On January 25, British rock band Skindred played live at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. On the occasion our author Dane Pavitt was there for an interview with the band leader, Benji Webbe and an exclusive photo report and live review… enjoy!
Benji: If you’re wanting to talk to Mikey for like, a guitar-geeky question I’ll go find him. I don’t even know what a guitar looks like mate.
Dane: Don’t worry about it. Its literally asking him how he keeps his beard looking so full and healthy.
Benji: There’s this little Turkish barber I go to every week, he’s brilliant. I go to this barber and he trims it real nice for me. The reason I look a bit shabby tonight, believe it or not, is because last night I went to this other barber in Nottingham. It wasn’t great. But this Turkish dude takes his time, shaves me tight, he uses a razor, wet shave, has a towel on my face.
Dane: He makes an art of it.
Benji: Oh he does, he’s good.
Dane: So the tours been going for a couple of days now. I’m presuming you’ve been playing some songs from the new album.
Benji: We’re playing five songs from the new album.
Dane: How have the crowds been reacting to them?
Benji: Terrible. [Laughs] Nah it’s been good. The energy’s good, I mean. Coz we’ve got our songs that are well known like Nobody and Warning. So when you play something new, they think ‘I’m gonna like this. I am gonna like this, I know I am’. It’s really good.
Dane: Is there anywhere in the world you haven’t toured that you would like to in the future?
Benji: Thailand. Been to India, been to Japan, I’d like to go to Thailand.
Dane: Any particular reason?
Benji: Ladyboys bro. [Laughs] Should have seen that coming a mile away. The reason is we like to take the music everywhere. Its music that not just metal kids can get into. The girl who works at the till in Asda who only listens to Radio 1 can get into it. We get all these different genres in one room, united by the sound of Skindred. It’s a really good thing.
Dane: Does everyone in the group each have their own particular areas of music they specialize in, or are you all quite open minded about what you bring into the song writing process?
Benji: Have you seen that film 12 Years A Slave?
Dane: I haven’t yet, I’ve been meaning to.
Benji: Its based on me. It’s a very odd thing. The drummer, he’s our Lars. You know? He’s the guy that calls the shots. Everyone thinks its Benji & friends, but to be honest I ain’t shit without those guys. We are a perfect, ultimate fighting machine. We work together.
Dane: Your live shows are known for dropping random covers and samples of songs from various genres and styles. How do you decide what songs you’re going to feature in the set to surprise the audience?
Benji: We talk a lot about it, about what we’d like to do. Dance music a lot. We go to watch a lot of different bands, not together, but separately, and draw on the energy of the dance club. I mean even Slayer, you’re not gonna walk out of it like ‘That was crap’. You’re gonna come out dancing and having a good time. So dance music always brings that energy. Say if we use a sample from Pantera, the drum beat, do a remix kind of thing. You know its gonna work, cuz metal kids are gonna like it. The dance kids never even heard it. [Puts on gravelly, southern accent] Phil Anselmo, they never heard of him. But because of the dance energy they’re gonna love it. They’re digging it, so they cross over. Cuz these kids are gonna go ‘What was that thing they played?’. And this dance kid will dig the groove from, say, Walk. He’ll hear it and go ‘That was that song!’ and realize it was a mash-up. I like to think of Skindred as something to bridge the gap for these kids.
Dane: Something to introduce people to new things.
Benji: Yeah, exactly! That’s why we do it.
Dane: How do you as a front-man get yourself into the mind-set to get the audience bouncing and chanting to your will?
Benji: I don’t go out there and think [imitates thespian actor] ‘I’m going to get the audience in the palm of my hand!’, I just perform to the best of my ability. I’ve always love guys like Freddy Mercury, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, The Pope. They can rock a crowd, and that’s what I’m going for every time I go on stage. A lot of guys just wear t-shirts, and that’s fine. If that’s your thing, you just wanna wear jeans & t-shirts on stage, that’s cool. I wanna look like Mary fucking Poppins.
Dane: Do you get your suits custom made?
Benji: Yeah, I actually make them myself while we’re talking about what we wanna do. Tonight I’ve got my alien vibe going on, and you’ll see that. I like to costume change between the songs. Its important. People wanna see a show, they don’t just want some guy in a pair of jeans. You wanna watch a guy in a pair of jeans go watch fucking Chino.