Interview with Dave King of Flogging Molly
Fronted by Dublin native Dave King, Flogging Molly draws on influences ranging from traditional folk music to even more traditional punk rock. "You take away the drum kits and the electric guitars, and you’ve got a soft, folky Irish band," says King of his newest project. "Take away the fiddle and the accordion, and you’ve got a hard core rock band." Joined by Bridget Regan on fiddle, Dennis Casey on guitar, Nathen Maxwell on bass, Bob Schmidt on mandolin, George Schwindt on drums, and skateboarding icon Matt Hensley on accordion, Flogging Molly was one of the most eclectic band on 2000’s Warped Tour lineup, and possibly the most eclectic band you’ll see on any punk circuit. I spoke to Dave King about his humble musical roots.
[Holly Day] How did you get into playing music?
Dave King When I was a kid in Dublin, I lived in a very, very poor neighborhood—it was an old British barracks, and it was called Beggar’s Bush. It was really horrible. It was quite a depressing place to live as a child. The one guiding light of my life was music. As a child I got into glam. I got into bands like Slade, T-Rex, David Bowie, stuff like that, stuff that was really out of this world because I wanted to be out of this world. And then I started up my own band when I was a teenager. I guess I always knew I could sing, because when I was in school, the teacher used to get me to go to other classes and teach them how to. My family was a musical family as well. Even though we were really poor, we had a piano, like a wall piano. I mean, you’re talking, we were so poor we had to put coins in the back of the TV to keep it on, and yet we had a piano. And my uncle would bring over his accordion and fiddle and stuff, so every Saturday night we’d have a big party. I think music has always been in me, and I think I always knew that, if not the answer to my life, music would be the way to bring about a change in life for me.
[Holly Day] Where did the piano come from?
Dave King That’s a very good question. I have no idea where it came from. I’ll have to ask my mother that one, actually. I never thought of that! My father was one of the first civilians to move into the Army barracks—the British had left, and the camp was dormant for many, many years, and then the government decided to open it to the public, like a projects. So it couldn’t have belonged to someone who lived in the place before us. You know, I don’t even know where the piano went after we left the place. We moved to Ring’s End, in a place called Irish Town, in the ‘70s. I think we gave the piano away at the point. My father was long dead, and me and my mother moved. But I think it was just funny though—we didn’t have a pot to piss in, and here we had this amazing piano.
[Holly Day] I think it’s really important for children, especially poor children, to have exposure to art and music.
Dave King Holly, I remember sitting for hours in front of that piano, just messing around on it. I never played anything in particular on it, because I never had lessons and really couldn’t "play" the piano, but it always seemed to be a distraction from everyday life. I think that’s why this whole Music For Children, bringing music back into the schools, is so important to me. Especially when you’re a young, deprived child—when I say deprived, I mean someone who doesn’t have the everyday advantages that most people have—music may be your only solace in life. Which it was for me. And I thank God I had that, because I don’t know where I would be without it.
[Holly Day] What was the initial attraction of being in a band for you?
Dave King To be honest with you, it was to have the freedom that came with being a rock star. It seemed to me, once you were a rock star, everything would be easy. Now when I say rock star, I mean people like Marc Bolan, people like David Bowie, Freddie Mercury—people who seemed larger than life. That, to me, was being a rock star: being larger than life. And that’s what I sort of felt like even when I was when I was a kid, because life was so dull and dreary, and you never knew where you were going to end up from Beggar’s Bush, and the only way to deal with it was to dream about someday begin a rock star, someone who could walk away from it all. And for a while, I got to live that, I got to play the rock star, got to tour all over the world. And then suddenly where I came from and who I really was became more important to me than being a rock star was.
[Holly Day] Did you get all dressed up in the fancy costumes and everything?
Dave King I’ve never wore spandex. I have worn leather pants, and had the long hair, and I was trying to emulate all my heroes in my act without ever trying to discover myself. I was just having fun with the whole thing, and that was great. I was in an 80s metal band called **, and we played over here in America. We got to play a lot of the big stages here—like, I was playing Madison Square Garden when I was 19, getting to actually live that dream. It was really unfulfilling, though, I must say. It just wasn’t right at the time. It just wasn’t the right place for me to be. It was a great experience, though, to take a dream from childhood and do something like that. And then reality sort of jumped in, and I had to back away from the dream.
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