Molly’s frontman embraces his rootsview image
By Sean Deter
Punk music is not defined by a look, or even a sound.\
Just ask Dave King, frontman for Flogging Molly. Steeped in traditional Irish influences and history, along with a healthy dose if fist-in-the-air rock swagger, the lads – and lassie—who comprise the band are often pigeon –holed into the same Irish-punk trough as acts like the Dropkick Murphys.
Even though the Mollys soak their rock in Guinness like those other bands, they’re a step away from the pack. They sing a lot about Irish history – King was born and raised in Dublin and knows a thing or two about that – and sound like a more beefed-up version of The Pogues, with King a less acerbic-sounding counterpart to Shane MacGowan.
Fans across the board, from Warped Tour punks and wannabes to aging hipsters, are singing the praises of the Mollys. The band just seems to draw a crowd everywhere it plays, as it surely will do at the Big Easy tonight.
The road traveled has been a fascinating one for King, who got his first big break with a major label before he was out of his teens.
“I was very, very young – about 18 at the time and in Dublin,” King said “’Fast’ Eddie Clarke left Motorhead and was getting another band together – him and Pete Way from UFO and a drummer called Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie. They were getting this band together and they were looking for a singer.
King sent in a demo for the gig, but he wasn’t packing his bags yet.
“I’d never done anything like this before, even auditioned for anybody before,” he said.
But soon, King was off to London after landing a job as the lead singer of Clarke’s new band, which turned out to be heavy-rock supergroup Fastway. Buoyed by Clarke’s solid guitar work and King’s Robert Plant-like bluesy wail, Fastway released a couple of solid records in the 80’s and, during their short heyday, King and his mates found themselves opening for rock giants.
“The experience was absolutely every kid’s dream,” King said. “You get to tour the world with people like AC/DC… You can imagine, it was pretty overwhelming.”
But Fastway, or at least the incarnation that is worth mentioning, only lasted about three albums before lineup changes made the band a caricature of its former self.
King went back to Dublin for about four years to play with a band called QED – which had a publishing deal with Virgin Records, but nothing transpired from the partnership. Sometime around 1989, he ended up stateside to cut a record with a band called Katmandu – popular in Japan, but virtually ignored in the U.S.
After Katmandu fizzled, some major-label bigwigs at Epic Records tried to groom King to become a solo act. They offered him a solo deal, but that didn’t turnout to be what King was looking for.
“They sort of seen that I was writing the songs in the band and they had their mind to gear me as a solo artist,” he said. “Unfortunately, my direction was not looking to go the same way as theirs.
“They wanted to turn me into a, I suppose you could say, pop/rock star. I said, ‘Guys, this isn’t going to happen. I think you should drop me.’”
That they did, and King was free to explore different avenues in his musical career. Instead of continuing to bury his musical roots – as he did when he was younger to lead a rock-and-roll lifestyle – he decided to embrace them.
It turned out to be the right choice.
During a span of three records, King and his stalwart crew have proven that they can rock like few others (try “Salty Dog,” the classic opening track from the debut record, “Swagger”). But they are just as capable at quieter moments of introspection, like “Factory Girls,” which King wrote for his mother and recorded with alt-country/folk icon Lucinda Williams for Flogging Molly’s latest effort, “Within a Mile of Home.”
That’s right: Lucinda Williams. Typical punk act? Definitely not.
But then again, punk is not a black-and-white term to King.
“The thing is, there’s a lot of emotion and passion involved in the music,” King said. “To me, one of the greatest punk-rock artists of all time was Johnny Cash. It’s all to do about passion – it’s nothing to do about hairstyles.”
“To me, punk is doing something with your heart.”