Interview: Skindred

SkindredAs Skindred set out on their Shark Bites and Dog Fights tour, George has a chance to catch up with their enigmatic frontman, Mr. Benji Webbe. George is surprised to find he’s talking to the only Welsh member of the band, who himself has flown over from home in Florida. Talk about long distance relationships. They discuss the new album*, the apparent ‘kings of ragga-metal’, and Benji reveals the band are off to India.

*It’s an album in Benji’s eyes, anyway…

George: Can you say your name, and what you do in the band?
Benji: [laughs] My names Benji Webbe, I sing for the band called Skindred.

George: How’s the tour going so far?
Benji: Absolutely amazing, the best tour, my band has ever done in England… or Wales, or Scotland or Ireland, in the ten years that we’ve been going.

George: Dead By April and Karnivool are on board with you as well, it’s a killer lineup! Are you guys fans of them?

Benji: I like Karnivool a lot and I actually like their music a lot, and I think they’re fucking beautiful boys, Dead By April, was not my choice, but they are lovely guys.

George: How have people taken to the new songs on tour?
Benji: Like this…[pulls a very confused face] [laughs] Nah, they’re digging them, especially the single, that’s really kicking off and give it a minute, they’ll have the album in a minute, and like I was saying to the boys, we were talking about doing the ending of one of our songs in the style of another band, and I said well let’s confirm it and play our songs the way it was written first for a couple of months, then when people are more up on it, and nod at the other thing I suggested, y’know? But yeah, they’re digging it, first time we play some songs to some fans, they take a moment, I remember playing Nobody and people just going… [pulls another very confused face]

George: Some shows have sold out and been upgraded as well, are you pleased with the progress of the band getting bigger?
Benji: Fuck yeah. No, I’m sad. [laughs] I always just wanted to play pubs. I’m buzzing my tits off, being in this position is absolutely ridiculous, what you’ve worked for, is actually coming intuition, y’know? [takes a moment to take a bite out of an orange] …excuse me, orange eating. [laughs] On the road, you’ve gotta get as much vitamin C in you as possible. You want to get pissed as possible later on as well. [laughs]

George: You’ve been getting constant rave reviews for your live performances, what’s the secret to being such a good live band?
Benji: I dunno, I just keep doing what I do! Maybe there’s just some people who hate this band, and we get 3K’s! [laughs]

George: You recently released Shark Bites and Dog Fights, are you pleased with the reaction it’s received so far?

Benji: Mm… [takes another moment to take a bite out of the orange] sorry! [laughs] Definitely! You know, some albums and songs are like wine, they mature, they get better with age, and the more people live with it, the more people are gonna go “fucking hell, that’s great”. It’s like you know, we play a song called Invincible in our set, I know in a year from now, we’re gonna play that same song, and it’s gonna be a show fucking, “Oh my god”, kids are gonna be chanting and screaming it. You’ve gotta break these in, I’m excited.

George: How come it’s only a mini-album, and…
Benji: It’s not a mini-album, it’s a full one.
George: You reckon?
Benji: It’s a fucking full album. [laughs] The reason I say that, Sabbath released albums with 8 songs, Zeppelin released albums with 8 songs, nobody said, “Here Ozzy, it’s an EP”, did they?
George: Well yeah, I suppose.
Benji: It’s an album, innit?
George: I guess there’s no set amount of songs.
Benji: If it was 6, I’d say it’s an EP. But 8 songs there man, it’s 8 songs, there’s enough there for you to handle.

George: What would you say makes it different to Roots Rock Riot and Babylon?

Benji: I think with Roots Rock Riot, we were still in the situation where we tried to make radio songs, but still trying to be integral, and on this one, we just let the dogs go. [mocks a posh voice] Let the hounds go, Dracot! [laughs] We were just set free to do what we wanted in the studio, the producer was young enough, and fucking stupid, or crazy or mad enough to just go, “Yeah, do it, man!” like let’s not start this song with any fucking intro, let’s just start it with “dangggggggggggg” [makes a guitar noise]. Y’know, weird shit. I feel like it’s a step in the right direction, Dan came up with this mad rave techno thing from the 1980’s, put it in one of our songs, originally, it sounded like Roots from fucking Soulfly, then he put that in, and he was running round the studio pulling faces and playing with fucking glowsticks. [laughs] So, yeah, it’s plenty much different.

George: What’s your favourite song on the record?
Benji: D’you know what? It’s like asking me what’s my favourite song in the set, it changes from day to day. I’ve got a big hard on at the moment for Stand For Something, you’ve gotta remember tonight is the 4th show, 5th? Tonight is gonna be the 5th time we’ve played it public, and we only had like an afternoon to rehearse for the tour, to get it together and put it together, and it takes time but definitely Stand For Something at the moment, singing it, chanting it and going apeshit.

George: Is it the work you’re most proud of to date?

Benji: What, Shark Bites?
George: Yeah.
Benji: I’m proud of Skindred. Never mind the albums, I’m proud of being in a band that’s gone through, that’s seen so many different trends and fashions, rock ‘n’ roll fashions, come and go, and we’ve just been going. Fuck off, we’re not gonna do that, we’re not gonna do what other bands do, we’ve just stuck to our guns and I’m proud of us. I don’t care about records, mate. Records are just records and it just represents how we feel at a certain date, we don’t always feel like that, it changes. Y’know, it’s like you do a diary, it’s like a record. It’s a diary for your band. We’ve done that diary, fuck knows. If we had to record an album tomorrow, I’m sure it’d sound different again. That was just how we felt at that time, but I’m proud, I’m really proud to be in Skindred, I hold my head up high.

George: You’ve released a video for Stand For Something, can you talk us through it?
Benji: Well, there’s not much really to say, erm… We were sent a couple of treatments, and the guy who actually did the artwork, his name is Tim Fox, I liked his idea, pretty clever cunt he is, he’s always coming up with ideas like that, and he said he wanted like, ’cause the album’s called Shark Bites and Dog Fights, we didn’t know what to do, so Mikey told me this thing with a big city behind, and planes not flying in the sky, but coming out of the water, just like, what the fuck’s that about? But anyway, so the dude who did this, he also did a treatment for the video which is like when you write a story, it’s of two dictators, evil dictators, both as bad as each other, and they try to get the people in the world, rally them, they’re gonna go for it, and the nuclear weapons, the bombs, the dictators, in their minds, they want to blow up the world, they think they’re gonna blow up the world but what they’re gonna really do, all the soldiers that have been killed, through the battles and the war, they hit the button and they’re gonna ressurect them all, bring them back to life, and there’s just gonna be peace… and love! [laughs] I think that’s the story, you seen the video?
George: Yeah, it’s awesome!
Benji: And you see the guys crash? And you see the dictators smash the bomb, and you see them going up and the dictators in ruins. It’s a lot of fantasy bullshit, but it’s fun.

George: Have you ever heard of a band from Canada called Zeroscape? They claim to be the ‘undisputed kings of ragga-metal’.
Benji: I suppose they are, I hope they are, they can have it if they want. You want that title, take it you daft cunts. [laughs] Fucking hell!
George: They were opening for InMe on their tour they’re doing at the moment.
Benji: In England?
George: Yeah.
Benji: Excellent. Well, I won’t be going to see ’em, but they are the undisputed kings of ragga-metal, I don’t want the fucking crown, I just wanna be the underdog and smack fucking ace faces, keep your crown. What’re they called?
George: Zeroscape!
Benji: Zeroscape, I’m gonna look out for them, not to like, do anything more than go, “Rock on, kings!” [laughs] We never said we were the best, or the greatest, or anything like that, so if a magazine says you’re good, I’m not gonna say, “No, we’re not”, if they can claim to be the undisputed kings, they can challenge us to a clash, bring it on. So, you tell them that when you see them.

George: I asked The Blackout the other month…
Benji: Fucking arseholes…
George: [laughs] What they thought of the Welsh music scene, it seems to be chock full of talent, new and old, what do you think of it?
Benji: I don’t care about Wales.
George: You guys originate from Wales?
Benji: No, we don’t, we actually have a rehearsal space in Wales, Mikey’s born and bred in Southampton, spent five months of his life in Wales, Dan’s from Exeter, spent a couple of months rehearsing, I’m the only guy who’s Welsh in the band, we always go “Fucking hell”, they say, ‘Skindred, the Welsh ragga-metal band’, it’s like no we’re not, 3 of the guys are from England, never went to Wales until they met Skindred, ’til they joined the band. I’m the only guy who’s Welsh in the band.
George: Do you all live in England, or… ?
Benji: Nah, I live in Florida. Mikey lives in Denver, Colorado, Arya lives in Bristol, Dan lives in London, and we congregate in a little rehearsal space in South Wales, it’s cheap. It’s the best thing about Wales, the fucking property’s cheap. Otherwise, get the fuck out of there.
George: I didn’t realise you were split over the Atlantic…
Benji: Yeah, we do what we’ve gotta do and meet, and y’know, get on with it like that, we’re all over the place. Why be in one place if you haven’t gotta be there? So, it’s cool.
George: The Blackout bigged you up, when I asked them.
Benji: Did they? Sean?
George: Yeah.
Benji: Prick. [laughs] No, I love him, they’re good kids.

George: They also said, you can name any genre, and a Welsh band will always be best at it, apparently. Do you agree?

Benji: [laughs] Drum and bass?
George: Good point!
Benji: Full of shit. Screamo fucking emo, who wants to be anything in that? Take the crown, another one! [laughs] Fucking Zero, fucking ragga-punks can fuck off with it!

George: Do people ever get surprised to find out that you’re Welsh?

Benji: Not really, no, because the internet’s a hell of a thing, people go to the book of lies which is Wikipedia, that’s what they do.

George: What’s in store for Skindred in the near future?

Benji: We’re going to India, what d’you think of that then?
George: That’s cool!
Benji: Fucking India, mate. Not Japan, not Australia, fuckng Calcutta, Dehli, Mumbai, India. Elephant fucking riding, y’know what I mean? Curry, to the curry sea, on a popadom. [laughs] We’re gonna do a video there, and we’re gonna do some shows, we’re excited about that.
George: Do you have a following out in India?
Benji: I don’t fucking know, they’re gonna give us a shitload of money and we’re gonna rock, simple. I think we’re playing in some universities over there.

George: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Benji: Gogol Bordello.
George: Didn’t you do a tour with them?
Benji: Yep, fucking fantastic band. Mad, weird fucking Russians, but incredible musicians. Yeah, Gogol Bordello, definitely, if you want to check out a band and see the essence of a band performing, definitely. What else can I say, who else’s albums have I bought…[pauses] …Ian Brown’s new albums good, that’s it really, I think Ian Brown’s brilliant. His new album’s killer, and Gogol Bordello would be a band I’d say to go check out.

George: Do you have anything to add?

Benji: I love The Blackout. [laughs]

George Cannings.

The brilliant Skindred are out now on their Shark Bites and Dog Fights tour with support from Dead By April and Karnivool, check them out now! New album Shark Bites and Dog Fights is out now on Bieler Bros. Records. See http://www.myspace.com/skindred for more information.

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