Skindred frontman Benji talks sequins and punk at Hammerfest

Posted on 9 April 2012
By Gemma Harris
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PR: You’ve recently returned to Wales after spending a few days at Texas’ SXSW event – tell us about the experience.

BW: It was fantastic… I had a really good time out there. We hadn’t played for a month or so before we went out there, so I had almost totally forgotten what we do – honest to God! It was a weird feeling, I honestly forgot what we do. However, when we got out there, it was like ‘ah shit… this is what we do…’ you know what I mean, does that sound strange? We attended the industry side of things at SXSW and when we went in, it was a little cold, but by the end of things I was telling them all how it is. I just told them to keep their heart real, keep on loving the music, and do what they really want to do – we really had the crowd on our side. During the middle of ‘Warning’ I made them get down on the floor, right? Then it kicked in – it was great to see all those industry motherfuckers down on the floor! It was nice, it’s good to see that they are passionate too, but no-one ever challenges them on it. Ultimately, I had a great time, it was a great response. I’m sure some people out there hated us, but fuck them.

PR: How is 2012 working out for you?

BW: For me, it’s just started really… you see, what’s happened is that the shows we have played – it’s been great, good fun, good energy, the crowd have been loving it. Our latest album has been really successful, you know, we’re the sort of band that if you go down to your local pub, and you’ve never seen us, or heard of us, you would most definitely dance. It’s good time, rocking music. So, they tell me that I’ve got quite a bit lined up for the summer…

PR: Tell us about what festivals you have lined up; will you be rocking your sequined sparkly suit this Summer?

BW: Ah… that suit was the turning point of my gayness – after that I thought ‘fuck it, I’m going to dress the way I want – that was definitely me coming out! I wish I could have a little moon on stage with me coming out of it! You don’t even know… if I could afford… ah, I’m such a dreamer. I love playing, man… I love it so much. You know, even if it’s a pub in Swansea – I’ll still be looking forward to it.

PR: How have your musical influences changed over the years?

BW: To be in a band like Skindred, the influence was The Specials and The Clash, because for me growing up, I felt like all these bands were unity music, which I loved, and still do. But they were the sound of that time, and for me being a black kid, I felt like I didn’t really belong anywhere. But when I saw all these black and Mod guys playing reggae punk together – it made me realise how much I wanted to be in a band. However, I wouldn’t say my musical influences have changed too much… I’m always being told ‘what the fuck is that you’re listening to?’, but I love listening to Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson. I draw my musical inspiration through life. I’m definitely not keen on that gay Discotheque, oh and the German stuff, I don’t like that.

PR: How many times have you played Hammerfest? How do you compare this festival to others, do you find it’s quite a different experience?

BW: I think this is our third year playing Hammerfest, and I’ve loved all of them – the crowd are brilliant. It’s all rock and roll to me, baby!

PR: Is there anyone out there who you’d still really like to collaborate with?

BW: Do you know what’s funny? There’s a small band from Texas called Dirty Wormz… When we were on the Bieler Brother’s Records, we toured America, and one night we played with this band called the Dirty Wormz – they were fucking fantastic, loved them. It’s like hip hop rap, and I just got into them… fortunately, after we played we exchanged numbers and I got them a record deal – with the same label we were on. Unfortunately, the record label wasn’t as good as they could’ve been – so they ended up parting company. However, I still kept in touch with the Dirty Wormz, and when I went over to visit, I managed to get a couple of days with them and ended up recording a song, plus a video. Fans can actually get hold of it for free, we just wanted people to have it and enjoy the music. In a couple of weeks, the video should be available online, it’s called Blood and Fire.

PR: You certainly have many years of musical experience under your belt, what’s been the secret to achieving so much?

BW: If this is successful… then welcome to Graceland! The diamonds, the pearls and beauty is there, on stage, that’s where it’s at. Seeing the fans and talking to the people, that’s what makes the difference. You know, if I was told to pick up my fucking brush and get back to Tesco’s, I still would do it. But I love what I do, I love it when people give you a good vibe – you can’t beat that! Honest to god, I’m not over it – I think the experiences you have in life, make you love and appreciate things more.

PR: Do you have anything exciting in the pipeline?

BW: I was pretty excited by the Dirty Wormz collaboration, and I’m really excited to see our video to Game Over. I haven’t heard anything regarding its progress so far, but I’m massively excited to see that. I’ve also been writing a lot, both by myself and with friends, as well as helping a lot of people out. But what I think we’re going to try and do is keep away from what we usually do. We usually send each other bits and pieces of songs, but the best songs we’ve written have always been when we’re all together, making noise. So, I believe we’re going to wait and do it like that from now on. Song writing can be a fluid process, but at other times it’s like pulling fucking teeth – sometimes I want to go home and cry. Honest to god, it’s not easy, then the band start on me, and I start on them. Ultimately, we enjoy the music and that’s what keeps us together and strong.