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The Original *Useless Wooden Toys



New Deal 1990 Interview: Matt Hensley

Matt Hensley: Artist, Skater, Musician
New Deal 1990 Artist

When and why did you start skating?
I started skating around 1977. I used to would jump on my next door neighbor’s board when he left for school.  Then later my mom would drop me and my brother off at Surf The Earth Skateboard Park on the weekends until it finally closed in 1980. 

When and why did you start making visual art?
I started making art in Military School, while I was on staff for the year book. I loved taking pictures and being on that side of things. Much later I went to school at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I really fell in love with it.

When and why did you start making music?
I started making music when I was 16 or so. I had a guitar and just messed around for a while, then later around 1989 I played guitar in a Ska band called the Spy Kids. That was great time, because we got to open for a lot of great bands like the Selector, and the Skatalites.

How did the three come together
I think I have been lucky to merge the three together for most of my life. Except for brief times with insanity or left curves that life throws at everyone, I have made an effort to have my life rotate around Skateboarding, Music, and Art.

Share a defining moment in your skate, art, and music journey?
I remember a great moment when Flogging Molly, the band I play accordion for, was opening for Joe Strummer in Las Vegas, and I was practicing on the curb behind the club. Joe rolled over and spoke about his love of accordions. As an accordion player people generally give a lot of abuse, or like to talk shit, so when Strummer told me how much he liked it I remember walking taller afterwards, and feeling as if I had gotten the green light from from the man himself.

Share your first memories of New Deal Skateboards. 
I remember New Deal from the Del Mar contest, It was a time in skateboarding when skaters were starting do it for themselves. 

What is your best skate memory of all time?
My best skateboard memory was probably in Germany in 1989, for the Munster Contest, I remember hanging out at the hotel with a bunch of skaters from around Europe. We just started to skate in circles around our zone, and, before we knew it, it seemed as if a thousand skaters from all around the world were all rolling together. I will never forget the feeling of togetherness and comradery I felt that night.

What is your favorite creative medium and why?
Right now i have been doing a lot of lino cut prints. I like painting also, but for all the traveling i do, I find the smallness of the tools and lino work are good for me. I just don’t get to print until i get home from a tour. I also hope to take some sign painting classes by the end of this year.

What is your favorite trick and why? 
I think an Ollie would be my favorite trick,  I love that so much variation has come from the Ollie, skaters will always be pushing that trick to new places.

Tell us about your life and family today.
I’ve been married to my Wife Desiree since 1997, and we have a 21 year old son Oliver. He skates and played the drums and guitar and is currently attending US Santa Cruz. I have been very fortunate to have a sweet and understanding woman by my side. 

Tell us about your studio and daily practice?
I don’t really have a proper studio, but my garage is my zone. I make a lot of furniture for my wife and friends. When Im home, which is not much since Flogging Molly tours 6 to 8 months a year, I try to be content in a mode of making things, and making music.

How do you balance art career and family life?
I don’t know if I would call it balance, I’m still looking for for the right amount of everything for calmness, and I’m not there yet.

How did you come to join the NEW DEAL 1990 artists and exhibition? 
I got to contribute to the New Deal art exhibition when I was talking with Steve Douglas about the up coming show and the fact that the Odd numbers were playing.

Tell is about your piece for the exhibition, including inspiration, process, medium, etc. 
After talking with Douglas on the phone I first did a couple of pub-inspired sketches, and came up with different ideas. As I started to lean towards some football (soccer) ideas, I called Steve again to ask about his music inspiration, and then I knew what I wanted to do. As a American kid I was heavily influenced by British music scenes, and I knew Steve was well into the that 2 tone ska and the generally great music coming from that time.  I will also add that Steve was very kind to me as a young skater coming up. When I talked to my brother Chris, who also went to some of the first skate camps, he felt the same. So getting to be a part of this feels great. My piece for the show is the biggest Lino cut I have done to date, so I actually had to buy some aluminum and go to my friend’s shop, then latch some new rollers to enlarge my etching press. The Lino cut took about 30 hours of carving, and a full day of printing to complete it.