After the Flogging Molly show at LCR in Norwich we caught up with guitarist Dennis Casey from the band:
For people who might not have heard of you before, just explain what Flogging Molly are all about?
Dennis: We’re a 7 piece band from L.A, our singer’s from Ireland, we formed in 1997, got about 5 records out and we try and combine the folk influence in there too with mandolin, banjo, violin and accordion to mix it up.
Your new album Speed Of Darkness seeks to address some of the issues of inequality in our society, and how it’s affecting the working class especially, do you have any messages that you’d like to put out to the occupy protesters out on the streets at the moment?
Dennis: Uh, yea, just thank you very much for doing this. I live in New York so I’ve been down to Zucati Park a number of times and well, it’s pretty cold now. The record came out before the occupy thing started but it’s all connected, my hats off to everyone who’s involved in it and I’m behind the movement 100%. It’s something that goes right along with our record, it’s really cool when that happens. I mean, I was really happy with way the record came out so we’re just glad that it says something.
Did you really set out to stake your claim on the line with this record, do you think it’s more political?
Dennis: No, not that the record is that necessarily, I just think that it addresses some of the results of the economic downturn. (the people responsible for it) I mean Dave, our singer, he actually moved to Detroit recently with his wife, and they moved there just before the economy collapsed while he was writing at the time, and Detroit was one of the hardest hit cities in the US, you felt that desperation was there, so to have the occupy movements happening all over the world is something really great. It’s a once in a lifetime thing for me so far, I’ve never experienced anything like it.
It definitely seems of a completely different nature from the protests we’ve had before, like the anti globalisation protests in Seattle in 1999, do you think the movement is evolving into something more mature?
Dennis: Yea those were pretty violent. There was definitely an element of vandalism and violence that was there. There was some violence at the beginning of this too, that’s kind of how it got on the map, when the media picked it up. I think you know the anti-war movement against the invasion of Iraq there was that huge opposition, but this seems to be different in the sense that it’s more sustained, it’s going on day after day and it’s spreading globally where as that seemed massive just for one day or two days and then, well, it didn’t stop anything but back to your original question; it’s definitely unique in that it seems very democratic, there’s no leaders, there’s no sort of agenda and I think the media’s having a hard time pigeonholing it so they can decapitate it and they just can’t. And when you go onwards it’s incredible how these people are just coming together and they’ve created a little city; there’s a kitchen there, a library and they have a meeting every night, the general assembly. It’s really something.
Do you think they can succeed without specific aims in this discussion group style format?
Dennis: Well they’ve already changed the narrative haven’t they? We’re talking about it. The whole world is. So I think that’s one step, one thing that’s already worked. There are no limits to them if it keeps going the way it’s going. It’s going to be difficult, Zucati park’s only one block so you can’t have a million people there but the funny thing about it is that it’s globalised protest in the way these people globalise their corporations, the whole movement’s globalised, it’s not like it has to be in one place. It’s all over the world, people in the Arab countries have solidarity with it, so I think it has the potential to do an enormous amount of good and it’s already raising an awareness which, like I said before, it’s step one.
Like you say, your singer Dave is from Ireland originally and it seems fair to say that your music is very much a cultural crossover of American Punk combined with Irish traditional music that has a lot of it’s roots in themes of immigrant struggle, do you think the American Dream is still a reality for immigrants to the USA now? Do you think it still offers that sense of hope that always seemed so all-pervasive in American culture?
Dennis: Now I don’t want to get too pessimistic, but I think the American dream is over. Capitalism, I don’t see it as continuing the way it has for the last 30 years. I think this will be the first generation where our kids will not do as well as their parents did, where in the last 30 years you had the opposite. But there’s potential I mean for an immigrant to come over, get an education, a lot of foreign people are becoming doctors and engineers and attorneys, they have a different mindset than a lot of american kids, you know? (chuckle) They’re coming from a very less privileged place so it’s their ticket out of poverty, so I mean that’s still there in that sense. But with manufacturing jobs and making things in our country, society, it’s changing. There’s huge shifts, and we’re just starting to see the beginning of white collar jobs being outsources, as more and more people get educated and go back to their own country, and as the middle class keeps rising in China and India, I think that we’ll start seeing more of our skilled jobs being outsourced.
Now obviously, you guys are really busy constantly touring around but your roots are in the folk genre, which has a very everyone have a go, get involved sort of spirit, do you still get the chance to head down the pub and play music with your friends?
Dennis: Oh yea on the road we do, we’ll just go down to a pub and play traditional Irish music. It’s cool coz you don’t need any amps or anything you can just turn up and do it.
Do you find places easily on the road which are good to jam in?
Dennis: That’s really easy, you just talk to people and they tell you where’s good to go.
Ha, that would be amazing to see, head down your local pub and see Flogging Molly doing an acoustic session! You were at Reading and Leeds this summer; did you get a chance to check out any good UK bands that you got into?
Dennis: I usually don’t find out where bands are from but I like Sharks. Suedehead I like, their singer’s from the UK I don’t know about the rest of the band.
Sharks seem to be making a real impact both here and America at the moment.
Dennis: Well we were talking about bringing them out on tour, so.. Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons, that’s a good record.
Yea they’ve managed to create a really broad following in the UK, everyone seems to be into them.
Dennis: Yea America too actually.
How do you see Folk-Punk progressing as a genre, do you think the success of the Celtic influence has limited the possibility due to how it’s perceived by a wider audience?
Dennis: Well, it’s unlimited right? Because you look at it and the whole world’s got their own different version of folk music, so you can draw on all that. If you write a great song, a great song’s a great song. It doesn’t matter if it’s an eastern european style song, or an Italian riff with it or an Irish riff. A great song’s a great song.
I don’t like to think of music in genres. I know that folk music, like the success of Mumford and Sons in the US, is pushed in the mainstream again but it’s never gone you know? It’s never in style but it’s always there because everyday people will always be attracted to it. So I don’t think it’ll ever be in style, so to speak, like how dubstep is in style right now but one day it’ll go away.
Dubstep-Folk, could that work?
Dennis: Er, haha, gotta go back to my original statement, if it’s a good song yea. But I’m just saying it’s in right now but in 100 years time it won’t be around and folk music will be. So I think that’s a testament to that it’s unlimited.
Do you go out and seek these folk styles from around the world?
Dennis: Not really, I’ll just hear of what’s about, that’s how I know about dubstep. I’ll find stuff just through talking to people. The internet’s so vast it’s almost intimidating, you could spend days looking for stuff, researching music if you wanted. I’ve lately been getting into a lot of early American music…
Are you into Zydeco music?
Dennis: Love it, yeah… Boozy Chavez. There’s a couple of guys i’ve been really getting into from New Orleans, Books Sneagan, he’s a guitar player. Boozy Chavez is one of the classics, check him out. The other guy I really like is James Booker, piano player. They’re both dead..
How do you guys manage to keep chilled and hanging out constantly when you’re on tour with 7 of you?
Dennis: Well it has its upsides and downsides you know. But it’s like a family. It’s really great that we’re all these people who’ve come from very different places and backgrounds that can come together and create something like what we do.