Skindred - Autumn 2018

Photo credit: Martin Woodbridge

It’s Halloween. A night where zombies, ghouls and all sorts of strange things wander the early evening streets hoping for a treat or 2. Well, tucked comfortably away in a tour bus behind The Empire in Coventry, our Midlands correspondent Martin Woodbridge is in for a huge treat as he sits down to chat to the incredible Skindred prior to what will be their first of a 32 date UK tour. Supporting their latest album BIG TINGS, this is a hugely ambitious tour that also sees the band performing in more intimate venues. Martin joins vocalist Benji Webbe and drummer Arya Goggin to get the full story on what a hugely successful year 2018 has been for the band, the current tour and a gazing into the crystal ball to find out what the future holds for the band in 2019.

 

So we are here in Coventry on what is the opening night of a massive 32 date UK tour. What sorts of things are going through your minds at the start of such a tour?


Arya – Don’t Die (laughter)

Benji – Keep away from drugs and alcohol, and keep your mind focused on the job. I think one night a week we are going to have a party, the rest we are not! Which is a lie! (Lots of laughter) Yeah, I think you have to just celebrate every day you live. Life’s too short. It’s gone before you know it.

Arya – When you are touring as much as we are, you have to realize that the people who have come to see you, it’s their Friday night . It doesn’t matter whether it is a Monday, Tuesday or a Wednesday. We’ve always done it like that. We’ve always tried to bring a certain energy to a gig.


Well your gigs are well known to be very high energy.


Benji – Well like we said we aim for high energy and you would think I would be thin wouldn’t you.


No chance on that. (laughs)


Benji – Thanks for that!    (everyone laughs)


We can all join that club.   (more laughter)


Benji – Very good my man, I like that one.    (even more laughter)

 

Well you have been together for 20 years as a band, which is a pretty good milestone to reach.


Benji – It’s been amazing. I commend and pay homage and respect the fact that these guys can hang around with me for 20 fucking years. I have had 6 wives, but these guys are still here.

Arya – We say the same things about each other.

Benji – It’s a family you know.


Your present lineup has been around for 16 years.


Benji – That’s what I am saying. The original members of the band were only in the band for 8 months. Fortunately, Arya came on board, Mike came on board and that is really when the band properly came together. We have had quite an up and down experience, but never in and out. Up and down, but never in and out. You just have to keep your head down and rock on. Sometimes you have to play in front of 30 people, a blind man with his dog and a security guard. Sometimes you have to play in front of 20,000 people. But every time you have to get on that stage and give it 120 fucking percent.

Arya – It’s a privilege and it’s our life.

Benji – It’s a privilege and I am honoured to be in a band for so long with these guys.


You are barely giving yourselves any time off on this tour.


Benji – Oh we are really.

Arya – We do have a few days off. Yeah, it will be fine.


So what steps do you take to survive that sort of pace?


Arya – You know we are so used to touring at a level of doing 250 shows a year. So you see 32 shows is not problem. It’s big for the UK, so that’s the thing, you know and it’s all in one area. We usually go to Europe then into America and then Australia and so on…

Benji – We have got Europe coming up next year.


So more hopping around on a plane then?


Benji – Well, I say if we have got the passion and we love it, then we know the people coming to see us will love it. People have been coming to see us for years and they bring people along to see us who have never seen us before. Then you hear them saying after the gig "I told you they were great, I told you they were cool and I get it now".

Arya – For so many people it is their first SKINDRED gig.


Well I must admit this is my first one.


Benji – Well there you go, you’re gonna get it my friend.


And I am going to see you in Sheffield in December also.


Benji – Well you are gonna get it twice my man. That’s double pain for you my friend.  


Absolutely! So, 32 dates and you’re visiting pretty much every part of the country, leaving no corner unexplored. Which gigs are going to be the stand out gigs for you guys?


Benji – Well it’s Coventry for me as it has always been a special one, as my grandparents used to live here in Tile Hill. I used to have to come up here as a lad in the school summer holidays. My friends used to say "HA HA HA your being sent to Coventry". When I did come here it was the late 70’s. This is where I discovered SKA and The Specials, who were just an up and coming band. When I saw those black guys and those white guys playing together, it touched my heart and I said "Man, I want to be in a band that brings that ragga element and the punk rock element and puts it together. Well I can say I am at home here. I am in my grandfather’s town. The Specials for me personally, as a Coventry band, they have done so much for me mentally and so much as a human being. They have sort of shaped me in a lot of ways, so for me Coventry has done that to.  


Even given that you are from South Wales?


Benji – Yes definitely. 3 weeks a year in the school holidays. Coventry became my second home.


What about yourself Arya? What gigs are you looking forward to?


Arya – Pretty much all of them.

Benji – Some of them are going to be sweaty and horrible.

Arya - Everyone has pretty much got a home town show coming up on this tour. If it is not the exact place, then there is a gig just up the road. For Benji it’s Coventry. We are not doing Newport, but we are doing Cardiff. For me I have London, but I also get to do Exeter as well. I think it’s a big family and friends kind of tour.

Benji – It’s going to be an up close and intimate tour. We did the big shows earlier in the year so really looking forward to getting started.

Arya – I don’t think bands do this kind of tour anymore. They come in and do the 10 shows like we have done. This tour is more old school. The kind of tour you did before you got signed. When you were starting you would just get in a van and play everywhere and anywhere. This takes me back to the beginning.

Benji – Exactly. We are playing a lot of different styles of venues. Some you cant even call venues (laughter), which is going to be a lot of fun.


I think in general bands have started to go back to going around small venues of 600 to 700 people so they can be more intimate.


Benji – Yes that’s the way to do it man. Radio ain’t gonna play you, TV ain’t gonna play you. So the best you can do is go round like the double glazing salesman and go door to door. In fact we have been doing this for a long time now.


I think a lot of bands are starting to see the benefit of that and they also get to meet the fans after the gigs.


Benji – Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.


This gives a whole new personal element to going to a gig. Getting to spend a bit of time with them. It seems so much more personal rather than going to some big arena show.


Benji – Yeah, yeah definitely.

Arya – and paying fucking £10 a pint. So here you can go to a club, have a few beers, it’s going to probably be a nicer beer. The whole experience is different. The queue to get in, just those little things like the hotel. These are all local things. You get local people who can get a cab home, probably a lot of them could walk home.

 

So, tonight is Halloween.


Benji – Yeah. Spooky.

Arya – Whoooooooooooooo!!.  (In a creepy kind of voice)


So if you had a witches cauldron that was empty, then what would you put in it to say that is Skindred?


Benji – I would put a little marijuana, a little bit of whiskey, I would put the demons eye and a witches tail, two tear drops from a widows vail. The devil and his angels will be singing well tonight. Cause we’re really gonna put a spell on you….SKINDRED  (Lots of laughter from all).


Good answer. I like that one!


Benji – Do you like that little Vincent Price moment "The devil and his angels" (laughter).


So onto the latest album.


Benji – Yeah man. BIG TINGS.


I love it. 


Benji – Me too.


I think it’s brilliant.


Benji – It’s definitely different. Writing it was different. This time people would come along with songs. I was like "what the fuck are you coming along with songs for"? I have mostly done the bulk of the writing before on most of the other albums. We sat down and we all brought songs to the table and we left it to the producer to pick the songs that he dug. I was quite surprised by what he dug. But I think as an album he picked the right songs.


Would you say it’s your best album?


Benji – I’d say it’s a good album but the best is yet to come.

Arya – I think it’s the best album we could have done at the time and that’s the way I feel about them all as they come out. I don’t look back and think errrrrrrr… I don’t like that one.


They capture a moment?


Benji – They do.

Arya – Yeah and they do. You then look back and actually go, 5 years from now you can say I didn’t like that. I don’t think you can be as objective as that at the time.

Benji – You’re doing your best. You are not in the studio going this is shit.

Arya – Everyone wants the same thing.


It’s been well received though?


Benji – It’s been great.

Arya – I think so. Commercially it’s done well.

Benji – I was a bit worried at first. It’s funny, as everyone reviews your albums now don’t they. Little kids in the bedrooms review your albums. It doesn’t matter about Kerrang any more. There are some things I have seen on line that have really freaked me out cause of what they have said. It’s like FUCK! And that stays with me more than any of the big magazines. You know I watched Queen the other day and I have seen the bit where they went to do Bohemian Rhapsody and the record company was like "this is fucking rubbish, you can’t do this". Well any way it showed the reviews for Bohemian Rhapsody and they were real reviews from Rolling Stone, NME, Melody Maker and all those old rocking magazines. They were all slating Bohemian Rhapsody. I was like "FUCK YOU!"  You see now everyone bows down to it. Time is a beautiful thing man.


Yes but Bohemian Rhapsody crosses so many boundaries. You don’t have to be into just rock to like it. Your Gran likes it, your Mum likes it, your kids like it, everyone likes it.


Benji – Well that’s what they said. That’s what a great song is like. It stands the test of time and those that like it today, hate it tomorrow.

Photo credit: Martin Woodbridge

This tour is at the end of 2018 so what is your highlight of the year, that very best moment of 2018?


Arya – I think the release of the album and going straight out on tour. We always do that. We always release the album and do the UK tour straight away and I think it was nice when we played these songs that people new the words.

Benji – Yep, straight away.

Arya – So looking back it was not so much of a specific moment but more the fact that when the album comes out people were already connected to it. I think that was really cool, just to see that straight off from the start.


I never really understand bands who tour and then release the album.


Benji – Well it is not their fault half of the time. They don’t choose to do it. It’s their record label and the time they choose. I would like to release an album and then tour about 4 months later cause the crowd really get into it then.

Arya – Well that’s kind of what this tour will be.

Benji – Yeah, well they will know it now.

Arya – When you open up with BIG TINGS, like we did in April and people will be "Oh I know this, it’s cool". Then you do the Reading Festival and they are like there at that time. It’s like any music I hear for the first time, I am not like "Oh my God, this is fucking great". I am more like "Oh that’s cool, I’ll listen to that again".

Benji – You got to wait for it to grow on you.


It can take 2 or 3 listens.


Benji – Yeah it does.

Arya - Yes everything is so disposable now. People are ready to click next.

Benji – I heard a sample of a song earlier that a mate was putting together for something he was putting out today. Thriller by Michael Jackson. The front end of the song was a minute without any vocals. I was thinking no one is gonna listen to that. I said "chop that fucking shit off. I don’t care who is playing guitar or how fucking great they think they are". People want to get to the beef. You gotta hit people over the head straight away in this day and age.

 

You mentioned Reading and Leeds so how was that?


Arya – Oh that was fantastic. It was great. The people that wanted to see us came to see us. In the context of the bill that included Dua Lipa, AnyRD, Kendrick Lamar and you then put SKINDRED in there then this is pretty cool. People think you’re a band from 20 years ago or 10 years ago or 5 years ago but you’re not. You’re a band for now. I liked that and that was really cool.


I watched some of it on TV.


Benji – For me personally my favorite festival was Wacken.

Arya – Yeah, Wacken was also my favorite.

Benji – Wacken was so fuckin’ good. It’s a beautiful festival. Germany does it so well. I actually salute you Germany. They have a lot of festivals but you know they do it so well. I love Germany.

Arya – Wacken is their Download. That is how it is for them.

Benji – We have just came back from Spain. We played a festival in Spain but it’s funny as Wacken promote this festival, but it is on a resort in Spain and all the people who love Wacken and metal go to this resort. They put different bands on and we played with the likes of Life of Agony and more.

Arya – it’s like Hard Rock Hell over here.

Benji – Yes but it’s sunny and nice. It’s not dull and raining like in Wales.

Arya – God that’s coming up soon. Going to some holiday camp in the middle of December and freezing your tits off. Brrrrrrrrrr.


Your famous for the good old Newport Helicopter.


Benji – Yep.


How did that start?


Benji – Basically we were at a festival and we were told not to do the Wall Of Death. You know the Wall of Death where you split the crowd and make two walls and they then run towards each other. I am the sort of front guy, the front guy MC who likes to challenge the crowd. People say that when they come to see SKINDRED, the singer is like Mr Motivator. He will get you waving your hands, jumping up and down, doing this and doing that. But one day we went back stage and on the wall was written "Do not interact with the crowd with the wall of death". So I thought what is that thing with the helicopter where everyone swings their shirt around. I thought I would try that out and see what happens. The other guys didn’t know what I was doing and I just did it. It was at Download so that is where it was born. I did it and the rest of the band were like "what the fuck is he doing?"  I said "raise your shirts as we are all going to do the Newport Helicopter".


And three people did it? (Everyone laughs).


Benji – Yeah, it looked more like a fuckin’ Newport washing line. (More laughter)

No it was fuckin’ epic man. Everyone loved it and it has stuck ever since. I mean it is great in a club like this (The Empire, Coventry). The littler clubs can be a big dangerous you know.


So it will be coming out tonight then.


Benji – Too right it will. I’m going to bring the Newport Helicopter out in Coventry.

Martin – Cool, I can’t wait to experience it live.


So what does 2019 bring for SKINDRED? What have you got planned?


Benji – We will be back on tour. We are going back to America in January.

Arya – February we are doing all of Europe, Then in March and April we are going to do Japan and Australia. Then we are coming back to do Download. So, we shall start the madness of doing Download again. So, we have a lot of touring, but I would like us to release something again next year.


Another album?


Benji – Oh definitely. Yeah, yeah, Maybe even an EP. We have never done a four track EP before, so I think that would be quite good fun to do.


Download is quite an interest line up?


Benji – Yeah, I hope it doesn’t fuckin’ rain again. I can’t stand it walking round a festival with a fuckin’ umbrella.


Def Leppard are headlining one night…


Benji – Yeah, Def Leppard will be amazing with Slipknot and Tool.

Arya – I think the line up next year is looking really good.

Benji – I am looking forward to seeing a band from South Africa called DieAntwoord. They are on the same stage as us.


Is there anything else planned?


Benji – That’s pretty much it so far. It’s pretty much being in a band and just rocking it, loving it, meeting the fans, greeting the fans and helping people, saving peoples lives. That’s what I like about SKINDRED.