Skin is one of music's most iconic front-women as she has enjoyed a career with Skunk Anansie that has spanned twenty years.
Next week the band make their triumphant return as they release their new album Black Traffic - their first release since Wonderlustre back in 2010.
I caught up with Skin to chat about the new record, going independent and what lies ahead for the band.
- You are about to release your new album Black Traffic so what can we expect for the new collection of tracks?
It is an in your face and full on rock album - it is a solid rock album and I think that that is what the world is missing.
It is very experimental in its sound as there is some sampling going on on there and there are some electronic elements as well.
It is quite political I would say and it is in your face and has strong songs. It's a very energetic and powerful album and I think that it is our best album so far.
- This is your fifth studio album so how has the sound of this album changed and developed compared to what you have released before?
I think that we built the sound for the very first time we didn't just walk into the studio and record it live - we basically just brought it up from scratch.
We walked into the studio with just a handful of songs that we thought were really fantastic and we really just experimented and did lots of crazy shit and just messed about. For us it is like our baby as we have changed our vibe and changed out sound as we felt that it was time.
I mean it is still Skunk Anansie and it is still a rock album as we are what we are and we are not trying to sound like someone else or trying to jump on another genre. But for us it is quite experimental as there is lots of sampling going on and a lot of electronics.
- Black Traffic is the first album release since 2010 so what have you and the band been up to during that time?
We have been on tour for quite some time and then we took some time off because before we started writing and getting Black traffic ready.
- This is also the first album that you have released on your own label so how have you found the whole experience of going independent?
It was really good and really dramatic. We were doing most of the stuff ourselves anyway and so it was very much a case of finding the right people in the right country - so it was very much about cutting out the middle man.
I think the difference is back in the nineties to do what we had to do you literally had to have a staff of twenty people because there was no internet or mobile phones - it was all fax and phone.
And now you can do all of that stuff online and so it just cuts down the people that you need. So it has been really good and it has been really empowering to be in control of your own destiny.
- Well you have slightly touched on my next question really with an independent release that means that you have been able to record exactly the kind of album that you wanted so how liberating has that been as an artist?
I have to say that we are one of the artists, even from the very beginning; we went for creative control over money so we have recorded exactly the kind of album that we have wanted to record.
We have always had 100% artist control and we have always recorded the albums ourselves so in that way nothing has changed.
The changes have mainly been economic and organisational as we have got control of who is spending out money? And how are they spending money? To make sure that money is being spent in worth while way and not on someone having a £1000 lunch trying to impress somebody else.
- Chris Sheldon has produced the album alongside the band so how did that partnership come about? And what were you looking for in your producer this time around?
We self-produced the album last time, we produced it and Chris engineered it, but this time we got him to co-produce it with us because we felt that we under-used him last time (laughs) - he is a great and huge producer and we had him engineering which was a bit silly.
We needed to have that level of control to get where we are now and so it was a necessary thing that we do. Apart from being a fun guy to have in the studio he is also a genius at getting sounds and he is also super fast.
If someone has an idea, and there are always lots of ideas flying around, Chris can get on it super fast and you can move on to another idea and another idea.
That is a really big thing when you are in the studio because time is money and ideas need to be done and quickly otherwise they get stale.
- As I said you also had a hand in the production of the record so how much is that a side of making an album that you enjoy?
We love it, we absolutely love being in the studio and we loved producing this record - it is the first one that we have liked doing (laughs). There has never been a Skunk Anansie record that I have enjoyed so much apart from the first few weeks of the first one.
This album was a pleasure to work on and it was exciting to wake up in a morning and go to the studio. The last album was a nightmare but this is the first one where we have really been able to enjoy ourselves.
- And how have you found the response to the album so far?
It has been amazing we have had the best response that we have ever had. I can’t really remember the response that we got on the first album but it really does feel a bit like when we were doing that album and the response that we were getting then.
We have never been a radio band and we are never going to get on the massive radio chart and we are never going to have a huge single release because we are not that kind of a band.
We are an underground band that sells albums and sells a lot of albums under the radar. But we also a band that sells out a venue of 20,000 in Italy and 16,000 in Holland and 8,000 in France so we are a big live band and people come to see us because they want reality.
Right now to get onto the radio you have to have some dub-step elements to your music or sound loud bits or have a rapper on and that is what we are not.
Our levels of what we think is successful is very different to what other people see as successful and for us a measure of our response and success was a show on last night and it was packed totally. And that is a sign of success when you can put the word out about a little gig and it can go crazy.
- You have penned all of the tracks on the album so how does the writing process work within the band - is their one main writer or is it very much a collaborative project?
I think it is both: I write all of the lyrics so yes I am the main writer but we all throw ideas into the pot all at the same time.
Cass has bass ideas and vocals ideas and vocal melody ideas and so do Mark and Ace and I also have bass ideas.
So everybody just throws things in. When you are trying to think of something and trying to make something better - the motto in the studio was ‘let’s make it better’ - you need a group of people you can’t just leave it all down to me or just one member of the band.
So that is really how it works; someone with have an idea and then someone else will have an idea that will make it better and better and better - and that was really the way that we worked in the studio.
- You are also going to be embarking out on a European Tour so what can people who have a ticket who perhaps have not seen you live before expect for the show?
I think that they can expect to see something that is very unique and I think that they will see right in front of them one of the best live bands in the world - I am not overselling us it is just true.
We are the best live band when it is just the four of us in a cold room or when it is us in a full stadium with the full lighting and me in my crazy costumes - I had another one on last night that fell to pieces as the gig went on. Our gigs are just full steam ahead there is no coasting.
- How much are you looking forward to getting out on the road and performing these new tracks to a live audience?
Yesterday about half an hour before the gig I was quite nervous and during the sound check I was like ‘wow these are new songs I better make sure that I know all of the words’ - I walked on stage and I remembered all of my lyrics.
But they sounded wicked, they sounded really really good. It was lovely seeing the reaction to the new songs and seeing them go down really well as well as the reaction to the new songs.
It was just really good fun and I really enjoyed it.
- You have enjoyed a music career that has spanned almost twenty years so how have you seen the industry change in that time? And has it changed for the better?
I think that it has changed and whether it has changed for the better or for the worse you have to roll with the punches and go with the changes.
You have a choice you can sit there and think ‘oh I remember the nineties when we sold this many records’ or you can go ‘right people may not buy albums anymore but they still listen to music’.
So you have to find out how to fit into the world that you are in not how you can get back to the world that you use to be in. It’s twenty years since we started and there is no way you want to go back in time and we are working with what we have now.
You can say that the change is negative in the way that people don’t buy albums any more but they still listen to music and if you… what are you in it for?
Are in a band because you want people to buy your albums? Or are you in a band because you want to make music? If you are in a band who wants to make music then you will find a way to be able to play music.
The record industry is a hard industry to make money in and if that is what you are in it for then go and do something else because you will make a lot more money with a lot less stress;
- Finally what's next for you?
We are doing a promotional tour that starts now really. Then we have lots of promotion for the album throughout Europe before we start out big tour in November.
Skunk Anansie - Black Traffic is released 17th September
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw