Skindred are a British national treasure. Slaying every stage they turn up on and conquering just about every festival from Download and Bloodstock to Boomtown and Glastonbury, it's not least thanks to their irrepressible frontman Benji Webbe that they've become rightly acclaimed as one of the UK's greatest ever live acts. We grabbed Webbe himself for a chat about nu metal, dogs, Eurovision and why Skindred will always spread the love.
Come on then, Benji – when are Skindred gonna do Eurovision?
“You know what, bro, I’m a champion for Europe and if we got the opportunity, we’d sing it loud and proud. Johnny Rotten and PiL tried out [this year with the song Hawaii] and I thought it was great; if we keep hiding in metal world that’s all we can ever do, but I want to shine a light on our music, let the world see how strong and passionate we are.”
Nu metal’s blowing up again. Did you ever feel like Dub War or Skindred fit in with that crowd?
“To me, bands like Coal Chamber and Spineshank were proper nu metal. Bands like us and Vacant Stare came up at the same time, but I think it’s just metal getting some new influences rather than being part of it. We were always the weird kids in the class.”
What’s the wildest thing you did during the nu metal heyday?
“I’m more the guy who gets people to do crazy things! I did once jump off a roof into a pool when at the barbecue of a band called Snot, which is pretty cool.”
A few years back you presented BBC TV show Give A Dog A Home. Why are dogs so important to you?
“I think dogs are humans that can’t talk anymore, come back from heaven to be comforting and loving to us. They’re amazing. I had a couple growing up and they were my best friends. It was so lovely to take some poor rescue dogs and find families for them – it’s a great idea and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. God bless Lily Savage [Paul O’Grady, late drag queen, presenter and animal campaigner].”
What’s all this about you hating Skindred’s last album, Big Tings?
“You know what it is, we got into a lot of scraps with that record. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I do like the songs, don’t get me wrong, but when I think about what the band was going through, it was pretty gruelling. Still, 20 years with the same line-up – we’re doing something right.”
Is there a message behind your new album, Smile?
“Always! Just as Stephen King will always write about horror, Skindred always write about unity and love. Fortunately, I grew up in a community that was diversely mixed with different nationalities and colours, because that made me want to reach out to other communities and say, ‘We can all live together.’”
Since the pandemic, Skindred have played some massive shows. Do you feel like you guys are finally getting the dues you’ve always deserved?
“It’s really nice to be rewarded with stuff like the Kiss tour, the Volbeat tour – all that stuff. But there’s still a hell of a long way to go. I hope we’ll eventually get to a point where more people have heard of Skindred than haven’t. Until we get that, I’ll never be happy.”
How did you find out Nobody had gone viral on TikTok?
“My niece is R’n’B as fuck and I couldn’t even understand what she was saying when she called me – I thought someone had died! She called back when she calmed down and said, ‘Your song Nobody is viral, people are doing this dance to it’, and I couldn’t believe it when I realised it was millions of people.”
Which song from the upcoming album is going to go viral on TikTok?
“[scoffs] I don’t know, bro! I reckon Set Fazers is one of those massive dancefloor fillers; it’s one everyone at [Nottingham venue] Rock City will request on a Saturday night. We’re not about just making one track that’ll make you shell out a tenner for the album – we want to give you life tools.”
What reggae record would you say every metal fan needs to hear?
“I’d say one that was released about six years ago called I Haven’t Been Nicking In Ages by a young man from Newport, South Wales, called Benji Webbe. You find that album, it’s the ultimate metal reggae barbecue for your summer. All the other artists can fuck off – I’m picking my album!”
Originally published in Metal Hammer #375