MOST of us have probably had a room full of people singing Happy Birthday to us at one time or another, but imagine a field of 800,000 Polish music fans serenading you. That’s what happened to Skin from Skunk Anansie.
‘It was the biggest gig of our career and it just happened to be my birthday. Having hundreds of thousands of people singing to you is a weird one. I thought it was a universal melody, but Poland has a totally different tune — it took me a while to figure out what it was.
‘It was a proper “wow” moment when I was told what they were doing,’ she laughs.
Skin, aka Deborah Anne Dyer, has had an incredible career fronting Skunk Anansie, with some serious bucket list moments ticked off. ‘We performed for the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, I sang with Pavarotti, Glastonbury…there’s so much,’ she recalls
Ah, Glastonbury. Skin recently found herself unwittingly in the centre of a social media maelstrom after Stormzy erroneously claimed he was the first black British artist to headline the festival, when in fact Skunk Anansie did it in 1999.
‘I really like Stormzy, I think he’s a great artist and he behaved with such class and I really respect that. I was actually more offended about Beyoncé when she said she was the first black woman to headline Glastonbury! Did nobody Google it? I was interviewed by people when I came offstage at Glastonbury, and those same people then interviewed Beyoncé. Had they forgotten me?’ she sighs.
‘At the end of the day The Prodigy headlined in 1997 so I’m not even the first black artist to do so. People say Keith Flint was the singer but what was Maxim then, Scotch mist?’
Despite, an eight-year hiatus between 2001 and 2009, Skin says the band have always been in it for the long haul. ‘In the 1990s being in a band was seen as a genuine lifetime career. Very few bands get to do that nowadays as we’re so focused on new music and young bands, especially in the UK — and then after your third album people think you need to stop as you’ve had your go.’
There’s no sign of Skunk Anansie stopping, though, as they celebrate their 25th anniversary with a retrospective live album and tour. ‘This is a full-on show, it’s blood, sweat and tears,’ Skin insists. ‘We have some beautiful moments, too — some of our ballads have been the biggest hits.
‘It’s intense, and we’re the best we’ve ever been. Our long-term fans are saying it’s the best Skunk show they’ve seen. It’s still a weird thing for many people to see a black woman fronting a rock band, and doing it very well!’
Despite their longevity, they’ve still got plenty of ambition. ‘We don’t play that many British festivals to be honest and I’d love to do more,’ says Skin. ‘It’s weird that in England we’re not really seen, and then outside of the UK we play to tens and hundreds of thousands of people. People in England seem to say, “Oh, are they still going?” It makes me laugh.’
■ Skunk Anansie headline Beautiful Days festival in Devon tonight, beautifuldays.org, and play Brixton Academy tomorrow, then touring, skunkanansie.com