At the time of writing this piece, 2023 has been what you could call a belter of a year for Welsh reggae-metal band Skindred. Not only have they been seen bothering the top of the UK album charts with their new album Smile, they’ve rocked their way across the UK supporting rock giants KISS all while grabbing some fairly impressive slots on mainstream TV.
2024 doesn’t look like it will be any quieter for the band with an impressive headline gig at Wembley Arena on the horizon. That being said, if you’ve already crossed paths with the band, none of this will come as a surprise. Their energy is infectious, the Newport Helicopter is now legendary and their live show is simply untouchable.
In our latest Cover Story, V13 sat down with frontman Benji to find out why it is vital, now more so than ever before, that we all keep “smiling”…
Let’s talk about the inspiration for the new album…
Benji Webbe: “Sat on a tour bus watching people leaving our concerts I could not believe how many people left with smiles on their faces… Skindred shows are an uplifting, empowering and fun loving experience. That’s what I love about this band.”
When you sat down with the blank sheet of paper and started to talk as a band about this record, how did those conversations go?
“What people do not know is that we’ve had a very difficult time with mental illness in the band and it truly was not as easy as getting things written on a blank sheet of paper especially in the middle of a global pandemic. To be honest it’s a miracle that we have had this band going for 24 years with the same line-up. It’s something I think we are all proud of. So I guess to answer your question is it wasn’t easy.”
You started writing Smile back in 2019. What challenges have you faced getting to this point where the record is now on shelves?
“Just getting through the pandemic made it a challenge but, at the same time, it gave us more time to write I guess which was a good thing.”
You seem to have been very insistent on every detail of this record right down to the team who worked on the record with the band. What was the thought process behind your choices?
“The team that we ended up with was not the team we first had in mind but that’s part of the process. We ended up recording at an incredible studio called Vada Recording Studios in Worcestershire, England. It’s the most amazing Georgian Mansion owned by the record producer Matt Terry. We bought in producer Julian Emery as the producer/referee and the exceptional Engineers Pete Hutchings and George Perks sharing engineer duties and we definitely lucked out with this amazing combination of emerging talent. It turned out to be one of my favourite recording sessions of my entire career, although I’m not sure everyone else in the band would agree with me.”
Linking back to your earlier comment about seeing the faces of fans leaving your shows, for a band who are all about fun and energy, how have you kept that mentality through these tough times?
“I guess we have to believe in what we do. Let’s face it, we are not a normal band as bands go. We are a heavy metal, reggae, punk, rock sound system and there are not many who describe themselves as that. Mixing the genres keeps it interesting as music should be about pushing the boundaries and taking things forwards.”
The last notes of Smile have played, how do you want a fan to feel?
“Like they have been on a journey that will hopefully help them through their life and that will lift up their spirits. To stay and push on forward in the game called life no matter what life throws at them.”
You wrote the song “Gimme That Boom” following an interaction with a fan. What prompted you to write the song because of that?
“Songs come from the most unexpected places and hardly ever come from the same place twice but as long as its real I think its right. It was also the last track we recorded and was largely written in the studio which to me is what makes it so special.”
Another song “Our Religion” deals with the Skindred story and how you live the band 24/7. Linked back to “Gimme That Boom” and not being able to be “on” 24/7, how do you help each other through those times when you might not be feeling the Skindred “vibe” ?
“To be honest our religion is being a member of Skindred 24/7. We just do our best and keep on pushing on through all adversity and whatever life throws at us.”
When you started the band, did you ever imagine an eighth album? Now you’re here… how does it feel?
“It feels great to be honest, very accomplished. When we started Dan and I just wanted to make music that would live long and prosper and I guess we seem to have got that part right.”
You’ve had ups, downs, life changing events, you will be facing the same tough challenges we all face. So, aside from music and your band, what keeps Benji smiling in 2023?
“My wife Julie and my family.”
Just to finish, given the shitty state of the planet, why is Smile the album we all need in 2023?
“Smileis passionate, loving and very real. It’s real 100% organic music for a real world with real pain and real problems. A definite alternative to the musical wallpaper currently being dished out and hyped up by the majors.”
To keep up with all the latest news and tour dates from Skindred, head over to their Official Website.