Admin and CEO Holiday Kirk holds bands' feet to the fire in an effort to unite the tribe behind one common genre; nu-metal. Today, it's Benji Webbe of Skindred's turn to face the music.
Holiday Kirk: All right. Benji Webbe of Skindred. How are you?
Benji Webbe: I am absolutely fantastic. Loving the summer vibes and enjoying my garden at the moment. Beautiful.
That does sound great. I am Holiday Kirk of the Nu Metal Agenda, and what we are doing today is addressing The Nu Metal Allegations. So, Benji Webbe, is Skindred a nu metal band?
Benji Webbe: No, don't be silly we’re a rock band.
But isn't nu metal just a little bit more intriguing?
Benji Webbe: I don't know. I think rock is beautiful. I mean, Queen was a rock band, but they used all sorts of stuff to get you dancing. What I think the problem is, is people need pigeon holes in order for them to tap their feet. And I think it's quite sad, really. I think music is music and that's what people need to grasp instead of building these boundaries by calling it this and calling it that. Does it dance? Do you rock to it or not? That's my question.
Do you just prefer no labels at all?
Benji Webbe: I prefer no labels, but people need them. I don't need them. I got two choices of music, good or bad, and I'm the judge of that.
I do think it helps people that have never heard the band before.
Benji Webbe: I personally think people can make their own minds up. I don't think they need a label of sorts to tell you what it is. You'll make your own mind up.
So you got a new album coming out on Earache Records?
Benji Webbe: Sir. Yes sir. This is our eighth studio album. We recorded the album in a place called Wash in England. Beautiful surroundings in the countryside, in a manor, a Georgian manor, actually. It was good. I mean, this is our eighth album, so you can imagine we needed a referee more than we needed a producer, but we got the job done, you know.
That's awesome. And when's it out?
Benji Webbe: It comes out on the 4th of August. We're gonna do a European tour in November, and we're going over to October with going over to mainland Europe and hopefully get to the States at some point.
When was the last time you were in the States?
Benji Webbe: Wow, five, six years ago, bro. We did a club tour with Hed PE, who do call themselves a nu metal band. They are not in denial like some people.
Now, your roots in our awful genre go pretty deep. You were in Dub War initially in the nineties and then you found yourself on a Soulfly record.
Benji Webbe: I did, yeah. Now let me ask you a question, Kirk. Is Soulfly nu metal?
Without a doubt. A hundred percent.
Benji Webbe: Alright, I'm just checking. We're looking at the nu metal boundaries as we go along. That's cool. It's true.
This does mean, Benji Webbe, you were on a record with Fred Durst.
Benji Webbe: I was, I was. And I enjoyed that record. Definitely. And Fred is definitely of the nu metal genre. Definitely. You could not deny that
Soulfly self-titled. Classic.
Benji Webbe: Max Cavalera was a fan of Dub War and when Dub War split, he took the opportunity to ask me if I wanted to go into the studio with him. So I flew over to Los Angeles and I was in the studio with him and Ross Robinson and we did this amazing record and it still stands up today. And Fred Durst was on that record.
Was Chino Moreno on that record?
Benji Webbe: Actually he was! But what Max told me is that they wrote a song called Soulfly before he named the band Soulfly.
That became “Headup” off Around the Fur.
Benji Webbe: There you go. You know, more than me. Brilliant.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but your American debut Babylon came out three times?
Benji Webbe: Yeah, it did. It came out on I think it was BMG, then it came out on Lava Records and then the Bieler Records. It was the record that wouldn't go away.
What was it like investing that amount of energy into the same album for so many years?
Benji Webbe: In all honesty, if we wouldn't have invested that amount of time into that album, I don't think we'd still be around today. The word failure's pretty harsh but when things don't go the way you planned them to, sometimes another road is set out for you.
The final label you found yourself on, Lava, would you say that they put the right time and energy into it?
Benji Webbe: I think sometimes when a song goes to radio - especially in America, because I think radio has a lot to do in America more than most countries - and it hits, that's when the doors start flying open for a band. “Nobody,” the song from the album Babylon, that hit it, that connected with people in the States and we ended up going on, not many bands can say this, especially bands from my type of music, we ended up going on Conan O'Brien and we had Fuse. It was great for the band, you know. And recently the same song that hit at radio all 11 years ago has just raised its head on TikTok. And so a whole new generation of kids are dancing to Skindred.
True. People have, people have sent me this song and been like, been like, “Are you aware of this?” I'm like, yeah, it's Skindred!
Benji Webb: Yeah, for real. It's funny because now people are coming to the shows and they're doing the TikTok dance and stuff. It's like, okay, I get it. Everybody's welcome to The Skindred Party, bro. That's one thing I say constantly on stage.
I do think that there is no band that has ever sounded like Skindred. I think it's because you landed in the nu metal era, but your influences are reggae dub and bands like the Specials…
Benji Webbe: I always try to explain to people that I come from a sound system culture. Now if you know anything about sound system, it's about playing records basically to an audience. And I took the sound system culture and brought it to the metal world. Hence we got Skindred. And that's what we are. I look at it like we are a sound system that sometimes plays instrumentation. And I always say this to people, you can listen to the record all you want, but you ain't seen us till you've been to a show. And I'm not talking, watching us on the internet. I'm talking about coming to a show. That's where the magic is. That's when the rubber hits the road and the energy is created, that makes Skindread. Like I said already, you can dance to the record all you want, but it's a live show. That Skindred, they take you somewhere on that. We take you somewhere when you see us live in the flesh.
Yeah. I haven't been to any of your shows yet. Please come to America.
Benji Webbe: Bro, where you from?
I'm living in Los Angeles.
Benji Webbe: Okay, well do you know what you got a better chance of watching Skindred? Cause I got a feeling we're gonna be playing the Whiskey (a Go-Go) sometime in the next year.
Benji Webbe: So there you go. I mean listen, I love playing. You know, the records are the records, but the record is, it's something that you're stuck in time with. But the show, that's when a band develops. That's when you should develop.
I've seen your live performances and you do command these huge crowds.
Benji Webbe: We do play in front of huge crowds. We do pull a great audience. I mean sometimes we play and we are playing with bands who are, on paper, much bigger than us but we draw the same amount of people.
And you own it!
Benji Webbe: Yeah, of course, we take that. I'm playing for keeps bro. If you're gonna play marbles with me, bro, you better expect to lose them.
Okay. So Skindred, debatably, debatably nu metal... maybe not...
Benji Webbe: Well, I mean, like I said already, it's up to you to put us where you want to. I know where I put us.
What about [former label and tour-mates] Nonpoint. Is Nonpoint nu metal?
Benji Webbe: You know what makes us different from nu metal though? I think Skindred is a little different because we draw on reggae influences. Now you name a band that drew on that in nu metal. Is Slipknot nu metal?
Benji Webbe: There you go. Are Linkin Park nu metal?
Benji Webbe: There you go. Don't you think because we use the reggae influence we can't fall into the category?
So the thing about nu metal is that nu metal was this great and powerful attempt to push rock forward by responding to changing tides and pop and rap and hip hop music to integrate more influences. So I think that when you say ‘nu metal isn't this,’ it's the opposite sort of deal. It's like nu metal can be whatever you want it to be. And since you guys came from that drop tune power cord riffage and then you integrated it with your own sound, your own style nu metal can just become that. It's not a box. It's an open world.
Benji Webbe: All right. Okay. Well, you know what, we're nu metal.
Let’s go. I did it. I did it again.
Benji Webbe: Okay. You converted me. There you go. I said my prayers I’ve gotta write to Jesus tonight. Thank you. Like I said, you know, it's a box bro, gotta wear it.
No it’s not! It’s a porous set of borders. A constantly changing, ever shifting culture. It's never a box.
Benji Webbe: Really? I love that. What was it? Constantly changing, ever shifting culture.
Like that it's borders that are just constantly expanding. It's the opposite of box.
Benji Webbe: Yeah. Well, we are gonna continue to expand with the music that we make because I'm fortunate enough to be in a band that can move and do what we want. If you wanna draw on a hip hop influence, we do. If we want to draw on a reggae influence, we do. You know, I mean I think the gel that holds Skindred together is the vocalist.
Can you tell me a little bit about filling in for Jonathan Davis at Download ‘06?
Benji Webbe: Well that was fantastic. I could actually say I, I've always been a massive Korn fan and I've always been a massive Slipknot fan. I'm backstage talking to a friend of mine who happens to play bass in a band called Metallica. So we're having a chat and up comes the bass player from Korn and we sit there talking and he steps up and he goes, Hey Robert, man, you know, Jonathan's sick and we need some singers. And Robert taps me on the chest and goes, here he is bro. This is the man. And Fieldy, he goes, oh shit Ben, I've never seen you there. And I said, what's up Fieldy? And he said, Jonathan’s sick, there's something wrong with his blood. And you know, we're doing some songs, we're asking a bunch of singers to come on down. I was like, yeah, I'm down. So I had to go and learn the words to “ADIDAS.” He said originally you can do two songs, you can do “Twist” and “ADIDAS.”
You would do the greatest “Twist.”
Benji Webbe: Yeah, I can do it bro. But what happened was I had cold feet because I thought, imagine now if I go up there and I suck balls, oh God, that's the last thing I wanna do. So imagine if I said yes, I'm gonna do “Twist” and “ADIDAS” and I did “Twist” and it wasn't, it didn't go round. And I ended up having 80,000 fucking British metal fans throwing piss at me on stage. So I said, right, if you do one you can get off. So I chose to do “ADIDAS” and whoa, it was definitely one of them moments where you feel like your mother's gonna come and say, Hey, you got school, get up. You know, it was definitely and real weird feeling being up there singing for Korn and it's one of my proudest moments in rock and roll.
You had to pick the song with actual words?
Benji Webbe: Well, yeah, yeah, I would. I mean, I had to go sit down for a half hour and listen to it on my boombox. But I got it in the end, and if you watch it, it's pretty cool.
That's another song that's been blowing up on TikTok. Can we expect a “Twist” cover from Skindread eventually?
Benji Webbe: You know what, I'm gonna find the karaoke version. I'm gonna do it myself.
You’ve gotta do it.
Benji Webbe: I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna put it on my Instagram as well.
I might WhatsApp you a karaoke instrumental version of that later.
Benji Webbe: Please, if you can find an instrumental “Twist” bring it on bro, cuz I will do that.
Just wrapping this up, do you have any last thoughts to impart with our audience? I'm sure people are gonna be really thrilled. You know, the headlines tomorrow on LoudWire and Revolver and everything; ‘Benji Webbe confirms the nu metal allegations.’ It's gonna be like 2004 all over again. It's gonna suck.
Benji Webbe: Brilliant. I love it. I'm ready to go, bro. All I'd say is this, tell Elias for me, if you speak to Elias from Nonpoint, tell him that their new song is killer and I'm digging it big time. What that means to him, I don't know, but I'm loving it. It's very, very cool. So when you speak to Elias, say Benji said two thumbs up on the new tune.
I absolutely will. Benji Webbe, it's been an honor and a pleasure. Let's do this again sometime.
Benji Webbe: I wanna thank you very much for being interested. I hope you're digging the new album and I hope that we get to your shores to show you what a motherfucking monster band we are live, and if you can find an MP3 of the karaoke version of “Twist” please send it to me. Cause I would jump on that.
It's coming to you soon. All right, Benji Webbe, thank you so much and you have a brilliant rest of your day.
Benji Webbe: Thank you sir. Enjoy. Thank you. Peace.