By Rob Duguay
Special to The Call/The Times
There’s gonna be a whole lot of fun going on at The Met in Pawtucket on Saturday, Aug. 10. Boston-based ska punk legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones will be headlining the second edition of the Cranking & Skanking Fest with a stacked lineup. Providence rock & roll act The Amazing Royal Crowns will play their first local show in decades and California ska punks Voodoo Glow Skulls and Buck-O-Nine are also going to be performing. Rounding out the rest of the lineup will be Philadelphia hardcore act Stolen Wheelchairs, Massachusetts and Rhode Island rock & rollers Diablogato, Manchester, N.H. punks Secret Spirit and Rhode Island Music Hall Of Famers Neutral Nation. There will be also be plenty of food vendors and a craft beer tasting to go along with the riffs and beats.
I had a conversation with Dicky Barrett from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones about his connection to Rhode Island, what the weather is going to be like for the festival, being the announcer for a certain late night talk show and changes in the music industry.
Rob Duguay: You were born in Providence so when you come back to play shows in Rhode Island do you get a different feeling because of your roots here? Do you have any friends and family that you always make sure to see when you’re in The Ocean State?
Dicky Barrett: I always go see my friend Darren Hill, who is also the manager of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, at his vintage store called POP in Providence. It’s quite the place with an art gallery, a bunch of cool furniture, knick-knacks and all that stuff. My uncle on my dad’s side was the chief of paramedics in Providence during the ‘70s and ‘80s and I was named after him. He passed away and my aunt has lived in North Providence for a long time. Providence, Pawtucket and basically all of Rhode Island has a very special place in my heart.
I feel very connected to the state due to having been born there and being so close to where I grew up in Massachusetts. We spent a great deal of time traveling down to Providence during my youth to see my grandparents. There’s a song off of our ninth album ‘The Magic Of Youth’ called “Sunday Afternoons Of Wisdom Ave” which is about my experiences as a child at my grandmother and grandfather’s house. By the way, do you know what the weather is supposed to be like in Pawtucket on Saturday?
RD: Yeah, it’s supposed to be nice and sunny with a high of 80.
DB: OK, that’s good to hear. We’ll deal with whatever weather is handed to us but it’ll be nice if it’s a nice day.
RD: Absolutely. A trademark look of yours and the band’s has always been the plaid suits. When did you first come up for the concept of it? Were you at a thrift shop one day, you saw one and you thought it would be cool to wear?
DB: It was just something we kind of did to sort of separate ourselves. I wore a pair of pajamas one day to a show we played in the north end of Boston at an old venue known as Chet’s Last Call. They were plaid and we tried to outdo each other to see who could pile more plaid on themselves. We sort of thought our music was plaid, which was crazy, loud and sometimes tough to look at. We always considered what were doing to be like that so it’s a nice representation of who we are, what we are and what we do.
RD: It’s a pretty cool look, I’ve always been a fan of it.
DB: Thank you so much.
RD: No problem. Along with music, you’re also the announcer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC. How did you get the gig in the first place? Did you and Jimmy know each other from your radio days in Los Angeles and he offered it to you when he got the show?
DB: It’s actually quite simple, Jimmy Kimmel is a lifelong radio guy. He loves radio, he always wanted to be on the radio when he was a kid and when he first started looking for work he wanted to broadcast on the radio. I was a guy at the time who was traveling around the country and showing up to different towns while trying to promote shows that I had. I would run into Jimmy in different marketplaces and we became friends. As many lifelong radio guys experience, he was shipped from one job to the other.
Jimmy would get on the air and do whatever he wanted to. His last radio job was at KROQ in Los Angeles. He was in Tampa Bay, he was in Portland, Oregon at one point, he was in Seattle and all of these other different places. When I was on tour, I would go to a radio station to do an interview and try to sell tickets to whatever show we were playing. Jimmy was always a guy who would interview me and when he got the TV show I was looking to be on the road less than we were.
He said, “Why don’t you try out for the announcer on this TV show?” and I thought it would be really funny and it would make my friends laugh. I didn’t expect to be there long but I fell in love with Jimmy and I fell in love with the people who put that show on. Close to 20 years later, I’m still the announcer of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
RD: That’s awesome how it came together from a long friendship. The music industry has experienced so many changes over the past couple decades. Most of them are due to the internet with streaming services like Spotify along with iTunes and tons of other ways listeners can listen to music. At the same time, it also hurts the buck for the musician because there isn’t as much of a way to get revenue as there was before the internet started when it focused more on how and where records were distributed. What do you think is a big difference these days in the industry that people might not recognize?
DB: We would have to take up six pages to properly answer that question, it’s changed so much. I never really understood the business side of things to begin with, all I knew is that I wanted to play music with my best friends and that’s all we wanted to do. We wanted to perform live, write songs, create music and make people who came to see us play or bought something we recorded happy. That was our goal and we achieved that early on. We then became part of the music industry and the music business inadvertently, we were never really welcomed guests.
When it changed, it changed around us. We figured that if it’s going to be different than it used to be, then so be it. For us, it’s still the same thing. When we come to Pawtucket to play, we want to get up on stage and when people leave we hope they had a lot of fun and they really enjoyed it. With all the different ways that music is presented in some ways it’s made life easier with the technology of it but it’s also made things a little less personal.
In other ways, it’s nice to see that people aren’t making millions of dollars off of other people’s artwork. When you talk about executives and corporations making less money, I never feel bad about that. Like I said, we could do four or five hours on this question alone.
RD: We definitely could. Is there going to be anything different this time around with this year’s Cranking & Skanking Fest than the first one you guys did at The Palladium in Worcester last year?
DB: I think it’s going to be very Rhode Island-centric, it’s hard not to be. Every time we play in Pawtucket, Providence or Rhode Island, it’s always warm, wonderful and enjoyable. There will definitely be some local bells and whistles and it’ll have that sort of vibe to it with the Amazing Royal Crowns, Diablogato and Neutral Nation performing. To be honest with you, the festival was designed to float around New England to a different city every summer. Next year it might be Brockton, Mass. or New Haven, Conn., or Portland, Maine.
At some point we’re going to wish we stayed in whatever city because it was successful last year in Worcester. Every summer we’re going to go somewhere a little bit different than what we do it in Boston every winter. I know Pawtucket is going to be great but it’s hard to leave a place after it goes well and decide whether to stay or to go.