Skindred’s Benji Webbe: “I went to A&E cos I thought I was dying”

Benji Webbe Skindred
(Image credit: Press)

What’s the worst thing about being in a band?

“Dealing with cunts! Cunts who rob your fucking life away from you! I don’t get paid to play, I get paid to hang around with those fucking four! It’s all tongue-in-cheek, mind! I love those boys, but hanging around with those fuckers for the last 20 years has been quite the landmark! Ha ha ha!”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Don’t trust white people! Ha ha ha! No, no, the best is don’t expect fuck all, but give it all you’ve got, and it’s true. It was a long time ago… who told me that? The girl from Chumbawamba!”

CLANG! That’s a namedrop…

“I know, well… fuck off! Back in the day we used to play with them: Manic Street Preachers, Sleeper, all that Brit-pop stuff! Then Earache dragged us into metal.”

When was the last time you felt like a rock star?

“You know, the word rockstar, I do feel like I try and run away from it a bit, but in private I do embrace it. The last time? Normally it’ll be when you go shopping in Asda and someone comes up to you and says, ‘Oh Benji from Skindred! Can I have your autograph?!’ It’s most days in Asda.”

What’s been your worst experience on drugs?

“Panic attack. One time I had charlie [cocaine] and I went to A&E thinking I was dying and it turns out it was the first time I’d had a panic attack! I was on my own, I didn’t want to tell anyone, that was quite horrific.”

When was the last time you cried?

“I just recorded a song, me and the boys in Dub War, and we did it with some of the boys in Snot, and I listened back to it and it touched me quite a bit. We toured with Snot a lot back in the day, and what with Lynn [Strait, late original Snot vocalist] not being here it all came flooding back.”

You’re busy with Dub War again?

“Yeah, and it’s great. I always say it’s like having a girlfriend on the side. Skindred is my wife and Dub War is my mistress. The Dub War boys don’t care about being cool, so it’s just punk rock, we’ve finished the album and we got Mike Bordin on a song, Jamie [Miller] from Snot on another song, Tanner [Wayne] from In Flames, a guy who used to be in The Damned, we just asked all our favourite drummers to be in on it.”

What’s the deal with your outlaw country project, Diamond Spider?

“I’ve always liked movie music, and being a heavy metal and rock guy, you don’t get to play with those kinds of musicians all that much. So about six years ago I started this bedroom project to show my love of that. People seem to dig it. It’s much more mellow and I’m trying to show that not every song has to be a bouncer.”

Have you got the most costume changes in metal?

“I’d like to think so! I’d like to have more but the boys won’t let me… that goes back to the first question again. They’ve given me three costume changes, I suppose that’s enough.”

Where do you get your threads from?

“I design them all myself. I find people who I think could make them and send them over the designs and get them all custom made. I got them all out the other day, I got about 30 costume changes, still kept them all and can still fit into all of them!”

Do you ever think you’ll retire the Newport Helicopter?

“No, I think it’s quite exciting. Sometimes I call it the Newport Smellicopter, because when you’re playing in a small club and those shirts come off it’s a lot of BO. But I do enjoy doing it the most at Download or the big festivals, I never thought people would still be talking about it all these years later, it only happened because we were told not to do the wall of death. I saw someone do it in a hip hop video, so I thought we’d try it, the boys were like, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ but it took off.”

What made you decide to reissue your Skindred’s album, Roots Rock Riot

“It’s a real milestone in the band’s musical journey, and having it re-released on vinyl with all the bonus tracks cements and celebrates its importance to us. Roots Rock Riot was our idea of what a Skindred Pirate Radio Show might be like. Chaos!” 

Published in Metal Hammer #347

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.