Monday, September 3, 2018

Everything at Once: Exploring Skindred's Surreal Musical World

Skindred (Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions)

Veteran Welsh Metal/Rock/Reggae/Pretty Much Everything Else act Skindred are one of those glorious groups that defy musical classification. Easily one of the catchiest and most enjoyable albums released this year, Big Tings (without the 'h') effortlessly mixes AC/DC, Faith No More and Living Colour into an innovative formula that is reminiscent of the glory days of '90s Alternative radio without succumbing to uninspired nostalgia. Unsurprisingly, Skindred's infectious creations have earned the respect and attention of some of Rock's most notable musicians. One of Big Tings' strongest numbers, “Machine,” features a guest vocal turn by Gary Stringer of UK legends Reef (whose own recent album, Revelation, is a magnificent listen) and a cameo from none other than Phil Campbell of Motorhead. Best of all, Skindred are about to take their sonic explosion on tour in the US. (Dates appear below the following interview.)

I recently caught up with Skindred guitarist Mikey Demus to discuss the new album. As you'll soon see, he's quite a character!

Congrats on another great album! The band sounds really energized on Big Tings. What were your goals going into this record in terms of songwriting and the overall vibe you wanted to deliver?

Thanks! Personally, I really wanted to step the songwriting up a level. The last record, Volume, was a really riffy, band-in-a-room sort of album. I love all that, but I never want to repeat the last thing we did. You have to think, a couple of years go past, your feelings and goals are constantly changing. This time, I really wanted to get some earworms out there and write some catchy shit that would push us into new areas of exploration. 

You’ve been on a few different labels in your career. This is you second album with Napalm Records. What makes them a good label for what you’re looking to achieve with Skindred?

I think it's hard for most bands to find a home. When you’re as weird a band as us, it gets even harder. I love that a Heavy Metal label like Napalm took a punt on us. It worked out, and they came back for more. They’ve been great with working the last record and this one; the best thing is they let us do whatever we want. The worst thing is when a label starts trying to influence or change what you sound like - I’m so not interested in that for this band. We know who we are, and I’m glad the label knows, too.

Skindred’s one of those great bands that’s hard to classify – there’s so much going on at once with you guys! What musical elements would you say you personally bring to the band’s sound?

Probably that Keith Richards ‘Ker-channg’ thing. I might not be the biggest shredder in the land, but I’ll put my heart and soul into a riff or feel - and I’ll sing the bollocks off that chorus, too. I try to bring an attitude to what we do and bring some melody and some catchiness with my guitar. I’m covering a lot of bases, so it’s hard to pick a lane sometime - but I love it!

Big Tings is a heavy record, but there are songs on it – like “Last Chance” – that could be radio hits in a perfect world. What are the band’s goals commercially at this point? How does Skindred define “success”?

Thank you! If that happens, I’m not going to complain. We really wanted to write some big tunes on this record; I’m glad that people are responding to that. It’s so easy to rest on your laurels; that’s the last thing I want to do. This record was all about the push forward and upward. This thing has kept me alive and kicking for almost 20 years, so I’d die relatively happy tomorrow - but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want us to keep growing and becoming bigger and better with what we do. We enjoy a healthy amount of praise and popularity in our world, so I’d say that was a success in itself. I try not to have too many expectations from music, but I’m still that kid in the back of the van who talks about world domination through rock and roll.

How did Gary from Reef get involved in the recording of “Machine,” and how did that most impact the final track?

I grew up listening to Reef, so it was a really big deal for me that Gary wanted to be involved! Our manager knew his manager, so it sort of happened like that. We’d written the song but knew it needed a guest vocal to come alive. When Gary showed up in the studio, he totally nailed it. Watching Gary work was a real eye-opener for me; he’s a total pro and he made it seem effortless.  'Machine' wouldn’t be 'Machine' without Gary!

The band’s 20 years and seven albums into it. Obviously, this isn’t the easiest industry to have that kind of longevity in. What has been the key to keeping Skindred moving and creating after this long in the game?

Eating less cheese. Drinking more water.

* Portions of the above interview were edited for clarity.  

Skindred US Tour Dates:
Sep. 26 - Jacksonville, FL @ 1904
Sep. 27 - Ft. Myers, FL @ The Buddha Bar
Sep. 28 - Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
Sep. 29 - Longwood, FL @ Shovelhead
Oct. 02 - Baltimore, MD @ Fish Head Cantina
Oct. 03 - Harrisburg, PA @ Chameleon Club
Oct. 04 - Flint, MI @ Machine Shop
Oct. 05 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Elevation @ Intersection
Oct. 06 - West Dundee, IL @ Rockhaus
Oct. 07 - Racine, WI @ Route 20 Outhouse
Oct. 08 - Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club
Oct. 09 - Joliet, IL @ The Forge
Oct. 10 - Madison, WI @ The Annex
Oct. 11 - Ringle, WI @ Q & Z Expo Center
Oct. 12 - Tempe, AZ @ Tempe Marketplace


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