When was the first time you felt like a rockstar?
“After I played a festival in Holland with Skindred to about 20,000 people. I don’t remember the name of it, or the year, but we headlined. I don’t know why, because nobody knew who we were, but the crowd just went insane. We did a press conference after the gig, which is quite unusual, and I felt that good about it that I took a showerafterwards with my sunglasses on. I felt like I should be doing that, and to this day I still keep sunglasses in my wash bag.”
Who’s the most famous person in your phonebook?
“[The Stone Roses frontman] Ian Brown and [Metallica bassist] Robert Trujillo. Both are big fans of Benji, bro! I’ve known Robert since I was in Dub War, which was a long time ago [the band split in 1999, before reforming for occasional shows in 2014 and releasing a single in March]. He asked me to join his band Mass Mental, and I’ve been a member of that group with [Ugly Kid Joe’s] Whit Crane and whatever bass players Robert wants to jam with for the last 18 years, off and on. I met Ian Brown through Dub War as well, and he’s been a friend and a fan ever since.”
What are your thoughts on the Queen?
“I think she needs to get her hands dirty, bro! She should be giving out meals at a homeless centre at least once a week. The boys seem to be doing alright [grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry]. Lady Diana’s kids seem to be getting their hands dirty and doing real things. But the Queen definitely needs to get her hands dirty a bit more. I’ve never seen her in nothing cool either, except when she had the Coronation crown on. I’ve got a picture of that on the wall in my toilet; it’s a badass picture. But someone definitely needs to help her out [with her fashion sense]. I reckon she should have a word with Helen Mirren, because she looks great all the time.”
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
“I’m cheap as fuck, mate! I try not to buy anything, other than things for my girlfriend, of course. I spent six grand on a boiler for my house a while back. But if it ain’t essential, I ain’t buying it, bro!”
What’s your favourite drug?
“I don’t take drugs, and I never would. But my friends tell me cocaine is fucking great. It’s a hell of drug, apparently. But I don’t do drugs. Anyone who knows me knows that to be true. Ha ha!”
Have you ever been arrested?
“I have been arrested, for numerous things; mostly violence and criminal damage. One time, a very long time ago, I was playing a slot machine in my local arcade, and I felt like the machine was giving me racism. That happens now and again, when you’re black. It’s not just white people that can be racist; it’s machines as well. They can give you racist vibes. So I pushed the machine, and the guy who ran the arcade came up to me – he was a big rugby player fellow, he was – and he pushed me. I was so frustrated that I went outside to where they were digging up the road, and I picked up a slab of concrete and threw it through the window of the arcade. I ran away, because the police were coming, but they caught up with me and threw me in the back of their van. I was fined for the damages, and I paid up like a good, upstanding citizen.”
Indeed. What’s your favourite thing about Newport? Other than the Newport Helicopter, of course…
“Where I live is a place called Pill [Pillgwenlly], and we’ve still got a community spirit. Everybody still says good morning to each other, everybody still chats on the corner, and everybody still goes to the pub together. When I go to London, or Manchester or Birmingham, and places like that – the places I’ve been, anyway – there’s no community spirit. Fortunately in Pill we’ve still got that community spirit, and that’s something that when I travel the around world and am away from Newport, I truly miss.”
If you could collaborate with any band or musician, who would it be?
“I’d get in a time machine and go back to do the second Public Enemy album [It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, 1988], because it’s fucking awesome. As for anyone that’s around now, if they did it in the way that I’d want them to: Slipknot. I’d write a song with the whole band, which I think would be fucking awesome. I could be Number 10.”
Skindred’s Volume is out now, via Napalm