Sing Loud, Sing Proud (Hellcat)
An interview with bassist Ken Casey
by Scott Hefflon
Each time I’ve interviewed you, you’ve taken a significant step forward. The first time, you were an unsigned band from Boston, the second time you’d just gotten Al Barr as your singer, and this time, you have four new members. Significantly younger members of the band, most playing instruments outside the guitar/bass/drums rock’n’roll norm.
For the next record we’ll kick someone out if that’s what it takes to get a fourth interview in Lollipop.
Al slipped into place quite naturally as your new singer, but for this record, he actually got to be a part of the writing process, right?
Yeah. For The Gang’s All Here, Al was thrown in the studio with the words stuck in his face. For Sing Loud, Sing Proud, he had a chance to contribute, and that’s been one of the coolest parts of making this record. It’s not so much that he brings in an outside influence, it’s that he’s got talent as a songwriter and he’s been in the band for long enough to think on the same page as the rest of us.
Tell me about Rick (Barton, guitarist) leaving.
For the last year, Rick had expressed an interest in leaving the band. He was getting older and he wanted to do his own thing. He’d just gotten married, too. He really wanted to hand-pick his replacement, and he wanted James (Lynch) because their styles are quite similar. When James joined the band, we played a few shows as a five-piece before Rich officially left. We really weren’t planing on having two guitarists permanently, but it sounded so good that we decided to stay with the two-guitar thing after Rich left. That’s when we added Mark (Orrell). That really changed things… When the two guitarists were Rich and James, it almost sounded like one guitar because their styles were so similar, but James and Mark really contrast well, Mark being more of a flashy player and James being the solid, Malcolm Young sort of player. And beyond that, we’ve always been looking for additional members who could play the instruments we’ve used on the records who were willing to tour full-time. In addition, we wanted more than just the guy down the bar who could play bagpipes, we wanted someone who was equally into the punk side of what we do. It just turned out that practically at the same time we found both of the guys we’d been looking for for years. They both were young guys, fans of the band already – both the Celtic influence as well as the punk rock – and it fell into place like it was meant to be.
How long ago was this?
About a year… So we’ve already done a lot of touring together. Before that, we had guys in various parts of the country who’d come on stage with us for a few shows, and while it was fun, the real difference was having the guys around during the songwriting process. It was a real eye-opener to realize how much more we could do musically, how much additional melody those instruments could offer.
All the new guys are a lot younger than you original members, right?
Mark just turned 18, Spicy’s 19, Ryan’s 23 and James is 21. Thank God I still have Al… At least he’s older than I am. Those guys have been coming to see us for a long time, so the transition to them joining the band seemed seamless. Because of them, we’ve actually gone back and added the traditional instruments to some of the old songs that never had them. During James’ first practice with the band, he pointed out that we were playing one of our older songs, “Road of the Righteous,” wrong; we were leaving out a chord. So it took a new guy to teach us how to play one of our own old songs!
So you and Matt (Kelly, drums) are the “founding members.” [Ed. Ken was polite enough not to point out that Matt joined after the first 7″s, splits and the Boys of the Dock CD EP, but before their Hellcat/Epitaph debut, Do or Die.]
Yeah, I guess so… It doesn’t seem like that though. For instance, Al has probably done twice as many live shows with the band as Mike (McColgan, original singer) ever did.
I know you’re an AC/DC fan, but did you ever cross the metal line and get into Ozzy?
I listened to some Black Sabbath when I was young, but nothing that really changed my life, ya know?
Well, like Ozzy was always this older guy who was smart enough to keep getting young, hot-blooded whiz-kids in the band, perhaps you can keep signing on young Irish punks and keep doing this for another 10-15 years…
I like to look at us as the punk rock Menudo… But in all seriousness, I think we’ve proven that it’s not individual greatness that’s behind this band, it’s the teamwork, the team effort, that counts.
You seem to be having more, I dunno, fun on this record…
I’d say this record is more light-hearted. We always have a few things that are light-hearted on the records, but we had a real upbeat, positive attitude when we went into the studio this time. We had a lot of friends in there while recording and we wanted to give it that kind of a vibe. Sometimes I think it’s kind of a party record, even though some of the songs are perhaps a little more serious… It’s got everything from tributes to deceased family and friends to songs about beer to songs about our bagpipe-player and heavy-set girls to more songs about beer.
Musically, I picked up on a lot more gonzo soloing than usual… At one point, I was like “Is this Ted Nugent or Angus Young or something?”
I call Mark the young Angus Young. He’s the one bringing all the flash to the band. It’s nice to have someone who can do it. I’d say that the base of the songs has stayed pretty much the same, but I’m amazed at what the new guys have done with their individual parts, with the details, of the songs. Whether it’s a bagpipe part or a tin whistle part or Mark laying a crazy solo over the top, the guys have really taken the songs to a whole new level.
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