Dicky Barrett Says the New Mighty Mighty Bosstones Album Will Be Angry: Exclusive Interview
Right before the 2016 presidential election, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were recording a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” They released the tune ahead of their annual run of hometown Boston shows between Christmas and New Year’s Day -- the 19th Hometown Throwdown sold-out the House of Blues from Dec. 28-30.
But, sadly, nobody listened to the Bosstones’ advice, and the world got angrier in 2017. Lead singer Dicky Barrett has seen it all go to hell -- and, as the announcer on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he has had a front row view to the action as the comedian has taken on Republican politicians. Now in 2018, Barrett and the Bosstones are ready to release their first album in seven years. Yes, it’s a fast, furious record. How furious? Barrett dialed up Diffuser to tell us.
How far along are you on While We’re At It, the new Bosstones album?
We're putting the finishing touches on it. We produced it with Ted Hutt, who actually produced our last two and the last couple of Dropkick Murphys albums, among other things. At this point we're calling it our best effort so far. When you do something for more than 30 years you start to get it down. We are a slow study, but once we get it it’s full speed ahead.
Last year at this time, you had just finished up the “What the World Needs Now Is Love” cover. It seems like no one took your advice. The world seems as angry as it has ever been.
It’s such a cute song, but no one listened to the words I sung. (Laughs) Although everybody is giving a lot of attention to “Let's Face It” from the (1997) Let's Face It album. People have latched onto the song as a battle cry. People ask how I feel about it being a modern-day anthem of resistance, an anthem against things that are going on right now, racism, sexism. I tell them I wish people weren't paying attention to the song, that they didn’t need to. I wish we weren’t still dealing with these things. Maybe that’s naive of me. I don't know what I'll do, maybe jump off a roof or something, if 20 years from now the song’s message still needs to be delivered.
You have had bird's eye view of Jimmy Kimmel as he has gotten deeply personal and political on the show over the last year. He has gone after President Trump and passionately advocated for health care reform. Unlike Stephen Colbert and a few other late night hosts, Kimmel wasn’t known as being as intensely political. What has it been like to watch him over the last year?
I f---ing love it. I'm f---ing so proud to be there. He's a modern-day Joe Strummer saying exactly what he feels. It's not Shakespeare from the balcony or Chinese arithmetic, what he is saying is very simple and straightforward. He is talking about what the Bosstones have talked about, taking care of each other and being compassionate. But I’m glad he is using his forum to get those messages out. And to stand there and watch it it makes me proud. I love it.
Have you guys talked about this stuff? Have you talked about what he's been doing? Certainly, it relates to your band’s ideals.
I said to him that he made me proud in a text not that long ago and it made him embarrassed and he said something self-deprecating and funny. And I said, “You're as right on the money as Joe Strummer was in his day.” And then he probably Googled Joe Strummer. (Laugh.) No, I'm kidding, Jimmy knows his music. But I do love being on the show and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right right now but there.
And yet the Bosstones will be very busy next year with a new album and tour dates, right?
Right. It's great to be ready to spring into action with those guys and put out a new record that has things to say and isn't afraid to say them.
Taking into account the political climate and your band’s history as rebel rousers, what can people expect from the new Bosstones album? Is it joyful? Is it angry?
It is probably angrier than you would expect based on my age, based on how long I've been in this career. But it's an honest record. In this climate I can’t just say, "Hey, let's all be cheerful and put on our ska shoes."
It seems like now is a time for a huge punk rock revival, a lot of protest music and furious hip-hop. We need powerful music these days. Maybe that’s the only reward in a world that is getting worse.
Yes, things have gotten worse. It's really not cute anymore. There's no more, "Look at this outside-the-box politician" or "Why don't we let him just do things his way?" Now it just feels like hate. It feels like unhinged hatred. And the wheels are coming off, but not fast enough for me. For me the whole thing is just lies on top of hatred on top of really stupid thinking. So yes, all that is going to get into the music. It has to.
I recently spoke with Derek Trucks who, like yourself also has children. He told me between making music and trying to bring joy to people's lives, he's also had to take time to explain to his kids why Nazis and pedophilia are bad things. I feel making music might be the easy thing to do. The hard part is explaining the world to your kids. Do you agree?
A few years ago, it felt like we were done with so many of the ideas that are back this year. Ideas that just seem to be fresh: anti-Semitism, white supremacism. Didn’t it seem like these things were over? But no, I feel like we're looking them right in the teeth again, which is sad. I have younger children so I haven't had to have those conversations, but God damn it, these things are in my head all the time. I don’t want to have those conversations.
Maybe if the wheels do come off you won’t have to. Maybe you’ll be back to making joyful ska and leave angry punk for a while.
I don’t know. But it will feel good to be a Bosstone for a while. Being a Bosstone is in my DNA. To get to tour and make new music. I’m always thankful for that.