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Skindred: Kill The Power, Conquer The World

Wednesday, 29 January 2014 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Let's face it, if you're a band on the same festival bill as Skindred, you’d do well to call your mum, pack your bags and leave before they take the piss out of you for crying. The band's blend of reggae, punk, metal, dancehall and everything inbetween makes for an entertaining affair, yet their recorded output has never garnered the same hysteria as their flawless live show.

Until now, that is. Their fifth release, 'Kill The Power', landed on January 27, and it's a beast. Bursting with mad riffs, pulsing electronics and choruses bigger than a circle pit at a Machine Head gig, it's the band's most complete album to date.

“Metallica released 'The Black Album' as their fifth record,” the band’s drummer, Arya Goggin, said. “It changed everything for them. It was a game-changer. They wanted to break out of where they were and take their music wider and that's what they did. I'm not comparing our record to 'The Black Album', but I love the ethos. We just wanted to make an album that will reach a larger audience and transcend the genre that we're in and the fan-base. That was the plan.”

Goggin is thinking big, then. And so he should. While Skindred's previous records - ‘Babylon’, ‘Roots Rock Riot’, ‘Shark Bites And Dog Fights’ and ‘Union Black’ - have contained their share of crackers, they have also been undone at times by a lack of coherency. 'Kill The Power' breaks this curse thanks to the band’s method of writing this time around.

“When we started writing for 'Kill The Power', the goal was to write the best possible Skindred album – which is always the goal - but we used Skindred as an influence,” Goggin said. “We went back and listened to all of our old records and thought, 'What worked? What songs do we play live? What songs do the fans like?'

“We concentrated on the stuff that's really worked for Skindred in the past, and harnessed it. We took all of the different styles we use and just focused on making the song the most powerful thing – we kept to the point, basically. It was that ability to self-edit, really. We get so excited when we play. We can play reggae, we can play rock, metal, dancehall, dubstep. We can do all that stuff in one song, but sometimes it gets confusing for the listener – it gets confusing for us as players.

“So we've done it right on this album, and if we're doing a big rock song, then it's just a big rock song and we let Benji [Webbe, vocals] add the soulful, reggae element to it. Or if we do a dancehall/metal crossover, we'll just stick to that – not have some drum 'n' bass section in the middle, then come out and do a country bit. Everything is just so succinct and to the point. I want this album to define the band.”

And it could. 'Kill the Power' sums up what fans have come to love about Skindred, but isn’t afraid to take a couple of risks, including a rare foray into ballad territory on the massive We Live, one of two songs written with Russ Ballard, who wrote God Gave Rock And Roll To You and Since You've Been Gone.

“It’s a proper power ballad, lighters in the air, that sort of thing,” Goggin said. “I can just imagine everyone in the crowd singing along to it, and that's the one that gives me shivers down my spine; it makes me feel like I'm in a massive band playing arenas. There's Saturday, which is anthemic.”

Skindred are currently winding their way across the UK, taking the ‘Kill The Power’ to venues far and wide and extending their carnival of insanity, introducing a few new elements to keep their fans on their toes.

“We've got loads of new stuff for this tour – it's going to be like a mini KISS show,” Goggin said. “We've got a lot of production and rigs, so while our energy will keep people entertained there's going to be loads of things to look at too. We're looking at doing special versions of songs, some old songs, the new songs too.

“People always walk away from a Skindred show with a big smile on their face, and a big part of our show is down to the audience participating. People will be involved but there's also going to be a spectacle that they can watch – it's the biggest production we've ever done.”

And then, there’s the subject of festivals. Very few bands have an art down in the way that Skindred have festivals down. Whether it’s their high-energy approach or Webbe’s peerless fan interaction, there aren’t many that can touch them when summer rolls around and those muddy fields start calling.

“We just do what we do,” Goggin said. “We work well in a festival environment because we have Benji up front and the tunes are just tailor-made for festivals. We never really second guess ourselves – except when we're sitting on a record - but we just rock out and have a great time live. I like to think it's infectious. If I go see a band who are all smiling and having a blast, then I'm gonna have a good time too. With us, there's five guys on stage all doing that in their different way, and Benji just commands the crowd.

“Hellfest 2013 was funny, because we were on at half 10 in the morning but only loaded in at half eight. We were all cursing, just going 'This is ridiculous. This is going to be shit', because we're used to playing middle-tier slots at Download Festival and stuff like that! I start checking my bass drum and then suddenly people just appeared from everywhere, and that was it. Time for the show. We thought we'd be playing to nobody, but the fact that there were so many people in the audience was just such a great feeling.”

Another subtle highlight of the Skindred show is Webbe’s treatment of sampler Dan Sturgess. The poor man is the band's bitch, constantly battling a barrage of abuse from their larger than life frontman. Could Sturgess eventually crack and kill Benji? Goggin bursts into laughter at the idea, before composing himself.

“Let's hope so,” he said. “Sturgess gets a lot of grief. Until he realises that he's going to get a hard time, he's just going to be our Jason Newsted – it took Metallica nearly 20 years to break him. I used to live with Sturgess for a few years and always thought he'd be good for the band. He's brought such a great energy to Skindred and he's got a wicked sense of humour. He's free to do what he wants, but I want him in the fold for as long as possible.”

So there we go. With the album of their career tucked into their belts, it seems that Skindred are a force to be reckoned with on a new scale. Goggin knows it. The press seem to be catching on too. All that is needed now is the support of the public, and Skindred will be well on their way to becoming the phenomenon they've always threatened to be.

Skindred UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Wed January 29 2014 - SHEFFIELD Leadmill
Thu January 30 2014 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Fri January 31 2014 - CAMBRIDGE Junction
Sat February 01 2014 - LONDON The Forum
Sun February 02 2014 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy
Sat March 08 2014 - NEWPORT Centre

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