The Dropkick Murphys' Ken Casey Talks Rise From Bar Band to Touring Giant at HipHopMagz Live Music Summit


The bassist and his supervisor replicate on the Boston group’s 22-year profession and dedicated relationship to its followers.

"Our first two exhibits, there was no one there however associates," mentioned Dropkick Murphys bassist Ken Casey at his Billboard Live Music Summit panel on Wednesday, "who had been strictly there to make enjoyable of us."

Twenty-two years and roughly four,000 exhibits later, the band Casey co-founded to win a guess is without doubt one of the most profitable punk bands in existence, with a worldwide fan base passionately dedicated to their rowdy dwell exhibits and what Casey calls their "ugly combine" of British punk, American hardcore and Celtic folks. How they acquired from basement band to beloved touring juggernaut was the topic of The Business of Being the Dropkick Murphys, a rollicking dialogue between Casey, supervisor Jeff Castelaz of Cast Management and Billboard Touring and Live Entertainment Senior Correspondent Dave Brooks.

The secret of Dropkick Murphys' success was maybe finest summed up by Castelaz. "Ken by no means walks offstage on the finish of a present that means," he mentioned, pointing to the wings. "He at all times walks out that means" -- and right here he pointed to the viewers -- "over the barrier. It's not a theoretical reference to the followers; it's an actual connection."

"I'd say 90 % of the folks that hearken to Dropkick Murphys have met us and know us and really feel like they're a part of the entire deal," mentioned Casey.

Forging these shut bonds with their followers has clearly paid off for the band. Castelaz famous that although Dropkick Murphys have by no means had a Hot 100 hit, they've offered over 7 million albums, initially although punk indie label Hellcat and, beginning in 2007, their very own Born & Bred imprint.

Given their now-massive fan base, Brooks questioned, "Is it laborious to offer your self to folks that a lot?"

"It is, however ... I've to maintain in perspective," Casey replied. "They've given me a job for 22 years."

Casey and his bandmates don't simply pay lip service to that working-class mentality. The band has been a longtime labor union supporter and insists that each one their merch be made sweatshop-free within the U.S. -- a rule so ironclad that when Castelaz inadvertently violated it early in his tenure with the band, Casey devised a inventive punishment that their new supervisor would make sure you bear in mind.

"He says, 'Get within the bag,'" Castelaz recalled. "He's acquired this factor that boxers use. It's like a punching bag that goes over [your] shoulders." Then Casey carried out some boxing follow on his hapless supervisor, whereas somebody filmed the entire thing for posterity.

So how does it really feel to pummel your supervisor? "I like to recommend it to all bands," Casey mentioned with a mischievous grin.

That early mishap apart, Casey and Castelaz clearly have an in depth relationship, and their affectionate ribbing of each other all through the panel supplied many highlights. When Brooks requested Castelaz, "Is Ken manageable?" the Cast Management and Dangerbird Records founder considered it for a beat too lengthy earlier than grudgingly answering, "Yes." (Both Casey and the viewers laughed approvingly at his comedian timing.)

"It's a number of texts and so much telephone calls and a number of emails," Castelaz mentioned. "Ken has a number of concepts." Those concepts have included every part from a failed try and play a present in each state in New England in 24 hours to a way more profitable enterprise into boxing promotion. Casey's firm Murphys Boxing has promoted nationally televised fights and developed a number of world champions -- and now even piggybacks occasions on Dropkick Murphys exhibits, like a lately introduced St. Patrick's Day 2019 cease in Lowell, Massachusetts, that can function each music and boxing.

Selling ticket packages to the all-day occasion, which is able to function a daytime "matinee" Dropkick Murphys set, adopted by a boxing match and a second Murphys efficiency, proved troublesome. "We're at all times pushing ticketing techniques past what they had been ever constructed to do," Castelaz mentioned. "So if there's any ticketing folks out right here, if you wish to hear our concepts, we now have them."

Ticketing has been a problem for the Dropkick Murphys in one other means: The band is so devoted to holding their ticket costs low that their live shows are a well-liked goal of the secondary market. "Ironically, one of many youngsters I grew up with is a ticket dealer," Casey mentioned. "And he at all times says, 'You guys make us essentially the most cash since you promote so low-cost.'"

Even so, Casey mentioned the band has no intention of ever pricing their blue-collar followers out of exhibits. Castelaz calls them "essentially the most price-sensitive band" he's ever labored with. "We grew up liking bands that once they went from [charging] $5 to $7, we had been like, 'No!' Casey defined. "So we attempt to bear in mind what was vital to us."

It's all a part of Dropkick Murphys' broader ethic of staying true to their roots. To at the present time, Casey famous, he nonetheless lives within the Boston space along with his spouse and three youngsters. "To us, not that a lot has modified," he mentioned. "I didn't transfer to L.A. I dwell in Boston and I hold across the identical folks I grew up with" -- removed from, as he known as it, "the crap of the music business."

Looking out on the business crowd on the Montage Beverly Hills, he added with a smile, "No offense."