The Skints ADD

Interview with Joshua Waters Rudge - The Skints

03/03/2015 by Gardy Stein

Interview with Joshua Waters Rudge - The Skints

Imagine you have your own radio station. How would you call it? Which music would you play? What kind of shows would you feature? For most of us, such thoughts are idle dreaming. For The Skints, these dreams became a reality, at least partially. In their latest release FM, they pitch their aerial and broadcast on frequency 103.Skints live and direct from London. Reggaeville tuned in to their station and spoke to Joshua Waters Rudge, ¼ of the successful band from the English capital:

Are you excited about the release?
Yes, very very excited. We can't wait for people to hear what we've been up to, because it feels like it's been quite a long time making a record, so we are just very very ready for people to hear it. It's in stores March 9th.

I read that for the last album you did a successful crowd-funding campaign. How did you finance this one and do you have any presales already?
This one we paid for ourselves and we licensed it for the label Easy Star Records in New York. We have pre-orders running, but we don't need it to make the record. The record's been already made this time.

Tell us a bit about the concept of the CD. I love it, it's like you made up your own radio station... how did you come up with this idea?
Well, basically, radio in general and especially the pirate radio scene in London is still like one of the few places that you can actually hear some good Reggae music happening. Obviously, none of us has ever worked at a pirate radio station or been involved at all, but we've grown up listening to different stations in the car or on the radio at home. Where we rehearse is actually next door to a station as well. So, it's been years of this influence coming... There is also a very famous rock band called Queens of the Stone Age. I don't know if you know them, they had an album called Songs For The Deaf where the concept was that it was a car journey in California and you could hear all the Mexican and Spanish radio stations. Jamie, who plays drums and sings, thought that would be a cool idea to have a record like that. And also the movie Do The Right Thing, a Spike Lee movie, that was a big influence on this album as well. It's set on the hottest day in New York and there is this radio guy who is commenting on what's happening in the movie... So it's a mix of London Reggae radio stations, Spike Lee and Queens of the Stone Age (laughs).

Wonderful. The little skits in between are hilarious. Did everybody contribute to these or how did you make them up?
We kind of had the idea of what the little story was gonna be, so we wrote a really rough script and gave it to the guys. And obviously, it was just off the dome for them. For example Rival, who is an MC in one of the songs, he used to be involved in a lot of radio stuff when he was a DJ anyway, so for him the script came very naturally. And it wasn't like a really strict script or plan, it was just kind of: "Here is the idea, just press record and see what happens!".

Nice. And is there a real Dr. Ranking Pegasus or a Mr. Versatile?
Mr. Versatile was actually kind of a nickname that Tippa Irie used to have for his work, so we decided to call him that as his DJ name. Dr. Ranking Pegasus now... we thought if Horseman was going to be like a radio phone-in problem doctor then it should be that. But I'd like to hear an album of Dr. Ranking Pegasus actually (laughs).

Speaking of, how did the collaboration with Tippa Irie, Horseman and Rival come about?
Well, Horseman we've known for a few years now, working with Prince Fatty. We've known them since 2011 and Horseman played percussions on our last album. As many people know pretty well, Horseman is the baddest drummer in England and possibly the world. So, we've known him from the studio. And with Tippa, we went to Thailand. Us, Holly Cook, Horseman, Tippa Irie, Prince Fatty and Earl 16, we went there for ten days. We met Tippa a couple of years ago on festivals, but we became friends over this time in Thailand and said we should do some music together and stuff... so, yeah, it came about very naturally. And Rival, where we rehearse is a Studio really close, and one day we were just unloading the gear from our van and bumped into each other and said "What's up?" He's from the same area as us, so… all just kind of made sense!

And the songs, did you write them especially for the album after the concept came up?
We had a couple of songs but mostly we wrote the album in the studio, which is something we never really had the time to do before. We had the ideas for some choruses or a theme how the song should be, but really everything came together in the studio sessions, which was a really exciting new fresh way for us to work, we really really enjoyed it. It was definitely the most enjoyable recording experience for The Skints so far.

It sounds like you had a lot of fun recording, I can hear it in the vibes of the songs. Every song has a special something. Do you have a favourite?
I go through different cycles of favourites! But the album isn't out yet, so I don't want to say "This one is my favourite." and then everybody is gonna listen to that one (laughs).

You say about yourself that you are an East London Reggae Band. For someone like me not acquainted with the local scene, is there a West London Reggae too?
Actually, the Reggae scene in London is so small nowadays... When I say the small I mean for live bands. As far as the London Reggae culture and history goes, it's very rich. Like, for sound systems and DJs and MCs, there is a huge movement for that. Not necessarily the mainstream, but it's there. And people from London think about where they are from in terms of North, South, West and East, but there is no friction. We're from the outer far East part of London, that kind of typed on to us. We're not even strictly a Reggae Band either. We just kind of do our thing, but of course where we come from has influenced the sound or the kind of Reggae that we play. I think if we were from anywhere else in the UK, let alone anywhere else in the world, it would sound quite different.

In This Town you sing that you've been born and raised in London. Is that true for all of you?
Yeah everyone was born and has lived here. Marcia has recently moved down to Brighton on the south coast which is really nice, that's where Prince Fatty is and where we record as well. But you can get a train from Brighton to London in like 50 minutes... it's not really a huge distance.

You also have a tour coming up, right? Do you take the whole of Europe?
We start in France actually, then Belgium, we do our German tour, and then a show in Amsterdam. After that it's the UK and then we go to the USA for a month and then we come back to Europe for the festival season. So, it's a busy time at the moment.

Good to hear that. I have to admit that I had not heard of you before, so I was really happy to get to know your work through the review I did. And I think I'm not the only one here…
I think Germany will take a little time obviously. We did SummerJam last year and we did Chiemsee last year, they are like the two big shows we've done in Germany.

How was the feedback?
Really nice, really cool. But in Germany, we need some work. But we are always touring, so people will get to know us more!

For the official album release show in the UK you do a special set, right?
Yeah, just for this one show we do an exclusive full FM set. The tour is gonna be a mix of everything, but for this one... we thought it would be nice to do something different. The place where we play that show is quite close to London, so we didn't want to make the same show that we do in London.

Coming back to the album, on track 12 you have some lines about Game Of Thrones in it. Are you fans of the show?
Well, it's just lyrics, you know. Marcia put that in. All the Skints lyrics are always from us, we write our own lyrics. Sometimes it's very serious things about ourselves, sometimes it's not so serious. The most important thing is that it's always us. We all love Game Of Thrones, so Marcia put that in.

And in Forest For The Trees, what does it talk about? Is it a metaphor for something?
Yes, it's saying... I don't want to disrespect anybody, but a lot of people say "Oh, we are all just the same, everybody should get along." which is a nice idea, but actually everyone on earth isn't exactly the same. But that's ok! It's fine that there are cultural differences and all, it doesn't mean we can't love each other and live harmoniously, but we are not exactly the same. And I think sometimes you should celebrate people's differences instead of pretending that they don't exist. That's what that one is about really.

You also have some more direct political messages, as in Tazer Beam
Well, in a lot of our songs there are different nods to everything. Sometimes every song is not about just one subject, there are actually a few things going on. Tazer Beam is obviously about gun culture in the UK, from both sides. Kids on the street, but also police officers who are killing innocent people like we saw in London a few years ago and like we see in America right now, in Ferguson and so on. So, guns are not a good thing, for nobody. That's something we feel very strongly about.

How is the policy anyway in the UK and London specially, for instance with Ganja? Is it liberal?
I mean, in England it's like, you're not really supposed to have it. At all! So many people smoke it, it's crazy. But, you know, if you're on the street and you have a little something on yourself and get caught, you get a kind of caution and they take it away from you. If you've been caught a few times it gets worse. If you're in your own home you don't have to worry about somebody breaking down your front door. But if you're out on the street, you just have to be a bit careful. And the police… well, it's never a good idea to get caught, but sometimes in some places it's like there are worse things to worry about. But still, I wouldn't say that it's a liberal attitude. The politics don't exactly support it... it's not Amsterdam!

What is the connection you as The Skints have with Jamaica? Do you follow the music scene there and the releases or are you more involved with the London scene?
We're not really attached to any one kind of scene, I would say. As far as Jamaica goes, yeah we are definitely always watching what comes out of Jamaica first, because Jamaica for us is like Mecca or something. We mustn't forget that what we do and the kind of music we play is Jamaican culture, so we always have to check for that! Friends of ours like Protoje and Jesse Royal, we met last summer at festival season, I think the two of them are the strongest things coming out of Jamaica at the moment. Obviously Chronixx as well, he is just going Boom!, he's everywhere in the world right now. Kabaka Pyramid, Jah9, Dre Island… there is wicked stuff coming out of Jamaica at the moment. It is nice to see a conscious Roots reggae movement after years of auto-tune Dancehall.

Have you ever been there?
No, we haven't been to Jamaica yet. But we'd love to! We have a few offers, it's just about tightening it up. I mean for us, we can't really go on a tour to Jamaica, so I'd love to go and do some studio work or just hang out with some friends…

How is it anyway, your life besides The Skints? Do you have time for other jobs?
The Skints is full time for everybody. When I say full time I don't mean that we are necessarily making a lot of money, but we are on the road 120, 150 days a year, so we don't have time for other jobs at all. We've been working hard for years to make this possible. I'm doing some DJing nowadays, just out in the club playing Dancehall and Reggae and stuff, but really if you're in The Skints, you don't have time for a whole lot else. If we're not on tour, we're in the studio, so it's rare. All of us have worked other small jobs, I mean you have to keep things moving, but… For us The Skints is the world right now.

Last question would be about the cover. How did it get that shabby look? I thought I got a second-hand copy when I got mine!
Oh, the art guy Chris Warsop is very clever. I haven't even asked him how specifically he did it yet, but he has a good way of making things look a little distressed, lived-in and used. On the vinyl it's even better. It looks like it's an old case.

Well, thank you for this interview. I'm looking forward to meeting you in Hamburg soon!
Yes, sure! Shout out and big up to the Reggaeville crew, we are big fans and it means a lot to us to be featured here. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it! Shout out to everybody we're going to see in the summer.