The South African Rock Digest interviews Skunk Anansie
27 April 2000.
by Farell Russak
Skunk Anansie are a markedly down-to-earth and friendly band. No posing or cooler-than-thou attitude. I chatted to them at their Cape Town hotel about their plans for the future and their views on Web piracy.
South African Rock Digest: How have the (South African) gigs been going?
Ace: The Durban gig has been changed. It's going to be Port Elizabeth instead. Jo'burg last night was absolutely brilliant. We had six thousand people. Everyone went really, really mad. It was amazing, we went off and people went crazy for us to come back for an encore.
Skin: There was a boy crowd-surfing when there was no music! When I asked him why he was surfing without music, the crowd dropped him!
Digest: What direction will you take with the next album?
Cass: The album is still in the chrysalis stage. It won't be released until next year. When we finish gigging in South Africa, we'll be going back and working on it properly.. We've just started writing for it. For this album we're going to work in a different way. We're looking at working in an unusual way for ourselves. So, we're looking at a rebirth here.
Skin: We're experimenting. We're doing things a bit differently. We definitely have to find a different kind of approach. We have a winning sound which works and we want to add a new contemporary vibe. The only way to do it is to completely experiment. We'll also individually experiment and then bring all these new individual things into the pot. I think it will work really well.
Digest: Would you think of releasing a b-sides or live album?
Ace: Some releases of "Post-Orgasmic" and "Stoosh" had remix albums as well. So we don't need to release a b-sides album.
Skin: I'd like something different, unique. Most live albums are crap, although some sound amazing
Cass: Bob Marley, "Live at the Lyceum".
Yeah, the Who, U2. If you're lucky enough to capture the right gig, that's different. At some stage we have to do a greatest hits thing as well. Maybe we'll intermingle different ideas. We don't want the bog standard b-sides album, the bog standard live album.
Digest: What are your views on bootlegs and MP3 piracy?
Cass: We've seen the South African bootlegs. Its part of the nature of the business we're in.
Skin: Bootlegs don't bother me. I do care about the Internet. Bootlegs are bad quality, but on the Internet you could get the perfect album for free.
Cass: I'm not happy about Internet copies obviously 'cos I'm a musician and I'm an artist and
we're victims of this, but at the same time I find it really exciting that there's this anarchy going on
and they just want everything for free! I love that. I do love that. I find that exciting. That's kind of a revolution! Che Guevara of the Internet!
Skin: We're signed to a record label, so its crap for us, but the days of record labels are nearing an end. The artist gets ripped off on record deals. This will revolutionise music because the artists can do it all themselves. We create music. Just because we've got to put it out through someone else, we get ripped off. It doesn't have to be that way anymore.
Digest: What do you think of Metallica's and Dr Dre's lawsuits against Napster, the software which allows people to store MP3's on the Net for copying by others? There's been some pretty crude and unthinking reactions. For example, some fans are saying that Metallica are showing that they're on the side of money, not art.
Skin: That's a very simplistic reaction. I'm 32 years old. Before we got signed, there were years and years of work and sacrifice to get where we are now. No-one in this world wants to do a job and not actually be able to earn a living from it. I get a lot of mental and emotional pleasure out of doing gigs, but I also get financial rewards. If you put a lot of work in you should get something back. So I don't agree that all music should be free.
Cass: If one thing is free, then everything should be free. Where do these companies offering free music get their money from? They're looking to make money from ads on their website. That's where its immoral.
Skin: The people who actually create it are the people who always get the shit. The record companies can't do anything without artists and creative people. Its the artist that starts the whole thing off.
Then there are other people who have the business know how which the artist doesn't have. So its a working team. But you get to the point where the business people don't want to give the artist anything, which is actually where we are with record companies. The companies take off for this and this and this. (Manufacturing, marketing, distribution and so on.) It leaves the artist with a small share. Well, the Internet's going to blow all that away. You won't have to do this and this and this. People will just download it off the Internet and the artist will get paid. The record companies need to completely redefine how they're going to sell music. The amount of money needed to market it is going to get cut. Where's that money going to go? Will the record companies keep it? No! Some of it should to go to the people creating it. That share should be much more.
Ace: Records should be cheaper.
Cass: The prices are unreasonable.
Ace: It would be a shame if if there was a revolution and everyone downloaded the first album by a brand new band that was really hot and really brilliant. A new band needs that money to set themselves up and keep them going. Downloading would kill them.
Skin: For the first time in a long time, its not controlled by the record companies. All this experimentation is just done by people in their bedrooms on the Internet. Everyone can have a go. That's where we're going to start seeing some really interesting ideas.
Digest: You're a band who contribute a lot to your own website. What do you want to do in the future in this medium.
Skin: When we first got into it, I knew nothing. I didn't have a computer and now I keep thinking ours could be so much better because you keep having ideas. You're limited only by your imagination.
Take CD's for another example. Our CD is interactive, we've added to it, but there are still albums coming out which have nothing extra on them.
Most bands have a website, but most bands don't have a good website. A lot of websites are just information while ours is interactive. Ours is good. Its one of the best British websites. I think we can still do so much better. One of the things we'd like to do is change the whole look of it.
I log a lot on to other people's websites. Rage against the Machine, Korn, Wu Tang. Great websites. We want ours to up there with the best of them.
Digest: This year you've already been to Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. What do you think of such a frenetic schedule?
Skin: Its sounds frenetic, but its been chill this year in comparison to recent years. We're playing fewer gigs because the venues are bigger.
Digest: What's the country where you're most popular?
All at once: Italy!
Cass: Italy's very good for us. So is Germany and Portugal.
Ace: In Italy, we're at the level of "The mayor wants to meet you." In the street everyone knows who you are.
Digest: You've toured the States seven times and built a following. Do you think you'll be able to break through to wider success there?
Cass: I think we'll eventually break through in the States, but you have to pay your dues and do your time. I believe the way to break through anywhere - apart from being a good band and having good songs - is determination and being constant. Eventually the doors open.
Skin: Timing helps. Its like a jigsaw puzzle. Trying to get everything in the right place at the right time
is a real skill.
Cass: You got to keep working at it.
Skin: The thing about Skunk Anansie is that we're not prepared to give up Europe to spend two years in the States. Also, its a country I find mentally draining. Physically its hard work, but mentally I find it one of the most draining countries to tour because its so massive and there's so much to do.
Digest: Its your third time in South Africa. Have you seen the country from a tourist point of view?
Ace : The first time we came to South Africa, our promoter, Roddy (Quinn of Real Concerts) spread out the gigs so that we would have time to be tourists. So we did a safari and boat trips as well as the bars and parties. We're tourists at the same time as touring. I really want to go up on Table Mountain again. We went there during the first tour. Its such a great vibe. Its so peaceful.
Digest: Are there other countries you'd still like to tour?
Ace : India! If we want to go to a country, we'll ask if we can gig there. Its always exciting to go to a new place.
Cass: South America. We haven't played there live at all. They have great festivals in South America, but we haven't been to one yet. So that will be on our agenda for 2001.
Skunk Anansie on the Net:
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