This is called Skunk Anansie – I hope you get to meet your hero (official video).
By Will Stone in Britain:
Interview: Skunk Anansie’s Skin
Sunday 28 October 2012
The charismatic Deborah Anne Dyer – Skin – takes no prisoners as she tells why she’s had enough of stereotyping
Skin, born Deborah Anne Dyer, sticks out like a sore thumb in the world of rock music.
She’s a strikingly attractive black woman who occasionally models, is gay and married, has a nine-year-old and also happens to be the frontwoman of an aggressive heavy rock band – Skunk Anansie.
So where are Skin’s peers within the rock industry? When she formed the band in the early ’90s there were none. Now almost 20 years on there’s still none.
Speaking from her hotel room in Germany in between performing tracks from Skunk Anansie’s latest album Black Traffic on a TV show there, Skin explains in her surprisingly softly spoken tones where she feels the problem lies.
“Unfortunately women are very typecast in the music industry,” she says. “It’s very difficult for black women to do something different without being pushed into doing the pop thing.
“Shingai Shoniwa, frontwoman of The Noisettes, started out doing the rock thing and it sounded amazing but because she’s an attractive black woman it didn’t take long before they dropped their more rockier origins in favour of a poppier and commercial sound.
“Somehow I managed to slip through that net.”
It’s certainly interesting how the media reported Beyonce headlining Glastonbury as the first black woman to top the bill on its main stage despite Skunk Anansie doing precisely that in 1999. Skin explains how it sometimes feels as if her race has been overlooked just because she’s a black woman in a rock band.
“It comes down to racism,” she says. “Black women are supposed to only pursue what we’re perceived, stereotypically, to be good at like singing soul music. But when white guys start rapping, like Plan B, or performing music of black origin it’s seen as cool and progressive.
“Skunk Anansie are not a cool band because when black people start getting involved in music that is not seen as part of their own culture then they’re seen as an embarrassment to their race.
“But the racism is also inverted too. I’ve had black people ask me why I don’t play the music of my own culture, never mind the fact that rock came out of blues, which is of black origin.
“And I think this mentality has a lot to do with why many black people don’t feel they fully belong or are accepted anywhere.
“Our latest album was given a horrendous review in the NME but it’s more to do with their hatred of me not the music. They want me to play safe. The bands NME promote are just one kind of style. It’s a very conservative, cliched and middle class perspective of rock and roll.”
It’s ironic that fad mag NME gave Black Traffic a scathing one out of 10 given that its pages are filled to the brim with vacuous post-wank drivel in support of bands totally bereft of integrity or innovation. Is it any wonder that today’s music industry is at death’s door?
What can be said of Black Traffic is that it represents a step further in a political direction, a road that Skunk Anansie always had one foot on but never travelled too far down.
Skin agrees. “We’ve always had political songs without being a political band. Although we were conscious of the word ‘black’ in the title it’s more black market than black in a racial sense.
“We saw this documentary about parents in China selling their children and this idea where children are seen as products.
“The track Sticky Fingers In Your Honey was based on the experience of my best friend who was knocked off her bicycle and she could not work. The mortgage companies and the banks were trying so hard to get her house off her to the point where they tried to trick her into giving it up.”
At 46 Skin is still a very powerful role model for young black women because she represents someone who has broken free from the anchor of expectation and gone on to achieve unprecedented success in a chauvinistic rock industry.
But despite her admission of being the archetypal minority as a black, gay, shaven-headed rock chick – “I’ve really got all of them” – her response to what she feels are the big challenges for today’s young, black, gay women interestingly enough has nothing to do with race or sexuality.
“Although there’s a long way to go I think a lot has changed for the better in terms of race and sexuality,” Skin says. “Homophobia is starting to have the stigma that racism has and I can comfortably walk hand in hand with my wife when 10 to 15 years ago I wouldn’t.
“But sexism has suffered. I feel freer as a gay woman than I do as a woman. Women still have to fight against massively unequal pay and other rights at work.
“We live in a society where it’s deemed to be okay to be blatantly sexist.
“Young women should get out of their WAG aspirations and realise that those kind of men aren’t interested in staying with one woman. You’ll have a sell-by date.”
Black Traffic is out now on 100% records.
- Skunk Anansie: Black Traffic (Review) (popmatters.com)
- Brit Rockers Skunk Anansie Back On The Road (news.sky.com)
- Video Premiere: “I Hope Your Get To Meet Your Hero” by Skunk Anansie (loft965.com)
- Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister Talks Touring, Bandmates, New Album Plans + More (loudwire.com)