The Skints

By paul

ON THIS PARTICULAR Monday evening Punktastic isn’t entirely sure whether to be fixated or horrified by the tattoo-mugged man eating the face off his underwear exposed girlfriend in the corner of Camden boozer, The World’s End. The pièce de résistance though is the bargirl awkwardly wiping the table around the randy couple.

Fear not, your favourite punk webzine hasn’t veered off into the realms of voyeurism or sexual deviancy; merely killing time before meeting Josh Waters Rudge, guitarist and vocalist of East London reggae-punk crew, The Skints. In just a few days the quartet will release debut album, ‘Live. Breathe. Build. Believe.’ and we’re hoping to get the skinny.

The World’s End seems just about the perfect place to start the evening. This year The Skints have graced the Underworld venue below a whole heap of times, playing with, amongst others, The Slackers, The Aggrolites, and Chris Murray. To say the band is almost part of the fixtures isn’t an exaggeration. The nods Waters Rudge receives as he arrives further solidify that claim. The Skints are known in these parts, but it wasn’t always that way.

“We played so many gigs to fucking nobody,” Waters Rudge recalls. “We played for nothing, playing with no one. You get bands these days that have never played a gig before and they’re supporting insert big name band here on a whole tour. We played around London for free, on the tube for fucking ages. Nobody gave us any respect until The King Blues took us out on tour. Now, this past year touring has been so cool.”

Having started out in 2004/05 as a conduit for Waters Rudge’s love of ‘Skatalites-esque’ trad-ska songs, The Skints line-up was completed in May 2007. Joining the guitarist is Jamie Kyriakides (drums), Jon Doyle (bass) and Marcia Richards (sax/flute/melodica/ keys/every instrument under the sun). The foursome met at high school and started out playing shows in the capital before releasing a debut E.P. on Do The Dog Records, and embarking on a first tour in the summer of 2008.

PT: What’re the principles behind the band? Is there some kind of mission statement?

JWR: An agenda as such, there’s never been one. I’m not going to lie, I’d very much love to be doing this as what pays the bills and get as big as we can possibly get. I’m not going to turn around and say we’re too punk to wanna play Wembley Arena one day. That’d be amazing, but as far as calculating steps towards that goes I think it’s quite a hard/impossible thing to do. Anything could happen to this band in the next 24 hours let alone the next five years. We’re taking every single show, every day as it comes.

PT: Who are the bands that have influenced The Skints?

JWR: We all listen to a very diverse range of music. The Skints is pretty much a mash-up of a load of things. Everything from Max Romeo, Bob Marley, Linval Thompson, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby, and loads of old roots and dub, to things like Bad Brains and the UK punk from when we were first getting into this stuff: Farse, Capdown, King Prawn. We’re constantly being influenced by stuff: King Blues, Sonic Boom Six, stuff like that. But primarily, various sound systems and reggae artists from the 60’s to now.

PT: Being a reggae band, what’s it like playing on punk bills?

JWR: It’s cool, man. We think of ourselves as a punk rock band that plays reggae, but I wouldn’t want to play on just a reggae-punk bill. That’d be boring. The shows I love most are when it’s us, a hardcore band, a folk band, a ska band, and an anarcho-punk band. Y’know, mash it up man.

PT: Why don’t more promoters do mixed-bag bills?

JWR: In London we’re really fortunate to have access to loads of different shows anytime we want. But say there’re one or two punk promoters in an area; I think they’re kinda scared that specific kinds of kids won’t come out for this, that and the other reason. There’ll be a ska night, a hardcore night, an acoustic night, and all of them things have got to be set in what are now, tiny, tiny sub genres. But if you think about it, they all come under the punk rock umbrella, which isn’t really a sound it’s more a movement, an attitude. I really don’t see the problem, but I think when you put money into it, people get scared.

INADVERTANTLY IT appears that Punktastic and The Skints are on a mini pub-crawl. Sitting in a beer garden just down the road, the Camden characters appear to be out in force. A woman adorned in a flannel dressing gown chats with a man in a bowler hat and a lady showing off more than a glimpse of her garter [honestly, we’re not pervs]. There’s also a kind soul smashing dozens of bottles into a bin which is a voice recorder’s dream. Distractions aside, Punktastic wants to get down to the nitty-gritty.

PT: So the new album, ‘Live. Breathe. Build. Believe’. When, where and with who was it recorded?

JWR: The album was recorded in late June with Pete Miles, who is a wizard in appearance and skill. It was our first time recording everything all in the same place at once. We recorded it in five days and went down a month later to spend a day mixing it. It was really cool to have the chance to sit on it. We did a whole UK tour in between and came back with fresh ears. All in all it was done in six days.

PT: Was that enough time?

JWR: It’s our first album so we knew it was going to be rough, we knew it was going to be raw. In those six days we worked our fingers to the bone. I’d like to think there wasn’t a minute wasted. There’s a sense of urgency without it feeling rushed. I think that was really important. We all knew the time constraints. We all knew what we had to do within that time, and I think we all stepped up to the challenge.

PT: Tell us about the title.

JWR: It’s actually taken from a lyric in a song called ‘Ya Know’. From day one, as a band we just went out and fucking played. It was never about let’s get the right clothes, or let’s hook this up. Live, breathe, build, believe is what we do. This band is our lives. We’ve built it up and we believe in it. Every single day we live and breathe it. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

PT: From the sneak peaks and the live performances, the new songs sound more focused on the traditional reggae aspect. Is that fair to say?

JWR: It is and it isn’t. It’s not like we sat down and said let’s be a reggae band and do this, this and this. We just fucking love that kind of music. There might be certain people who say, ‘”What do these four kids from London, England know about playing reggae?” but the fact is we grew up listening to reggae. The area where we’re from, there’s always someone blasting out ragga from a boy-racer car. We’re all involved in a jungle and dub collective called the Shedcore Crew. Literally it’s the music we love. We’re not trying to be the next Studio One. We’re not trying to be the next Trojan. We’re just being The Skints and we’ve taken music from Jamaica that’s over 40 years old and basically mashed it up into what we’re about and where we come from.

PT: You were very young when you last recorded. Has the band matured, and is this, for lack of a better term, a more ‘grown-up’ record?

JWR: I think it doesn’t matter how old you are, as a band the more songs you write, the better they get and the more you find your sound. When we did that E.P. it was tickling what was to come. I think after a year of touring and a year and a half of writing we fit our clothes better. Lyrically and musically it shows.

PT: You’ve included ‘Murderer’ and ‘Sociopath’, two songs from your previous release, on this album. What’s the thinking behind this?

JWR: Both have been musically updated, one lyrically also. They fit the album nicely. The E.P. is a collection of six individual songs. The album flows from start to finish. It’s musically linked the whole way. We wrote about 15/16 songs and then we went that’s shit, that’s shit, and we condensed it down to 10 songs that we thought flowed together well. ‘Murderer’ and ‘Sociopath’ were amongst those songs.

PT: The music industry seems obsessed with songs leaking. You’ve been playing a fair whack of these songs live. Was there any fear airing these songs early?

JWR: At the end of the day we do this for ourselves. Any band that tells you they’re not doing it for themselves is lying. We really appreciate that people love our band. We’ve got a lot of respect for people who like our band, but at the end of the day we’re trying to have as much fun out of this as possible. Some of the old stuff was feeling a bit stale and dated. We want to have fun playing a gig and we enjoy playing the new stuff live. We’re now a week to the day until our album’s released and it hasn’t leaked yet. We’ve done well keeping it under wraps. I don’t think there’s any harm in playing these songs live because: (a) people that come and see us on a regular basis are now very familiar with those songs, and (b) we enjoy playing them.

PT: The album is coming out on Sonic Boom Six’s label, Rebel Alliance Recordings. How did that come about?

JWR: We’d known Sonic Boom Six for a while through doing some supports with them. We liked them and they liked us. We played Random Hand’s album launch show in Leeds in February and after our set Barney asked if we were doing an album and was there any chance they could put it out? I semi choked on my beer at that point, the fact that Sonic Boom Six was asking if they could put our record out. It’s working out really well. We knew this wasn’t the sort of deal where you sign your life away and sit back and wait for everything to come to you. Both the label and the band are working very hard on this. That’s how it should be.

PT: Some bands come out of the studio with fresh ideas, ready for another album. Has this happened with The Skints?

JWR: I definitely think we have some fresh ideas, but no. The album ain’t even out yet. We don’t want to start rushing ahead. Quality control I think is the word.

PT: Nobody’s in need of a side project?

JWR: Well, Marcia’s sort of doing her jungle thing, but not really. There might be a couple of collaborations, but we’re not thinking of album number two yet.

PT: Marcia’s has a Chiptune track called ‘Welcome to The Skints World’. When is Chiptune going to make it into The Skints sound?

JWR: Well, hmm, no comment [laughs]. We’ll see how that goes.

PT: Why should people check out the album?

JWR: Because it’ll remind you that real music can come from the heart and the head and not just be about fame and cash. I think regardless of what type of music you’re into, check it out. I’m not going to lie and say it spans the genres, it doesn’t…

PT: No death-metal?

JWR: [laughs] No, unfortunately not. But I think whether you’re a natty dread or a punk kid or whatever you like, there’ll hopefully be something that you can relate to. You pour so much into an album. You pour your life into it. You’re writing down your life, and making this music to put it into. We’re really proud of the sound, definitely. I think we’re as proud of this record as can be.

PT: What’s next for The Skints?

JWR: The album comes out November 9. That Thursday we start a 23 date UK tour going everywhere, getting the name about, getting the record about. We finish at City Invasion in London on December 6. Then we’ll be pushing the album as the best Christmas present you’ll ever give or receive. Next year we’re looking at touring. Hopefully looking at Europe and things like that. Can’t really concrete any specific dates, but know that we’ll be coming harder than ever before. January to the next January, mate. It’s gonna be hard.

PT: Finally, is ska really dead?

JWR: Ska is fucking dead. Long live ska!

Words: Alex Hambleton

‘Live. Breathe. Build. Believe.’ is released on 9 November 2009 through Rebel Alliance. The Skints’ first ever headline tour kicks off on 12 November and runs through to 6 December.

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