Interview: Skindred

Sounding as if he’s speaking through a megaphone aimed at a Nokia 3210 in a magnetic storm is Skindred frontman Benji Webbe. The ragga-metal emcee talks with Guy Hirst ahead of their show at the 02 Institute on November 17 about their new album Volume, staying humble among incredible success and their indomitable will as a band.

You’ve played to a crowd of one million people in Poland in 2014, have toured the world and played alongside some of the biggest names in rock and metal, what is most important to you?

The most important thing to the band, you know, whether we’ve got money or not, is that we continue to enjoy each other’s musicianship. When we’re in that space where we think about nothing else other than the music that’s also an important thing to achieve. If it was up to all the record labels we’ve ever had we wouldn’t be a band, we get each other through it all, and that’s important too. Skindred is a brotherhood.

You’ve just released you’re sixth album, Volume, tell us more.

We made the album with the full intention of doing something real – not that we hadn’t done that before, but I feel like when we went into the rehearsal space we went in as a brand new band working on a brand new set. I think that really helped us because as a new band you’ve got to have impact, you gotta hit hard as possible and I think this new album does exactly that.

You’ve stuck to your ragga-metal roots in Skindred for 17 years, what keeps you motivated?

We’ve never tried to become the new fad band pandering to what’s popular or whatever. We do what we wanna do, we’ve done that, and continue to do that, and people respect that. We’ve got fans who’re in Metallica, in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. People all over the world dig Skindred and that’s why we keep doing what we do.

Things must have changed for you though, how does Skindred 2015 compare to Skindred 1998?

Well, we’re not gonna sleep on dank piss stained floors no more, I know that much. When you start out you’ll do anything. Now I believe Skindred is a band that can headline Download just because of the excitement we bring to the stage. We could be up against anyone, whoever you could get to play the main stage, anyone, and I believe Skindred with the right production could bring a crowd like Download alive. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be on the phone to you.

Volume signals the shortest time between album releases, is the next release coming in 2016?

I don’t know brother, but I know one thing, we released Kill The Power over a year ago but when we wrote it we had about a year for it to be released. With Volume we wrote it in January [2015], finished it in January [2015] and now it’s out – that’s the kind of stuff we need to be doing. I don’t know if we’re going to be releasing something next year, but when it comes to writing we’re never short of ideas.

How’s the material from Volume working live?

Good bro, the three tracks [from Volume] we’re playing live at the moment I think are really cool – Sound The Siren, Volume and Under Attack. On tours like this in the first six or seven shows we’re still getting a feel for the set, but with time it’ll be real good. I would like to add Saying It Now [from Volume] to our live repertoire because it’s a big rock anthem and the meaning behind it is pretty real too. Recently I’ve had a few friends pass away from cancer. You’ve gotta find time for your loved ones, that’s basically what it’s saying. If you know they’re not doing too well you’ve gotta reach out to them, tell them that you do care, you know? I am not ashamed to say that at all. If you love somebody, show it. I never really write songs like that, but Saying It Now is a big one for me.

Tell us a little about the support acts on this tour, Yashin, Hed P.E and Crossfaith.

I don’t really know Yashin personally unfortunately but they seem like cool dudes, but Hed P.E I’ve been playing with for 20 years because they toured with me back in my first band Dub War. I’m a big fan of what they do, I’m honoured to have Jahred (Gomes, emcee) and the guys on stage with us. Crossfaith we met in Japan about 4 years ago, we just sort of hung out and got on well. On the new Crossfaith album they asked me to record a song with them called Wildfire. We played it with them last night [In Southampton], I’m sure we’ll do it again, it was all good vibes.

Considering your amount of success, how do you try and stay grounded?

I live in a council estate [in Newport] with the same neighbours I’ve had for 40-odd years, I don’t intend to move. I got drugs, prostitutes and violence around me and I’m quite happy, not that I’m involved into any of that, but its around me and that’s just the neighbourhood I live in. I don’t feel like I should move out of there. I feel like that environment fuels the lyrics and the vibe that Skindred has got. I think if I moved out of that place, which I could, it would take something out of the band.”

Skindred are live at Birmingham 02 Institute, November 17. Volume is out now, check out via iTunes and Spotify

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