TR+ Extended Version – Welcome Back: Skunk Anansie
As the Britpop survivors return with their sixth album, singer Skin tells us about fame, fortune and why the X Factor could save rock.
Having exploded into a decidedly Britpop-shaped zeitgeist in 1994, Skunk Anansie tore up all available opposition with invariably incendiary live shows, a trio of chart albums and a round dozen hit singles.
Following an extended lay-off, the quartet returned in 2009 and are primed to release their sixth album, Anarchytecture. Classic Rock caught up with the band’s hyperactive lead vocalist Skin, now enjoying a concurrent career on the judging panel of the Italian X Factor, to talk “big, fat rock”, maturity and focus.
What did the constituent parts of Skunk Anansie do in the years you were away?
I did two solo albums and kind of basically honed my DJ skills. Ace [guitar] did a couple of degrees, started a school [The Ace Guitar Academy in Brighton], did a solo album and produced a whole bunch of indie albums. Cass [bass] built a studio and rehearsal rooms, and Mark [Richardson, drums] was playing with Feeder and started up a film production company.
I’m guessing life’s always good when the four Skunk Anansie family members are in the same room?
We have a real fat laugh, to be honest. We’re really good friends and you know, I think the reason why that gapette lasted so long is because we’ve all started brand new careers that are all kind of connected and involved with music – we’re not the kind of people who are just going to sit around and do nothing. We all remained in the industry, putting music out, producing in the studio, film. It was interesting because things really changed in that time as well, and while people say, “You weren’t doing Skunk Anansie,” so weren’t aware of those changes, we all had albums out, and we were part of those changes.
When we’re back together in a room, we’re really good friends. We hang out with each other, individually and together, when we’re not working. We have a real laugh. We know each other’s humours very well – we take the piss, to be honest! Ace gets it in the neck a lot.
Going back to the genesis of Skunk Anansie, things seemed to happen really quickly for you. History tells me you formed in March ’94, but when I first wrote about you that June, there was already a massive buzz around the band.
We were all in bands before Skunk Anansie, and those bands were the indie giants of the scene that was going on in King’s Cross at the time. We were all playing in The Splash Club. Ace was in a band called Big Life Casino, and they started The Splash Club because they could use it for rehearsal. In the early 90s, that club became a hotbed of loads of different bands – you know, Compulsion, Raindancer – who became Feeder – Echobelly, Oasis played there, Rub Ultra, and there was Mama Wild, which was me and Cass.
So, when we got Skunk Anansie together, it was the best bass player in that scene, the best guitarist in that scene, which was Ace, and me, who was the best kind of frontperson. Originally we had the drummer from Mama Wild, but he left after one gig because he couldn’t handle it. We were like a kind of unsigned supergroup. So our first gig was rammed, just out of curiosity. People were like, “What is this going to be like?” And it went off, and the next gig was rammed with at least 40 different A&R people from 40 different record labels, and we got signed from that second gig.