From Sub Society to Operation Ivy, the Five-Percenters of skateboarding, yes you, the dying breed that looks back on a time when skateboard decks used to look like suppositories, might also remember that there was a pre-accordion, pre-Flogging Molly Matt Hensley. Not that there’s anything wrong* with the current Matt Hensley.
Having said that*, I recently got to ask the former Vespa Boy from Vista’s The Upsetters crew a few questions regarding his musical past. Which is still very much part of the present for a lot of people, it seems.
“Shackle Me Not was all Mike Ternasky’s roommate’s music, he was a budding hip hop, electronic kind of guy. There were a couple really great bands in there, other than that it was mostly this dude’s music. A lot of that was that weird electronic sound going on. I didn’t pick the song out for my part. To be honest, that first video, noone knew that it was gonna do what it did, you know what I mean? Maybe Mike knew, but we never thought that a year later we’d be in Europe watching it in movie theaters and doing these huge demos.
After that, you can probably tell from the music in Hokus Pokus, the music was way more in tune with what everybody was doing. NOW you cared. It was like, ‘Now I’m pro, I wouldn’t skate to that song but only to this song.’ People got more involved. Sub Society was a band that someone at H Street, I forgot who, knew. When that song [A Whole Lot Less] came in, we listened to it and thought it was a great song. There were a couple songs I got to pick from, I can’t remember what the other ones were but Sub Society’s was really the best, it said San Diego, everything made sense about it. I did know some of the members, like I’d see them around the music circles, couple of them skated I think, but that’s not how it came to be. Separate kind of circles.
I used to be in a ska band around the same time caled the Spy Kids, I was the guitar player. It wasn’t that great of a band but we got to epen for The Selecter, which is cool. It was around for a year and a half, and the keyboard player went on and played with Unwritten Law later, which is a pretty popular band. Anyway, it was around that big ska period that I decided, ‘I want fucking Operation Ivy’ on my next part. From the Spy Kids I was already into ska and stuff, and I loved how Operation Ivy would play ska in a different manner. I’ve been a big fan of Tim Armstrong period, and Rancid, and that band. Actually on the latest Rancid album I’ve had the privilege to play accordion and banjo on one of their song.
I think Tim never said if being in skate vids ever helped them selling more records, he said something to me about skateboarding once, I think Lars might have said something, but it wasn’t bad, I hope we didn’t bum anybody out, because you’re not getting paid for it. Noone really understood the rights of musicians until you become a musician. Now I’m in this business, man, so if anybody just wants to rip a song and doesn’t get the rights for it, our agents and the people who work for Flogging Molly would freak out. That’s too bad but that’s the way it is. I really hope that Operation Ivy sold a lot more records because of H Street. And if they did, that puts a smile to my face.
I’ve had so many people come to me and thank me for making them discover these bands, that’s really cool. You gotta learn somewhere, I mean, no matter how you get it or where you get your sources. Cause again, all this was pre-internet, you had to work hard to find cool stuff, you know?”
Top 5 Hensley tunes (according to yours truly)
1. Patife Band: Teu bem (Shackle me Not)
2. Sub Society: A Whole Lot Less (Hokus Pokus)
3. Operation Ivy: Knowledge (Not The New H Street Video)
4. The Jam : News Of The World (Questionnable)
5. The Pogues: Sunny Side of the Street (Label Kills)
* Just came back to the US after my half of the year in Marseille, and first thing I had to do was to watch the whole latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in one serving. Might show in a few references here and there. Sorry.