Benji Webbe: Old fans think we've lost our buzz

Skindred standing in a line

Skindred have long been hailed as one of the greatest live bands to ever come out of the UK, but they’ve really turned heads with their new album, Big Tings, which boasts a more polished, streamlined and, dare it be said, commercial sound. With the record smashing through the charts and a successful headline tour in the bag, 2018 looks like it’ll go down as a vintage year for Benji Webbe and co. as the frontman knows all too well, however, it’s been a hell of a slog to get here...

People come to Skindred for a good time but Big Tings feels like it might be your definitive party album.

“Listen, robins do what they do, crows do what they do and Skindred does what they do. We bring that energy. Everybody gets given something and I guess Skindred were just given that party vibe!”

Do you feel that energy is a little different on this album, though?

“It’s a little different because I’m not doing so many vocal gymnastics on this record. We haven’t got to stick to a lane, we’re not AC/DC. We’ve written loads of songs that sound like Nobody and Kill The Power but we just thought, ‘let’s do something a little different on this one. We’re in this for the long haul.’ You’ve got to remember we’re 18 years deep in this thing, so it’s time to mix it up a little. Musically, it’s not as erratic; it hasn’t got those big reggae influences, dancehall drumbeats. There’s none of that on this record. I’m still Benji Webbe doing what Benji Webbe does best, which is freakin’ the fuck out on the songs, but we believe this is as rock’n’roll as Skindred gets. Old fans might listen to it and say we’ve lost the buzz. We haven’t lost any fucking thing, we’re just doing something different for a minute.”

What are your new songs adding to your live show?

“I really think they enhance the set. We were like a dog with two tails at the beginning of this band, we didn’t know where to wag them, we were just wagging tails constantly! a dog with two tails, that’s what Skindred’s first three albums were. Then we’ve got the stuff where we were like, ‘Oh we’ve matured so much on this record.’ Then we’ve got the stuff where we’re like, ‘We’re still little kids!’ It just all helps to make the set more bouncy, more rocky.”

How did Machine end up having Phil Campbell from Motörhead on it? That's an unexpected cameo...

“Basically, Phil asked me to sing on his album and I said, ‘How much are you giving me?’ He said, ‘I’m not giving you any money’, but I was in his studio and he said, ‘Pick anything you want in this room.’ I saw these shoes and I said, ‘Can I have them?’ He said, ‘They’re yours, mate.’ I’ve only worn them once and they crushed the fuck out of my feet. That’s what he paid me, a pair of shoes! Sounds like a good album, doesn’t it: THE SHOES THAT PHIL GAVE ME. When we got in the studio we recorded Machine and I said, ‘Let’s get Phil on here to do a solo’, and he did.”

What ambitions have Skindred got left to achieve?

“To make some money, that would be a good ambition! Ten years ago I was like, ‘I’m playing in this band and I’ve never earned a bean.’ All my friends my age have got houses and stuff, and I went to the bank and I said, ‘I’m in a rock’n’roll band, can I have some money to buy a house?’ Fortunately they said yes. So I have joined the evil of society that is the mortgage. Skindred did the whole sleeping on dirty floors for a long time, so for years we would say to people, ‘Hey guys, if you enjoyed the band can we sleep at your house, please?’ Now I’ll check into a Premier Inn before I check onto a mattress again.”

Big Tings is your seventh album. What's the secret to Skindred's longevity?

“Tolerance, my friend – and stupidity. Anyone else would have said, ‘Fuck this for a game of soldiers’, but not us. When we all joined the band I didn’t think the guys would be able to tolerate me for the next five years, never mind 18, but they have. as much as we want to kick each other’s heads in every other day, we love each other… I guess!”

Big Tings is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.