Flogging Molly Interview - Bob Schmidt | ThePunkSite.com
The Opera House - Toronton, Onatrio
Tuesday, March 6th, 2007
As I sat in the gallows of The Opera House waiting for my interview to start
with Flogging Molly’s Bob Schmidt I couldn’t help but be a little
bit nervous. I tried to relax myself by listening to the Street Dogs playing
15 feet above my head, but I just couldn’t believe that I was about to
have a conversation with easily one of my favorite bands of all time. Two seconds
into the interview I quickly realized I had absolutely nothing to be nervous
about because the member’s that make up the band are truly as sweet as
Lanny: Well allow me to start off with the most generic Tim Horton's
Coffee drinking, maple syrup sucking Canadian question. Is it cold enough for
Bob: It’s plenty cold! Ya! I live in Boulder Colorado. It gets cold
there, but it doesn’t get this cold.
Lanny: Oh I thought you were from sunny California.
Bob: I grew up in LA, and I was born there, but my wife is going to school
in Boulder, and I moved out there for her, and then, I found it beautiful there,
so I stayed.
Lanny: Well now that the weather is out of the way, could you start by introducing
yourself, and telling us what you are doing here in Toronto.
Bob: I’m Bob from Flogging Molly, I play mandolin and banjo, and we
are playing The Opera House tonight for our annual Green 17 Tour.
Lanny: Could you give us a little background about the tour, and what it is
Bob: This is our third year of doing this tour, and it’s just pretty
much an excuse to extend St. Patrick’s Day out to a month. Just be able
to have a good time with everybody in more than one city, in more than one
Lanny: Considering the style of music you play, the green 17 tours, is tradition
a big part of what Flogging Molly is about?
Bob: Umm, yes and no. I think it is the root of where we are, but I think
like everybody else we are trying to take tradition, and bring it to our own
place. We bring traditional music into the modern era; you know bring the traditions
and update them. Like I said we are rooted in it, and it is definitely important
to us, but at the same time I don’t like to think we are chained down
Lanny: You guys were supposed to be booked in the studio in January, did that
Bob: No we actually went to Ireland, and we were writing. We spent three weeks
in a little town called Black water Village, where Dave and Bridgette have
a house, and we just kind of hatched out and wrote some new stuff. We will
probably get into the studio late summer.
Lanny: Why Ireland? To influence the writing process?
Bob: Like I said Dave and Bridgette just got a house out there, and we were
just trying to, you know, get away; and it is just easier for Dave to write
close to his home. It didn’t interrupt his flow too much.
Lanny: Will you use the same producer Ted Hutt on the new album?
Bob: Ughh, I am not sure? I don’t think we have ruled it out. We just
want to keep pushing the sound forward, and finding that balance between our
first album and our last album. You know find that half raw, half precise felling.
Lanny: Will you be playing any new material on this tour?
Bob: Yes, we are playing three new songs every night.
Lanny: And how has the reaction been to these new songs?
Bob: It’s been good. People seem to really like it. I get complemented
every night on them, so it’s feeling really good. It felt really good
when we started playing them over in Ireland, and it’s nice to let them
out, and start to breathe a little bit.
Lanny: Where has the most meaningful feedback come from about how
a Flogging Molly song has touched someone’s soul?
Bob: That’s hard to say. We get so many people coming up to us, and
said they have gone through a bad time. Whether their son died, their dad died,
or their nephew died. We get letters from overseas, and have said the only
thing that kept them alive in Iraq was our songs. That they just would have
given up. I mean I feel lucky that we’ve been able to have an influence
on people that way in a personal light. We get a lot of stories about that
stuff, and it really means a lot to us, that we are able to do something that
people can take to a really personal level.
Lanny: Do you find feedback is always important to an artist?
Bob: Ya ya, absolutely. Negative feedback is a good thing to get too. It helps
you focus on what’s important in music. When people have gone through
really crappy stuff, and they tell you your music helped them through it, it
is a real meaningful thing to have happen.
Lanny: In the documentary the band released last year, what really touched
me was how Dave singled out each of the band members, and genuinely praised
the tremendous qualities of each of you as people, not musicians. Is that camaraderie
what makes Flogging Molly stand out from other bands?
Bob: I think it’s a big part of it. I think it’s also what’s
kept us together all these years, and definitely it’s what brings that
fire to the performance. When you are up there with a group of people that
you love, performing music that you believe in, well it makes it much easier
to just let it rip, you know.
Lanny: Did the recent departure of Matt Hensley have a negative impact on the
Flogging Molly machine?
Bob: Yeah. Matt is like a brother to me. This tour has been a hard adjustment
trying to, you know aggh, besides just not having him on stage, I have never
done this without him, and that end of it is hard. Also like every day we would
all hang out together, and play cards at night, and do all sorts of stuff together,
and not having him here is definitely been a difficult adjustment. I miss the
shit out of him, but you know.
Lanny: I guess it’s tough when you are on stage looking over
to the spot where he usually stood?
Bob: Yes I miss him up there. We got PJ out, who has been a friend of the
band for a long time, and he’s got some big shoes to fill, and he’s
trying and he’s doing a great job, but you know Matt’s the man.
Like there is only one Matt Hensley before and after Flogging Molly.
Lanny: It’s got to be hard for PJ to come in and try to get
into that performance dynamic, because you guys are so tight live.
Bob: He’s struggling with it, but he is keeping his head above water,
so he’s doing good.
Lanny: Can you explain the element that Flogging Molly possesses that can
allow you to play a show with a crusty punk band like the Casualties, and then
go record a track with a country/folk artist like Lucinda Williams?
Bob: I think it’s the thing that started us off which is that I don’t
think there is any limitations musically that we want, or are able to do. We
have a good group of musicians, and because there are so many of us our influences
are from all over the place. You know a crusty punk band like the Casualties
makes it seem as though it’s only because they play fast and hard which
makes them punk. Punk is so much more of a spiritual thing than a musical thing
that you know a Casualties crowd will connect with us because we are legitimate
at what we do. We are not trying to fucking flash haircuts, or say we are one
thing and try to be; you know we just try to walk our talk. And it just doesn’t
matter what kind of music you play. You can play across the boarder. A Casualties
crowd could be just as eager to see Johnny Cash play country music. If you
have got the balls to walk your talk you can live your life that way, and play
your music that way I think it’s going to transcend.
Lanny: Is there any influential artist that comes to mind that you would one
day be honored to write/record with?
Bob: Ya there are a shit load of them. I mean I would love to work with Bowie,
Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, umm Tom Waits, like there is a shit load of
people out there that would blow my mind to work with.
Lanny: I guess we could sit here all night and list off amazing artists.
Bob: Ya exactly the list just goes on.
Lanny: Actually I have never really tried to get into much Elvis Costello,
but I want to, I just don’t know where to begin. Could you recommend
me a good album to start out with?
Bob: I think Blood and Chocolate is a great album. A good balance of his introspective
Lanny: He is on my list of musicians that I know I should have checked
out by now, but still haven’t, you know.
Bob: A little mind expansion right.
Lanny: Watching the documentary the band released last year, it is
blatantly obvious that music is your life’s work. Do you see a day
where you may want to side step, and become more involved in production after
this rock and
roll life has beaten you to shit?
Bob: Ya, I would absolutely integrate it. I could continue doing this for
the rest of my life, because I love traveling and playing live music. Everybody
in this band does. If we wanted to be a studio band I would have gone to GIT,
or Berkeley. But I would love to be able to help other bands find what their
sound is, and be able to get that out the way. Other people have helped us
realize what our vision is. I would love to be able to do that, and hopefully
be able to keep this up at the same time.
Lanny: I have read recently that some members of Flogging Molly have been
performing with solo artist Chuck Ragan. Where you involved?
Bob: I was. We did a tour with Bedouin Soundclash, and Jay the singer got
strept throat, and his doctor said if you don’t stop singing you are
going to die. So he had to take two weeks off, and get some medicine in him,
so they had to bow out of the tour. Our management was on the phone with the
label scrambling to find guys to come out with us. We were talking to Jesse
Malin, Madcap, and the Briggs, all these bands that were just about able to
do it, but it would have screwed their whole year. So then Chuck had just kind
of been writing songs around home, and doing little shows, and we called him,
and he had two weeks worth of work to do on a house, and he did it all with
his wife in one day, just killed it. They then flew out the next day, and spent
two weeks with us, and at the end of his set we got up and did a song or two
with him. Just because it felt right, he asked us to do it, and we all could
hear it going down. From that it just kind of grew. We did a benefit show a
while ago with him. It was just George, Nathan, Matt, myself, and Chuck. He
is just one of those guys that you would do anything for. There isn’t
a more honest songwriter than that guy. He is just a stand up guy, and it was
an honor to work with him.
Lanny: Will any more material come out of those performances, or was it just
a one-time thing?
Bob: He has an album that he is going to release sometime in late spring or
early summer. Just because of scheduling we weren’t able to get out there,
but it could still happen. Nathan put down a couple of bass lines on it, and
if I am able to get out there before it is done, I would really like to put
some stuff down on it. But if it doesn’t happen I think he has a lot
more in him, and anything I can do to help him out, I’d love to.
Lanny: He has such a strong voice; it just commands your attention.
Bob: He flew me out the demos for it when we were working on the benefit thing
in LA. It’s just him walking up to the mic, and it’s just him and
his guitar belting it out and it’s just a beautiful sound the same way
Seeger, Guthrie, and all these guys and Springsteen and all those guys with
just a mic and a guitar, and that’s all you need, Johnny Cash and this
huge lineage of great song writer’s and singers, and he has definitely
got that vibe.
Lanny: We all have heard about what a grind the Warped tour is for most bands.
What is your mind set a week before you leave. Do you go crazy trying to take
care of all your everyday human responsibilities? Post dated rent cheques,
feed the fish, that kind of shit.
Bob: I think that way it’s the same as every other tour. You do that
every time you go out on the road. In our band we are lucky we got good women
at home who handle that stuff. In my household my wife definitely manages that
kind of stuff. I couldn’t do it without her. But mostly what you are
doing is buying things you only need on the Warped Tour like handy wipes, solar
showers, and flip flops, blankets, travel chairs, that kind of crap, barbeques,
and whatever else it takes to make the tour a bit more bearable.
Lanny: So basically just anything you would bring to the lake.
Bob: Exactly! It’s not unlike going on vacation with your family; it’s
just sleeping bags and random camping crap.
Lanny: I have to ask what is a solar shower?
Bob: It’s like a bag with a clear window on one side and black plastic
on the other, and you fill it with water and hang it in the 113 degree Phoenix
sun all day, and it heats up so you get a hot shower, because a lot of time
with Warped Tour showers, well let’s just say you would get a better
shower in prison.
Lanny: Let’s say you could only bring 3 items on the warped
tour with you, what would you bring?
Bob: Uuummm, you definitely need some kind of sport like a skateboard, or
maybe if you can swing bringing a scooter, I think a towel is a must, and then
I guess I would have to bring my mandolin.
Lanny: Absolutely, you have to have your tools right?
Lanny: All right, last question. You’re in a distinguished established
band with a cult following, playing to audiences that come close to worshiping
you. What is left in music that you have yet to achieve?
Bob: Like you were saying earlier there are still a lot of people that I would
like to work with, and I still think there are a lot of kids out there who
still haven’t heard of Flogging Molly, and a lot of adults who have never
heard of us. The beautiful thing that I feel about this band as well as being
able to play to a lot of divererse different crowds is also that we can play
to kids and their grandparents, and they both get it. Sometimes it’s
the grandparents kicking their grandkids onto it, and sometimes it’s
the kids kicking their grandparents onto it. Being able to make that spread
of three generations of a family connect over something, especially these days
when it seems like people don’t connect to anything anymore. When we
can bring families together like that, and give them something in common, and
they are talking about it, and going to shows together, you know it’s
a privilege to be able to do that. So I think there are a lot more families
that we can bring together.
Lanny: Well I think that is the most honest, humble, and positive ambition
I have ever heard from a musician.
Bob: We are lucky bastards. I don’t know what else to say.