INTERVIEW: Dicky Barrett (MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES)
When you hear the word "ska", it most likely conjures up memories of brassy horns, reggae undertones - and a certain group of Boston gents who rocketed the genre to infamy, aka ska punk pioneers The Mighty Might Bosstones.
Leading the way for the so-called third wave of ska and smashing the genre into the mainstream, The Bosstones carved out an energetic and unforgettable success story alongside fellow acts including Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and many, many others. And while for most they are fondly remembered for their late 80s and 90s infectious tunes (I dare you to find someone who can't blurt the chorus word-for-word to 'The Impression That I Get' after a few beers on a Saturday night), there's no stopping the pure might behind The Bosstones, with 2018 marking a brand new album - their tenth release that comes over 30 years since their inception.
With 'While We're At It' comfortably settled into the world, The Soundcheck grabbed Bosstones frontman Dicky Barrett to chat favourite artists, the four waves of ska and why he's so un-punk that he's PUNK. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Firstly – thank you so much for taking the time to chat. The legacy of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones needs no introduction, not only are you guys revered for your unparalleled contribution to ska back in the day….but now over 30 years since you started, you’ve recently unleashed your brand new album ‘While We’re At It’…did you ever dream back in those early days that in 2018 you guys would still be making new music?
DICKY BARRETT: Thank you for the kind words. I never dreamed I’d be making new music back in the day. It all feels like a long strange dream that I’m experiencing with my childhood friends that doesn’t seem to end and good things just keep happening to us.
TIANA: And with ‘While We’re At It’ marking your tenth studio album, did it just feel like a well-oiled machine this time round? Did anything change significantly from a writing or recording perspective?
DICKY: It feels oily and like a machine, so I guess I’d answer “yes” to the first part of that question. The world, and more accurately the part of it we live in, has changed a great deal in the last few years so the insanity and ugliness of that played a part both creatively and conceptually in the making of While We’re At It. Combine that with modern technology - for example if Joe has a musical notion in his head, it goes from his phone to mine in mere moments and we hammer out a song that way. Needless to say the album making process, for us has gone through many changes and has evolved a great deal through the years but in the end you still end up with the exact Mighty Mighty BossToneS album that we wanted to make.
'WONDERFUL DAY FOR THE RACE' (FROM NEW ALBUM 'WHILE WE'RE AT IT')
TIANA: You guys are credited as bringing ska punk to the mainstream – why do you think your music resonated so heavily at the time? And what are your thoughts on the present-day ska world?
DICKY: It resonated with people and people like it because it’s damn good - I think. Ska music is a passion of mine and has been for roughly 35 years so I don’t care if other people don’t think it’s cool or happening or currently hip. I love making it and listening to it all of the time. If you subscribe to the wave theory of Ska then the BossToneS came out of (ruled?) the Third Wave of Ska. This fourth wave with bands like The Interrupters, Buster Shuffle, The Skints is damn good! And even though you didn’t ask me to, I’ll rate the “waves” for you: #1: The Second Wave: Madness, The Specials, The English Beat, Bad Manners! 17 year old me could not get enough. #2: The Fourth Wave: so much hope so much promise. So far they seem to know what they’re doing. Don’t fuck it up kids. #3: The First Wave: absolutely brilliant and without Jamaica at this time there’d be no waves to follow. Perhaps a separate class and category? With all due respect - I just wasn’t there. #4: The Third Wave: too much mucking about bastardizing and hybridization earned this wave the number 4 position. Blame me. I still love it though.
'THE IMPRESSION THAT I GET' (THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES)
TIANA: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were notorious for really putting in the man hours with your live shows in particular back in the day, and they are still legendary. How do you maintain such a frantic energy for these live performances?
DICKY: Playing live is what we do and what we pride ourselves on. We want to entertain everyone in the room or at the event. If you’re not a good live band you shouldn’t be a band. We’re very good at it, if you don’t believe me - ask anyone that’s ever been to a Mighty Mighty BossToneS show. 98% of them will say “they crushed” the other 2% will say “what’s with the dancer?”
TIANA: Over the years you guys have embarked on some huge tours – is there any particular live performance memory that significantly stands out? A highlight or perhaps just something that stuck with you after all this time?
DICKY: There are so many memories, that comes with being a band for as long as we’ve been a band but my memory often fails me, that comes with being a person for as long as I’ve been a person.
TIANA: Considering you are eternally linked with the upbeat, brassy ska world – what sort of music did you grow up listening to? Are there any surprises that led you to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones?
DICKY: I loved Arrowsmith in the J Geils band, two great bands from the city of Boston. I’ve always loved live music and Rock ‘n’ Roll and when I discovered Punk Rock and Ska music it changed me forever.
TIANA: And who are some artists or bands you’re listening to currently?
DICKY: I will forever love The Clash, The Band, Dusty Springfield, The Beach Boys, The Jam, SSD, The Monkees, Black Flag, The Pogues, Madness, Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello, The Replacements, The Specials, Glen Campbell, The Undertones, The Allman Brothers and The Resignators from Melbourne.
TIANA: You’re synonymous with ska punk – what’s the most punk thing you’ve ever done?
DICKY: The things I do are so unPunk that they’re Punk. I make my bed and brush my teeth three times a day - Punk Rock!
TIANA: And Finally, while we’ve already been gifted ‘While We’re At It’ , are there any other Mighty Mighty Bosstones secrets you can reveal about what you might be up to next?
DICKY: We will most likely go back to being lazy and lackadaisical but hopefully we will make our way back to Australia.
TIANA: Thank you so much for your time!
DICKY: Thank you so much!
THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONE'S 10TH ALBUM 'WHILE WE'RE AT IT' IS OUT NOW VIA ALL THE USUAL SUSPECTS. FOR MORE INFO HEAD TO:
BY TIANA SPETER