Interview (English Version): Flogging Molly talk to Tinnitus Attacks

They sure got taste – not only concerning music: In the backstage room of the LKA Longhorn in Stuttgart, cans of Guinness are piled up in a fridge. The first question is not posed by the interviewer, but by the dialog partner: “Wanna have a beer?” You bet. Interviewing Flogging Molly and having a Guinness – that’s as good as it get’s. Bass player Nathen Maxwell and Robert Schmidt, who plays banjo and mandolin, are sitting on the couch and answer the questions. On the leather sofa vis-á-vis Matthew Hensley has made himself comfortable, he plays accordion and concertina. He is busy with his iPad, but will be joining the interview later on. So let’s start off.

Tinnitus Attacks: Occupy protests and economic crises all over – it seems you've recorded and published „Speed of Darkness“ at the right time. What do you think?

Nathen Maxwell (left) and Robert Schmidt (right) during
the interview with Tinnitus Attacks-Blogger Daniel
Drescher.                                Photo: Melanie Braith
Nathen Maxwell: You're right. It is a reflection of the current situation. I personally believe that it is one of our responsibilities as artists to reflect what's happening in reality in a way that maybe more people will be open to it. You stand on a street corner preaching – people don't give a shit. You draw a painting, or write a song – people are like „Oh I like that painting. What does it mean?“ What do you think, Bob?

Robert Schmidt: It's a good way to get things in under the radar so people unconsciously begin to think about these things. The media painted a different picture of what's happening in America and in all these countries. They said that the recession is over, the recovery is coming. When we were writing this album that wasn't our experience. We were finding people who felt it's getting worse and not getting better. And they didn't see their story being told in the media.

Tinnitus Attacks: What are the reactions to „Speed of Darkness?“ I had the impression it was more political than albums before. Did people respond in a positive way?

Nathen Maxwell: In my experience, it's been the opposite. We have people that have been true fans of Flogging Molly and they've been aware of our political stats for years. And the truth is: This album is not more political than former ones. If you listen to „Drunken Lullabies“ for example, it's very political. We try to do it with music. So I find there's been a lot of negative reactions towards us because this one is more openly political. When you offend someones version of reality they get angry. So we've seen a lot of people distance themselves from us or (laughs) burn or records. But we haven't changed.

Robert Schmidt: If you listen to the record, we don't mention politics anywhere. What we mention is what happens to people. The social issues, that politics affect. Maybe it's a more social record because it's dealing with how people are affected by it. But we don't say „Republicans are wrong“ or „Democrats are right“. The last album was more political than this one. „Speed of Darkness“ deals with the effects that economics have on people – more than politics.

Nathen Maxwell: It's almost anti-political in a way.

Tinnitus Attacks: Maybe I got the wrong word...

Nathen Maxwell and Robert Schmidt (unison): No no no no! It's very common that people think it's a political record.

Tinnitus Attacks: I think that's because of the whole story of recording: You were in Detroit and Dublin and witnessed the effects of economic problems there.

Nathen Maxwell: It's a common leap for people to make. The issues we're dealing with are social issues: People leaving their neighborhoods, people struggling to survive.

Tinnitus Attacks: What I always wondered: Folk and Punkrock mix very well. Do you think there are musical parallels?

Nathen Maxwell: Absolutely. It's rebel music. We play rebel music.

Robert Schmidt: I think all folk music is rebel music. In every country, folk music started because people were frustrated with what they couldn't say. Government or religion or whatever it was had been oppressing their free speech. So folk music rises up to fill that gap.

Nathen Maxwell: You gotta remember it all times that life was meant to be lived. We celebrate life every single day. That's what Flogging Molly is. Are we conscious? Yes we are. Things affect us, we talk about it, sing about it.  At the end of the day that doesn't mean we are not celebrating. It's not like: „Woe is us. Everything sucks, look at the problems.“ There's so many fucking problems, it's easy to point them out. We try to manifest – not only in ourselves, but also with our friends, family and the people around us – what are the solutions? And one of the solutions is to celebrate.

Robert Schmidt: If you look around you, you see this network you've created your whole life, the people that are standing and waiting to help you. And sometimes you close your eyes so tight cause the problems are so bad that you don't see the guy next to you. But you need to say „Dude, let's go.“

Tinnitus Attacks: How strong is your connection to Ireland? Do you go there regularly to draw influences from the music being played there?

Nathen Maxwell: Our lead singer is from Dublin and him and his wife live in Wexford. Matt has a connection because he is a traditional musician. You heard him when we walked in and he practised the concertina.

Matthew Hensley looks up and joins the conversation.

Matthew Hensley: Like Nathen said,  Dave and Bridget come from Dublin and our band is made of people who live and mostly were born in America. Our influences are Irish in a sense that the music started from there. But me and Bob grew up in Southern California. I think the sound has much to do with Southern California Punkrock.

Tinnitus Attacks: And it really mixes well.

Matthew Hensley: Well, if it didn't we wouldn't sit here talking to you. You'd be asking „Who the hell are you?“

Nathen Maxwell: When the three of us (Nathen, Bob and Matt) met and joined up with Flogging Molly in 1996, the only connection that I had to the Irish music was the Pogues. I mean, I know U2 and Thin Lizzy – but Irish Music, you know, for me was only The Pogues. That's because all my mates were punks and skaters and they listened to The Pogues. Fuckin' A, sitting and smoking a joint, listening to Bob Marley, Dead Kennedys and The Pogues. It was just like part of the family. Matt truly knows and loves traditional music. I don't. I don't know it or love it.

Tinnitus Attacks: Are there already plans for the next album?

Matthew Hensley:  We're still celebrating the fact that this one came out.

Robert Schmidt: It's only been out six or seven months. We barely haven't stopped giving interviews about it.

Matthew Hensley: It takes us so much time. Part of the celebrating is trying it on stage. And having a proper drink.

Robert Schmidt: We play a couple of hundred shows a year...

Nathen Maxwell: Oh yeah, don't forget 200 shows this year. This is 193 or something. Maybe we could use our time in a different way. But we give one hundred fucking percent on that stage. And afterwards there's not much left to do than celebrate. And beforehand there's not much else to do besides getting ready.

Tinnitus Attacks: Although you don't just disappear after the shows. Five years ago, you played at the tent festival in Konstanz down at the Lake Constance. I left after your show cause I had to get up early for work. The next day, a colleague sent me photos of you rocking out with the fans unplugged. I was like, dammit, I wish I hadn't left so early.

Matt Hensley: Yeah, I remember that evening.

Nathen Maxwell: Let me rephrase one thing I said about traditional music.

Matt Hensley: Yeah, do it, I was thinking about kicking your ass.

Nathen Maxwell: What I wanna say is: It's not my passion. I'm a fucking bass player. I don't listen to it on my off-time. But to play with Bob and Matt – I love it. To listen to traditional players in a pub –  I love it. Sometimes I use words  too loosely. Don't get me wrong. What I wanted to imply: It's not where I come from. But I love it.

Matt Hensley: When you're in a bar drinking with some friends this music becomes magical. This is Folk at it's finest. 30 musicians playing along, that's to me where it's strength is.

Tinnitus Attacks: Ok, last question. Nathen, if you had to mention bass players influencing on your playing who would that be.

Nathen Maxwell: Paul Simenon of the Clash, Aston Barrett who played with Bob Marley. Sid Vicious cause he sucked...I like that. And that guy from The Cure...I don't remember his name, but on early albums there are amazing bass lines. And today I played some Joy Division. Punkrock, Reggae, Music...Justin from Tool...Robert Trujillo from Metallica. He's a great player.

Thanks to Mirko Gläser from Side One Dummy for theInterview. More about Flogging Molly on the  Blog: Concert review and Photo Gallery  fromStuttgart, the review of the current album "Speed of Darkness". Click the Label "Flogging Molly" to find still more. 

Interview by Daniel Drescher. Fotos by Melanie Braith. Copyright: Tinnitus Attacks.