Dropkick Murphys, are getting 2017 off to a cracking start with their ninth studio album: 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory. In order to remove themselves from all distractions during recording, the punk stalwarts left their beloved Boston and relocated - among the tumbleweeds and rattlesnakes - to El Paso in Texas and drew on that heightened influence of seclusion to produce one of their most explosive and vital releases yet. Maniacs spoke to guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Tim Brennan to get the inside tale.
Maniacs – 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory is out in the first week of the New Year. Were you looking to give 2017 a positive start?
Tim Brennan – “That would be great if people saw that as a good start to the year absolutely!”
Maniacs – It’s the first time you’ve left home to record. How did the new setting influence or shape the album?
T.B – “We typically have everything fleshed out by the time we go into the studio. That being said, there’s definitely a couple of moments on the album that have the influence of being down there in ‘the desert’: a place that we are so unfamiliar with. The very first song on the album (The Lonesome Boatman) which is actually more of an instrumental … if you can envision 6 pasty guys from New England out in the middle of the desert surrounded by cattle bones and snakes and stuff like that, that’s what that sounds like I think!”
Maniacs - This is the third album you’ve recorded with producer Ted Hutt…which would add at least some welcome familiarity in the new environment!
T.B – “Ted has become another member of our band essentially. His contribution to our sound and our songs over the past 10 or so years and the past 3 albums that he’s produced for us, I could never say enough about that guy. As much as he’s part of the band when it comes to recording and pre-production, working on the new songs, he still has that outside perspective, so that’s invaluable. There’s one song on the album (Paying My Way) where we had the song written for the most part but arrangement wise and sonically we didn’t know exactly what we were going to do with it. It was cool to be able to work something like that out in the studio. It came out different sounding to what we had initially envisioned, and for the better. That’s exciting when something like that can happen and Ted, his contribution to a moment like that, can’t be understated.”
Maniacs – The spirit behind your work with the Claddagh Fund – helping those in recovery for addiction – is mirrored in the themes on the album. What are some of the other ‘stories’ on the album about?
T.B – “We’ve never been a big political band, but life in general but that’s something we touch on a lot, certainly. You’ll Never Walk Alone was one that we actually started kicking around maybe two years ago. That whole thing was borne from Ken (Casey, vocals/bass) who unfortunately had to attend another funeral of a young person who had died of a drug overdose, in what has become an absolute epidemic. He got in the car after the funeral and the first song that came on the radio was You’ll Never Walk Alone. While that song is tied heavily to the Liverpool soccer team I think for the first time Ken heard it in maybe in a different context. So he showed up for practice next time we got together and said ‘I’d like to try and see what we can do with this one’. A lot of people ask about the lyrical connection and there really isn’t one. It’s really just a matter of an anthemic, hopeful reality cry of people who are affected by what’s going on right now.”
Maniacs - Your track about the 2013 Boston Bombing (4-15-13) would be one very close to your heart and challenging to create on a number of levels…
T.B – “I think it’s really hard to write a song about something like that … there’s a lot of ways it can come off wrong. I think Ken and Al Barr (vocals), the main lyricists for the band, nailed that one to the wall. It was a difficult scenario for us because we were on tour when it happened. We were still in the country but we were in California – as far away as we could get essentially – and not only do we know people who run in the marathon every year but everyone who doesn’t run goes down to the finish line to cheer everyone else on and it sort of felt helpless to be away from home. Luckily we were eventually able to get home to our families and do a lot in the wake of it by the way of benefit shows. Ultimately that song is about : while horrible things happen and it sucks, the way you see people come together is really inspiring.”
Maniacs - It sounds as though the band were as cohesive and prolific as ever during the making of 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory and really lives up to it’s name.
T.B – “We recorded enough songs for an album and a half so the plan is we’re going to put this out and then reconvene and finish up another one and hopefully have it out by the end of the year… Worst case maybe the same time as this one.”