Skunk Anansie’s Skin on being shunned in the Britpop era: 'I felt very outside of it'

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·5-min read
Skunk Anansie, group portrait, London, United Kingdom, 1995. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)
Skunk Anansie, group portrait, London, United Kingdom, 1995. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

In 2004, Skunk Anansie were named as one of the most successful UK chart acts by the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums, after racking up a total of 142 weeks in the charts. Yet, singer Skin says she felt like an outsider during the whole Britpop era of music.

Speaking on White Wine Question Time, the 53-year-old singer said she decided to write her new memoir It Takes Blood And Guts, so she could tell her alternative view of that time.

“I think this is a good time to tell an alternate story,” she told host Kate Thornton.

Read more: UK record labels see fastest growth since Britpop era

“It's a good time to kind of like say what was happening from someone who probably at the time – well, definitely at the time – wasn't really included in it and felt very outside of it and thought that was quite a deliberate move.”

Listen: Skin talks about her abusive first relationship and how escaping it helped her find herself

Even though Skin was the first Black woman to headline Glastonbury in 1999, she said that many people at the time just didn’t get her.

“I would be in situations all the time where I knew that people didn't get me and people didn't understand me,” she revealed.

Read more: Skunk Anansie rocker Skin recalls historic Glastonbury headline slot

“You've got something in front of you that you don't understand and you have the power, so it's actually easier to ignore it and to pretend it doesn't exist because then you lose that feeling of uncomfortability and vulnerability and you have all the power and you feel good again.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 4: Martin Kent, Mark Richardson, Skin and Richard Lewis of Skunk Anansie, group portrait, backstage at Brixton O2 Academy on 4 February 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images)
Martin Kent, Mark Richardson, Skin and Richard Lewis of Skunk Anansie, group portrait, backstage at Brixton O2 Academy on 4 February 2017. (Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images)

She continued: “People were like ‘Skunk Anansie have sold millions of records, but I just don't like her voice’. They couldn't say we weren't good. They couldn't say we weren’t popular.

“They couldn't say we didn't write great songs, so they just kind of didn't write about us because they didn't know how to write about us.”

For Skin, being different was something she had to deal with from a young age as she explored the music that meant something to her.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Skin of Skunk Anansie performs on stage at Rock City on September 03, 2019 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Katja Ogrin/Redferns)
Skin of Skunk Anansie performs on stage at Rock City on September 03, 2019 in Nottingham, England. (Katja Ogrin/Redferns)

“I had to find my way to rock music because nobody handed me a guitar at five years old and said, ‘Play that love’,” exclaimed Skin.

“And nobody played me a Beatles record at 10 and said, 'Why do you like this?’ I had to find these things and go search for them because my community was black music and was R&B and was reggae.”

Read more: Why we need Girl Power more than ever

She also had the added pressure of “trying to be a good Christian girl” and finding herself among people who wanted her to “be religious in their way.”

“I had all those questions and I had to leave Brixton,” she told Thornton. “I had to leave everything and just go and be a new person with a new bunch of people and find myself.”

Another reason Skin was keen to write her memoir with pal Lucy O’Brien was to give a different perspective about the music of the ‘90s.

There was more to '90s music than Britpop including artists like Bjork and Goldie (Image: Getty Images)
There was more to '90s music than Britpop including artists like Bjork and Goldie (Image: Getty Images)

“There were all these books coming out about Britpop, Britpop, Britpop, Britpop and I was like, 'Do you know, there's something else to say about what was going on in the nineties?'” the former Masked Singer said.

“It wasn't just Britpop. Of course, Britpop was massive, but there were so many other things going on at the same time. There was Bjork, there was Goldie, there was RnB all black girl groups, there was drum and bass, there was trip hop.”

“There are other stories and those stories are just as right as Britpop story. Not that I hate Britpop – I love Britpop!”

Read more: How well do you know your 90s No.1 singles?

Having had time to reflect over the life and career for the book, Skin says she has no regrets about choosing the career and life that she did.

Mick Jagger, David Bowie And Pete Townshend At The David Bowie Party At Pop, Soho Street, London - 1999, David Bowie, Beverley Knight And Skin (Of Skunk Anansie) At The David Bowie Party At Pop, Soho Street, London (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
David Bowie, Beverley Knight And Skin (Of Skunk Anansie) At The David Bowie Party At Pop, 1999. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

“I love that I've created a life where I wake up every day and it's like, 'What's today going to be like? What's the fresh new challenge?',” she laughed.

“There's a lot of mistakes and there's a lot of failure in that, but then there's also fun and I always kind of feel that it's worth it”

Hear Skin talk about headlining Glastonbury, finding love and the lessons she learnt in lockdown on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.

Watch: Skunk Anansie’s Skin talks cultural appropriation