The Dropkick Murphys were already done recording their new album Going Out In Style when they gathered up the courage to ask Bruce Springsteen if he'd be willing to contribute guest vocals to one track. "We were on tour in Australia when we finally got the nerve and we sent him an e-mail," says Ken Casey, frontman for the Boston-based band. "You'd think having to deal with Bruce Springsteen would be this complicated thing. But it was just like 'want to do it?' and he was like 'sure!' It was as easy as that."
The band first met Springsteen about five years ago when he checked out one of their New York shows. "He came back afterwards and introduced himself," says Casey. "We were just blown away, but we really hit it off. He's since invited us to play with him a few times."
In December they sent him their rendition of "Peg o' My Heart," a song that dates back to 1913. "We reworked it and changed the time signature," says Casey. "It had this Fifties rock & roll vibe. We were like 'this sounds like something that the E Street Band would pull out.' That's how we got the idea to invite Bruce to sing on it. Thank god for modern technology. We were able to send him the song across the world."
They only gave him minimal direction. "All we said was 'we thought it would be great to trade off on verses,'" Casey says. "You don't really give the Boss instructions."
Casey was blown away when Springsteen e-mailed in the song with his vocal contributions. "I was like a kid opening a present on Christmas morning," he says. "Both of my grandmothers are named Peg. If you ever want to win brownie points with your grandmothers record a song for them. If you really want to win brownie points get Bruce to record on the song. Both of them are hip enough to be Bruce fans."
The collaboration is the culmination of Casey's lifelong Springsteen fandom. "I've always loved Darkness on the Edge of Town and we've covered 'Badlands,'" he says. "I wasn't a huge fan of Born In The USA because the production was so Eighties. Now those songs my favorite songs that he's ever written. 'No Surrender' is a punk rock song when you hear it live."
Going Out In Style - in stores on March 1st - is the Dropkick Murphys' first studio album in four years. "We had just spent 12 years recording, writing and touring," Casey says. "We elected to put in a little time to enjoy some time with our families and recharge our batteries."
They started writing in September, and cut the bulk of the LP at a Boston studio in December with producer Ted Hutt - the first time they had ever used a producer. "We're seven guys from Boston and most of us come from this steel work, non-communicative Irish Catholic background," says Casey. "We're not exactly the most open with our thoughts and feelings. It was nice to have someone as a sounding board, and to have someone to crack the whip. I don't like being the bad guy."
The disc doesn't stray far from the group's signature Celtic punk sound. "We don't get overly concerned with rewriting the wheel," Casey says. "We're happy with a distinct style and sound. We just wanted to make a more well-rounded album that fills all the bills we've ever been. A lot of the songs are just straight ahead old fashioned 1970s punk rock types of things, but it might have a banjo on it."
The group kicks off an American tour in late February. "We plan on going to as many places around the world as will have us," Casey says. "It's a great feeling to have new songs to play for people after four years." They hope that Springsteen joins them onstage at some point on the tour. "I don't know what his schedule is," says Casey. "It would be a dream come true, but we're just grateful that he did it on the record."
How would they feel about recording an entire album as Bruce Springsteen's backing band? "Who would say no to that?" says Casey, laughing. "Bruce, we're ready when you are."
Photograph by Bobby Bank/WireImage