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I travel with my own laundry detergent, an interview with Bob Schmidt of Flogging Molly

I WOULD WELCOME THE THOUGHT IF SOMEWHERE IN THE COLORFUL HISTORY OF MY ANCESTORS THERE MIGHT BE SOMEONE RESPONSIBLE FOR A BIT OF IRISH BLOOD RUNNING THROUGH MY VEINS. MAYBE. IT MIGHT ELUCIDATE WHY I’VE LOVED IRELAND FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER. SO GOING TO THE AMERICAN CELTIC PUNK BAND FLOGGING MOLLY’S SOLD OUT CONCERT IN EINDHOVEN WASN’T A REALLY DIFFICULT TASK TO FULFILL.

DOWN THE MAZE OF THE BEAUTIFUL 1920’S FORMER PHILITE-BUILDING “HET KLOKGEBOUW” WE FIND FLOGGING MOLLY’S MANDOLIN/BANJO PLAYER BOB SCHMIDT READY TO TALK ABOUT HIS POINTS OF VIEW ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE WORLD, SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF THEIR LATEST ALBUM “SPEED OF DARKNESS” (2011), OCCUPY WALL STREET AND ENVIRONMENTALISM. ALTHOUGH THE QUOTE “I TRAVEL WITH MY OWN LAUNDRY DETERGENT,” MAY SOUND LIKE THE TITLE OF A NEVER RELEASED MONTY PYTHON MOVIE, I CAN HONESTLY SAY: ‘BOB, I WOULD BE TRAVELLING WITH MY OWN ‘ECO’ LAUNDRY DETERGENT TOO.’

Skye

Sanderz: Although ‘Speed of Darkness’ is a reflection on the current state of the world, in the end it’s the hand that helps you on your feet again. What does the concept of hope in human life mean to you/FM?

Bob: Everyone talks about how this time is always worse than the last, but there is good and bad everywhere. So it’s hard to determine if any particular time is actually worse than another time, but I think that hope keeps all of us going. In good times you hope the times will last, and in bad times you hope it will get better. Maybe hope is one of the most useful and most damning aspects of human nature, because it keeps us going and maybe hope for something that will never happen. As far as the band is concerned; I don’t know if hope is the right word, it’s more camaraderie, that kind of communal feeling that you will all be there for each other and it’ll be better because of those relationships. It’s not so much about ‘getting out of this situation and hope for something on the horizon’ but the knowledge that if  it’s going to be bad at least I’ll have the people that I love around me. 

With family and friends, you don’t need hope that much, because you’ll get through anything and you can create your own world within that community.  Flogging Molly have been friends for a long time. 15 years is a long time to spend stuffed in a box (laughs).

Sanderz: Ireland and Detroit share similarities on an economic and social level, is there a difference in approach to how the economic regression is dealt with?

Bob: I think in Detroit the regression happened slowly over a long period of time. People had a lot of time to deal with the repercussions, but recently it has become so bad that people have to leave their communities and businesses are shutting down. The last 5 or 6 years have been difficult for Detroit, whereas in Ireland, 4 years ago they were on top of the world with the Celtic Tiger-Economy and everyone was talking about how great and massive it was. But what applies to everyone in the world is, when you bank too much on the good times, you don’t keep an eye out on what can conceivably happen. They really got the rug pulled out from under them a lot harsher than in Detroit, because it happened like that (snaps fingers).

 

Bob Schmidt © Skye

 

Sanderz: By making the same mistakes we’re destined to keep repeating history (referring to economical regression) What in your opinion would be a solution to escape the loop,  keeping the lyrics of ‘Revolution’ in mind? 

Bob: Certainly, you have to have a general consensus of the people and I think we are at those odd points in history, where the majority has the power over the minorities. They’ve got the money and the control. But if you have a semblance of democracy, even if it’s as ridiculous of a semblance of democracy as we have in America; the power of the many holds power and we can’t change things that way. Not with pitchforks and bombs in the street anyway, but maybe by voting and Occupy Wall Street. Just by getting the word out there, having your point of view known as a mass, is very helpful.  I think we also need a change in consciousness and look out for our brothers and sisters, away from ‘mine and me’, away from having to have the biggest TV or gas-guzzlingest car and all that stuff,  to ‘us’ . It’s not just America, but the whole world is affected by the culture of greed and possession.  I think it’s ruining us as a planet.

Sanderz: Is there a similarity between Wall Street and Speed of Darkness?

Bob: I think the similarity is: people are trying to put a political agenda on Occupy Wall Street. What I get out of Occupy Wall Street is that it is about people, how they feel and how frustrated they are. It’s not about left or right, Republicans or Democrats. Although it tends to be painted as a left Democrat kind of movement, it’s just about the frustration with the current state of the world and the need for change. They are proposing more than one path. They don’t believe in saying ‘do this and everything will be fine’. 

People have said that “Speed of Darkness” is a very political album. When we’re showing our view on things and it shines a light on politics, than the conclusion generally is that it must be a political album. It’s not. It’s a social album, about people and their relationships and how politics are affecting the world. So I think that would be the similarity with Occupy Wall Street.

Sanderz: Leaving the economy behind us…….

Bob: Hahaha.. Gladly….hahahaha

Sanderz: Prior to the release of ‘Speed of Darkness’ FM started Borstal Beat Records, FM’s independent label. After the experience of a studio album release and an extensive tour, how do you look back on going independent?’

Bob: I think the practicallity, what we do on a year to year basis, and the logistics have stayed the same in comparison to when we were on a major label. But we are more plugged in to the flow of decisions around label money. It’s empowering to decide whether to do this or that.  If we feel excited or passionate about something, we can actually decide to spend money on that idea. It’s also been empowering  knowing that the whole creative process, the energy and everything else that we put into a recording, is ours to keep. It doesn’t belong to a label.

Sanderz: So it’s all going well?

Bob: Yeah, so far (laughs). I mean it’s also that we’ve invested our money in an essentially failing enterprise at this point, if you look how quickly record-labels are falling apart. If it wasn’t for maintaining our autonomy within the music business, I don’t think starting a label is necessarily the best way to go these days.

 

Sanderz: With the Green17tour Flogging Molly is prolonging the celebration of St. Patrick’s day. How did this month long celebration come about?

Bob: It started when we we’re doing shows around St. Patrick’s day and everybody kept asking us if we would come again, same day next year. We tried to perform at as many places as we could, but it just wasn’t possible. So we thought: ‘Why don’t we bring St. Patrick’s day to you, since we can’t bring the show everywhere on that particular day. That was the spirit behind it. Just trying to let every day of that month be St. Patrick’s day, for every city we were in.

Sanderz: St Patrick is Irelands most famous saint. What does he represent today?

Bob: St. Patrick today? I imagine he represents very little today. It has become more about shamrock, leprechauns, ridiculous shit and beer than anything else, like driving snakes out of Ireland (laughs).

Sanderz: What’s the spirit of live performance?

Bob: Again, I think it’s going back to that camaraderie. The spirit of live performance is about a whole group of people feeling the same, whether it’s music, friendship, beer or anything else. It’s powerful when you can share emotion, energy and passion and the love of playing back and forth to each other. It’s a great thing. It’s a privilege.

Sanderz: ‘Within a mile from home’ was dedicated to Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer. Joe Strummer (the Clash) was a pioneer in recording, pressing and distributing his material carbon neutral by planting trees. What’s your view on carbon neutral music productions?

Bob: We try to do as much as we can to support the environment, especially when touring the world. I mean, the carbon neutral thing has almost become an issue in the record-company end of the deal. Nobody is buying cd’s anymore so you’re pressing a 1/3 less, saving already 2/3rd more environment than you used to, by the nature of business. But we do a lot of touring off-sets. We’re offsetting in wind energy, because we’re on planes and buses all the time. I think the more modern biofuels are making it more possible for these big buses and planes to be a little bit more responsible with polluting the environment. We recycle our strings and our batteries. We do as much as we can to leave a smaller footprint. We realize that it makes quite a dent when your dragging this big show around all over the world.

Sanderz: How long have you been doing this?

Bob: We’ve been doing this for 5 or 6 years now. It started when we met some people on the Warp tour who were providing information and facilitating tools to green up. A lot of young bands cannot afford it to shrink their carbon footprint, because it is not cheap to do. I mean, it’s not crazy expensive, but when you’re barely scraping by it’s a difficult decision you have to make. For us the reason is obvious: we all have kids and we have to leave them something.

Sanderz: Oxfam is an international organization  finding everlasting solutions to poverty and injustice. You also support GoalUSA. Climate Change effects the poor and poor communities the most, especially in the developing countries who seem to suffer under the consumption excess from the developed countries. Can you comment on Climate debt?

Bob: It’s so complicated. I visited a lot of places, like the Mayan Riviera down in Mexico, where the whole coast is protected. It’s a giant ecological reserve, just south between Belize and Tulum. And that entire beach is littered with the plastic debris that comes in off the US’s coast. It’s miles and miles of debris from cruise ships, beachgoers, Fort Lauderdale, the islands of the coast of Texas and the beaches of the whole Gulf area. Everything that gets dumped into the water ends up floating south, down on those Mexican beaches.

It’s frightening to think of how far it’s gotten at this point if you look at what is happening in the oceans with the giant plastic islands out there. The Gulf of Mexico is a small body of water in comparison. And with our population  increasing at such a massive clip, it’s necessary to find a solution, aside from recycling. Look at styrofoam and plastics: why wouldn’t you chuck in the extra 2 cents for something that is biodegradable? Especially when there are so many options: biodegradable plastics from corn, soy and other plant based plastics. And it seems like nobody really gives a shit in the manufacturing world. It’s really depressing.

The gyres won’t disappear, you can’t scoop them up. It will take us 50 years to figure out how to get rid of the stuff that is already there and people are still adding more and more to it. Unfortunately undeveloped countries will suffer the most, because they don’t have the resources to clean up that stuff. So they just have to live in it. If you’re living on a shore where 700.000 tons of plastic crap wash up on your beach you don’t get a skip loader to come out and clean it up. You just push it into a pile.

What arm of global warming do we have to attack first? Do you attack carbon, than you get particulate matter and if you attack particulate matter than you get chlorine and all the other chemicals in the ionosphere. It’s such a massive problem, but again I think it boils down to that greed thing. If you just be happy with what you have and not always trying to acquire more shit , enjoy the grass or a tree once in a while, that would go the furthest towards helping the planet.

Sanderz: Most people don’t see this.

Bob: Yeah, I don’t know how to make people appreciate the simplest, easiest things.

 

Flogging Molly's Bob Schmidt © Skye

 

Sanderz: Does it have to start with education?

Bob: I’m lucky I live in a beautiful place and my daughter is very connected to the earth, to nature.  I want her to believe that the earth means something, that it’s not just a place that you can erode and then go someplace else. Hopefully more and more people are becoming aware of it. I think it’s very important. I live in Boulder, Colorado, an extremely eco-conscious area. They keep the project development limited in the city. There is tons of open space. Boulder believes in the power and the beauty and the necessity to preserve nature. So that makes it easy for me. But if you get out in the world, that kind of conciousness isn’t so obvious. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. LA is a massive dumping ground. It’s scary.

Sanderz: Does the eco consciousness of Boulder relate to the hippie communities they had in the 60ties?

Bob: It think it has a lot to do with that. I also think it has to do with the influence of the people who moved to Boulder, when we came into this era. They were very wealthy. The other dichotomy, is that all the people who were really interested in maintaining the planet and keeping the eco consciousness alive, had a lot of money to donate and were dedicated to it. So I think that’s the reason it has become this very hot bed for eco consciousness. Poor communities don’t have the financial resources, but a lot of the poor communities are connected to the land, because they don’t have any choice or option and they see the necessity and the beauty of it. They do as much as we are, to change the earth for the better.

Sanderz: You live in Boulder Colorado where extreme weather conditions are a common occurrence. Throughout the USA, conditions are worsening and I’m thinking of drought in Texas, increase of tornado/storm activity and floods. What are your views on the changes the planet is undergoing?

Bob: I think that there’s a lot of talk of why it is happening: whether it’s man influenced or if it’s just the cycle of nature. I think that it doesn’t really matter. But whether it is man influenced or not, we can do something to influence it. Looking at the science behind it, it’s pretty inevitable we are to blame for it. But even when we weren’t to blame for it,  if you want to take that devil’s advocate position, we still can do something to change the flow of how the weather will be effected.

Look at what the rising sea levels are doing to the coastal communities around the world. A lot of these coastal communities, like India, are the poorest of the poor. And tiny indigenous cultures on the Islands in the South Pacific are being erased of the planet, because their homelands disappear. That’s just not right. If we can do anything to stop that from happening, we should.  We had the science to create it, so we have to create the science to combat it.

But even if we didn’t create it, we still have to combat it.

Sanderz: On your Facebook page I’ve read that you’re also an artist and designer. Can you explain what this entails?

Bob: I went to art school for illustration and graphic design. These days I’m too busy doing music. Like every other discipline drawing is a practice and when you’re not using it, it tends to rot away a little bit. But when I get a chance I start sketching again and keep the connection going, because the more you do it the better you are at it. We’re all involved in designing t-shirts, logo’s and other artistic elements that happen within the band.  So the connection stays alive. I build and design furniture when I’m at home and I have time. I like working with my hands. It’s good (laughs).

Sanderz: The question we ask all interviewees: What do you do in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint?

Bob: When we’re in Europe, travelling is fantastic. There is such a great network of public transportation in most countries. I don’t have a car on the road so I’m forced to use public transportation. That’s great. I walk a lot too. So that’s carbon neutral and I recycle as much as I can. I travel with my own laundry detergent, using bio safe laundry products. I don’t use anti-bacterial soaps. I just try to maintain that regular mentality of trying to do as little that will affect the environment as possible.

Leave only footprints, take only pictures.

Sanderz: Thanks

Bob: Thank you, guys.

Flogging Molly members are: Dave King (lead vocals acoustic guitar), Bridget Regan (fiddle, vocals uillean pipes), Bob Schmidt (banjo, mandolin), Dennis Casey (guitar & vocals), George Schwindt (drums) , Matt Hensley (accordion) and Nathen Maxwell (bass & vocals).
Find out more about Flogging Molly, their latest album “Speed of Darkness”, tour dates and more @ www.floggingmolly.com

Klokgebouw


 

 

 

© Circles on the Water, 2019