Interview: Dave King, Flogging Molly

King of Flogging Molly not slowing down

When Dave King started blending the rich musical textures of traditional Irish music to the white hot energy of punk in the early 1990s, it wasn't a career move. But nonetheless, the unlikely combination gradually caught on, leading to the creation of one of the most potent live acts of recent years, Flogging Molly. The seven-piece band brings its musical maelstrom of traditional Irish instruments and searing electric guitars to Japan in April.
"When we started playing together, the excitement of it was something I'd never felt before," King explained by telephone from a doctor's office in Dublin, Ireland. "There was an energy that you knew couldn't be contained by the room we were playing in. It belonged in so many other rooms. It just felt like it needed to get out and go wild."
While many have drawn comparisons with the Pogues, the 1980s band that first mixed punk and Irish traditional music, or with 1970s precursors Horslips, there is nothing derivative about Flogging Molly. This is because the band grew out of the experience of their main man.

Now 47 years old, King has a long and interesting history in music. Back in 1983, he was plucked from obscurity to front Fastway, a heavy metal band, founded by "Fast" Eddie Clarke, the former guitarist of metal legends Motorhead. 

Being front man for a successful metal band and touring with the likes of AC/DC was an unforgettable experience, but increasingly King felt creatively frustrated by the heavy metal genre.

"When I was a kid in Fastway, I didn't know what to write about," he said. "I was just a young kid who got lucky and I was living a dream, but at the end of the day, I needed to live a life to be able to write."
After leaving Fastway, he gradually dropped out of the rock scene. Staying in America on an expired visa, he survived by painting houses and driving trucks. Around this time he also met his future wife Bridget Regan, an accomplished Irish fiddle player, and other members of the band. Motivated more by homesickness and nostalgia for the traditional Irish music of his childhood than by any commercial ambitions, King started to play music that reflected both his Irish roots and hard rock background.
"It was one of those light bulb moments," King recalled. "It seemed like somebody switched on a light that lit up so many things. It wasn't really until I met Bridget that it gelled. I remember meeting her and we got together and she started playing fiddle, and it just seemed to hit me that because I can't physically go home, maybe in some way I can go back musically."
Soon the burgeoning band was playing regularly at an Irish bar in Los Angeles, Molly Malone's, and whipping the audience into a frenzy – hence the name Flogging Molly. In the years since then, they have been one of the hardest working bands in the world. But, following the marriage of King and Regan last April, and their relocation to a home in the Irish countryside, isn't there a danger of King slipping into contented middle age?
"That'll never be a threat because that's just the way I am," he said. "I’ll always be fighting with something."
Their latest studio album Float (2008) seems to bear this out, with a sharper political edge in songs like Requiem for a Dying Song and Man with No Country. But whether Molly mellow or not, fans can be sure that the band will relish their return to Japan this April. It was here exactly one year before that King and Regan married in a Shinto shrine in Shibuya.

International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun
13th February, 2009
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