Without doubt one of the most incendiary bands on the planet, Skunk Anasie have been tearing down barriers and tearing things up since they first formed in 1994. With their unique mix of punk, metal, soul, reggae, hip-hop and world music the band are impossible to pigeonhole and their live shows have become legendary, with a headline slot at Glastonbury in 1999 rated as one of the finest in the festival’s long history.
Not once has there been one hint of compromise in what they do and from the first two singles, ‘Little Baby Swastikkka’ and ‘Selling Jesus’, onwards they’ve never done anything they haven’t wanted to, their passion burning as brightly as those fellow rock ‘n’ roll rebels Rage Against The Machine. Skunk Anansie have always blended their global political integrity with other moments so incredibly personal and intimate that directly speak to the soul as much as to the intellect.
After conquering the planet, the band took a seven–year hiatus, coming back to great acclaim in 2009, refreshed and hungry with a renewed passion, fired up and ready to push themselves harder than ever before. Whilst some musicians have been sidelined due to the pandemic, guitarist Ace is as busy as ever and fills us in on what he’s been up to.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
I’m fine thank you very much.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
I’ve been very busy.
I’m a director at the Academy of contemporary music for Birmingham Guildford and London which has 2 ½ thousand students and 400 staff. So, you can imagine that it’s a busy time making the transition to online learning and now getting ready to return to campus when is the restrictions are lifted.
As in music I’ve been contributing to collaborations such as PRS guitars, Skunk Anansie and festivals. I’ve also done zoom online interviews and industry panels, Instagram lives, set up new recording areas in my house. New online T-shirts store for vintage designs for a Skunk Anansie. Musical admin.
Practicing playing a seven-string guitar. Practicing my blues licks. Homeschooling with the children. Making podcasts. Recording various parts for stems for collaborations. I’ve also been doing the garden fixing the house and taking the kids to the park.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJXjb2SbbSQ&w=560&h=315]
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
I’ve not really been doing any online shows to be honest. I’m not really interested in doing that myself. I’d rather just wait until we get to the time that we can go and do them properly live again.
I’m in no big rush to get online and do online shows. I’ve not seen anything online that I think is that great anyway and there is an awful lot of substandard stuff out there constantly pumped out. I’m okay with the break to be honest from it, as I’ve been out there playing for the last 25 years myself.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
Not really. I’ve always use computer home set ups for doing bits and pieces it’s in writing and maybe adding stuff to demos. Have used the online platform really since it started for what it’s really needed for.
I have found over the years the best way in Skunk Anansie to write material is actually be together for the energy, the vibe and exchange in that collaboration way. We’ll just wait until the time is right until we can sit and write together in a room again. It’s not all about a rush and a race for us to create the best music.
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Yes, we are in touch all the time via email WhatsApp, text….
What plans have you had to change this year?
We had to cancel our live dates in venues in June plus the Glastonbury festival appearance and the meltdown festival. But we will reschedule those for next year and hopefully our tour in November will still go ahead.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLs-JP5FGAg&w=560&h=315]
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100-seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
Whatever floats your boat really. If you want to do then great and if you want to go to them great. it’s not really my thing to be honest. I don’t really know enough about them to really be able to comment properly but if it helps musicians to still get out there and play and also make money and survive it’s all a good thing.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
I think not that much really. The online infrastructure has been there for years anyway, it just means that maybe it gets used a bit more and a bit more efficiently for people to collaborate and share, but nothing is never really going to replace the experience of going to a live show and standing in a crowd and exchanging that energy and excitement with the band playing.
So, after this lockdown and social distancing is over, we should see healthy return back to the human element of music again. Wouldn’t it be dull if it was just all computers and online, I don’t really think that’s what music is about for me.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BC4FN4uubYQ&w=560&h=315]
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
The same plans as I had before it happened. European touring, a new set of tracks to be released and recorded. Live appearances here and there. Lots of college work to set up efficient blended learning and good music education.
How can people support you during this time?
Having faith that we will return and rock the masses with Skunk Anansie. The same things as before as to listening to our music and enjoying it and just checking out our fun stuff we have on social media. Maybe buying one of our new T-shirt range… lol.
Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM