Going 20 Rounds with Mike McColgan of the Street Dogs
I did this interview with Mike McColgan of the Street Dogs (ex-Dropkick Murphys). This was my first interview and Mike was really good about it. Interview took place on August 26, 2003, by Eric Hultgren (aka raging_geek)
So how did the Street Dogs get started and what is the line up?
Street Dogs got started in Jeff “The Shark” Erna’s basement. Jeff who is our drummer called me up about a year and a half ago and asked me if I wanted to sing in or yell in on some tracks he and Rob Guidotti (our guitar player) were working on and I said hell yeah and that is how the Street Dogs commenced barking. Line up-John Rioux-Bass, Rob Guidotti-guitar, Jeff Erna-Drums, and my sorry ass on vocals!
What are some of the best things about your band mates?
Some of the best things about my band mates…..Hmmm ……let me see…..John Rioux our bass player and resident mover and shaker is super passionate about song writing, performing live and giving back to the music scene and helping others…. Rob Guidotti our guitar player is edgy and raw, Rob will say what’s on his mind, pulling no punches and there is a certain truthfulness that rings out of that and that immeasurably helps the creative process of making music…
Jeff Erna our drummer is loose as a goose, not shaken at all, regardless of the stakes, be it performing live or making music, he is in my own humble opinion one of the best drummers in Boston. That only briefly touches on some of the best things about my band mates. Let me add one more thing, they also put up with my crazy ass
How did you get hooked up with Cross Check Records and how are they as a label?
Wade”Rueben Kincade” Sulzman assists Johnny our bass player with managerial matters and he was contacted by Crosscheck about a year ago. This was after our seven-song demo had circulated around for a few weeks. Crosscheck Records, which is the punk/hardcore imprint of CMH records based in Los Angeles, contacted Kincade who informed the band and we started informal talks which inevitably led to serious talks and us signing to the label.
The label obviously is in its infancy but it benefits from a strong flagship label CMH. We have had minor skirmishes with the label as do all bands whether they admit it or not but let it be told that Crosscheck gives the artist their say and they work they’re asses off for us. The band has a good, strong, straight up relationship with Crosscheck. We are happy to be aboard Crosscheck, hell we are happy somebody gave us a shot!
What is the main thing you want people to get when listening to Savin Hill or see your live show?
The main thing I want people to feel when they hear our record or see us live is that they got their money’s worth because we go for broke and give it our all. We are not rock stars! We are people who love music and love making it and I know this could be construed as hokey, lame or cliche but its how we feel .We feel grateful to be making records and playing live.
What are the plans for supporting your debut release?
We plan on supporting our debut release by playing shows and touring. We will also talk to whoever wants to talk to us i.e. interviews and stuff like that.
I heard Taang! will be releasing Savin Hill on vinyl, how did this come about and what is the non-cd track that is exclusive to this release?
Curtis Casella head of TAANG records heard our demo and was very interested in doing something with us but by the time we made contact with him we were already signed to Crosscheck. So Curtis flew to Boston, watched us rehearse, consumed copius amounts of Budweiser lager and hatched an idea of TAANG releasing Savin Hill on vinyl and we were pumped about the idea so bang there you have it. The non-CD track will be Locked and Loaded.
If you could collaborate with any artist living or dead who would it be with and why?
Joe Strummer, I absolutely loved and still love and listen to the clash. I would be in heaven if I could have worked with Joe Strummer. R.I.P Joe
Are you surprised about the amount of support that the Street Dogs have gotten so far?
Yes very, very surprised. We as a band did not expect the type of reaction we have received so far. When we play live we get really strong responses from the crowd and people who have heard our recorded music are supportive and complimentary.
So I heard that after you were finished recording Savin Hill that you guys actually went back and hit the studio again. Is this because you felt like some of the songs could be better or did you just have some new songs that you thought were better than some of the older songs?
I humbly believe we were in a zone creatively. We had more songs and we really wanted to give this record everything we had and we managed I believe to succeed in that endeavor. Some of the newer songs definitely inspired us to take things further and head back into the studio. Plus instead of 12 songs people we’ll get 15 songs for their hard-earned dollar!
What is your main inspiration for writing?
My main inspiration for writing lyrics is life experience write about what I have been through and what I have seen. I try not to dabble in the abstract and I try to be sincere in what I write. So that’s my hokey-ass response!
How did you manage to get the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Fenway?
I just sent in a video tape of myself singing the anthem in to the Boston Red Sox public affairs office, figured it was a huge long-shot but they wrote me back stating they would love for me to come and sing the anthem on September 24, 2003 and of course I returned their request with a huge hell yeah! It truly is a dream come true for me!
What kind of reaction do you get in the fire department for being in a punk rock band?
I constantly get my balls broken over it but that strangely enough is a good thing because our job is extremely close knit and when we rib one another on things it is a sign of fraternity and camaraderie. If my co-workers we’re silent and not breaking my stones that would be a very bad thing. Sounds wacked but that is how things go!!!!!
Do you feel that there is any pressure on you, since Do or Die is such a tremendous album?
No I do not feel any pressure at all as I am not looking to make another do or die or live up to that album. All albums are different and Street Dogs are different then DKM. I am just really grateful to be able to make a record at all and to get the chance play live. Whatever the album sells it sells and I will be happy whether its sells ten or ten million! My hope is that the people who do buy our album our moved in some way by our music.
You’ve written some great tunes when you were with the Murphy’s, was it difficult to take time off and then get back into writing with a different group of musicians? Or did the time off from music actually help?
I never stopped writing so it wasn’t that difficult and the time off helped as I picked up more life experience along the way. There was some rust when I first jumped back in but sweat, blood, and tears in the shark tank AKA our rehearsal space took that right off!
Have you ever had a show where you didn’t spill a drink on stage? (I know I put 4 Cokes on stage for you in Providence and that at least two got kicked over within the first 5 minutes. Very impressive.)
I move around up there on stage a lot so drinks will get knocked around when we perform. I want really badly to sing my heart and soul out and get the crowd into our show when we perform, so its Katie bar the door time when we perform live.
When I saw you in Providence, there were some girls there that were yelling at you to take your shirt off. You laughed it off pretty good but does that happen often or do you think they thought you were the lead singer for Paint it Black? It was the first show I’ve ever been at where the members of the audience have asked that. Do we have to start worrying about you becoming the next Wayne Newton? Speaking of Wayne Newton, do you think his hair is a fire hazard?
That never happens! I am not Justin Timberlake up there! As far as being the next Wayne Newton goes I can confidently say that I will never be perceived as the next Wayne Newton! His hair without doubt poses a significant fire hazard as his pompadour easily stands about 4ft seven inches on its own!
What is the best thing about being a fireman? About being a singer?
The answer no doubt will sound super cliché but nevertheless is true and that is I love being able to help people out in tough situations. That is what I love about being a firefighter. As far as being a singer goes I love being able to release what is inside of me creatively. Being a singer is for me a wonderful creative outlet.
Has Rob corrupted you and the others with his love for heavy metal?
Rob has not corrupted me with his love for heavy metal, as I am truly a recovering metalhed! I grew up listening to Iron Maiden, Dio, Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest! I love punk and no doubt about it metal as well! Long Live AC/DC!
What are you listening to these days? Reading?
I am listening to Rancid’s new album Indestructible, Flogging Molly’s drunken lullabies, The Jam’s the sound of the jam and I am not afraid to admit this at all Paul McCartney and Wing’s album band on the run. I am currently reading Tom Clancy’s latest book Red Rabbit.
Can you sum up the Street Dogs in one word? (You can give more than a one word answer.)
Yes I can sum up the Street Dogs in one word and that is “determined”!
Mike thank you for the taking the time to do this interview and I wish you, and the rest of the Street Dogs, the best of luck.