Earlier this year HRH favourites Skindred decided to go right back to the early days of their career and re-release their seminal album Roots Rock Riot. However, the reason for this notion wasn’t an obvious one. “I said to the boys, let’s get it on vinyl. I want to have it because I’ve started collecting vinyl again,” said frontman Benji Webbe. “It was only a joke, and then next thing you know, we’re going through all the footage and looking at all the old stuff. And here it is – Roots Rock Riot has been released. I’ve got my copy, and it sounds absolutely fantastic.”
Skindred’s sophomore album symbolises an important point in the band’s history, with a change in personnel from the original line-up featured on their debut release. “When Mikey and Arya joined the band, and we started doing Roots Rock Riot, for me, it was like, oh my God, I’ve got to see if these boys have got it now. Because I know the other guys who were in the band before that, they had what it took,” recalls Benji. “So, when we started writing it and all these files are floating around in the rehearsal space, for me, I felt very confident in what we were doing.”
Now when you think of Skindred, you don’t often associate the band with acoustic music. However, on the re-issue of this release, the band have added an unreleased acoustic number titled Struggle. This track, in particular, showcases a rarely seen side of the Skindred repertoire. “It gives people a chance to hear what the guy who’s doing the screaming reggae shit can do with his voice. So, I think it’s done me a favour, and I’m proud,” said Webbe.
Speaking of the background behind the song, Benji said: “Without getting too deep. I was going through a horrible, weird divorce at that time. I was torn between two lovers, as they say, and I really was. I found it a struggle at the time when I was writing that song and going through what I was going through. Being away from my hometown and recording in Florida was quite difficult. So that song reflects how I was feeling, being torn apart inside.”
Now, Struggle is not Benji’s only acoustic output. Besides Skindred, the powerhouse frontman has a side project which has kept him busy during the lockdown, Diamond Spider. “I describe it as Voodoo Blues with a cinematic twist. Me and a friend of mine, we’ve done a whole album during the lockdown,” explains Benji.
Even though Skindred may have turned back the clock to work on the re-release of Roots Rock Riot, they are already thinking about what might come next. “We’ve just signed our eighth record deal. Every time we release an album, we end up leaving a label,” jokes Webbe. But now that the band have signed with Earache Records, they are raring to go. “We’ve got a sh*t load of songs that we’ve written during this pandemic, and they’re sounding really cool. This is some of the heaviest sh*t that we’ve ever done. And there is some real-life sh*t on there too,” declares Benji. “Our guns are loaded. We’re ready for this job.” This being the news that fans of Skindred have been waiting for.
Of course, Skindred are widely renowned for their explosive and somewhat energetic live shows. The band may have had a long absence from the stage because of the pandemic, but they have lost none of their enthusiasm. “The way I feel right now, I’d play in a club with six people, a blind man and his dog and love it. I’m pretty hyped to get on stage and do it,” says Benji rather excitedly. We would expect nothing less from the charismatic frontman. It will soon be time to break out the Newport Helicopter as Skindred hit the road across the UK for an eagerly anticipated headline run in September.
But that’s not all. Benji and company will also be returning to the HRH stage as part of the annual HRH Roadtrip to Ibiza during May 2022. For further details including tickets and booking details, please click here.
Interview and Words by Adam Kennedy