Dicky Barrett is a busy man right now. While acting as the gravelly voiced announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Rhode Island native is fronting the The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, one of the few groups in the small but thriving ska scene who have broke into mainstream success.
While working on set of his small side project, the sarcastic rude boy took the time out of his busy schedule to chat with Punknews interviewer Gen Handley about the Bosstones’ new album - While We’re At It - and why the world needs ska music right now.
So why did it take so long for this album?
We were just waiting for the proper inspiration and the timing was right. It was made on our own schedule and at our own pace – we create when we’re feeling creative and that was what was going on. We’ve been playing shows and enjoying being Bosstones. Maybe the seven years went by and we didn’t think much of it. But we were doing other stuff and we don’t have any pressures of a label or anything. At this stage of our careers, as Bosstones, we’re not going to do things by a calendar. It feels like it makes a better-sounding Bosstones record that way. It’s organic.
This is a very hopeful-sounding record. Why is that?
I think because we are hopeful. Maybe hope is all we have left – you’ve got to hang on. It’s just our spirit. I don’t think we sat around as a bunch of desperate, hopeless guys and thought, “Let’s create something hopeful and hopefully we’ll fool everybody.” I think it was that because that’s who we are. How can you not be, you know? We’re a bunch of middle-aged guys playing punk-ska to people who love it and show up to our shows. If we were hopeless, that would be pretty sad.
But with that hope, there’s also some cynicism on the record.
We have hope, but we’re not dopes. We breathe air and we’re thinking human beings. We’re not saying everything’s great. There’s very few reasons to feel hopeful these days. We’re at a time and place – a junction – in history where things seem as desperate as it has ever been. I might be wrong. It might have been worse during the Depression. I don’t know but it feels pretty bad and I think people are anxious to feel good.
What goes into writing a Bosstones song?
We’re always trying to come up with different ways to create a Bosstones song. To keep things feeling fresh and original – we’re not all that anxious to repeat ourselves even though we might be. Lyrically, inspiration obviously comes from what we’re thinking about at the time and that is combined with the very talented people who write the music for the Bosstones. It’s that chocolate and peanut butter sort of scenario. But there’s no schedule or calendar. I mean, I wrote something on the roof on one day and then I wrote in the basement the day after. (Laughs)
What do you remember most about whenLet’s Face It blew up?
I wish I enjoyed it more but instead I let it get into my head. The success bothered me when I just wanted to create and play shows – entertaining punks and ska fans. I lived in fear of people going, “You completely sold out” and I was anxious to tell everybody it wasn’t my fault and I was just doing what I’ve always done. But what really happened was that everyone who had supported the Bosstones said, “It couldn’t have happened to nicer guys and they did things on their own terms.” But yeah, during it I wish I would have relaxed and enjoyed the ride more than I actually did.
Is that your favourite Bosstone’s album?
No, my favourite is the one we’re about to release. I like the last three…I think we get better with each album. So yeah, I love it and everything before sucked and everything after will suck. (Laughs) Each album is better than the one before it.
Maybe I’m delusional and other people can argue with me but if people think [Let’s Face It] is where it began and ended, that’s fine with me.
Ok, last question.
Last question? Seriously?
Yeah, why? Do you have 30 more?
I have four more.
Let’s split the difference. Two more questions.
(Laughs) Ok, let’s see…
Pick the best two questions. Here’s the thing I’m offering you. If you have any other questions you wished you would have asked, text me them and I’ll send you a cohesive answer.
(Laughs) Ok man. That’s lots of pressure. Can you tell me where your love for punk and ska originated?
Let me say this. That’s an excellent question – you picked a good one.
When I was younger, there was a kid who rolled in from a different town when I was 17 years old and he was older than me and my neighborhood friends. He had all the ska records and we’d go to his house and listen to them. That included The Specials and The English Beat. I fell in love with those records and just loved them. The English Beat came to Boston and they opened for The Pretenders. I was just blown away. And then another time, I got to see The Specials. It was all kind of second-generation ska and fell head over heels in love with that music. I was the only suburban Norwood, Massachusetts rude boy (Laughs).
That’s a good segway into my final question. Why does the world need ska right now?
Wow, man. Those last two questions are homeruns. (Laughs) Great frigging questions.
(Laughs) Thank god.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I think ska is some sort of a musical super hero. When people need to feel good, it seems to show up at just the right time. I think that whatever was going on in Jamaica in the ‘50s, with all the turmoil, it needed ska then. And it needed it in Margaret Thatcher’s England and we need it know. So do the math. When people are feeling down, they want to feel good. Ska is the thinking man’s way of enjoying himself and I’m glad we can provide that.