INTERVIEW WITH MATT HENSLEY
INTERVIEW BY J. BRYAN STAHEL
INTERVIEW BY DAN LEVY
INTRODUCTION BY J. BRYAN STAHEL
Coming from NYC, a full-on bar room brawl in the chill California climate is not what I expected, at the Flogging Molly Gig, let alone two. I hope the parties involved were laughing about it over beers later in true Irish tradition. The other thing I wasn’t expecting was for Flogging Molly to be so good. Joe Sib, encouraged us to check them out – and knowing little other than skater Matt Hensley was in the band – we headed downtown to Cafe Fais Do Do. It was the bass players’ 21st birthday, and the Guinness was flowing like a river while Flogging Molly worked the crowd into a frenzy. It looked like St. Paddy’s Day in Boston for a little bit. If you need something to compare them to you could consider SLF, the Pogues and Dropkick Murphys. But you should probably consider James Joyce, too. Only use them as references because Mollys’ Gaelic stomp is all their own.
What made you retire from skateboarding a few years back?
There are like a thousand different reasons. In a nutshell, I started abusing myself and not giving a shit. I was skating all the time and then my grandfather died and that kind of bummed me out. Then I went through a little bout of not knowing who the hell I was and I just lost my mind a little bit. I went on kind of a weird search. I kind of had to get away from who I was to find myself. So I moved to Chicago and worked as a bartender, than as a medic. I did like a thousand different jobs. It wasn’t like I lost my mind completely. I just had to go back to ground zero to find myself. For a while, I made it in skateboarding to some degree pretty quickly. It kind of took me by storm so I had to get away from it to get back into it. Now, I love it that much more.
Coming back into the industry now, how do you feel about everything?
It’s weird. It’s good for the skateboarders I can tell you that. Skateboarders are making a lot more money than they were ten years ago. Not that everything is about money, but to do what skateboarders do takes a special kind of a talent, and it is good to be compensated for it. I think that it’s good. Skateboarding will always progress. I think the turning point for pure brilliance was when I was watching CNN the other night. They were talking about football and sports and shit and Tony Hawk does a 900! That’s like, we’re finally there, y’know? We’re on a bigger scale now and that’s good. As far as skateboarding is concerned I feel pretty good about it. Me personally I feel good where I sit right now. I’ve got a clothing company, and I still skateboard from time to time. I’ve got a family, I have a son. I travel all the time with this band. My heart lies with playing music right now, but I’ll always skateboard.
How did you get involved with music?
I’ve always been involved with music. In ’88, I was in a ska band and I did that for a while. I’ve always loved the Pogues and stuff like that, and one day I got an accordion and I never looked back. I sold all my guitars. I traded them all for accordions or concertinas. Now I have a collection of like fifteen accordions. That’s pretty much my life now musically.
“I’ve always been involved with music. In ’88, I was in a ska band and I did that for a while. I’ve always loved the Pogues and stuff like that, and one day I got an accordion and I never looked back. I sold all my guitars. I traded them all for accordions or concertinas. Now I have a collection of like fifteen accordions.”
How did you meet up with these guys?
I saw their other band, Those Darn Accordions, like an all accordion band. I saw Flogging Molly play their last gig before they broke up and I thought this is great. At the time I was trying to start my own band like this, like a Pogues style of band. We had like two practices and I couldn’t get them into it. I went to this Irish pub and was drinking and my friend’s like ‘that’s Dave King. He’s the singer of the band.’ They were broken up. So I didn’t think anything about it. I was just having pints and my friend walks over and says ‘hey are you looking for an accordion player? My friend squeezes the bag and if you need an extra guy he’ll be your man.’ Dave’s like ‘Yeah, sure or whatever.’ I had only been playing like six months and pretty much sucked. He walked up to me, then walked right past me because he thought, accordion player, he’s probably going to meet some 50-year-old, you know what I mean? Not me. Then he came back to me and says ‘you the guy who plays the bag? Want to try out? I was like ‘Yeah! I’m not that good right now but I put all my heart and soul into it.’ It’s paid off. I became a way better musician because of it and the band’s rockin”.
So who’s Molly?
It’s actually dedicated to the pub where we really started out in, Molly Malones’. We played there so much. Two times a week for a year. We flogged that thing to death.
Tell me about Innes Clothing and why you started it ?
I kind of got to a point in my life where I was like I want to do something, but I didn’t know what to do. So I might as well do something that I know about. I bailed skateboarding because of the industry and I wound up back in it. So it doesn’t really make all the sense in the world, but it’s my family, you know what I mean. And Innes is my families Scottish crest name. So I started a clothing company because the clothes that I personally wear are a little different. My initial idea was I wanted to make full-on ’60s-style clothing and that doesn’t really suit skateboarding. It is kind of like a twisted ulterior dream that I had, but I also wanted to do it through skateboarding. Our first jeans were like 501s but pegged, like punk rock, like old kind of shit. Shops called me up and thought I was playing a sick joke. ‘What kind of asshole are you! No one is wearing this shit!’ And I was just like ‘ahh what are you going to do.’ You kind of have to go with the flow a little bit. So we had to alter some shit, keep a slight old school, punk rock kind of edge to it. It’s been three long hard years.
So how many brawls do you see generally when you’re playing a gig?
It depends a lot where we play. San Diego, where we play, gets pretty aggro and in San Jose. I guess when the word gets out – I mean it’s a drinking band you know – people get boozed and want to have a good time, you know.
How would you describe Flogging Molly?
That’s a tough question I like to say Irish drinking music. It is hard because most people say ‘oh like the Pogues in a weird way.’ So we get a lot of grief. People are like ‘they’re just the Pogues again,’ ya know what I mean. I don’t really have a comment about that, but I love the Pogues. So if people tell me that and are trying to insult me, they’re kind of getting me a little excited. That’s a good thing, but we’re not trying to do that. We’re just trying to do our own gig. I don’t know. I guess Irish get drunk, fall-down-on-your-face-type music.