The new The Old Firm Casuals record “Holger Danske” was an immediate favorite after receiving it from Pirates Press/Demons Run Amok Records. It has a little bit of everything for everyone and is just one of those records that you know right away is going to be in your musical rotation for as long as you are breathing. With oi! and street punk influenced vibes to straight up hardcore to the 70’s AC/DC feel of “Casual Rock ‘N Roll” this album draws influences from all over the world of rock music, something the band members made sure to convey that was intentional and with absolutely no regrets. When I was given the chance to do a phone interview with bassist Casey Watson and the legendary Lars Frederiksen on their lone off day on a recent UK run I jumped at it knowing full well that my phone bill was going to take a bit of a beating.
Interview conducted February 11th, 2019. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: The band is currently in the midst of a UK/Ireland/Scotland tour for a few weeks with today being your lone day off. What is on the agenda for you guys for today?
Lars: Today? I don’t know. Were gonna probably try to eat and take care of ourselves.
IE: Do you like having a day off on a tour like this or does it mess with the flow of playing the shows at all?
Lars: For me, I was just thinking about it. I was realizing how stir crazy I was going for a minute and I had to remind myself that we didn’t have to be anywhere. You get in that rhythm if you know what I mean. You know that at a certain time you are going to be doing this or doing that. For me it can be tough.
IE: The Old Firm Casuals has been primarily known for playing a street punk and oi! Influenced style of music but on your new record you guys branch out with songs like “Pendulum”, “Zombies”, “Casual Rock ‘N Roll” and on the title track as well making for a well-rounded sounding album. Can you talk about the diversity on some of these songs and was there a conscious effort made during the writing process to make “Holger Danske” the album that it turned out to be?
Casey: I think that we took down our walls and let just all of our musical influences come into this. We all love punk, we all love good 70’s rock’ roll. All of us listen to different kinds of music and we all contributed parts to this album. This is just what we have been coming up with.
PHOTO BY: KARINA ROCKELLI
IE: Did anything change from previous releases as there seems to be more of a mix now than in the past?
Casey: We have been just doing what we want. Doing what feels good. I really enjoy writing, playing and performing these songs, especially the more rock ‘n roll AC/DC kind of sounding stuff. We just kind of said like fuck it.
Lars: We come from so many different musical backgrounds and we have so much music that we love in common… hardcore, punk rock, oi!, rock ‘n roll, and we are a punk band. We are a punk band, we are a fucking oi! band, but were a street rock ‘n roll band. We have all of that in us. We love Slade and Rose Tattoo as much as we love The Last Resort and GBH and Motorhead as much as we love Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Madball or Pantera. You know what I am saying? We have a rule in the band where we never edit it in the creative process. We don’t feel like we can’t write a particular type of song because our fan base won’t accept it.
Casey: Were not sick of the labels that get put on you… but we are kind of sick of the labels that get put on you (laughing). Were just doing what we want to do and making music we want to make.
Lars: I think this album is the most freedom, creatively I guess that we’ve done and I am really excited about it and I am looking forward to see what we keep coming up with.
IE: Can you give us a little background into the title and the cover artwork of the new album which is called “Holger Danske” who is a mythical figure who will protect the people of Denmark when there is apparent danger to the country.
Lars: It all started with the story of Holger Danske and how he sort of rises to protect Denmark to fight the enemy of the country. I started thinking of it as we sort of have a Bolshevik in the White House now. It is a little bit of the same type of thing. I am not really a major fan of the president and that is kind of where it started. I really don’t care about people’s fucking politics either because I have my own and I don’t like to shove my politics down people’s throats but I definitely will sing about it and talk about it if asked. I was kind of going there with that… that we need this sort of champion to rise and fight this pseudo-fascism that’s happening in our country where freedom of speech is like against the law now. I was talking to my mom and my mom grew up in Nazi occupied Denmark during World War 2 and saw a lot of shit a little kid should not have seen, a lot of death and destruction. She never really completely opened up about the war. I would get little tidbits. Now that she is older… she is 84, she is divulging more information. She is straight off the boat from Denmark from back in the 60’s. I told her that we had this idea that we were going to call the record Holger Danske. At the same time the Danish national team for the World Cup put Holger Danske on their jersey as well. I don’t know how to explain it but it was sort of auspicious if you want to use that word. So I was talking to my mom about it and she said that her brother Viggo was in a resistance unit during World War 2 against the Nazi occupation that was called Holger Danske. I was thinking that this is what this all is… fighting fascism. We have always been anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic. We are very much into live and let live. If you want to live a certain way, go for it. We are not here to tell you how to live, what to wear or how to dress and I think this record sort of sums that up lyrically in a lot of ways. We got into punk rock because we did not want to be told what to do. Now it seems like there is some fucking rule book about what you can do in this world and it is fucking ridiculous. I don’t even listen to my mom telling me what to do! (both laughing).
IE: You have an instrumental track titled “De Ensomme Ulve” which I believe translates to “The Lone Wolf” in Danish. Was this title chosen to shine light on the book of the same name?
Lars: It actually is a book and it is about the Danish resistance Holger Danske. I figured it would be a good title to lead into the title track. Plus we always have a wolf reference on every one of our records. I am obsessed with wolves personally and I always think that they are good imagery. I don’t know if I am all hippied out but maybe it is my spirit animal. My kids name is Wolfgang. I have a wolf fetish I guess.
PHOTO BY: RAYMOND AHNER
IE: What are some of your favorite songs off the new album and when played live which ones seem to be going over the best with the fans?
Lars: We have been doing “Motherland”, “Casual Rock ‘N Roll”, “Traitor”, “Get Out Of Our Way” and “Thunderbolt”. “Casual Rock ‘N Roll” is one of my favorites to play. I love the dynamic with me and Casey because we share the vocals which we also do on “Traitor” too. Most of my favorite songs to play are when me and Casey are both singing. I love that dynamic. He has such a different voice than mine and I feel we complement each other. He has a unique voice and the way he approaches his vocal patterns is outside of my little box and he has taught me a lot.
Casey: Likewise for me as well. We both have different ways and styles of doing what we do and there is an endpoint and it comes together nicely. I am really enjoying it and it has been such a good learning experience and creatively it has been amazing. “Casual Rock ‘N Roll” is really fun. I like every song on the album. I really love “Get Out Of Our Way”, we have been opening the set with that, “Traitor” is fun, a nice fast one but “Casual Rock ‘N Roll” is like the epitome of some of my favorite music right there. Straight up rocking, 70’s style. Click HERE to listen watch the music video for the song "Motherland".
IE: On this current tour you have been playing some smaller clubs to mid-sized clubs that can hold over 1000 people. There is obviously a lot of years of experience within the band members who make up your band. My question here is what types of clubs do you get more amped up on to play in?
Casey: I am just happy to be out here on the road playing music that I made and having a really good fucking time. I will and have shown up to any club. (both laughing). I have played more living rooms across the country than I have ever cared to remember. Those were the best times ever and it is still the best times ever. It’s all good. I am just grateful to be here and to have this opportunity to play music.
Lars: I am in Casey’s boat. Through my life I have played living rooms to stadiums. For me it is about the opportunity to get up on the stage and play. I honestly don’t care. I think being able to play the music in front of people is something I always wanted to do. I am just lucky in this case to have Casey, Gabe and Paul. We got a good band here. That doesn’t come around very often. For me I have been lucky as it has come around once or twice before. We are built to last and that is the thing with this band. We have sort of taken a play on the Rancid book in that everyone is treated equally The common factor with all of us is that we just want to tour, make records and tour again.
PHOTO BY: RAYMOND AHNER
IE: The working class skinhead culture and oi! style of punk has long standing ties to the areas you are currently touring in and The Old Firm Casuals' style and image definitely embrace these things. Do you feel like the band gets more love from your fans in that part of the world as compared to the US or other parts of Europe?
Lars: Every place is different. We are the type of band that can play with Cockney Rejects and then turn around the next day and play with Madball. I feel like we can play with any type of band. What we bring is a good time. We are an oi! band, yes. We are a punk band, yes. We are a rock ‘n roll band, yes. We are yes to all of the above. We are a street rock ‘n roll band. We are hardcore, yes… we are fucking hardcore. We have Paul and Casey who cut their teeth in that scene and have been in bands and made records. That element is in us 100 percent but were also all these other things. The moral of the story is we have our own style and our own thing that were doing and it’s uniquely ours. I don’t think there are any limits or barriers to that. No matter what situation you put this band in musically we will survive.
IE: How many months out of the year would you guess you are out on the road each year? Year after year of doing this, even though it is your passion you are away from family and loved ones. Does it ever start to wear on you at all? Is there any middle ground?
Lars: There is none. When you search for the middle ground or the balance you will never find it. It’s when you just let things happen the way that they are supposed to happen… that’s when you are at peace. Of course I want to do my duties as a dad, a husband and all those things. My wife knows and my kids are coming to understand that part of the reason why I am who I am is because of this passion and luckily I have a very forgiving family. They know who I am with and they know I am with some of my best friends and that it is something that I have to do. Do I put that over them at all times? No. I also make sure that when I am home, I am home and when I am away I am doing my thing. I don’t really see this as a job. I see it as a lifelong dream that I am living and I wouldn’t be the same fucking person if I wasn’t doing this. I’d probably be a prick. I am probably a prick at home anyway. There would be something less there for me. As I am saying this I realize how selfish it is that I sound. I want to clarify that in case my kids read this in 20 years. (laughing).
PHOTO BY: KARINA ROCKELLI
IE: You guys have written, performed and made a music video which is used as the San Jose Earhquakes soccer team fight song. What is your connection with that organization and who approached who with making that song?
Lars: We are obviously Bay Area sports fans. San Jose Earhquakes are form there. Casey is from Santa Cruz, I am from Campbell and it is pretty much a difference of maybe 10 miles, maybe 20. We are Bay Area guys, we are South Bay guys. He is from the coast down there and I am a little bit more inland. We grew up loving the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland A’s, San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose Sharks. We are sports fans. When the Quakes came back after they sold their franchise.. long story short… we were going to write the song regardless. We knew some people there, we knew some players there and it was something that sort of worked for both of us. We were going to write the song anyway. It is just like everything else that we do, like Casey sort of explains on “Get Out Of Our Way” on the new record… If you want to deal with us, cool. If you don’t… fuck off, we are on to the next thing. Click HERE to listen/watch the music video for "Never Say Die".
IE: From my standpoint it would seem that with Rancid’s schedule and the other projects that the band members involve themselves in that there is very limited time to get these tours in.
Casey: Right now I am just doing the Casuals and I play with the Cro-Mags with John, Mackie, and AJ a lot too. That takes up most of my time as it is. That’s what I got going on right now pretty much.
Lars: Casey is also my guitar tech in Rancid so any Rancid stuff he is with me anyways. I think Gabe is doing something right now as well. He mentioned to me that he was filling in on something and that’s the good thing about all of us because it keeps our musical juices flowing. I would prefer that. The more you play the more you learn and the more you can bring back to this. I could never be one of those guys that would inhibit someone’s creative work or going out to experience another thing.
Casey: I learned so much about my playing style and stuff playing with the Casuals and then playing with the Cro-Mags I have learned even more and more. I would do this 12 months out of the year! (Laughing).
PHOTO BY: RAYMOND AHNER
IE: What does the rest of 2019 hold in store for the band? What are your plans moving forward?
Lars: Me and Casey are going to be together for all the Rancid stuff. Me and him are probably not going to get a break from each other anytime soon which is fine by me because he is my bro, my road dog. I am stoked about that. We are going to shoot a video when we get home for “Casual Rock ‘N Roll”, and we will probably shoot a couple of more videos for more songs. We are still kind of figuring out which ones we want. We really want to document this record and the video thing. For me videos are always like a snapshot in time for a band. When you look back you can see certain things about the elements of the music or just where we were. All of the attention this record has been getting in a way is sort of mind blowing to us and we are just rolling with the punches and trying to establish a good plan. We will probably get back over to Europe, we will be doing some shows in the states, a record release show in March. We are learning as we go, putting things in place so that we can continue to do this through 2020.
IE: As we talked about earlier there is a lot of band experience within this band. What words of wisdom or advice would you pass on to the younger generation looking to get started with playing in bands?
Casey: Just get out there and do it. Experience it. Don’t give up, don’t get too frustrated. If you want to play music and be in bands whether you want to be a professional or if you want to be a weekend warrior … just go for it and fucking do it. Don’t worry about what other people say, don’t read the comments on the internet. It’s all haters. If you go on You Tube right now and search Agnostic Front you will see people hating on Agnostic Front. If you look up AC/DC on You Tube there will be people hating on them too. With that in mind if people are hating on those bands then I have no chance whatsoever to not be hated on, you know what I mean? (laughing). So to me it’s just like fuck it! Have fucking fun!
Lars: Amen to that. I don’t know if I can add anymore to what Casey just said. If I listened to every time I was told I couldn’t do something I would be in my room by myself for the last 40 years. You just got to follow your own thing. That’s all I got.