Skunk Anansie, Interview
Interview with Skunk Anansie
It was the Black Traffic release show last night, how are you feeling this morning?
Driven. It was a hot, steamy gig and absolutely jam packed which was great and it was just really good to hear how everyone reacted to the new songs.
Did the show go well? How did the new material go down with the fans?
They went down really well, especially 'This is not a Game' and 'Sad Sad Sad' and we only had two power cuts in the gig, which made it more exciting.
Nice to see everything going smoothly as ever...
It was funny because it basically happened because the venue got too hot, so many people and all of the equipment overheated and cut out. The venue couldn't take the 'Rock & Roll-ness'. It was really good fun.
The album will be released here in the UK shortly, how are you feeling about it on the eve of its release?
I'm really happy with it; it's had an amazing response in Europe especially. I don't really know why, but we've never really had the same level of support in England as we do in other countries... I think a lot of other bands will also say that.
You're not the only band to have found a bigger European market...
We were number one in Italy with the last one and it's been going really well there but, you know, we're really happy. It's a really hard business to be in anyway, especially being a rock band. If you listen to Radio 1 there's barely any rock music on it. For us, we're fine about all of that and were really excited about everything. We've been back for four years now, it's not a reformation thing anymore, it's a band putting out a great album. So, yeah, we're really excited.
You've got your homecoming show in Brixton on the 5th December, after your jaunt around Europe. Do you think that the lack of more mainstream attention has led to a struggle in booking more shows in the UK?
In some ways yes, in some ways no. When we play the UK it's always sold out, it's always great. It's just a lot bigger [on the continent]. We can play to 16,000 people in Holland and we're bigger than we've ever been. In England we've got to Brixton Academy but we've never been bigger than Brixton. But, you know... it doesn't really matter. We love playing Brixton Academy; we always go down a storm there. We always make sure we put on one of our best shows of the whole tour there because we love playing our hometown. I just think that we're really grateful to be in bands and playing festivals. There's a lot to be humbled by, a lot of great support.
In the four years that you've been back, you've released the two albums and the greatest hits...
...there's a lot of new material to play now.
...you've touched on some electronic elements on some of the remixes on the Greatest Hits. Have you ever thought of developing your sound around these elements or have you tried to remain 'Skunk Anansie'?
You know, with this album, we've recorded things a completely different way; we didn't record live for the first time ever, we really did go down a different path. When we go to the new songs live they're really different, on record a lot of them have samples and electronic elements to them. Our sound is our sound. It doesn't really matter what we do, we're still going to sound like Skunk Anansie. I think that you have to be quite wary of jumping on other genres because they're trendy. I applaud Korn for being really strong and being so brave [after releasing Dubstep/Metal crossover album The Path of Totality] but bringing in a completely new sound or type of music... No.
At the end of the day, you always have some really cult fans whose hearts are in your band and they almost shape what you do. Politically and ego-wise, a genre change is not something that we can stretch to. We were really out of our comfort zone by not recording live and not having a lot of stuff written already... bar a few choruses. It was so much fun, doing things in a really experimental way.
The new record is very politically charged, especially 'I Believed In You', what is your opinion on the Pussy Riot situation in Russia?
I think that those girls are the bravest women in the world right now because they knew when they did that what the ramifications could be. They had their masks on, they did it for freedom of speech and they now have the world's attention. It's people like that, who go out and do something like that, that really show what can be achieved and you have to sacrifice yourself to achieve that. It's very hard to go against what's already in place. For three normal girls to go and do something like that... it's awe-inspiring. They have cajones the size of the Empire State Building and I just applaud them. They are a real example of what can be achieved and it's really inspiring.
Absolutely, they really have grabbed the world's attention...
In their case it's a momentous event. They really have shown the world that everything is not all right in Russia. They don't have it all under control.
Now it's very much in the public gaze, this amount of attention can only help their cause...
It's not going to change overnight but they have succeeded in putting the ball in motion.
Going back to yourselves and your plans for the rest of the year, you've said that you're bigger now than you've ever been and there's certainly a new buzz around Skunk Anansie, are you looking forward to seeing some younger fans at the upcoming shows?
Unbeknownst to a lot of people, we've had a very young audience from the minute we came back. Our audience dynamic is between 18 and 40, we definitely have our group of loyal fans who love us, and we love them. But, to be honest, you can't live on old blood and from the very beginning it was all about attracting new fans to our thing.
Take last night, the age group was 80 percent kids. It was like a sea of young kids at the front of our gig and that's really empowering for us because we need to attract fresh people who haven't heard our sound. You do that by releasing albums and new songs, with a new fresh image and not just being nostalgic. We try and keep nostalgic moments to an absolute minimum.
Do you feel that the dynamic has changed through your career, from the mid 90s to today? The Skunk Anansie classics do feel very reminiscent of that period and the new material really does cut through and is a different beast entirely...
Exactly. Us coming back only happened because it was so easy to write new songs. Without that, none of us would be doing it. It would all just be old school nostalgia, a bunch of old people on stage going "remember this one from the 90s?" Who wants to hear that? Who wants to be in that band? I don't want to be in that band. No one in Skunk Anansie wants to be in that band.
Despite the outward impression of people who talk about reformation bands, we don't include ourselves in that at all. We started off really small, really slowly and built it up. We want to be in a band for the rest of our lives, we're not flinging ourselves out there for five years or for two years... or for an album, to make loads of money then p**s off again.
Our music is about art, about having something to say, about 'what have you done to me lately' and putting great music out there. It's not about what we've done in the 90s. Really? Who cares? A few people care but... we all want to be relevant. The 90s was a long time ago, you know? I don't give a f***.
Absolutely. By means of one final question, do you have a message for the fans ahead of the tour... what can they be expecting?
It's going to be a brand new show. The thing about Skunk Anansie is that we don't have many tricks; we are just the best live band around. Last night I really saw that. We really are one of the best live bands in the world. If you want to see one of the best bands in the world, come and see Skunk Anansie. We don't have holograms and we don't have lot of tricks, we just put on a great show with great songs, great music and energy. That's what we do.
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