Interview with The Skints Josh

Josh: It’s Josh from The Skints here, we’re at the very undercover, Undercover Festival!

CJ: Yes man! In Guildford in sunny Surrey. How does it feel to be back in Guildford? You done a storm at Guilfest man.

Josh: Yeah thank you man, Guildford’s always been good to us like we done Guildfest a couple of times, we done Guildford on our last headline tour and played The Boileroom which was good, it was really good actually, it was sold out, a nice little sweaty vibe!

CJ: It is a nice little sweaty vibe!

Josh: Yeah Man, the people, do you know what? Like Surrey, we always had love in South London because we always used to play in like Brixton and stuff back in the day and then when we started playing further south like Kingston, Guildford…

CJ: Love Kingston!

Josh: Yeah all the little festivals around here they always show The Skints love so we appreciate that to the fullest man.

CJ: Ah that’s special man and it’s good that you’re reaching out because I know East London is your roots so that’s your base right?

Josh: Well compared to most of the places we played this is kind of a minor trip for us but we’re from East London yeah.

CJ: Yeah you get about a lot internationally so to speak?

Josh: Yeah man we’re just trying to spread The Skints vibrations wherever we can kinda thing you know?

CJ: Nice one, nice one Josh. So where abouts in East London are you actually from?

Josh: We come from all the north East, so the other side of Hackney, Layton, Walthamstow, Woodford, the London boroughs of Waltham borough and Red Bridge.

CJ: Yes, I know those manors as well and I thought that was where you were from. I caught you guys down at Boomtown Festival.

Josh: Ok, that was a crazy show, man! A crazy show!

CJ: It’s a crazy little venue that innit? It’s a good little place man, I like Boomtown. So let me ask you a little bit about The Skints, when did you get started and how did you get started?

Josh: Basically it was me and a couple of friends, I was 14 going on 15 and I wanted to make some trad-ska music when I was at school and then me, Marcia and John was playing together and then we was kinda playing like, ska and then we stared doing a more ska-punk thing and then Jamie came along and we were only playing like, local because we were still at school, still little kids man, and then Jamie come along in 2007 and that’s when we started to play all over London and we started doing more reggae music. From then, it kind of went from doing a few shows, to booking our own tours and then yeah it…

CJ: It just blew up!

Josh: Well yeh, 2008 was when we started touring hard! We finished school and we were like, right!

CJ: It’s so mad to hear you talking about school and getting all of that stuff going, I mean, what were the main influences? What got you to go from ‘I like this music and I like that music’ to ‘Hey, you know what? We’re gunna do this.’?

Josh: Well, I mean I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, because were all friends from school yeah but were all quite different people. But me personally, reggae was always in my household, my mum and dad are big music listeners but not musicians or anything. They were from the 80’s soul and disco scene.

CJ: Yeah man, big scene.

Josh: Yeah! So they were about their soul and disco vibes but within that obviously, coming from the area they come from there was also a lot of reggae music. So there was a lot of reggae music in my house from when I was a little kid. I’m not saying that set me off but I think it definitely laid a foundation.

CJ: Yeah, it was in your ears!

Josh: On my musical pallet! – Like an acquired taste!

CJ: Nicely put brother, yeah!

Josh: So like soul and reggae was always in my house and then I was, kind of like late primary school going into secondary school I was really into hip hop and garage and stuff, because that was what was popular and what was around. And then I started skating and I got into punk. At 12-13 my uncle got me into The Specials because he said ‘You’re into punk yeh? Well check out The Clash and The Specials’. So Then I found out about that world. And then I get a little older and all my friends got me into Jungle and Raga and I started going to parties from where we’re from and like, Beany Man’s playing!

CJ: (Laughs) Yeah!

Josh: So growing up, all these little steps kind of led me to the point where I had a vision of the kind of music I wanted to hear from a band, which is all these little things along the way.

CJ: Yes man, just run them things off, a little itemised list, how would you describe them? I mean, how important would you say is punk for example?

Josh: Well punk rock to me, not only to my listening pallet, because I mean I would say what The Skint’s do now musically, isn’t exactly the most punk sound, but we still carry that ethic. As a young teenage mind and a young thinker, punk was very very important to me.

CJ: It is crucial brother.

Josh: Growing up in the area I grew up in, and I still see today, a lot of problems socially and a lot of problems around you, that I think when you come at it with an attitude that is given to you by what the media want you to have about it, it can be very negative and detrimental, but punk to me, I was getting used and Punk gave me my own view point that wasn’t being fed to me like it was being fed to everyone else.

CJ: That’s so important.

Josh: So maybe I don’t go round with boots and a Mohawk and I don’t necessarily dress like a punk but within me, it opened my mind to think for myself, but it wasn’t a rebellion against the way I was raised, my parents were always open minded people and taught me to be open minded, but in terms of what you hear yourself as a young adult, punk was very important to me man.

CJ: Yeh I like the way you described that, the way it breaks down the understanding that is pushed on you by the media and gives you that space to be able to think for yourself, is that a good way to put it?

Josh: Yeh you know, thinking for yourself is something that the punk scene encouraged which is why I rate it highly. But I’m nothing special theirs thousands of people with other oppinions.

CJ: No no no no! Listen, to me you’re special, to our listeners you’re special, that’s why we’re talking.

Josh: Respect man, but I think obviously Punk wasn’t especially popular in the area I grew up in, it wasn’t particularly the cool thing. It spoke to me more because what was around at that time, I wasn’t really down with. So the punk thing was kinda cool for that.

CJ: Yeh man, I’m feeling that. So there’s all these influences, there is the ska, the punk, the reggae, all these things through the family. How would you describe you’re own sound, The Skints sound? People describe you in different ways, they try to put these different elements in and say it’s a bit of this or a bit of that but how would you personally describe it?

Josh: For other people they say The Skints is a bit this or that but to me its reality music, because we speak about the reality of ourselves, you know, some people have tried to put on some of our songs – ‘oh are you a political band because of this?’ I don’t necessarily and would never try to be like ‘we’re gunna say these things’ but it’s just about the reality of our surroundings.

CJ: Safe brother, the reality of our surroundings man.

Josh: For instance, we might sing a love song, because that’s the reality of our surroundings.

CJ: Because that’s life! Yeah I like that.

Josh: All the sounds as well, it’s because that’s what we like. You know, we’re not playing a sound that we think ‘these people are gunna like it’ or ‘this radio station are gunna like it’. If other people like it, brilliant! But it should only be a bi product of us!

CJ: That’s beautiful, so what we’re saying here is its not a question of ‘these people like cheese burgers with X amount of onions so lets make cheese burgers with X amount of onions’

Josh: Yeah man.

CJ: It’s a case of this is what we like and that’s what we’re gunna do! Artistic authenticity and integrity, I respect that a lot my brother.

CJ: How did the name come about?

Josh: I made it up when I was 15, I thought it was a cool name for a band because when you start a band and you do it full time you’re living off the breadline so The Skints is aptly put. I think now, I’m 23 now and I look at The Skints and I think it’s kind of a bad name!

CJ: Ah it’s a wicked name!

Josh: Do you recon? I don’t really like it now! But yeh it is what it is and we have to stay true to that.

CJ: I like it! And it kind of, to me when I heard about the way you use grass roots funding and the way you dealt with your fans, I mean that really appealed to me on the tip of the name as well.

Josh: Ok

CJ: Can you tell us a bit about the innovative ways that you raised finances and used the grass roots fan base that you had?

Josh: Yeh I will do, one thing I will say about the name though is that The Skints, the word ‘skint’ is a very British word and it doesn’t translate in other languages. When we go to France and Germany and that, they ask us what its means and think we’re skin heads! And we’re like ‘no no no, it means we ain’t got no money!’

Josh: But for our second album ‘Part and Parcel’ we took the fan funded root through ‘pledge music’ because we were in a position where we didn’t have enough money to make another record and we didn’t really want to go begging to labels to give us the money to have to be in their pockets. So it was our managers idea to give the pledge music website a go and luckily for us it paid off, for some people it doesn’t so we got very lucky.

CJ: Tell me a bit about that, how did you raise the money through the fan base?

Josh: Well basically Pledge Music – you give them a target of the amount you need to record your album and then write a list of pledges which the band will give back for the money that people give you. So say like, £8 was the minimum which was the album downloaded when it’s finished and then we did limited edition T-Shirts, we did a one off show for people, limited edition posters.

CJ: Nice!

Josh: Check this out man, we’re music nerds yeh? I was a geek about records and music even though I’m growing up in a time where the music industry is dying, I still find the records I’ve been looking for and I get excited.

CJ: Wicked man, is vinyl really important to you?

Josh: Yeh, so we wanted to do stuff like the limited edition posters where if I was a music fan, I was into this band and that was available, that sort of stuff would have got me so excited!

CJ: Wicked! Yeh man, that’s a beautiful way about doing things and it’s also giving something back to the fans.

CJ: How important are your fans to the work that The Skints do?

Josh: I wouldn’t be able to do this right now for a living, without fans backing it so I’m really grateful. I hope and I think they know that too because when we have a show we go out and talk to people and meet people you know? And get to know people and we become friends with people who have been coming to see us for years. We don’t really try to put ourselves on a pedistool. I see a lot of bands doing it where they think that encouraging their separation between the band and audience is a good thing because it makes them look more important!

CJ: Yeah I hear that!

Josh: But really and truly, we’re just people who like music too. We just play it and other people come and see it.

CJ: I know that feet on the ground vibe is really important to you and I respect that a lot.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CJ: Can you say a bit about the struggles facing people in East London, in the inner city struggle and the pressures bearing down on the youths at this time?

Josh: Yeh, we’re from the outer boroughs but it really is the same problems, but for east London in particular, which is tower Hamlets, Newham, hackney, red bridge, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, East London has always had its fair share of problems financially, to me personally, maybe not to other people, but I kind of feel that the Olympics was kind of a kick in the face to the people who live and struggle off nothing in East London because of the amount of money they were being told, off their tax payers money that was supposed to come back into the boroughs. Dude, we didn’t need an Olympics that cost loads of money. They need more estates, more hospitals, people need the education to understand how to get themselves out of the situation they’re in. The kids need places to go and stuff to do that isn’t just available to those who have money. It’s a shame to say and its across the whole of London, not just east but the poorer people need to understand that no one really in the houses of parliament are there to help them or show them the way to get out.

CJ: That’s word brother I hear that.

Josh: You really have to educate yourself. I see the institutional classism, the institutional racism on a daily basis and its nothing they’re ever going to tell you to get out off or fix. It’s a real shame because doing this work, doing The Skints, hasn’t always been my full time thing. I used to work for my granddads removal firm in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and in Newham and I spent a lot of time in the houses and around people. In London a lot of people have nothing. Our bands called The Skints because we talk about being poor. But there are people in London that are living in poverty, that have nothing, with no escape and they’re living in estates opposite million pound houses – it’s not in a good place at all.

Last weekend, talking about East London, my sister was in Tower Hamlets on a counter protest to the EDL. They’re an organisation that are basically preying on the low income areas of London and across the UK really and telling them that this person and this person and this person – its their fault that they’re in the position they’re in. When really and truly it’s the complete opposite. It’s the was the system is telling them that its their neighbour’s fault that they’re in a position but all they really need to do is look up.

CJ: Nicely put brother I’m right there with you on that soapbox. It’s the same set divide and rule, its scandalous.

Josh: Divide and conquer! That’s the way that… I mean we’re talking about England, were talking about London, we’re talking about Britain?

CJ: Yeah

Josh: That’s what Britain has been built on!

CJ: Yeah

Josh: Do you understand? And they own the media that will demonise the youth, demonise even more the so called immigrant youth and say yeh its their fault but really and truly all you have to do is have a little bit of knowledge and realise just what they’re feeding us. It is absolute madness!

CJ: I couldn’t agree more!

Josh: Well the people I’ve grown up with and always associated with will tell you the same thing but we have to watch out man.

CJ: Solid respect, solid vibrations coming from East London, coming from The Skints. Princess Paula, Baby Boss I know you’ve got a question coming in!

Paula: Ok so in the vein of politics and sociology, ‘Live East die young’, youre talking about violence, gangs, East London – what was the inspiration for that? Was int to do with your background and upbringing?

Josh: Well ‘Live Ease Die Young’ is actually talking about two different instances of people I knew, the names and the situations have been made into a song in a kind of theatrical representation of the story but see the first verse is about a young girl that gets pregnant and has a child and her life goes one way and the other one is about a boy that purely through deprivation and not being shown any other way, gets caught up in the drug game and sent to Jail. The song isn’t a solution for anything its just a question of ‘Why is it the same story every time?’ because we see in every single borough, all across the country, we see those situations happen so much and I think why? You know it’s a question of asking why, its not cool man.

Paula: Definitely. On a larger spectrum people say you’re ska, reggae, dub, you’ve got a bit of hip hop going on but that punk ethos that you talked about earlier, would you say that theres a punk musicality behind you or more of an ethos in the music, as in, you’re not putting out punk music but that you’re message is of anarchy or against the state?

Josh: Well I wouldn’t necessarily say we’re an anarchy band, were not the kind of band that thinks that everyone should just eat vegan food and drive around on bicycles. We’re not those guys.

Paula: No course.

Josh: I’ve got no problem saying that making money or having nice things is not the biggest problem in the world. We’re not necessarily gunna go out there and start burning buildings and rioting. The punk thing for me wasn’t necessarily about music. Don’t get me wrong its cool for me, I enjoy certain bands where there’s a guy screaming and people running around and its bad music. Steal Pulse or Public Enemy is more punk then a lot of ‘punk bands’ if you know what I mean.

Paula: So would you say, from the first wave punk of 77’ or second wave punk 78’ -82’ – Crass, Sex Pistols, The Clash – Would you say you’re influenced by any of them?

I’d say yes, as a listener sure I like the pistols ad stuff, especially when I was younger. I’d say musically now I’m probably not gunna do a song and say yeh lets try and make it sound like the Sex Pistols or Crass but in the same way its just kind of what we like. One of my biggest musical influences is Woo Tang Clan but we’re not gunna try and make a song that sounds like The Wo. Maybe subconsciously some of that does slip in but were not trying to sound like anyone, we’re trying to sound like The Skints and all the little things that you take on play a part.

Paula: I mean, that’s the best thing you can do, when you look back you can see that every band that has paved the way for other bands has been individual and unique and has made their own sound, so what you’re doing now is admirably and brilliant really.

Josh: Ah thank you very much.

Paula: No thanks for that!

Josh: Cheers, nice one.

CJ: Right while we still got you because I know you’re running on to stage right?

Josh: Yeh man.

CJ: Can you tell me about some of the highlights of your career to date?

Josh: Wow, ok! I mean, we’ve done some amazing things that I never thought we’d do but we put so much work in to be able to say this is our lives now that everything we do is a highlight to me of being able to say ‘I do this’. Obviously theres personal things like bands that I grew up listening to that we played with.

CJ: That’s nice, tell me some of them!

Josh: Yeh, The Slackers and The Aggrolites, and we got to go to Thiland last year with Tippa Irie.

CJ: NOOO! Our very own Tippa! Yeah! Tippa works on the show, Paula produces Tippa’s show on the radio! That’s beautiful!

Josh: Yes big up my uncle Tippa Irie, original Brixton, saxon sound to the fullest. But obviously the music we write I’m very proud of, also things like Boom Town, we played 3 years ago, and to come back this year and play to the crowd we played to was crazy and we’ve done Reading and Leeds festivals. Also back in London our home town, we sold out Koko back in may which was a big deal for us man.

CJ: I hear that yes, it’s a big deal for anyone man, respect!

Josh: So yeh theres been loads of highlights man.

CJ: Alright well what goes up must come down, what about the lows? Have you had any challenging events?

Josh: Yes. One or two! Well, I’d say the worst that we had was last year on a day off between gigs our tour managers van had all our equipment and all our stuff in it, and got robbed outside my yard last year.

CJ: Noo!

Josh: Yeh, we really thought for a little bit, are we gunna be able to come back from this?

CJ: I hear that yeah.

Josh: But, through the generosity of people we know, other bands, record shops, banquet records in Kingston, they let us put on a show and take the door and the generosity of our fans and stuff saying ‘please take this money’, that was a very inspiring thing to come from such a terrible thing to happen to us. It showed us that for every bad guy in the world, there’s ten good guys.

CJ: Respect! That’s beautiful man because I know that’s scary to have that hit you like that. Rough.

Josh: When that happens to you yeah, you just think – can I swear on this show?

CJ: Yeah.

Josh: You just kinda think, what’s the fucking point man? You know what I mean? Like why? Doing all this and then someone just comes along and takes everything from you. But then the people that matter, who you’re doing it for, show you, no keep going.

CJ: Now that’s a blessed thing brother. What kind of advice would you give to upcoming artists today?

Josh: Don’t start, do something that will make you real money!

No, 100% yeah, you’ve got to feel your own tunes. For me, that would be it. That’s the only way that if you’re planning to do it for a long time and you know, if people are saying they’re serious about music, they should be committing to it for a long time. If you genuinely think in your heart that its sick, what you’re doing, then other people will come on board because you know what else as well yeh? Another important thing, a good bit of advice actually, a man called Babar Luck, who used to play in a band called King Prawn. We played with him when I was 17 and I’m 23 now, we’ve been doing this for 5 or 6 years and it’s the best bit of advice anyone in the industry has given me. In the music business yeh, he goes ‘you worry about the music and let them worry about the business’. Its true. Make sure that what you’re doing is amazing and then the business will come to you. Don’t go chasing and don’t beg to anyone because you think you need them. If you’re good enough, they’ll need you.

CJ: I like that a lot! On that trajectory what are your plans for the future?

Josh: Well right now were actually going to a crazy country next week, we’re going to reunion island in the middle of the Indian ocean, were doing a festival out there call Kaloo Bang with Sean Paul and a few others. Then we’re finishing off an EP we’ve been working on in North London and hopefully that will be coming out November time. We’ve got a French tour in December.

CJ: Wow, how do you go down in France?

Josh: Man, France is so close to where we are in England now its really crazy, they’re wicked man.

CJ: Who would you most like to work with? Have you got people you’d like to collaborate with?

Josh: There’s a few producers I’d like to work with but I’ve been chatting to Tippa Irie about doing a tune but we’ve both been a bit lazy! Fingers crossed 2014, we’re gunna do a Skints/ Tippa tune.

CJ: Alright brother we’re looking forward to that. Ok, do you have any shouts you’d like to give out?

Josh: Shout out Kane FM, keep listening to The Skints, we’ve got a new EP coming, its so far untitled but we’ll hit you with that. Do the right thing – as Spike Lee said!

CJ: Respect my brother!

-End of Interview-

[21stSeptember 2013]

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