The Street Dogs’ Mike McColgan: ‘Exorcising Demons’ in a Clown Costume
Kathleen Meyer
8/6/2007 12:33:46 PM

"You cannot fight technology and you can’t stop what’s going to happen"

Punk rock? Sure. But that doesn’t mean The Street Dogs, with their fierce energy, compassion, and thought-provoking lyrics are stupid. Having toured with major bands such as Flogging Molly and Social Distortion, The Street Dogs have a solid lineup that includes Marcus Hollar, Tobe Bean, and Paul Rucker on drums. Lead singer, Mike McColgan (formerly of Dropkick Murphys) and his band have a lot to say (and some subjects are heavier than others, including views on the war in Iraq). was fortunate to sit down and chat with McColgan before the Street Dogs’ show at St. Louis’ Creepy Crawl on their Fading American Dream [label] Tour.

NT: Have The Street Dogs had any major obstacles on your way to success?
MM: I think the obstacles our group has had are the common ones: exposure, promotion…a lot of the work that you have to do is done yourself, like touring; you have to tour a lot in order to keep the name fresh and to stay out there and have people see your band. And with the advent of the computer now, and the mp3, you know, people can basically get your music for free now.

NT: Has that affected you in a negative way?
MM: We feared it at first, but now we see it as a more positive thing. A lot more people have our record without buying it, and they’re coming to our shows to see us. You can’t duplicate and put that [experience] onto a computer screen. You cannot fight technology and you can’t stop what’s going to happen. Music’s going to get out there; it’s going to circulate.

NT: I heard that you were a fire fighter.
MM: Yea, I was with the Boston Fire Department for four years. In September 2004 I took a leave of absence to tour full time with Street Dogs. That’s all I’ve been doing ever since, it’s just been non-stop. Once this tour gets done, we’re gonna go on the road with Tiger Army from late September to early November. Then we’ll probably go to Europe with them. It never stops.

NT: And you were also in the US Army, is that right?
MM: Yes, I actually served in Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and I joined the Army to get college money. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. I was an honorably discharged veteran. I think a lot of the song-writing from Street Dogs leans back to my time serving, and back to my public service at the fire department. You can hear it throughout Savin Hill, Back to the World or Fading American Dream. All those things had an impact on me. It made me who I am and it bleeds its way into the songs, for sure.

NT: Has music always been part of your life?
MM: It’s kinda funny, I mean when I first got into music in 1995, it was a little cover band that later evolved into Dropkick Murphys. I was in Dropkick Murphys from ’96 to ’98 before I left to be a Fire Fighter. I got involved in music again in 2002. When we made Savin Hill, [then performed and toured], the fever caught hold of me again. I realized it’s what I want to do. Even though there is a severe degree of difficulty with it because you’re away from your loved ones a lot. But they recognize this is who we are, and this is what we do and you know we’re not in it for drugs, women or money. We have something to say, you know what I mean? We have a message and a purpose and there’s a slant to what we do. But we’re mobile a lot. It’s the only way we can promote our record and get our message out there.

NT: What were you hoping your fans’ reactions would be regarding Fading American Dream And what’s your own experience making it?
MM: When you put music out and hand it over to people, you really can’t control the reaction. I know when we made our three records we didn’t strategically sit down and say, ‘let’s gear it toward this crowd, or that crowd, or write to this person or that person.’ I think we just dug inside of ourselves and found what moves us, what we’ve been through and what’s real to us. Lyrically and musically we put it down. Fading American Dream, just like Savin Hill and Back to the World is no different. It’s sort of a window into where we were at the time we made it, who and what we are as people, and what we believe in and what we’re feeling. It amazes me that people can sometimes identify with something that is so personal. Certainly we’re not marketing geniuses. We just do what we do and work hard and hope it will move people. And little by little it seems to have done that.

I like the idea of a person taking action, getting involved in something that impassions them, or makes them mad, or makes them revolt. Internally, politically, spiritually, or mentally. Bands like the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, and even U2 to some extent [do this to their fans]. Their lyrics and music hit on some pretty heavy topics. [When I first listened to them] My eyes got opened and I could identify to what they were saying. I felt like, to some extent, I got more aware and active in my own community and neighborhood. Just tried to make a difference. We’re not naïve enough to think that we can change the world, but at the same time, our music can make a difference here and there. I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination we’re like some political movement... We just do what we do. We put it out there on our sleeves and it’s sort of like we have to get it outside of ourselves, say these things, exorcise these demons. All the stuff wells up inside of you. You watch the news, you read the papers, you read books, you go through life, you experience things and fortunately you’re lucky enough to have music as a conduit and turn around and release it all.

NT: Would you say you have done anything really crazy that your fans wouldn’t really know about?

MM: Me do anything crazy? Wow. [Laughing] I dressed up as a clown one time at a party and I was really really drunk and broke a fish tank, I mean, does that count as being crazy?

NT: [Laughing] Yea, that counts.
MM: Alright, that was in Germany when I was in the military. I really did, I broke…

NT: Was it a big fish tank?
MM: Yea, it was. I wasn’t invited back. It was during Halloween. It wasn’t a big stretch for me, you know, being in a clown outfit.

NT: Well, if you weren’t involved in music at all what do you think you’d most likely be doing?
MM: I’d probably be back involved in pre-hospital care as a paramedic, or trying to be on radio, or a game show host or be an actor or… I don’t know. That’s a difficult question. I get so focused on what we’re doing out here that that’s what my mental powers at and everything.

NT: Would you say that as a band you’re all really close and able to work well together?
MM: Yea, you know I think we show our endearment by just breaking each other’s stones and making fun of each other, you know. It’s kind of a by product of what me and Johnny are from, and everyone else seems to kinda give like slowly morphed into the environment. You spend so much time together, you go through so much stuff as a touring band, that you have to have an amazing sense of humor and take things with a grain of salt. If you took everything that goes on out here at face value you’d probably be so high strung and angry you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself, for real. That’s a different conversation, for a book, down the line.

We’ll be on the lookout for that book. But a little sooner on our calendars, we can watch for The Street Dogs to record their fourth record between January and March of 2008, with a potential June release.

Photo by Mike Nahm


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