‘It’s like having a new baby!’: An interview with Skindred


Skindred have just unleashed the massive-sounding Kill The Power upon the world and are currently in the middle of a world tour in support of this latest release. Ahead of their show at Southampton’s Mo’ Club, I had a chat with a couple of the guys about the new record.

This is only the second night of your UK tour; did it get off to a good start?

Arya Goggin [Drums]: Fantastic start! Yesterday’s show was amazing wasn’t it?
Mikey Demus [Guitar]: Yeah, we were in Norwich yesterday at UEA and there were bucketloads of people in there jumping up and down, losing their minds; great way to start a tour! And it’s sold out tonight as well! It’s quite an early time of year to be touring, not many bands are around when we’ve got this tour. It’s like clearing out the cobwebs after Christmas.

How come you decided to start the tour before the release date?

AG: That’s a very good question, where is our agent!? We ask this ourselves every time! I think the idea was the album was supposed to be out in September but it got pushed back because there were record company issues, but the tour was already booked in. But I think with a lot of the tracks, the fans have got on the internet and had a little rummage anyway. We played like, five new songs yesterday, two of which are available – ‘Kill The Power’ and ‘Ninja’ are out there anyway, and the other three tracks are gonna be on the record. But it didn’t seem to suffer; nobody was like ‘this isn’t cool, I don’t know it’, they were like, ‘this is cool, I love it!’

As you said, you’ve played quite a few of the new tracks live, but which is your favourite of those to play?

AG: I like doing ‘We Live’.
MD: Yeah I like doing that one as well.
AG: It’s like a big anthem for us, or an anthem in the making. It’s not as frantic as all the others so it’s kind of like a nice, reflective moment. It’s like ‘less is more’ with that one.
MD: Benji [Webbe] gets to showcase his vocals and we get to show that we can pen a good tune.

When you play live you’re known for doing all these kind of mash-ups of your songs with various pop or drum & bass tunes, so have you got any cool arrangements for any of the new songs?

AG: Yeah we’ve got a few surprises, a couple of medley ideas we’re doing.
MD: Yeah the new songs we’re kind of playing as-is just for people to get familiar with it, but there are a few bits and pieces in the set where we’re doing stuff.
AG: We’re messing around with ‘Cut Dem’, and like I say we’re doing a couple of medleys of some older songs we haven’t played for a while. We’re doing like a DJ/drum battle thing which has got some tracks people know.

You’ve worked with a few people on this album that some may not have expected from you, like [legendary songwriter]Russ Ballard and [psychedelic rock icon]Arthur Brown. How did those collaborations come about?

AG: Well when we were writing ‘Ninja’, Benji had this whole vision for the intro, making it like a film trailer type thing, and he came into rehearsal with this weird little voice going [in a trailer voice]‘Ah yes, the ninja!’ and all this kind of thing, with this whole speech he’d worked out. It was cool but the band, we weren’t really backing him. I think it’s just because it was Benj! And then I think our manager said ‘I know Arthur Brown, why don’t we get him to do it?’ and it was that easy! We had the idea on the Monday and on the Wednesday Arthur Brown was in the studio doing it!

The Russ Ballard thing… He didn’t write songs for us, he wrote songs with us which was the difference; it was like a collaboration, which was cool. I think Benj really wanted to harness the lyrical content of the record and the vocal melodies and stuff, and Russ is a master of that. He came down to the studio and hung out, he’s a good dude! We saw him at the Classic Rock awards, winning the classic songwriter award! They were just listing off all these tunes he’d written and we were just sat there going, ‘fucking hell!’ James, our producer, actually knew him as well; he’d worked with him on some stuff and he said that I’d be great to get Russ on a track. So we thought yeah it would be great, and the next thing we knew, it was happening! It was organic and easy so we didn’t have to think too much which was good.
MD: He was really into it as well; he hadn’t worked with a band for a few years. You got the impression he just wanted to plug a guitar in and rock out with us! I think it was a bit of a shot in the arm for him in a way.

I suppose you guys are pretty different from anyone he’s ever worked with before as well!

MD: Massively, yeah! I mean we share that we use melody and guitars and heavy rock, but the way we do it is obviously different to how he’s done it with Rainbow and Kiss and that sort of stuff! But you know, it’s all rock and roll at the end of the day. That’s the thing- we’re just a rock band with some different elements in there.

The video for Kill The Power was filmed in Mumbai while you were touring Asia; what’s it like playing in that area of the world compared with over here?

AG: Fantastic! Well, it’s not like you have any expectations because you have no idea; we went into it pretty much blind!
MD: We were supposed to go a couple of years ago but it all fell to pieces because they didn’t get it together with visas and flights and all that, they weren’t quite as on it with having things organised before, but when we went back this time everything ran on rails really! I think it’s like the new place for people to go band-wise. With the festivals and things over there, it’s kind of like a learning curve.
AG: The people there were hungry for it. They knew all the tracks and went absolutely nuts! Playing your first gig in any country – you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know whether anyone’s going to show up or whether 6000 people are going to show up!
MD: It wasn’t like a first gig though was it? There was a hardened fanbase there!
AG: Yeah, it felt like we’d risen up through the ranks and all those things!

Kill The Power sounds like it’s a rallying cry to all the people who are pissed off at authority, so what is it that gets you really angry?

AG: I don’t like people being oppressed. I don’t like people taking advantage of the weak. Not physically weak, more mentally weak. It’s about bullies; you don’t want to be bullied or put in a corner, so it’s a ‘fuck you’ to all of that really. Everyone should be able to do their own thing when they want to do it, how they want to do it. Nobody should be told what to do.
MD: We’re not an outwardly political group, we’ve all got our own views politically. So it’s not so much a political statement, but more a way of feeling or a way of being. And that was the thing with Benji’s lyrics, there’s always a positive spin on things and we back that up. It’s not about getting pissed off, it’s about overcoming a situation.
AG: Yeah, injustice, basically. Social injustice, political injustice: that’s what fucks me off!

Skindred’s new album Kill The Power is out now via BMG/Doublecross.


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