Josh Waters Rudge (The Skints)

The Skints – no doubt one of the most exciting bands to come out of the UK ska-punk scene in recent years. From first interviewing them in 2009 in their grimy van on their second ever tour to catching up three years later while on tour with one of the UK's biggest rock acts, it's always a pleasure seeing a band flourish, both musically and professionally, as much as this reggae-dub-ska-punk mash-up from east London.

Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull sat down with vocalist and guitarist Josh Waters Rudge about their new album, Part & Parcel, their reasons for funding it through the PledgeMusic, his thoughts on the current UK scene, and a lot more, before opening up for You Me At Six in Newcastle.

I interviewed you back in 2009 for another publication, and after the interview, you said, "Thanks for making us feel like a real band." Three years on, with all of these big tours under your belt, surely you feel like a "real" band now?
It’s weird, because we seem to be working with a lot more "real" people. To me, that last interview we did feels like so long ago, but it also really doesn’t, because we’ve been so busy the whole time. We’re still very much getting used to the fact that there’s people into our band enough for us to continue doing it.

What’s changed the most for you since then?
Obviously, the most noticeable one is that we have a fanbase. Back then, we were very much building the foundations of that, but now, we have a small but very dedicated following at the minute. It seems to be growing, so that’s the most noticeable one. Also, just the amount of road experience we’ve had since then as well. We’ve really learned how to do our jobs in that time. Our eyes have also been opened to the music industry and, from that point, we’ve learned so much, because we weren’t particularly involved with the industry at that point.

Now you work with PRs and are part of The Agency Group, how has that helped?
Oh, massively. Especially, as far as live bookings go and the radio and press thing, there’s only so much you can do yourself before getting someone who’s a professional. The people who we have working for us are all people that everyone in the band is 100% ok with, and people who we trust and get along with. Everyone who’s been involved with the band has been a huge help into upping the level.

Last time, you also said: "I’ve found out recently that You Me At Six are into us and we met them and they were really cool dudes", is that how you ended up on this tour?
Yeah, 100%. We were invited onto the tour by the band personally, which is so weird. We’re getting on with everyone so well, it’s so natural. We haven’t really stopped to consider how big You Me At Six actually are. It’s been one of the most pleasant and sociable tours we’ve been on, with all the crew and other bands. Some people might find it quite surprising, but at the end of the day, it’s just people loving music doing music. It’s really nice.

Even though you’re very versatile in sound and cater to all sorts of genres, you’re still probably bit of an unorthodox choice.
Oh, yeah, of course. We’re definitely a very wild choice and I’m sure the You Me At Six guys had a lot of people around them asking, "What are you doing?" There are loads of rock bands who would chop their arms off for this opportunity, so we’ve just got to make the best out of the opportunity as we can, and it seems to be working to some degree.

Having read Marcia’s tweets, it seemed that you were quite worried about the tour and how people were going to react?
Yeah! I wouldn’t say we were skeptical, because we were very excited to do the tour, but we were also very aware about how it might go down. Music fans, especially, can be very fickle and very dead set on what they like and don’t like. Sometimes the people who claim to be the most open-minded people in the world can be the most close-minded, but since we’ve been doing the shows, people seem to have been really into it. Liverpool, last night, I couldn’t have asked for a better reception. Even the online feedback for this tour so far has been positive; people are like, "Wow, I didn’t realize that I liked reggae." It’s wicked. If we can get certain people liking other music on this tour, then that’s really cool to me.

Taking a tour like this, did you feel like you were getting to the point where you had toured and played enough with the bands you’re generally associated with in the UK ska-punk scene, and felt you were ready for a change?
It wasn’t necessarily that, we’ve always been 100% of the belief that we like to play with all kinds of bands. If you look at the tours we’ve done and, yeah, we’ve came from the UK ska scene and played ska shows, and that’s cool, but we’ve seen so many people doing just that and burn out. At the end of the day, we do pop music, it’s just a different beat, but some people don’t want to admit that. We did Reel Big Fish, The Slackers and a bunch of other really big ska bands, and that was really cool, but with the Gym Class Heroes tour and this tour, it’s really nice to play to people that aren’t already used to the music.

I saw Marcia say you’ve changed your set every night on this tour, and that’s what I like about you, you always find ways to creatively mix things up and keep it different.
Yeah, that’s important for us, because we get bored very easily. We want to enjoy it as much as the people who are watching and paid for their ticket. Some bands will have a set that they’ll do for a whole year or whatever, but now, I’m really excited, because we have two full albums worth of material that we can really play with - even when we do the half hour sets. We like to change it up for ourselves, as much as anyone else.

Since your first album Live. Breathe. Build. Believe. was so well received, was there a bit of pressure with the new record, Part & Parcel, especially since your fans funded it through PledgeMusic?
Yeah, of course, naturally. We always put pressure on ourselves to go one better, like we always do it for the live show, but when it came to writing an album, making one which was better than the first one that I was really happy with, it was tough. Especially, the way we went about making it, getting people to pay in advance that didn’t have a clue what it was going to sound like. Yeah, we definitely did feel the pressure, but we didn’t feel that we had to cater to anyone’s needs. As far as the work rate goes, we put the work in that would make people proud, but we didn’t write the songs like, "Let’s do this for people, because they’ll like that." At the end of the day, if we like the songs, then hopefully the people who already like the band will like them. When you make music and when it comes to the point where you start catering for other people is when it starts to go shit.

Why did you do it through PledgeMusic? Did you not have label interest wanting to help fund it? Or was it more of a control thing on your part?
At the start of last year, we were talking to two labels that wanted to do the next record and beyond, there were a couple of deals there. And when you come off from a five-week tour and have made £200, completely broke and living at your mum’s house, it’s hard to say, "Thanks, but no thanks." But we genuinely felt like if we had someone from a label sitting in our studio session, we wouldn’t be allowed to make the record we want to make. A lot of the time, with labels, when they give you an advance to sign you, effectively, that’s them buying their creative input into your band. The way the record industry works is that he who holds the purse strings pretty much holds the puppet strings of the whole thing. We knew with the way we are that it just had to be us and our producer in the studio, and that’s it. We had our manager come down at one point, but he’d never tell us what to do. We just want people to trust us to make the music instead of changing our sound because they’ve gave us money to do it.

These PledgeMusic and Kickstarter campaigns always seem to draw a mixed reaction, did you experience any backlash?
When we put it up, obviously, the people who pledged thought it was a really good idea. From the fan-end, we didn’t really receive a negative reaction. We had a few peers and people involved with the band that we went to for advice say it might make us look desperate and look like we’re not actually doing anything. A lot of these people who do these pledges don’t get the money, like if you don’t reach your 100%, you don’t get any of the money. In a way, it proved to those people who said it might look desperate show that people wanted to hear a new Skints record, which was amazing.

On Part & Parcel, I noticed that Marcia has been credited as playing the Gameboy, I’m interested to know what song?
It’s on Up Against The Wall - the new cut and the old cut. We had Marcia do her Little Sound DJ on the Gameboy, that’s where you get all the little bleeps and bloops on Up Against The Wall.

Having someone as naturally musically gifted as Marcia, who plays practically every instrument, does that allow you and make it easier to be more creative?
Yeah, it’s a weird mix. Like when we write, Marcia hears things that maybe I don’t hear, because she’s classically trained, whereas, I’ve learned music by listening to the radio. If anyone brings a song to the table, once we all have our inputs, it doesn’t sound the same, but that’s why you’re in a band to make music together.

She contributes a lot more vocally on this record, was that down to Roanna’s Song being so well received on the last album?
Yeah, I think so. Roanna’s Song was the first proper song that Marcia had ever written. Me and Jamie had been writing for a while and, obviously, before that, Marcia’s used to playing instruments and doing back-up vocals, but she’s sort of gained confidence as a song writer and a singer, and I think that’s a lot to do with touring and her on stage performance. She’s just started writing more and more. With the first album, we all had an input, but it was mostly mine and Jamie’s songs. Whereas, this album, it was more three singers sitting in a room writing lyrics for a tune. It’s cool; we’re going to be doing that a lot more.

This album seems to be a lot more niche than the last one, like with Live. Breathe. Build. Believe. ., I could see a lot of mainstream appeal, but with Part & Parcel, it seems that you’ve really tried to focus on the reggae and dub vibe.
I think it’s just the way our song writing was going. We didn’t sit there and say, "We’re only doing this." because reggae is a very broad genre. It’s like saying ‘rock music’, there’s so many subgenres and different things within that. We’ve also got old ‘60s-style ska and new dub and dance stuff. Personally, I think the vibe of the songs is a lot more mixed than the last album. We don’t really have so much of the rock bits anymore, especially after being in the studio with Prince Fatty, just learning different grooves and how to mix within an album instead of just having loads of stuff going in one song.

I read an interview a couple years ago, and you said: "We think of ourselves as a punk rock band that plays reggae." Do you still consider yourselves that?
I don’t know, because I feel like my personal beliefs and opinions in the word that is ‘punk’ has been changed by spending three years involved in the punk scene. My eyes have been opened to a lot of things within that, that I might not necessarily agree with. We might not be the most political band in the world, but we started this band as punk rock kids and we’ll end this band as punk rock kids, whatever way you want to take that. I don’t even particularly consider us a reggae band. We’re a band that plays reggae music, I don’t think we’re a reggae band and I don’t think we’re a punk band and we’re not quite a pop band. I’m not sure I stand by that statement I said back then, but we’ll see.

Part & Parcel seems a lot less socio-political than your previous material.
Yeah, definitely. Again, it’s just developing as songwriters and writing about much more personal experiences. I mean, the first album was written from our points of view, but I feel Part & Parcel is more of tales about of our individual experiences as a band. That wasn’t particularly a conscious thing, we can only write what we know and what we’re feeling at the time, and if that’s the way it goes, then that’s just the way it goes.

In regards to UK bands, there’s a lyric on the first album where you say: "I can count on both hands the bands that I think are worth a damn." Do you still feel the same?
Yeah, maybe even less now Mouthwash have split up. People can read this and say, "Who is this guy to say who’s good?" I’m nobody, I’m just a fan of music like everyone else and if you don’t like my band, that’s cool, but I probably don’t like your band. Literally, I’ve just been so uninspired by the UK punk rock for so long. Obviously, there are still a few golden nuggets still out there and there’s some people who have been in it for a while that are still holding the torch, but I just look at other music scenes and how developing and exciting they are, and I do sometimes feel, what is there to be excited about? But then every so often, you hear a band or someone puts out a new record and it does rekindle my faith somewhat, but I’m not going to pretend I feel strongly about that world as I once did. That’s not saying we’re going to turn our backs on it, but as someone who loves great albums and bands, I just don’t feel there’s enough of them, which is a shame, because I do love it and I always will love it, but I just wish there were some bands to get excited about again. There are a few.

What few?
Obviously, from what’s becoming the veteran end, there’s the likes of Sonic Boom Six and Random Hand, who are still doing their thing. Jeramiah Ferrari in Manchester, ClayPigeon in London, and New Town Kings, Jimmy The Squirrel, and Anti-Vigilante are cool. Tyrannosaurus Alan are my number one ska-core band in this country, at the moment. 100%. I think Tyrannosaurus Alan are going to be the next band that the whole of the UK rock industry starts having a look at from the ska thing. They’re smart dudes as well, I think they’re going to surprise a lot of people with their crossover appeal; they’re really cool.

So, what’s next for The Skints? You have a UK headline tour in October, can you say what you’re doing in-between then?
After this tour, we start the UK festivals on May 3rd, we’re doing a festival with Anti-Flag, then the International Ska Festival in London and Great Escape in Brighton, and then we’re flying out to Malta for a show, and then we’re going to Europe with a band called State Radio. Then just festivals all summer, here and in Europe, then the headline tour in October and that’s all I can say at the minute.

Do you have anything else you want to add?
Thanks for interviewing us again, it’s always a pleasure, and shout out to Part & Parcel’s out now and check out the dates of the headline tour in October.