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One-On-One with Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Dicky Barrett

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Do you remember the first time you saw a band when you were younger, reveling in the music and good times? It’s a good bet that you never once contemplated interviewing a member of that band a quarter of a century later, either.

But, with the Camp Punk In Drublic festival taking place June 1-3 at Legend Valley (just east of Columbus, Ohio), it made this author think back to when I first experienced the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in 1992.

“26 years, Rick!?! So, we’re both old,” said frontman Dicky Barrett <laughter ensued>

Born in Squantum, Massachusetts, Barrett has led the nattily-dressed Boston ska-core band since their formation in 1983. Minus the hiatus that lasted but a few years, they have been going strong for 30-plus years. They will play the final day of the three-day festival next month.

“That show,” he said, “I’m really looking forward to.”

Continuing, Barrett said, “I just met with our bass player (Joe Gittleman) to talk about our strategic attack. We’re going to go with the ‘tear the place apart’ approach. That’s the way the Bosstones do it the best. We’re going to take that stage like Grant took Richmond, and hopefully there’s some stage left when we’re done.”

They have a new album, “While We’re At It” scheduled for release on June 17, which completes the “trilogy” of albums they have released since ending their three-year hiatus in 2007. The band considers this to be the best collection of songs they’ve ever recorded. But, does Barrett hold this sentiment as well?

Bosstones’ frontman Dicky Barrett (Credit: ABC/Jimmy Kimmel Live)

“Yeah, but you know,” he said, “what would be the point of putting something out that you don’t think is better than the work you’ve done in the past? Ultimately, you have to put it out and wait for people that love the band and love music to truly decide. We’re extremely happy, and I can tell you this… I’ve been more tentative about other albums being any good in the past.

“On this (album), it’s around-the-horn unanimously a very good record. I mean, we could put it out and it ends up being a fart in church. Then people would go ‘Oh, the Bosstones don’t know what a good record is.’ In sports, there’s no denying what ‘good’ is. In music and art, it’s up to interpretation and opinion.”

How one interprets music is a deeply personal affair. But, there is no denying the energy the band puts into their shows 30-plus years down the road.

“We put on a good show,” said Barrett, “and I truly believe that. Columbus, who has been very good to the Bosstones for years… come out and see us again. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much fun we have and how great the live show is.”

Unlike many bands that either implode or limp on for years, trying to milk every last ounce of playing live shows of their bygone hits, the Bosstones are arguably stronger now than they have ever been. Did Barrett think he would still be playing Bosstones music to appreciative crowds when they were just getting started?

“No, I couldn’t predict that,” he admitted. “I couldn’t have imagined that that would be possible. But, I am happy that that’s the case. I also don’t feel like it’s something that we’re just chugging along. I think that we’re capable and we’re ready, willing and able to deliver.

“It’s not like people are saying ‘Jeez, it’s been 32 years, but it probably should have been four.’ I don’t feel like it’s one of those deals. Anybody can argue that with me if they want, but I’ll stand strong.”

Mighty Mighty Bosstones – What The World Needs Now Is Love

Many bands have a shelf-life of just a few years, falling by the wayside and leaving fans to wonder “what if?” The longevity of the Bosstones comes down to one simple word… friendship.

“The people that are not in the band are still really close friends,” he continued. “Nate (Albert) who started the band with us, left the band for personal reasons. It’s not like we’ve ever thrown anybody out, or there’s been any bad blood. People have just made decisions to do something else or go in a different direction.

“That’s exactly what I credit all of it to, is the personnel and the lineup and the people that we call ‘Bosstones.’ It’s the sort of thing where once you’re a Bosstone, you’re always a Bosstone. It’s a big band, with nine people on stage now. So, the number of Bosstones is not any higher than 15 or 16 guys that have been real members. It’s pretty impressive, I think. Also, there’s the quality of the people, myself excluded… <laughter>… they’re both talented and smart, creative and not only have the ability to deliver good music, they’re just good people.

“We’re also not the type of guys to spend a lot of time with people we don’t like. We were friends when we started the band, and it’s more important that we stay friends.”

I would hazard a guess that many fans of the band “discovered” them when their hit The Impression That I Get exploded on MTV from their 1997 album “Let’s Face It.” But, there is so much more to this band than that one big hit song. They write songs with messages that are timeless, many times in an understated way.

Camp Punk In Drublic

“That album was 20 years old last year,” Barrett exclaimed. “That had one, pretty major hit… certainly by MTV standards. But, the album sold a lot of copies and continues to sell copies. So, people would know that before anything else. When people hear the horn line from The Impression That I Get they go ‘Oh yeah, that’s familiar,’ at the very least.

“But, the thing that’s great about music and that song, especially when we’re asked if we get tired playing it or if we’d rather not, the answer is no because it’s good and it excites people every time. We get a lot of excitement from the rest of the set list, too. A lot of times, we get people who stay there that haven’t heard many of the other albums go ‘Holy shit! That’s a great song or a great message’ which is something we’ve always tried to incorporate into what we do.”

Every musician has one song that they are fond of playing, with it many times being one that is not necessarily a hit song. Barrett is no exception.

“There’s a song called Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker that was actually released on something called ‘Medium Rare’ which was a collection of B-sides and that kind of stuff,” he explains. “We recorded that song right after the hiatus, which was where we were assessing ourselves. So, I wrote that song, which is all about friendship.

“I like playing that song, because when you dovetail into The Impression That I Get, it’s a one-two punch that people have trouble recovering from.”

The question then must be posed… will the crowd hear that number on June 3rd?

“I’m pretty sure… although I haven’t seen the set list yet. I’ll have a meeting with Joe (Gittleman) and see how we’re going to attack the Columbus, Ohio festival.

“That song is the start of everything we’ve done musically since (the hiatus). Following ‘Medium Rare’ we did ‘Pin Points and Gin Joints’, and then we followed that with ‘The Magic of Youth’, which is followed by ‘While We’re At It’ which is coming out on June 17th. All three of these albums were produced by Ted Hutt, a terrific, Grammy-winning producer.”

Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker

As I’ve always said, good music is good music. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones continue to write, record and release good music. This long-time fan is grateful for that. For the newer fans among you, their back catalogue is a treasure-trove of great music. You can experience them live at Camp Punk In Drublic at Legend Valley, June 1-3.

Barrett concluded our conversation by saying, “It’s the experiences and the fun we’ve had, and we’re lucky to be able to go to places like Columbus, Ohio, have people show up and say ‘Hey, we like you guys.’ It’s a pretty charmed life and a nice way to spend your life.

“So, we don’t take it for granted or take it lightly. It would be asinine to do so.”

Ed. – We’ll have coverage of the festival as well as a full review of Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ set on June 3.


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