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King of Contradictions 

Flogging Molly singer comes to terms with self, career

Satisfaction, that's the thing -- isn't it? Yet, however close we seem, satiation seems still farther away. Try as we might to please those around us -- or perhaps because we try? -- we often fail to please ourselves. Is it a quirk of our consumerist culture or does this pathology reside deep within us? It may sound like a riddle for a freshman-level social sciences class, but it's a conundrum that deeply informs the life of singer Dave King and his band Flogging Molly's new album, Within A Mile of Home.

Of course, King has a ready excuse when Creative Loafing catches up with him in Los Angeles, during a brief break in their tour. "Being Irish," he says with a chuckle, "we have a powerful thing -- that is, we are total contradictions. It's almost like a sense of humor. We love contradicting ourselves."

If you were looking for contradictions in King's life, you might begin with his life now versus the life he led until he was 18 years old in Beggars Bush, a Dublin slum. He escaped when former Motorhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke plucked him out of his squalor and cast him as the frontman of Clarke's new metal outfit, Fastway. The teenage King had sent a demo after reading in the papers of Clarke's search for a singer. But though King describes it as "crazy" and "a dream come true as a kid," he never fully enjoyed it.

"It was almost like I didn't deserve it because I didn't work for it. I didn't work to be in Fastway, I got lucky. Yeah, I could sing, fine. But you know I didn't work my way up to playing Madison Square Garden. I didn't pay my dues," says King.

After Fastway, King eventually found himself in another heavy metal act, Katmandu, which released a self-titled debut on Epic before imploding, which King himself did shortly thereafter, following a brief dance with hard drugs. Fortunately he realized the need to face his demons.

"I had a solo deal after Katmandu with Epic Records and I asked them to drop me. I said, "you know what, I need to fucking sit down with just me and my guitar, and be honest for the first time with myself,' and the first song I wrote was "Selfish Man,'" King says.

Out of this self-focus came some solo performances at the little Irish pub, Molly Malone's. Soon an impromptu band grew around him, playing there so often that they decided to call it Flogging Molly.

"The first time that we started playing together, there was something in that room that I hadn't felt in any of the bands I'd been in," explains King. "In all my other bands there was something not quite right -- and I've never felt that with this band. When we started playing together, it was "Fuck, yeah. This is what it's all about.'"

Indeed, as anyone who has seen this rumbling, traditional Irish/punk band (complete with fiddle and mandolin), there is a strange energy about them. It's in the music and the words, which unite King's dark psyche -- haunted by his father's death -- and his Irish resilience. It's an idea he addresses on the title track from their new album, a sense of letting go of guilt.

"It doesn't really mean being within a mile of home, physically, it means not being afraid to be happy," he says. "You really fuck yourself up if you're trying to please other people. You can't. You'll make more people happy by pleasing yourself. Now success means nothing to me but being able to write honest songs for myself."

In doing so, he's found the means to address the darkness that had hung over him since his father's death.

"Being able to write songs about stuff like that definitely has taken away a lot of not just the guilt, but the sadness. You're taking something that was such a huge loss and turning it around into an okay thing. It's Life. And sometimes we have to celebrate the sadness," he says. "My father worked at a service station. He died when I was young and he's been dead 30 years. You might think he's long forgotten. But at our shows, people are singing along to words written for that man. His memory's being kept alive. It's a sign of hope, that we all in our own way leave a mark in this world."

And shouldn't that be a source of satisfaction?

Flogging Molly plays Tremont Music Hall Friday. Tickets are $16 for this 16-and-up show. The doors open at 7pm, the show starts at 8pm.

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