Skunk Anansie have been labelled an awful lot of things in their relatively short career. Clitrock, by those too concerned with sex, Britrock by those too concerned with music nationalism and, plain and simply, Rrroooccckkk!!! by those who've overdosed on too much M.T.V. i.e. playing it loud, shouting, jumping about and generally annoying the neighbours. Just the sort of band your parents would hate!
Recently, we spoke to Skin about music and politics. Unfortunately the night beforethe band had just played a gig at the closing night of the Splash Club, so this morning Skin finds herself with just a bit of a hangover and a very delicate throat.
The first thing you notice is how softly spoken she is, even with smoker's larynx. Having listened to the first album and seen the various stills of her dressed in her well 'ard combat gear you may be forgiven for thinking that she's one tough bastard. She is a little scary, but at the same time,beautifully refined.
After the success of the debut album 'Paranoid and Sunburnt' (which has sold over two hundred thousand copies in Britain alone since its release last year) and the top twenty success of the two singles 'Weak' and 'Charity', Skunk Anansie's new album 'Stoosh' is set to do even better chartwise, but let's face it, Stoosh is hardly a word that you can drop into everyday conversation. So what exactly does it mean?
"Stoosh? Well it's pronounced Stush for one thing. It's kind of a black, British, West Indian patois thing that means well dressed and looking really cool, but they'd still bite ya! Actually we named it after our manager"
If you've listened to the new album you'll probably have realised that some of the tracks are slightly odd. Well not exactly odd, more not as 'Skunk Anansie'. The lyrical violence is still there, but the majority of the tracks have been toned to such an extent they become almost melodic. Is this some new sort of direction?
"Well It is still quite aggressive, but a lot more diverse than 'Paranoid and Sunburnt' which goes from really loud to really quiet then really loud again. This one takes you through a lot of different moods. We've been listening to some strange stuff and it's helped us develope. I think it (Stoosh) is probably just as aggressive but I think it's probably slightly more insular and a bit more emotional than the first album."
Speaking of the first album, it seems like only yesterday that 'Paranoid and Sunburnt' was first released...
"Yeah, we recorded it after we'd only done fourteen gigs, yet it wasn't released until a year later. But we didn't want to tour again with the first album , even though some countries have only just discovered it. We really tried to simplify things on these new songs so hopefully people will understand us more. I want the emotion in them to really get to people.It was quite weird because we did the album so quickly and were so rushed off our feet when we did it. The problem was we only had five weeks to record it. We got very stressed, but we did it really well and we're really happy about it, even though it physically drove us to the brink."
The first track on the album 'Yes it's Fucking Political', probably sums up Skunk Anansie's attitude more than any other, while at the same time, giving the two fingers to the writers of certain music papers who have chosen to denounce Skunk Anansie on account of the band's politicism.
"What really annoys me is not that so much, coz we knew from the start that because there was politics in the music we were going to get criticised for that and we thought who cares? But what does annoy me is people who say bands should be apolitical and that music and politics don't work. Our reaction to that is that we write the songs how we want to write them and how dare some fucking fat-arsed, fucking liberal, bloated, middle-class journalist tell us what we should write about. Our songs are about our experiences and what has happened to us. I think it's being really fascist to slag bands off for being political. Music is the last bastion of free expression. It's the last place where people can say what they want, but all the press we take with a pinch of salt coz even the people who love us, love us from such a weird direction that we don't really identify with it, but it is good to get slagged off every now and again because it helps keep your feet on the ground. When you're in a band that gets slagged off by one section and loved by another at the same time what it actually does is to leave people to make up their own minds."
'Stoosh' is released on One Little Indian records on October 7th.
This interview was taken in May 1994, just after the Selling Jesus EP was released, therefore it's a bit out of date, but interesting just to see what was happening at the time. Right, on with the show...
"We don't write love songs.....but we've written a couple of HATE songs."
Skunk Anansie are a multi-racial, multi-faceted, multi-talented Rock band from London. 'Skin' is their "bald, black & beautiful" frontwoman. They have released only one EP to date, 'Selling Jesus' on the One Little Indian label but the promo track 'Little Baby Swastikka' also got a lot of airplay on both the Rock Show and the Evening Session successfully bridging the Indie/ Metal divide. They have appeared on Channel 4's The White Room and had alot of favourable music press coverage and a couple of not-so-good write ups of late;
"Journalists always tend to have hidden agenda....."
Not me. I just want to tell people not to miss your Southampton gig on May the 29th at the Joiners.
"Generally they highlight only one particular aspect of the band, for example I did a one hour interview with Kerrang and I mentioned Pantera once and the whole thing was based around that."
Their debut album, due for release in September will prove that Skunk Anansie are much more than an out-and-out Thrash band. As yet untitled, it is being produced by Sylvia Massey who has worked with Tool and Babes in Toyland. The sheer weight of the Skunk Anansie sound, and we are talking Heavy, has lead to comparisons to the Rollins Band (check out 'Through Rage' on the Jesus EP) and the 'political' nature have resulted in comparisons to Rage Against the Machine. 'Skunk Song' the best track off the EP sounds to me like prime Silverfish and the only UK contemporaries they have in terms of this hard and heavy are Die Cheerleader. The often written about funky and soulful side of Skunk Anansie has yet to show itself to any great degree (on record).
"Judging us by just one EP you don't get the full picture. We are into our Heavy Rock but there are alot of different flavours on the LP, alot of different influences. Some songs are funkier than others, some are punkier, there is some weird stuff y'know. There is a definite Skunk Anansie sound but its not just one kind of song repeated twelve times.... I grew up listening to alot of heavy dub reggae, Augustus Pablo, Delroy Wilson as well as Pop Music, Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath....I can put on a Machine Head record then a Funkadelic album y'know."
I asked Skin about her content of her song lyrics;
"Not all the songs are 'political', probably half the album isn't, there are songs like 'I Could Dream' which is about sexual depravity and fantasising...... We don't make a point of writing about certain topics because we feel we should it's just songs which reflect what we see walking down the street, stuff going on in our heads and things that touch us."
Skin is ready to accept the idea of being regarded as a black female role model because basically there are so few and it 'goes with the territory.'
"I'm happy to talk about racial issues but as long as people realise that there is more to us than just that.
I made a bit of a miscalculation when I jokingly asked about the section of the lyric to 'Skunk Song' which has strong anti-police sentiments and suggests that it is 'time to f*ck them up'. I asked what was wrong with our brave boys in blue ( but didn't get to the punchline "Quick phone a Rockstar we've been burgled!").
"Cowards in blue more like. I was born in Brixton which bore the brunt of the SUS laws when I was growing up. There were two riots which I witnessed and the police in Brixton have always been very violent, very corrupt and basically very racist. Some individual police people are cool yeah but they are up for a lot of criticism because of the amount of powers this government has given them. I don't hate the police because its a trendy thing to do, the attitude I have is because of what I saw when I was growing up."
A white boy growing up in a Wiltshire market town is bound to have had different experiences and consequently different attitudes. Surely the police are scapegoat monkeys and its the organ-grinders that richly deserve the 'f*cking up' though?
A law and order debate was not on my agenda, checking out Skunk Anansie music was, so what kind of fans do they attract?
"We get a similar crowd to Senser, a real mixture, people who wanna mosh, metalheads, indie boys, funkateers, people who like their punk and people who like reggae, cos the basslines are a bit dubby at times."
Skunk Anansie, without Skin at the helm would I imagine be a good but a run-of-the-mill bunch of metal mother-f*ckers. What she gives them as well as her great singing voice is A voice, a focus, a vision, a determination to succeed, to Say Something, to not be f*cked about and to ROCK - in as many multifarious ways as possible.
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Maintained by Kelvin Phillips. Page last updated on 2.6.96.