The Story So Far…
Skindred are totally unique and remain without peer in music today. The quintessentially British band is the only one to have combined elements of punk, rock, metal, reggae and electronic music with such success. Skindred rose phoenix-like from the ashes of seminal British ragga punks Dubwar at the turn of the millennium fronted again by iconic (and Elvis obsessed) frontman Benji Webbe. With him were bassist and jungle/grime/electronica-loving Dan Pugsley, ginger Billy Gibbons riff-lord Mikeydemus and hard rocking drum prodigy Arya Goggin.
The band hit the ground running with their debut, Babylon, which included the breakthrough singles and consistent live favourites, ‘Nobody’, ‘Pressure’ and ‘Selector’. With the new line-up the band were immediately live favourites and invited all over the world to wow crowds with their distinctive sound and inimitable live show.
The live demand never waned and it would be five years until the band would re-enter the studio for their sophomore album, ‘Roots Rock Riot’ in 2005. The album was another perfect collection of hard-hitting ragga punk party anthems, exemplified in tracks such as ‘Trouble’, ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Rudeboy For Life’ and the title-track itself. To say that the band stood musically apart from anything else going in music would be an understatement, all the while Benji stamping his inimitable personality and life-story on it with his Jamaica-via-Wales patter.
Live demand again sky-rocketed as the album impressed old fans and converted new ones. Not wanting to leave such a gap between releases again, the band recorded a mini-album which showed no loss of creative momentum or ideas for the band (it was originally intended to be an EP but swelled to eight tracks). Shark Bites And Dog Fights was released in late 2009 and contained even more audio dynamite for the bands live show: ‘Stand For Something’ and ‘Invincible’.
Since then the band have played to tens of thousands of people from Europe’s Sonisphere and the UK’s Download to Summer Sonic Japan and a Russian extreme sports festival, and have sold over half a million records worldwide.
Now, in 2011 the band have completed their third album, Union Black. The fact that it’s the first to be recorded here in the UK means much a lot to the band.
“We’re all just so happy to have recorded Union Black in the UK,” explains Dan. “Working with a British producer [James Loughrey] who knows the more British reference points we have is great.
He gets the dancehall thing and all the other underground electronic stuff we like – dubstep, bassline, drum’n’bass, grime and so on – so we’re embracing the things that make us different.” “It’s been great being able to draw on a lot of urban dance elements and sounds that we haven’t before,” adds Benji. “Being in the UK has brought out some of the heaviest moments in us all lyrically and musically since we started.”
Listening to any of Skindred’s music you wouldn’t guess they had felt held back, and surprisingly a big part of it is that US producers tried to tame Benji’s relentless energy – not really knowing quite what he was really capable of.
Skindred just don’t do bad shows, Benji never gives less than 800%, and that’s so much of what makes Skindred what it is. Why or how anyone would or even could reign him in is bizarre. And so with Benji off the leash ‘Union Black’ is the nearest the band have got to capturing the live show on tape.
As for the title of the album, Benji explains that it is a celebration of the diversity of the UK: “We’re all from different places and backgrounds within the commonwealth, but – like with paint – when you mix all the colours together you get black. We’re all kindred spirits here in Blighty.”
Clarkson can keep his Britishness crisis, Skindred know who they are. Benji grew up on the mean streets of Newport, South Wales, and while much of Skindred’s music is a celebration of life and music, there are poignant moments too. From the new album, ‘Cut Dem’, reflects on the knife crime epidemic sweeping the UK’s urban centres. “It’s been ten years since Damilola Taylor was stabbed to death. I see the family and what’s left behind and it inspires me to write. The album was written in the darkest corners of Newport with nothing but crack-heads, beatings and brawls as a backdrop.” But as he adds, the album is still as upbeat as ever, an arsenal of sonic bombs to lay waste to dancefloors and festivals from here to Rio:
“Onstage I’m an MC I’m a hype man, it’s my job to get people up and moving not make everyone depressed. At the end of the day, you could be talking about shagging on the dancefloor or burning churches but either way people are gonna rock out. This is our “Back in Black”!”
Skindred have headlined the UK tour for Union Black and picked up two awards on the way. Kerrang awarded Skindred with the “Devotion Award” this was given to the band for unswerving dedication to a philosophy that is simply Skindred, and then Skindred picked up “the best live band” award at this years Metal hammer Golden God awards, and the band have played summer festivals across Europe and Australia. 2011 also saw Union Black voted in the Top 10 albums of the year in both Big Cheese Magazine and Metal Hammer Magazine.
2012 has so far seen Skindred headline a Sold out Brixton academy show (5000 capacity) and with key appearances forthcoming at this Summers Download Festival and a number of other key festivals globally (see Live Page), the future looks red hot for Britains most exciting Live act.
Are you ready for Skindred?
Skindred – Warning – Live at Download 2011