“I swear we sound better than we ever have.”
For years — nine to be exact — Dicky Barrett celebrated every Christmas with his band, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, by playing a week of shows called the “Hometown Throwdown.” That ended in 2002, when the band members parted ways and Dicky left Boston to work as the announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! in LA. Well, this year the Throwdown is back, for five sold-out nights at the Middle East downstairs beginning December 26. And so are the Bosstones. They’ve already got three newly recorded songs, and they’re planning more. Here’s what Dicky had to say when I caught up with him at his home on the West Coast.
Where are you living?
I’ve got a house in Monrovia. It’s like 40 minutes from Hollywood. It’s a tiny town with a main street, and it’s as close as I could get to something that looks like New England. I live in an old house, and there are yards here. Most of my co-workers think I’m crazy. They’re always asking me, “What time is your flight to Monrovia?”
What happened with the radio show you used to have in LA?
I did that for about a year, and I won’t even mention the name of the station. I got to play whatever I wanted. But when I started getting ratings, the geniuses at the station started formatting the show, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’d do it again, but there’s nowhere in radio that would let me. I mean, I was playing Housemartins into Devo and that’s not how it works in real radio.
What’s a typical day on the Jimmy Kimmel set like?
I get in at three and there’s a rehearsal where we look at clips of what we’ve got for the show. Then Jimmy decides what’s going to run, and I do some pre-recordings just in case something goes wrong during the show. We have a guy who warms up the crowd, and then once the show starts, it’s my job to laugh my ass off. It’s not at all demanding. There are people who work hard, and I’m probably not one of them.
Did you have any trouble getting time off for the Bosstones?
It wouldn’t have really required much. The writers’ strike actually helped. And the Throwdown is taking place during the show’s Christmas hiatus. Plus, we’ve been able to practice out here during the day. Joe Gittleman, our bassist, Lawrence Katz, our guitarist, and Joe Sirous, our drummer, are all out here. Maybe I’d say this anyway, but I swear we sound better than we ever have.
How difficult was it to bring in the rest of band?
The horn section flew in yesterday, and now we’re having intensive, full-band practices. But it only took a little while to figure out that they’d been practicing on their own. And [dancer] Ben [Carr] is coming in tonight. We’ll see how his legs are. He’s really got the hardest job. As you get older, you can still play guitar and sing, but his dancing is a whole other thing. It’s like aerobics on steroids.
How many songs are you going to have?
In the age of the Internet, you can’t get away with doing the same set every night, which is what we used to do. So we’ve learned 70 to 75 songs. We’re also doing the new songs from the Medium Rare album [mostly unreleased material and vinyl B-sides, on Big Rig Records] we just put out — three songs we recorded out here in LA. And there are a few surprise covers, too.
Why do this now?
We were going to wait for the war in Iraq to end, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon. It’s hard to believe that when we first went on hiatus in 2003, we had already gotten into this war, and it’s still going on.
I’m guessing that you come back east for the holidays anyway, right?
Yeah. My mother would kill me otherwise. I spend Christmas with my mother. It’s mostly a lot of swearing and drinking. No, it’s nice. My mother is crazy about Christmas. She’s one of those people you see around the malls wearing those Christmas sweaters.
What's the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
Jimmy gives amazing gifts, but his cousin Sal gives the craziest gifts. When I first moved out here, I was staying at the Roosevelt Hotel for six months. For my first Christmas, Sal gave me a free night at the Roosevelt.
What’s your favorite part of the holidays?
For years, the best part was the Throwdown. We’d finish a year of touring and we’d have five more of our most grueling shows to do, and then it would start, and you couldn’t help but love it.
I hear rumors of a future Bosstones album?
It’s nothing that we’d keep secret. We had fun recording again. So the possibility of our going into the studio and making a full-length is not out of the question.