Skindred Get Ready For The Kill
The Welsh reggae metal band on coming to India and launching their new album, ‘Kill the Power’
One of the first questions vocalist Benji Webbe of Welsh metal band Skindred asks is whether metal is popular in India. It’s not asked in a hesitant or ignorant tone. More like a friendly inquiry, the way any tourist would ask you about India. When we’re done namechecking international bands who have toured the country, Webbe tells us that he is keen to check out the Indian metal scene. Of course, we were also waiting for him to say something along the lines of what came next. “I think we’ll all go down to the Ganges as well, and take a dip in the river.”
That’s Benji Webbe for you, dreadlocked and eccentric, usually seen in the flashiest suits at the big name festivals and packed clubs they’ve played over 15 years. Right now, he’s sorting out his wardrobe for the band’s India debut at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender’s Bacardi Arena in Pune between October 18th and 20th. Says Webbe, “I’m throwing in my wardrobe; bringing my best suits. They [Indian audiences] may not know who Liberace is, but when I’m finished they’re going to know who Niggerace is. I’m dressing up in my best elephant skin suit, bro.”
We remind him that suits aren’t the best stage attire for Indian weather, but Webbe interjects saying, “We played in Russia recently and I know Russia is supposed to be cold, but it was absolutely boiling hot. But the people don’t care, they just want to rock, and I’m sure it’s going to be the same for the Indian metal fans.” Skindred was originally meant to visit India four years ago, for a three-city tour at the Hard Rock Cafés around the country in 2009, but unfortunately, the tour was called off due to visa issues. Webbe describes the tour being axed as “musical politics” but adds, “We’re happy to be back.”
With reggae rhythms at the base, Skindred throw in heavy groove metal riffs, dubstep and electronica influences. Their signature sound reached mainstream metal audiences with 2007’s Roots Rock Riot with songs like “Rat Race” and their last release, 2011’s Union Black saw them incorporate electronica sounds. But it’s never been about pulling gimmicks to stay on top of the game. Their upcoming fifth album, Kill The Power, features a collaboration with UK dance artist Gena G on “Open Eyed.” Says Webbe, “It’s a real a crossover between dance and metal.” Although Kill The Power is due only in January next year, Skindred has already started pre-orders and began drip-feeding fans singles, starting off with the reggae/nu-metal “Ninja.” Webbe says the hype for what he calls Skindred’s strongest album to date, is always necessary, “It’s good to keep people waiting and deliver.”
Thematically, the new album, Kill The Power is exactly what the title suggests – a call to fight what Webbe calls “the Man.” A lot of Skindred’s songs have tackled similar themes as is the case with reggae music, but the band doesn’t see why they should sing about anything else. “As long as there are evil people in the world, as long there are poor people in the world, people who are hungry and people who are bullied and picked on and pushed around by what I call “the man” we’re going to have lyrics to that,” says Webbe. What sets a Skindred concert apart is that the band is getting the audience to dance and mosh to socio-political diatribes. Says Webbe, “It’s not about you watching us. It’s about us having a good time together. In order for me to see you having a good time, I gotta see you moving, that’s it. This is definitely what I call aggressive dance music.” At shows, the band works single-mindedly to achieve one goal: the audience cannot stop moving. They’ve even put their own spin on AC/DC’s “Back in Black” in 2010 to this effect. “The difference between us and AC/DC is that if AC/DC try to incorporate dubstep, the world will go crazy. But we do what we want to. I mean, there’s no book in music, so why not? If it gets people to the dance floor, we have succeeded in what we’re doing,” says Webbe.
This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of ROLLING STONE India.