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Skunk Anansie remain free


Even more than making rock, all Skin ever wanted was to be free – and rock is no freer than jazz, or any other music genre for that matter. Skin’s definition of freedom is being true to oneself; in her case, that meant making rock, when she’s been brought up with R’n’B or reggae. It also meant not limiting herself to rock, whatever the most narrow-minded fans might think. Skunk Anansie’s new album, Black Traffic, in line with its predecessors, is the very incarnation of this diversity.

Skunk Anansie don’t only yearn for musical freedom. Like many other bands, they have decided to release their albums themselves, via their own label. And in terms of visual, Skunk Anansie have cleverly adapted to the public’s evolution by offering a simple artwork, “for those who consume music on iTunes”, whose subtleties will be revealed to those who choose to buy the record and study all the details of the booklet.

« I come from a very strict Jamaican family and everyone just listened to R’n’B or reggae music. So I did something completely different in a way. It was like finding your own soul and your own personal journey : when I started playing rock music, it was me. »

Radio Metal : In a foreword to the book « What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life And LIberation in Heavy Metal » you say: « What always appealed to me about rock music is the feeling of freedom, that I could finally be who I wanted to be and sing the music that I felt in my heart. ». When you started to perform as a professional artist, did you feel the freedom that rock music can bring to a musician ?

Skin (vocals) : I would not talk about freedom as a political thing, but as my personal freedom. I come from a very strict Jamaican family and everyone just listened to R’n’B or reggae music. So I did something completely different in a way. It was like finding your own soul and your own personal journey: when I started playing rock music, it was me. This is the freedom that I felt.

Even if rock or metal music is considered as rebel genres, they have their own codes and fans have a really precise idea of what should be called metal or rock : are these genres really free after all?

Honestly, I don’t give a fuck about it. It’s up to these people if they want to put their music in little boxes and stick to those rules. It is true that rock’n’roll broke some rules and can let you do what you want to do but if you want to put music genres in those little boxes, saying “this is metal and this is rock”, Skunk Anansie then couldn’t exist, because you have a black girl singing in a rock band where some guys like funk and others Mötörhead. Rules in music shouldn’t even exist; we’ve broken them a long time ago. We’re just making music, we’re not trying to be anything.

« The only rule that we have is that each album represents the four of us. »

The new album sounds very dark and its lyrics are very aggressive. Where does this darkness come from ?

We’re living in very dark times. You only have to open your eyes, look around you and see that many people are in very dark situations. It’s not easy for our friends and family, we have these financial scandals, so all this had to be in our songs and music. As we were writing this new album, those topics came up again and again: it’s a reflection of what was happening to us and the people around us.

The new record is very diverse : it opens with the punchy “I Will Break You” and ends with the very luminous “Diving Down”. You’ve always had this diversity in every album: how do you manage working with all these different atmospheres?

As we are very good musicians, I think we can play any styles we want. The only rule that we have is that each album represents the four of us. We did a lot of experimentation on this album because we have all different backgrounds: Ace comes from a metal background, Mark from a rock one, Cass from a funk one and mine is more reggae. Culturally, we’re from different parts of England, so we do what we want and don’t care if a song is not, for example, in the rock genre. Why limit yourself to one type of music ?

The French band Shaka Ponk has been invited on your new record: could you tell us more about it and what do you like about their music?

First of all, they are very different from many bands of the French scene. They have a sort of Skunk Anansie in them, and that’s what we like: they do their own thing and they mix a lot of different styles. It’s freaky, but I love it! I like when people just do something different: for instance, if someone likes to walk down the high street, only wearing his underwear and a pair of high heels, then why not? Character is what is most inspiring. We wanted to do a collaboration with them, they heard the songs and then we talked about it: from there, we exchanged some ideas and it all came up together. We really like what they did on the song.

The album’s artwork was made by Stewart Western who seems to be a big fan of yours. Is it important for you to work with artists who understand very well your musical universe?

If you don’t like us, you can’t work with us: it’s that simple you know. He’s been a friend of the band for years now, so it was a really good match.

Did you have some precise ideas for the artwork or did he have complete freedom?

We looked a bit at what he was doing and gave him some ideas, but as a friend of the band, he really knew where he was going. He had all range to create something fresh.

The artwork differs when you take a look at it closely or from a certain distance: why so?

When you look at it on iTunes for example, you see a sort of little weird monster face but when you have it close, you can actually see some members of the band. It was a deliberate thing: as the album is going to be seen in different sizes, we wanted people to have a different thing, depending on how far they would be looking at it.

« [Majors] don’t understand how things move. We have the possibility to have the control on what we do, and there are lots of ways to do it. Majors can’t see that because they are still stuck in their same habits. »

When you play live, there is a moment when you really walk on the audience’s hands : could you explain what this moment means to you?

It’s just a spectacular moment; many people have copied it, but I was the first one to do that way. The audience really looks after me, you know, it’s really cool.

Aren’t you a bit afraid to do it? You really trust the audience!

I do. Completely.

In a recent interview, Lemmy said that Skunk Anansie was his favorite band: considering the legend Lemmy is, what do you think of what he said? It’s a huge compliment!

It is a massive compliment. There aren’t many people who can actually make stop and say “Waoh”: Lemmy is one of them. Ace’s first concert was Motörhead, we were brought up on their music, so it’s a huge thing for us to see that someone like him loves us. We are really honoured. Many people say to us face to face that they like our music, but they don’t say it in the press.

The new album, Black Traffic, is released on your own label: could you tell us more about this label?

We all have some kinds of license, but firstly, we’ll produce Skunk Anansie and then see what happens.

A lot of bands create their own labels: do you think that majors are now out of date?

Yes. They don’t understand how things move. We have the possibility to have the control on what we do, and there are lots of ways to do it. Majors can’t see that because they are still stuck in their same habits.

Interview conducted by phone on September, 19th, 2012
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Skunk Anansie’s official website : www.skunkanansie.net

Album Black Traffic already released



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