The 12 best Skunk Anansie songs, chosen by Skin

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Forming in London in the spring of 1994, Skunk Anansie melded together rock, punk, dub, reggae and electronica influences and quickly built a reputation as a formidable live act.

The quartet – vocalist Skin, guitarist Ace, bassist Cass and drummer Mark Richardson – released their debut album, Paranoid & Sunburnt the following year. Stoosh followed in 1996, then Post Orgasmic Chill in 1999. Along the way, they achieved a dozen chart singles before announcing their split in 2001.

The band reunited in 2009 and recently released their sixth album, Anarchytecture. We tasked Skin with picking 12 essential songs from their illustrious back catalogue. Here’s what she picked…

CHARLIE BIG POTATO (Post Orgasmic Chill, 1999)
Skin: “This song was written after Ace was in a hotel room and he walked past a fax machine making noises. He brought it to rehearsals and started playing this riff, and I thought it sounded really cool. So I remember us making that tune and putting it together, and it was one of those songs that was really written in ten minutes because all the ideas just flew in. Even to this day there’s so much joy when we play this live. Whenever we start it and that drum ‘n’ bass thing comes in, we just look at each other and smile. Every band has a few songs that they know are going to completely kill it, and this is one of those songs. To this day it’s so much fun to play live, and for me this song really encompasses what Skunk Anansie is all about: it has melody, intelligence, riffage, great lyrics, it’s deep and meaningful, and it’s gonna rock your socks off.”

HEDONISM (JUST BECAUSE YOU FEEL GOOD) (Stoosh, 1996)
“I wrote Hedonism at four o’clock in the morning after I’d just been really badly dumped by my first love. That first dumping is always the most painful. I was crying my eyes out and I picked up a pen and wrote, ‘I hope you’re feeling happy now.’ That was the chorus initially. I brought it to the guys and they were like, ‘It’s great, but where’s the chorus? You’ve got to sum it up!’ So that’s where ‘Just because you feel good’ came from. It came really quickly and was written in about five minutes, but it came from a deep, dark place of being badly dumped for the first time. I never let it happen like that again, but I thank her very much for the song.”

CHARITY (Paranoid & Sunburnt, 1995)
“This is always a killer one to sing live. It was kind of the classic really heavy then really quiet Skunk Anansie thing that we used to do in them days – we’re a little more subtle now. But I think I did some of my best early vocal performances singing this song. You’ve got to go up and down and really feel what you’re singing, and you need a lot of voice control and strong stomach muscles to pull this one off. And you have to breath in and sing really delicately after just going completely crazy. So I always really liked this song. I think we should bring it back, because we haven’t played it for a while.”

MY UGLY BOY (Wonderlustre, 2010)
“This was the first single from our first studio album after getting back together, and I remember playing the riff on guitar at a rehearsal after the rest of the guys had gone off to get coffee. They came back and I was like, ‘Listen to this!’ I was single at the time, but I was having a very secret and naughty relationship with someone whose name can never be mentioned, and this song is about that situation. The boys don’t even know this, but it was very tongue-in-cheek; it was about the ultimate night-time meeting up to shag situation. It’s actually about a very beautiful boy who I was having this secret fling with, but there were ugly things about the situation and that was why he was my ugly boy.”

SQUANDER (Smashes and Trashes, 2009)
“I was initially going to put this song on my third solo album, and it was another four o’clock in the morning job. It was written about a friend of mine that would never appreciate any situation they were in. Everyone has one of those friends that squanders everything and just wants more and more and more. I love the way the song builds and builds and builds, too. The original demo that I did was so good in terms of the feeling and vocals, but it took us so long to get it right in the studio. It ended up being a very heartfelt, beautiful song though.”

LITTLE BABY SWASTIKKKA (Paranoid & Sunburnt, 1995)
“I wrote the lyrics to this after seeing a tiny little swastika drawn on a wall, and it looked like it had been done by a four-year-old. In the mid-90s, there was a lot of racial friction in central London, and that’s where the whole idea came from. It’s the song that started it all as well because it was our first ever single. Radio 1 used to do this thing with freshly signed bands where they would release limited edition seven-inch singles, and they did a 1,000 copy run of Little Baby Swastikkka, which we then re-recorded for our debut album. We recorded the album with Sylvia Massey in Milton Keynes in that really famous studio that’s no longer there. We were so used to doing gigs and touring at that point – we’d already done five tours before making the first album – that we didn’t know how to record an album. There was no audience and we didn’t know how to get the vibe, so we made our own creative vibe by dressing up the whole room. We put posters all over the walls and rubbish and crap all over the floor, and in the middle of the room was the vocal chamber where I had all of my lyrics scrawled all over the walls, and that was where I sang. It was crazy!”

OUR SUMMER KILLS THE SUN (Black Traffic, 2012)
“I love this song because it’s just really beautiful. I love the melodies for it and how it goes from the verses into the choruses. It always makes me happy when I sing it. It’s a song about what we’re doing to the environment – I think that’s obvious – but it’s a very different kind of song for us. It’s quite experimental and it’s not one of the most well known tracks by us, it’s just a personal favourite of mine.”

MY LOVE WILL FALL (Wonderlustre, 2010)
“This song is really cool. I love the fact that it starts with this really deep, dark bass line. The song itself is about admitting that everything is going to fall to pieces. It’s about the end of a relationship, and the end of everything being cool. I love the rhythm of it whenever we do it live, and it always puts tingles on the back of my neck. It’s a dark and nasty track.”

ON MY HOTEL T.V. (Post Orgasmic Chill, 1999)
“Andy Wallace produced this album and we did all the pre-production at his house in New York, out in the middle of nowhere. He worked with Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine and all sorts of great bands, and he produced and mixed our album. I was in the room whilst he was mixing it, and it was like seeing a master at work. He got the most incredible sounds and feelings out of it. This song was written whilst we were out on tour in America, and it’s all about the bullshit you find yourself watching on the T.V. in various hotel rooms along the way.”

BECAUSE OF YOU (Smashes and Trashes, 2009)
“The record company were just going to go ahead and release a Skunk Anansie greatest hits record, but we didn’t like any of their ideas so we just took their whole idea and released it ourselves. Initially, we were going to put a new track on there just to make it a bit more exciting, but we ended up writing 10 songs and we realised that we should get back together after that. We thought if we can write ten songs that are that good then we should do it. And Because Of You, lyrically, is one of my favourite ever songs, along with Secretly and My Love Will Fall. Even now, that’s a song that people go mad for when we play it live.”

VICTIM (Anarchytecture, 2016)
Victim starts as an electronic track but it ends up quite metal and thrashy, and I love the haunting melody and the way it goes down in key into the chorus instead of up. People are really responding to this new album in a massive way. I’d say it’s even been the best reaction since we’ve come back. And I love that. You can’t live your life in the past because that’s fucking boring, and it’s important for us as a band to keep moving forward and not be a nostalgia act.”

SECRETLY (Post Orgasmic Chill, 1999)
“Lyrically, melodically and musically this song is a Skunk Anansie masterpiece. It’s got all of our best elements in it. I think it was one of the first big beautiful tracks that we did to have strings in it and all that kind of stuff, and it just means a lot to me because it was a really good moment in my life and I’m very proud of it. I love the way the story is told, and it’s weird and kooky and edgy. This is my favourite Skunk Anansie song.”

Listen to the songs on our Spotify playlist: The 12 best Skunk Anansie songs, chosen by Skin

Skunk Anansie’s new album Anarchytecture is out now through Spinefarm. The band begin touring in February. For more details, click here.