Skindred’s Benji Webbe Talks ‘Kill the Power’ Album, Unifying Audiences + Touring
Skindred are set to unleash their fifth studio album, 'Kill the Power,' and the band is raising the bar even higher on their ragga-metal sounds. Loudwire recently spoke with frontman Benji Webbe about the creation of the 'Kill the Power' album and he also opened up about the band's live shows, unveiled plans for several ancillary projects and discussed how deejaying has affected his approach to making music. Check out our interview with Skindred's Benji Webbe below.
You’ve been deejaying over the last few years. Did that affect your vision for this new album?
You know what really helps with the deejaying, the one thing with the deejaying you get to see what gets the crowd going which is really cool. When you’re in a band and you just play shows all the time, you’re playing your own music when you’re playing other people's music you get into what kind of riffs and what kind of energy gets people to the dance floor. That’s something I really -- when we went into the studio to do it, that’s what I really focused on, you know.
With this new album coming out, are there certain songs off the record that you’re really looking forward to sharing live?
We’ve been playing 'We Live' and that's been going down strong, basically it’s one of the more metal songs we’ve ever written. I was a bit apprehensive of how it would go down, but we played it for the last six nights on tour and people are just standing there with their f---ing mouths open, which is great.
You just mentioned 'We Live' being the most metal song you’ve ever done before. How does it feel to get as heavy as you’ve gotten on this album?
I love heavy music. Always have. From the Kinks, Sex Pistols and The Clash. Later on I got into Pantera, things like that. Songs like ‘Proceed with Caution’ and 'Ninja,' which starts us off, to express that much heaviness, it’s great.
‘Kill The Power’ has that great undeniable beat, Pugsly’s bass is amazing.
That was one of the songs I spoke about. I really wanted it to be a club hit, you know? When it comes on in the club I wanted the intro to come in and I wanted people to go, ‘F---, let’s get to the dance floor this is a song I want to dance to.’
It’s so rare that you get a song that makes you want to dance as much as it makes you want to mosh.
That’s the whole aspect. Our songs are very much unity songs. The whole basis of our songs is bringing that world together -- bringing nations together. You’ve got these black kids who just listen to dance songs, they’re coming for the dance songs. Then you get these kids that are into the metal and they’re coming for the metal end. In the end you get this massive party, it’s amazing. I think that’s what Skindred brings to the table of music.
You mentioned unity -- the dance hall kids and metal kids. How cool is it to see that audience come together?
With Skindred, I see people in the crowd like 60-65, 70-year-old people coming to the show and they’re bringing their grandchildren and the grandchildren are jumping up and down with them.
It’s unreal. A lot of bands we support, they’ve got a certain age group. But with Skindred, I see people in the crowd like 60-65, 70-year-old people coming to the show and they’re bringing their grandchildren and the grandchildren are jumping up and down with them. Skindred is a band that crosses over genres. It’s not just a scene. We’re not a scene. If anything, for me, I’d like to be the British version of the Chili Peppers. Just to draw so many different people together from different genres. It’s important to me as a musician.
I want to ask about ‘Ninja.’ I have a vision of the audience chanting 'Ninja, ninja, ninja'...
Yeah, they do that. The album came out today in the U.K. I know it got leaked a little, the kids are screaming it. But by the time we play some big festivals in the summer, that song is going to be incredible. It's just going to be one of the songs where the volume's up.
As a singer, what's it like up onstage adding a song like that where you have the audience giving it back to you full blast?
First off, my job as an MC and a frontman and a vocalist is not to be inhabited by their minds, but to free their minds. If I can free their minds, their hearts will follow. That’s what intend to do every night.
There's a great vibe to the song 'Saturday.' I know you worked a little bit with Glen Ballard on that. Talk about how that song came together.
We were just in the studio. For me, ‘Saturday’ was a weird one because it’s not what I particularly think of as a Skindred song. The more we worked on it and just kept working on the chorus and making it bigger and bigger. When we play it now, we play it on Sunday nights or Monday nights and it puts a Saturday energy into the place. If you go to a club on a Friday, any other night than a Saturday, there’s a different energy. But when we play that, it feels like a Saturday night. The audience is giving it to us and we’re giving it to them.
‘Playing with the Devil.’ Nice change of pace track on this record. Definitely a little more serious than some of the stuff that you’ve got on here. Can you talk about that?
That was the first song that Dan Pugsley brought to the table. He sent me it from his computer at home. For me, ‘Playing with the Devil’ is a song that’s about the riots in London but it’s also a double-edged sword. It’s also talking about the smell of crack cocaine and chemical drugs. It’s pretty much a serious energy because I live in a neighborhood full of heavy things. Totally inspired by that, by the riots in London through the summer and also the problems that smoking bad drugs can do too. That’s what the lyrics are about.
This record has heavy music, reggae and dub -- just a little bit of everything thrown in. Can you tell me about your earliest influences?
For me, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. I grew up in a household where my mother and father played a lot of Motown and R&B. My brothers were all into the rap thing. They were playing a lot of Lee 'Skratch' Perry and there’s a label from London called Greensleeves. Vocally, as a kid I always liked cartoon characters and the voices they did like on Hanna Barbera cartoon characters and stuff. When I started singing I wanted my voice to sound a little different from just normal, soul singers or whatever. I started singing like that into the reggae thing. For me, if the vocalist is worth listening to, it's because of their individuality and the way they express themselves. I just came up through that. I was always the kid in class that would make the jokes and stuff. I used all the voices and stuff, it was just a natural progression as I got older and to get into a band as well.
I saw something about the band doing a coffee table book and documentary film. Anything in the works?
Definitely, we have a coffee table book in the works and we also have a movie. We’re working on some stuff. We want to do some - remember 'The Twilight Zone'?
We want to do some remakes of 'The Twilight Zone,' starring us. Just bring them up to date, we all love 'The Twilight Zone.' Like, 15 minute movies. Just to make pop-videos is not enough, people need more than that nowadays.
Right on. That’s cool as a band to get out there and explore your creative side and do a little something like that.
Yeah, exactly. The DJ in the band is super talented. If you check out a video of ours we shot in India called ‘Kill the Power.’ The DJ is incredible, he edited it. We got an Indian film crew to put it together. We just wanted to do a video that was different because everyone was -- if you look, if you go to India and places like that the colors are real different. It came across really well.
Soundwave in Australia is coming up, a major event. Talk about what it feels like to be a part of that.
The more people you put us in front of, the more people we’re going to turn onto Skindred.
It’s always an honor to be asked to perform at any large event like that. We’re playing Rock on the Range as well, which I’m excited about, in the States. The ultimate thing about Skindred, we make good records but the most important thing for us as a band is making that connection in a live concert. And the more people you put us in front of, the more people we’re going to turn onto Skindred. People think they don’t like us, because they hear one or two songs. But then when they catch us live they go, now I get it.
You’re such a great live band, but which is more enjoyable -- playing live or putting the music together?
Putting the music together is great, I enjoy it before the producer gets a hold of it. The producer, he takes things away that I think are valuable but on stage we can do whatever the hell we want and play the songs in the style we want too.
Right, you can change it up from time to time.
We do a lot of mash-ups, like we’ll take a song, not so much the new songs just yet but songs that we’ve been playing for a while we’ll add different song. We’ll use, for instance, some stuff from a prominent Bob Marley song and use that in a song, like mash-ups. We try to do that live, it works really well.
You’re in Europe. Australia coming up, Rock on the Range. Anything beyond that?
And, for me personally, I’ll end with this. The band as musicians are people that go out there, everyone knows the Internet is something you can steal music with. Personally I prefer fans, if you can’t afford the music, yeah steal it but listen to the music get the energy and when you come to the show, the only way our fans can repent is going to the merchandize tent and even if you buy a hat, scarf or a shirt, just give back to the musicians. It’s not easy being on the road, for all the people there that are downloading the album, stealing the album, when you get to the shows, make sure you support every act by buying merchandise. Keep music alive.
Absolutely Benji. Couldn't agree more.
Our thanks to Skindred's Benji Webbe for the interview. The band's 'Kill the Power' album is out on Feb. 18 and can be purchased via iTunes and Amazon. You can also find the band supporting Seether on tour this spring. Click the button below for tour dates.
Watch Skindred's 'Kill the Power' Video