The Dropkick Murphys are a working man’s band. Despite their recent commercial success, the band has spent the past 15 years playing small pubs to the delight of their ever-growing fan base. It is the merging of traditional Celtic music and punk rock that has allowed them to transcend genres and age groups. And it is their tireless touring and dedication to their fans that has ranked them among the elite bands to have ever dabbled in punk rock.
The guitar tone of the Dropkick Murphys is by their own admission, the spawn of Les Pauls being cranked out of Marshall Stacks. The guitar tone is pure gritty, dirty, blue collar, beer soaked rock and roll. But it’s the use of mandolins, banjos, and bagpipes that pull the bands overall sound in a slightly different direction. Celtic rhythms often help to dictate the tempo and flow of Dropkick Murphys’ songs.
In the following interview, guitarist James Lynch gives us a tour of the gear that makes his tone, as well as insight to the making of the band’s new album.
Guitar.com: Let’s go over the gear you’re using these days.
James Lynch: Right now for guitars, I’ve got two 1981 Gibson Les Paul Standards. There’s one that I’ve been using for a very long time and I got so used to it that other guitars just didn’t feel right so I tracked down the exact same guitar for a backup. I don’t use any effects. I’ve been using Marshall JCM800 heads but recently we’ve been trying to get the stage volume down to save our ears so I’ve been using an Orange Rocker 30. I’ve been using the Orange the past few tours. I still like the Marshalls because they have a lot of personality but they can be inconsistent and the Orange is a little more stable.
Guitar.com: Simplicity, I like it.
Lynch: Yeah, I’m the last guy on stage to use a cord, everyone else uses a wireless. I’m a creature of habit, once I get things the way I like it, I don’t like to change anything.
Lynch: This was the first time we started the writing process with virtually nothing. We had a producer come to town and he was there for the first month. It was the first time I had worked with a producer. We just sat around the kitchen at Kelly’s house with acoustic guitars and got some ideas. Then we took those ideas to the practice studio for about a month. We had everything ready to go into the studio
Guitar.com: How did you feel about working with a producer?
Lynch: I had a blast. It’s not something I ever thought I’d be interested in doing. But he’s probably been the most influential person to my guitar playing since my dad taught me how to play. He would help me out by making me do stuff that I didn’t know I could do on the guitar. And I learned a lot about the recording process that I never knew before. It was a really cool experience.
Guitar.com: What sort of things did he push you to do on this record that you had hang ups on before?
Lynch: I usually finish my rhythm track with the drum tracks but this is the first record I’ve made without Marc Orrell so I had to take up some of the leads which is something I never would have touched before.
Guitar.com: What is the most important lesson you’ve taken away from this new recording experience?
Lynch: I learned that when you are recording guitar, you have to do exactly what the drums are doing. I guess I’ve always known that to an extent but I learned that when you’re piling up guitar tracks that aren’t all playing the same thing, you wont get as good of tone as if you just have three guitars doing the exact same thing. This record sounds like there are more tracks than there actually are. We got the effect we were looking for using only a few guitars tracks.
Guitar.com: Punk rock is not really known for its guitar legends like some other genres. Who were some of the people who inspired you to pick up a guitar and what tones did you strive for in your playing?
Lynch: The Dropkick Murphys guitar tone has been all about the Les Pauls and Marshalls. My dad, first and foremost, was a guitar player and he taught me how to play. Steve Jones’ guitar sound on that Sex Pistols album (Anarchy in the UK) is just phenomenal and I think its one of the best guitar sounds on any record, punk or otherwise.
Guitar.com: You toured with the Pistols during their reunion tour. That must have been an experience.
Lynch: Yeah, that was absolutely unreal. Steve Jones actually ended up borrowing my shitty Epiphone guitar on that tour too.
Guitar.com: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten as far as your career in music goes?
Lynch: Once again, that would be my dad. He told me once that I don’t deserve to not give 110% every time I step out on stage. It was my decision to play guitar for a living and its my job to do it as best as I can every night.