An Interview with Skindred

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Skindred – a four-piece metal band from Newport, Wales, formed in the early 2000s by lead singer Benji Webbe; they infuse nu-metal grooves with dub influences (especially through the vocals). The band are currently touring their 7th album, Big Tings, that was released earlier this year; “one album for every day of the week”, as Benji put it during the show.

Before the show I was invited to interview Benji, and weirdly enough for him to interview me as it turned out (i.e. him film me interviewing him to even the playing surface, so to speak). I walked into the dressing room where I was expecting to meet the whole band, but it was just Skindred’s manager and Mr. Webbe himself lying horizontal on the sofa, still with his signature glasses on (see Big Tings album cover for reference). He told me to pull up a stool as he was shattered, and who can blame him, they’ve been on the same tour since mid-October! I had a 15-minute slot and aimed to get as much out of him as possible as I had some questions to ask.

Simon: So, how come you have decided to play smaller venues on this tour as I have seen you’ve been playing venues in Tunbridge Wells and Cambridge?

Benji: MONEY!! IS THE ROUTE OF ALL EVIL!! [for clarification, he sang this] In all honesty, for me personally though, I just love playing music. Whether that is in a bar with six f*****g people or in a stadium with 60,000, I just love it every night. Every time I sing a song, I sing it like it’s going to be the last song I ever sing, ‘cos none of us are promised tomorrow, but that’s just me, it doesn’t matter about the size of the venue, it’s the people in there I want to affect and encourage to live together.

Simon: Great! Off the back of that then, have you found a difference in crowds?

Benji: Nah man, people just f*****g love the band, in the UK we’ve got a good vibe with the audience. I mean, I’m blessed every night to get to walk on that stage and I see people that have paid to come see my band, that’s a blessing, and its just been fantastic. There’s a real expectancy and urgency from the crowd but they come in and we deliver every single night – I know I’m bigging myself up here, but we do! And like I said already, if there are people here and they want to rock, whether there is 6 people or 60,000 people, I’m hitting them as hard as I can. I don’t play you know, I do this thing for keeps.

Simon: Are you looking forward to having a bit of time off for Christmas?

Benji: F*****g dying for it mate!

Simon: I can tell, you look absolutely shattered!!

Benji: I look tired, don’t I? I’m dying mate, can’t wait to get home, kick back with my girl and have Christmas man. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love playing, but then I want to be home long enough that I can go “I don’t want to be here either!” It’s a thing called between the devil and deep blue sea.

Simon: Sounds about right! What are your thoughts on the band’s latest album, compared to your earlier stuff?

Benji: It’s different.

Simon: And were you pleased with the press you received or are you not fussed about the press?

Benji: Thing is, people say what they want, it’s my record, it’s my band, f**k off. I don’t make music for people, when I was little, sitting in my sister’s bedroom, looking in the mirror, singing into a hairbrush, singing Tina Turner, there was only me in there and that’s all that mattered, and that is the energy I try to go for. Nah, I’m not listening to people when it comes to the band, if you dig it, you dig it, if you don’t, you don’t. Simple as.

Simon: Did your attack in 2016 inspire any of the songs on this record, as you have a song called ‘Broken Glass’? (Benji was stabbed twice with a glass bottle and a knife whilst trying to break up a fight in Cardiff in 2016).

Benji: No, actually. ‘Broken Glass’ is just a song that came out, I wanted to call it ‘Don’t Smoke Cigarettes’. But no, I wasn’t inspired by the stabbing or the cutting, it was nothing really. I mean, when I say it was nothing, I was affected in the way in it shook me up, but maybe I’ll write something in the future. It’s funny, ‘cos we have a song called ‘Cut Dem’ [from 2011’s Union Black], and I didn’t write that about that [the stabbing] but it is about knife crime, so it’s pretty weird how that came along, I better try and write a song called ‘I’m a Millionaire’ right?

Simon: Well you never know!! I wanted to ask, what is the inspiration behind the Big Tings album cover?

Benji: Cats are cool, everyone loves pussies. And cool pussies in leather jackets and my spikey sunglasses, is even cooler!! That’s about it really; there wasn’t much thought process behind it, but my grandson calls it “Mr. Spoons” and I have no idea why!

Simon: I saw you played Liverpool last year and was wondering if you have any good stories?

Benji: I had a great time last time, always love to see it on the tour map. Can’t believe that was last year we played here! Crazy, seems even longer but I’ll take it!

Simon: Well I mean it is a great place to be. Are you looking forward to hitting the festival circuit next year?

Benji: Lovin’ it, can’t wait. Download [Festival], I just can’t wait! I’ve already bought my new suit. I’m a big Slipknot fan so cannot wait for them, especially with the new record coming out – I loved the first single and cannot wait.

Simon: Last question, is anything happening with [Benji’s other group] Mass Mental anytime soon?

Benji: Weirdly enough I was talking about this to someone else the other day, it seems people dig it but it’s a bit out there the Mass Mental stuff. I mean Armand [Sabal-Lecco – bassist] and Robert [Trujillo – bassist], you couldn’t find nicer people, doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done, they’re just really cool to hang out with, and I’ve known Robert ever since he was in Suicidal Tendencies way back when and it’s always been that way. We first met in Australia, he was a fan of my old band Dub War and he explained who he was and said he had a project and if I was interested, he’d send me a tape, you see this was when tapes were still running things. We did 6 or 7 tracks in LA, guerrilla style, 3-hour sessions and managed to put an album together. So, Mass Mental, we’ll have to see about that, maybe when Robert calls me when he’s a good boy.

Simon: Thanks very much, I think that is all, but I appreciate the time.

Benji: No worries, I have enjoyed the interview, thank you!

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