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Botswana Metal Trio SKINFLINT Discusses African Metal, Honesty and Touring with TARJA

We spoke with Skinflint vocalist and guitarist, Giuseppe Sbrana, about their latest self-titled album, touring with Tarja, and what it is exactly that makes metal “African”.



At the beginning of June, 2018, Botswana-based heavy metal trio Skinflint released their fifth album, a self-titled disc brimming over with their distinctive doom sound and mystical visual elements. The album was released via INTO Records (distributed by Cargo Records) and comes off the back of the band joining, which resulted in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour Europe as a supporting act for Tarja. Skinflint has been going strong since 2006 and have certainly proven that a hard working band with a vision can reap many benefits. We got to speak to vocalist and guitarist, Giuseppe Sbrana, about the latest album, making music and what it is, exactly, that makes metal “African”.

Skinflint has produced five albums in 12 years, a very respectable discography. What makes this latest album special?
Giuseppe Sbrana: After many years of playing music you start to discover elements that make your sound unique and I think in this album you can hear a band who is pushing those elements to the forefront. I think this album has a very distinctive tone which is unmistakably Skinflint.

You wrote the album in a week; that is impressive. What is the artistic process behind your music?
Sbrana: We wanted the songs to happen naturally and not feel like it was planned. Writing the majority of the album in a week also gave the songs a feeling of spontaneity. We took a similar approach to the recording process. It is not overproduced and retains the raw energy and passion of a band live in the studio. I think the result is an album that sounds honest and sincere, rather than striving for perfection.

Peep Skinflint’s “Birds and Milk, Bloody Milk” video here.

The single from the album is “Birds and Milk, Bloody Milk”. Tell us more about the song and video and the musical and visual concepts incorporated into both
Sbrana: The song is inspired by an African tale of a bird who tells a man to kill his only milk cow and in turn the bird will bring him 100 more cows. In desperate conditions the man complies, but the bird does not keep its end of the agreement. Musically, the song is a fusion of Kwasa Kwasa with Heavy Metal. For the video we had Kwasa Kwasa dancers and shot it over 2 days in a small village called Mokatse, in Botswana.

I watched you play at the Metal4Africa WinterFest in Cape Town last year and enjoyed your set immensely. Tell us about your connections to other countries and what it’s like to experience audiences outside of Botswana.
Sbrana: Thank you! Great to hear you could catch us live at WinterFest. Cape Town Rocks! \m/ We have been fortunate to tour Southern Africa, Kenya and Europe. Playing to new audiences across borders feels like walking untrodden paths. There is a sense of curiosity from the audience and it can be challenging if they are not familiar with your style or songs. It demands greater focus, and not only tests a band’s abilities, but also determines whether a band has the potential to stand out and be remembered.

You recently went on tour overseas as a support act for Tarja. Tell us everything!
Sbrana: We toured most of Europe with Tarja as a support act for her shadow shows. It was a challenging but highly rewarding experience. Touring with an international artist such as Tarja is never easy. Her stage presence, experience and band backing her were exceptional throughout the tour. There is a lot of things stacked up against you, and there is pressure to perform well. But we were confident in our abilities and didn’t compromise. We did our own thing and the response from the audiences was fantastic.

The cover artwork for Skinflint’s self-titled album which dropped on June 1st.

I personally love the idea of music rooted in African folklore and the imagery of spirits, fire and death – because we know death can be celebrated – but do you ever get a backlash from conservative circles?
Sbrana: Yes, but that is their problem. Some people would rather criticise something they don’t understand rather than opening their minds to it. Their hatred is born from within themselves, it is not generated by us.

You call yourselves “African metal”. Can you tell us what you consider to be the criteria for this and what other bands from the continent embody it.
Sbrana: It is a style of Metal that embodies strong elements from African culture, both lyrically and musically. I think a good example would be Vale of Amotion: and African Doomhammer:.

Your music is strongly rooted in old school and doom elements. This seems to be a continuous thread in Botswana metal. Do you see this as a positive thing and why?
Sbrana: Metal fans and bands here are more into old school Metal. I think it is great, the sounds fits the personality of the scene here. It is raw, pure emotion and stands in stark contrast to the polished approach of most modern metal.

We also recommend checking out the band’s “Ram of Fire” video.

Last year I interviewed a local South African band, Riddlebreak, who had toured to Botswana for the Overthrust festival and they were in awe of the country – and Batswana metalheads are considered unique in the world. What are your personal thoughts on the scene?
Sbrana: I think Botswana has a strong and vibrant underground Metal scene. Metal fans here are very expressive and have a distinctive style. Especially the way they dress in chains, leather, skulls and horns. We are proud of our scene here.

You’re a hardworking band making strides to break into the international scene. Tell us about your vision for the band and what are some of the things about your band/music you will never leave behind?
Sbrana: We hope to tour again soon in support of our latest album and play to Metal fans throughout the world. Musically, we want to further expand on our style and explore new possibilities for African Metal. I think we will never sacrifice the raw essence and honesty of the band’s sound.

Thanks so much for doing this interview. Any last words for your fans?
Sbrana: Keep the Fire burning! \m/