the finger. They're very torn. It's like "I love you, but I hate you for not liking my team."
In New York, after the 2004 World Series. Years would go by and every time we'd go to New York it would just be thisthe crowd almost mocks you. After the 2004 World Series, I found that New Yorkers just in general just changed, their personalities changed. They never had a comeback for being the butt of the joke because they never were the butt of the joke. So it was something that they weren't used to being.
So we came down and we played three nights in New York in March or April of '05. So it was the first time that we had been there since the World Series. During the show, we killed the lights, we dropped a video screen and brought up the Star Wars "duh duh duh duh" [hums "Imperial March"]. Then over the PA we played, "The greatest collapse in sports history" and we showed all the highlights, and bottles were just raining down on us. It was awesome! We probably should have put some chicken wire up!
As I said to them, they were all pissed and I said, "Hey, you don't wait 86 years to rub it in and then not rub it in. Plus, you would have called us cowards if we didn't rub it in." It's always been a fun kind of love/hate thing, but they know in reality that besides the sports, New York and Boston have a lot more similarities than differences. At the end of the day, it's just sports.
Do you ever end up trash talking with Bruce Springsteen about the Sox and the Yanks?
You know, I never really talk baseball with him. He's just one guy that I'm just happy he's on our side, I don't want to do anything to drive him away. So, for chrissakes if Springsteen told me to put on a Yankees hat I probably would. Well, maybe I wouldn't go that far, but...
My editor told me that the New Kids used "Shipping Up to Boston" as the intro for their encore when they played here recently. How do you feel about that?
I would probably have a different take if I didn't know those guys, but I'm very close with the McIntyre family. As a matter of fact, if you look at our new CD the photo underneath in the tray is Joey McIntyre's father. Two of his sisters work for my mother, I went to high school his older brother Tommy, and Tommy the father's a pretty good friend of mine. I know the Wahlberg family. I went to high school with Jordan Knight. So it's kind of a more a Boston thing and they're welcome to use it. Maybe if the Backstreet Boys were out on their own using I'd think, "What the hell is going on there, you know?" Musically, it's very interesting, but I like all those guys and their families personally.
I actually went to [NKOTBSB at Fenway] because I was scoping it out for our Fenway shows and some of the logistical stuff, and so I got to see some of that live firsthand. It was pretty wild. It's a pretty wild experience being in a stadium that's 90 percent women. I think my ears are still ringing from the screaming.
It's funny, the Red Sox gave me a suite and I brought some of the girls that work for me at [the Boston bar McGreevy's] and some of the girls that I grew up with who were fans. They all were saying, "This is funny, it's going to be nostalgic and it's going to be a good laugh." They were not taking it that serious. The minute they went on stage, they all started screaming like they were 13 again.
Did the New Kids give you any tips about the upcoming shows at Fenway? (Next month, the Dropkick Murphys will play two charity shows at Fenway with opening act the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The concerts will benefit the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund and The Claddagh Fund, the band's charity.)
Yeah, Donnie's kind of the businessman, the brains behind the operation with them. Yeah, he definitely had a lot of good tips, the process of getting the show where you want it, dealing with the red tape of Fenway and the city. However, I've got a pretty good rapport with everyone over there through the other things we've done. A lot of that doesn't apply to us because like I said, we've got a real good relationship with the people at Fenway. So it's been pretty smooth for us.