Skin, one of the few black women ever to front a successful rock band, is back – but the shaven head and politics are gone. The former Skunk Anansie vocalist uses her solo record, Fleshwounds, to record a “rebirth” in her life, heralding a time when she doesn’t feel the constant need to trailblaze.
Now a thirtysomething and solo, how has her world view changed since Skunk’s heady Britpop days? musicOMH caught up with her at her flat for a sup or two of peppermint tea…
Since the band’s demise in 2001, the slender, striking Skin has decided to go it alone. Writing her own album, Fleshwounds, has created a bold shift since her Skunk days.
“In 2001 everything changed in my life. I feel like I’ve had a bit of a rebirth and feel ecstatic with inspiration,” explains the musician, now sporting a smart, softer flick of hair after 15 years of shaving it smooth.
Skunk Anansie songs like Little Baby Swastika and Intellectualise My Blackness saw Skin write about racism and prejudice a topic which has melted away on her solo debut.
“There’s a running theme of intimacy. The songs were written close to the split-up of the band and the end of a relationship. It was different for people to see me in this way open, exposed and intimate,” she continues.
“Pop culture is throwaway, but indie and rock bands deliver the goods time and again.” – Skin
“If I’d written a really good political song, it would have made it onto the album. In Skunk Anansie I was slagged off for being political, now it’ll be for not being political enough!” adds Skin, sipping gently on a mug of peppermint tea.
The singer is the first to admit that a black woman fronting a rock band was unusual, while as an “indie” solo artist she still stands out from the crowd.
“I can’t think of any black women in rock music, so I’m in the space where I was before. I think that’s just because they don’t get signed. I see myself on television and think, god, that’s different,” she explains. The 32-year-old singer is undaunted by taking the plunge as a solo performer, and feels that two years away from the limelight has allowed her to produce her best work yet.
“The new material does have a pop sensibility but is quite leftfield. I’d like people to say ‘aren’t those lyrics fantastic?’ and for the music to touch them. I feel this is a quality piece of work.” She enjoyed a string of chart hits with Skunk Anansie, bemoans the route that pop music has taken since the advent of talent show music stars.
“Pop culture is throwaway, but indie and rock bands deliver the goods time and again. The music in pop is shit and what you get out of it is more shallow. They do one album and are then presenting a TV show,” says Skin.
Under a rare London blue sky, this newly solo artist adds that it is a “privilege” to make music full-time and declares that she intends to stay there. As an artist who has changed tack since the heady days of Skunk Anansie, Skin now skilfully occupies an empty musical space crying out to be filled, with the promise of renewed success.
Skin’s Fleshwounds is out now through EMI.