Skim doom

Skin’s days as a Deborah are long gone. The fearsome singer with Skunk Anansie is a force to be reckoned with, even without her voice, as Alastair Mabbott discovers.

here hasn’t been much to distinguish Skunk Anansie from any number of nouveau rock acts: a dreadhead. a goateed baldie named Ace and Cass. though it’s impossible to remember which is which a sackload of bone-crunching metal riffs and a generous helping of influences from hip hop and reggae. Got that? Now go and form your own band.

What you won’t have is a singer like Skin. 21 black. shaven-headed bisexual bursting with enough righteous anger to make Rage Against The Machine run back to mummy and a voice powerful enough to pummel its way on to Top Of The Pops with a song. ironically enough. entitled ‘Weak’.

Skunk Anansie are a fearsome prospect. a ‘red-skinned list of power. clawing at the strains of racism’. And no punches are pulled for white liberals. who are put in their placejust as firmly as card-carrying BNP members. Can it get more frightening‘.’ Indeed it can. for love provides no refuge. either. The opening track of the new

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album. Stuns/1. ‘Yes It’s Fucking Political’.just states outright what has been implicit in Skin’s lyrics from the start: that relationships are as full of abuse. power games. paranoia and self- destruction as the outside world. Like the Cold War military strategy. love is Mutually Assured Destruction - you’ve just got to make sure you get some kicks along the way.

So severe is her vision that it’s strange to think of the teenage schoolgirl version of Skin (Deborah to her friends) running indie discos and kneeling at the altars of Blondie. The Cure and The Police. But she did. and now. at 28 and cutting an iconic figure. she’s the one who’s being regarded as a role model. A figure who can have the aspirations of several marginalised groups projected on her. how is Skin handling the responsibility of being many things to many people‘.’

‘I can’t or don’t have to take this fame thing too seriously. to be honest.’ Skin writes back.

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Skunk Anansie: enough righteous anger to make Rage Against The Machine run back to mummy

‘I can’t - or don’t have to - take this fame thing too seriously. Just because someone starts calling me famous, or a

role model, it doesn’t mean it’s true.’


having been forbidden to speak for a week in order to save her ravaged voice. ‘Just because someone starts calling me famous, or a role model. it doesn’t mean it’s true. 1 feel it’s wise to have a sense of perspective and humour about that side of the music. otherwise it won’t be entirely pleasant! . . . l worshipped the ground people like Blondie and The Police, Stevie Wonder. etc, walked on when l was a kid, but then I grew up! It’s fun to idolise people when you’re really young. so I can see what I may be stepping into, but you can’t get too wrapped up and concerned about it all. ’cos then the fun turns into hassle.’

Even that kind of hassle. you feel. she could turn to her advantage. Like others before them. Skunk Anansie took the riffs and ' firepower of a subculture that has traditionally had little time for women. blacks and gays. ditched the attitudes that went with them and moved into bigger arenas - supporting Bon Jovi. Lenny Kravitz and The Sex Pistols with dizzying speed. (They were also judged Best New British Band and Best British Live Act by the readers of K errang. always a handy barometer of current attitudes.) .

Before she started singing, Skin studied design and worked as an interior designer, reaping the benefits of organisation. dedication and a strong work ethic. So why was she recently quoted as saying that ‘other bands can make loads of mistakes . . . but if we fuck up the whole thing stops . . . We’ve got one shot at this and we have to get it right first time"?

‘Because it’s true.’ she snaps back. ‘and this has been proved to us time and time again. It’s not something that we’re really unhappy about, it’s a reality that we face every day. We don’t get unreserved. unanimous support from all corners of the industry, we have to fight for it, and when we get it. it tastes very. very sweet! We’re a lighting band. and we’re very happy to keep it that way.’

And if it all ended tomorrow? Would Skin be satisfied with the bite of the cherry that Skunk Anansie had given her? Is there any going back to interior design now?

‘That’s like asking what you would do if you lost your legs tomorrow! The reality is that I’d carry on. Music is the only thing that i ever want to do with my lifetime. not for the rock stardom side of it but the pure love of creating and listening to great music. I still love interior design. as a hobby. but music is where it’s at for me. if I couldn’t be involved in music for some reason, l’d kill myself using a CD at the MTV Awards!’

Skunk Anansie play Barrow/and, Glasgow, Sun 10 Nov.

The List l-l4 Nov 199615