Interview with Dan Pugsley of Skindred


SkindredBassist / programmer Dan Pugsley took a half-hour out from preparing for their imminent UK tour to speak to Ian Savage… Skindred’s new album is released on January 27th, and is available for pre-order through all major channels.

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Ian: Hey Dan, good to speak to you! So, the tour kicks off tomorrow…

Dan: Yeah, the last week’s been pretty busy – we just did some press down in London today and we’re currently in a tour bus, in a traffic jam, coming out of London; eventually we’ll get to Norwich and kick off the whole thing!

I: Have people been getting in shape for the tour or is that not the Skindred way? 

D: We try! Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally…the emotion’s the important bit…

I: It looks like a pretty punishing schedule over the next couple of months?

D: Yeah, I try not to publicly say that because it’s advertising that I’m not going be in my house for x-amount of time, but yeah – I haven’t got a lot of time at home over the next couple of months! We’ve got this tour, then Europe, then out to Australia, then back for a little bit, then Eastern Europe, back, out to Japan, then America, then…I dunno *laughs*

I: The tour does look slightly odd, it’s Europe, Australia, and then Newport…

D: Yep! I forgot about that show actually – we really wanted to do something for Wales, organise something special, because everybody’s always going “you haven’t got Wales on the tour, you’re not doing Wales” and we’ve planned on doing this thing FOREVER, for the people who are always like “Why aren’t you playing your hometown?” – although Benji’s the only person who’s actually Welsh! We all lived in Newport, I grew up in Southampton, but I moved to Wales when I was 18….um, but I no longer inhabit Wales…

I: Kill The Power’s not out for another week; how much of the live set is from the new album, bearing in mind a lot of people won’t have heard it?

D: It’s all a bit nerve-wracking, deciding what you’re going to do, but we are going to include a handful – since last year we’ve been playing the title track [live], since last summer, and that’s been going down really well. Live, I think it’s pretty instant, and the song ‘Ninja’ went up online just as a taster kind of thing, and people know that, and we’re playing maybe two or three other ones?

I think the songs that we’re playing, people will dig them – it’s not necessarily an issue that people don’t know them. They’re quite accessible…

I: I did peg a couple of them as potential hit singles, ‘Saturday’ and ‘We Live’…

D: Well I hope they are! We’re playing those live…

I: Was it an actual decision to hit the road before the album came out, or was it record company politics, or…

D: It WAS a decision; the thing is, it’s good to be on the road while the record is out, because you punt sales…that’s the thinking! As an artist, it is a bit nerve-wracking to be out on the road when people don’t actually know the new songs, but historically we’ve got enough to us that we can go out and people will want to come and see us anyway, and it’s in their heads that the record’s coming out because they’ve just seen us, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

We kind of always end up doing this, you know, and I love the feeling of…you play the first couple of shows, and you watch how people react to songs, and then the next phase of shows – it’s cool to watch that!

I: There’s only been a couple of songs released as teasers – how long have you been sitting on the album?

D: Um…we finished recording in April last year – a long time! Originally we were talking about releasing it in September, but the label, as well…they felt there was too much competition, with other albums and stuff coming out, so we figured this was a better time for the record. Which was cool, because we didn’t want to rush it – but as far as songs go, I’m already writing new stuff!

I: The video for ‘Kill The Power’ is pretty awesome, where did you shoot that?

D: That was shot in Mumbai, in India, in an area called Juhu – we were playing a festival in India, in a place called Pune, and the week before we’d played some shows in Japan, so we were just like…we could come home for half-a-day, or just stay in the East and fly to India, or Hong Kong, or Thailand, and just do something in between. Budget-wise, we figured it made sense to go to India, to Mumbai, and time was pushing on, we needed some video, and ideally we wanted to do it before we left!

Then the idea came up that we could maybe in that time do it with a director in India, so the label kind of put the word out, and found these guys – and it worked out really cool, we had this location scout who’d worked on Slumdog Millionaire, and it was really exciting, it was the most fun that I’ve had making a video…

I: It does look like you guys are having a lot of fun in that video! 

D: Yeah but it got really hairy – I mean, you had to pay off the gangs, pay off the police – it was pretty crazy, but the end result we’re really happy with! Because, like; this album’s kind of a fresh beginning for us, imagery-wise. I wanted to take a step away from the previous style of videos, which were kind of green-screen, and…y’know?

I: On Union Black apparently Skindred were touting for collaborations, some of which came off – are there any on Kill The Power?

D: Okay – do you know about Arthur Brown? He’s on Ninja, as the God of Hellfire – you know, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown? He does the spiel at the beginning of Ninja, and we got to work with a vocalist called Jenna G, who’s more known for the current drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep type stuff; we were talking about getting a female vocalist on the record, so we sort of resampled the title track, the verse, and she sang that, and did a song on the record called Open Eyed.

She’s the featured vocalist on that, and she’s just incredible – because we’ve kind of had a foot in that world forever…and…which version of the record have you heard, is there a song called ‘Reeducation’ on it?

I: There isn’t! 

D: Okay, there’s a song that we wrote a long time ago, and re-recorded, with the singer from a Japanese band called SiM, and that’s pretty cool…

I: Didn’t you tour with those guys?

D: Yeah, we played a couple of shows with them in Japan, but we’re about to do a tour with them as well, in April.

I: Which leads perfectly onto my next question: you’re taking SOiL out on the road this week, do you guys have history with them?

D: *laughs* Oh, yeah! It’s funny because those guys just got to the bus today, we’re sharing – we’ve known them for years! When Babylon came out, one of our first tours was with Adema and SOiL, so yeah, we’ve known those guys for a long time.

I: And that would have been before Ryan left, the original lineup of SOiL [who are on the current Skindred tour]…

D: Yeah, the original!

I: Cool! Musically there’s a lot of layers to Kill The Power, are you having to compromise at all to play it live?

D: No – well, if you’ve seen us in the last few years we have another person on stage, Dan – another Dan! – who’s triggering samples and doing all that stuff, so we figured that, rather than…you know, when you see bands play to tape? If there’s a breakbeat or a sample or something that you’re hearing, and you’re thinking “where’s that coming from?”, it’s Dan doing it, rather than how you see some bands and you’re like “where is that ACTUALLY coming from?”…we’re really playing our instruments, we just have this other guy onstage.

I: So no click track?

D: We DO use a click, but just so that when he triggers the samples they’re in-time; our drummer has a click, but…this is a boring, nerdy thing that we use, we use a program called Ableton Live, so that we can jam stuff, so that it can move. Because when we first started using this stuff, with the synths and loops live, we were trying to figure out how to do it, and I was like “why don’t we do it with an iPod?”.

So originally, we had this iPod where the click was panned one side, and the audio was panned the other, and our drummer would just press play; and we’d hope that we were all in-time with the click! And sometimes we were, and sometimes we weren’t – but now, it’s a bit more organic, because part of the nature of our live show is that Benj goes off on one, and we can kind of do that without compromising those parts.

I: So we’re going to be hearing the new songs pretty much as they are on the record?

D: Pretty much! I mean, there will be differences, but for the most part it’s the most honest representation of those songs that we can do without, you, know, just playing the CD!

I: Any venues or cities that you’re particularly looking forward to in the next week or two?

D: I’m just really excited to play again, it’s been a long time since we’ve properly toured in the UK, so the whole thing’s really exciting.

I: Do Skindred have any tour rituals, or has anyone got any habits that make the road that little bit better or worse?

D: I can’t talk about that, because I want my band to stay together *laughs* We’re all different people, we’ve all got our own vibes, it’s what makes us I guess!

I: Last question – if you had to explain it to a newcomer to Skindred, what’s the ‘Newport Helicopter’?

D: Um…have you never seen it? Okay – it is a spectacle that originated from, I think, Download 2011, because – you know, we’re trying to up the ante live, but we don’t want to be those guys who are jumping off shit and chopping people’s heads off, we’ve kind of got our own thing. And Benj had this idea, pretty low-key, was just like “Well, I’ve got this idea: I’m going to get people to take their tops off and swing them around their heads” – and we were like “Cool!” *laughs*

And then it’s just turned into something else since then, honestly – I’ve seen footage of it from bands playing Download that year, and it wasn’t even us playing! They’ve just shown footage of that to make it look like people were going absolutely mad…

I: We have that to look forward to from tomorrow! Thanks for taking time to speak to us Dan…

D: Wicked – no worries, thanks a lot!

Skindred kick off their 11-date UK tour in Norwich (22nd January). It includes Nottingham Fri 24th and Wolverhampton Sat 25th.

Read our review of Skindred’s latest album, Kill The Power.