THE GREEN MILEview image
Fame, drugs, failure, comeback – Flogging Molly frontman Dave King is a walking VH1 special
BY Jeff Inman
There should be a line of VH1 execs drooling over Dave King like he’s a tasty porkchop. He’s got everything rock’s favorite succubus network would ever want. In the 80’s the Flogging Molly frontman had a brush with insta-fame. He was fronting the supposed super group Fastway—think England’s Damn Yankees. He had a mane like Simba’s. A penchant for booze and drugs. And a fleet of girls holding his poster. He was the next great thing. Except he never was. Instead he ended up in L.A. painting houses and driving a truck for a living. No fame. No money. And a long way from his native Ireland. Cue sad music and the deep-voiced guy.
Nearly two decades late; though, things are a little rosier for King. He’s rediscovered his Irish roots—mainly by drinking and jamming in a pub – stitched together a band, and has become a sort of cult icon. He’s Shane MacGowan with a Hollywood connection. He’s the pied piper of drunkards. Basically, he’s everything that he was supposed to be when he was young but failed miserably, playing to thousands, selling gobs of records, and traveling around the globe. And—here’s comes that deep-voiced guy again – King knows that he had to endure those struggles to get here.
“I know now that I had to leave Ireland to discover my roots,” he says, his brogue peeking through. “I had to come to America to realize how much I love the music and the people. I wouldn’t be doing this now if I didn’t.”
And here’s the thing; King means it. It might sound like a bad story on loss and redemption, how the poor King was handed everything but had to lose it all to appreciate it, and in a lot of ways it is. He grew up on a closed army base in rehabbed barracks. His dad pumped gas for a living and died when King was 10. And when he got the Fastway gig just as he entered his twenties, he suddenly was living the dream—one that quickly dissolved.
More importantly, though, it made him realize that the music he grew up with, the stuff he was trying to run away from with Fastway’s slick hair metal, was just as rebellious and hell-raising as King thought he was being. It might have been traditional, but it was spit in the eye of the British – banned songs from years of repression.
When I was a kid all we had was music,” he says. “We had a piano, and every Friday and Saturday my parents friends would come over and sing. As I got older, I wanted a part of that. But I couldn’t go back to Ireland. It wasn’t the same. I had to do something that was both parts of me. I had to do something like Flogging Molly.”
And maybe that’s why the group works. It’s not like the band is doing anything pioneering. The Pogues took care of all the innovations that can come by blending punk and Celtic music years ago. But there’s an authenticity, and honesty that comes from the band, even when King is singing about someone like Oliver Cromwell or the shipping of Irish workers to the tobacco plantations of the Caribbean. He has the lilt. The rest of the band has that rebellious passion. And king thinks that’s why, despite never having a hit. Flogging Molly never has to worry about selling out a show.
“It overwhelms me the passion people have for this band,” he says. “We’re not on MTV. We’re not on radio. But we have a pulse of our own. People connect with this, have a passion that’s going to carry me into my old age.”
Cue happy ending. Roll credits.