Getting Dirty with Dirty Arya From Skindred

Too much cow-bell is never enough...

‘Dirty’ Arya Goggin is bouncing along on the tour bus, on his way to Germany for the next leg of Skindred’s latest tour. The bus has been broken down all day but Arya’s spirits are high; when I ask how the tour’s been going, he responds with a jubilant “It’s been fantastic so far. We just did the last date of the UK run in Manchester yesterday. It was incredible; 2000 smiling faces so we’re all happy.”

And how is the new album Kill The Power being received live? “I think it’s going down really well, dude. It’s been out a week and people are jumping up and down and singing back the words so we couldn’t be happier with how it’s all going down. We’re playing a decent mix off the record live – we’ve got five records now – and we’re playing brand new songs in the set so we feel pretty confident about it all.”

Skindred will be hitting our shores in about three weeks for the Soundwave tour, are you looking forward to it? “Totally. Soundwave is an institution in Europe. It will be our first Soundwave and we’re really, really excited to be a part of it.” He tells me the band wants to smash Australia (in a nice way), adding that “I’ve got a lot of friends in Australia so I’m looking forward to seeing them too.”

We get on to Arya’s previous visit to Australia during the Union Black tour, where he spent a week in Brisbane visiting the Botanical Gardens and watching Motley Crue; experiences he describes as “pretty fucking awesome” – now there’s a tourist slogan for Queensland’s next advertising campaign. Arya tells me that the weather is shit in Europe right now so a little jaunt down under will be just the thing before the band returns to England for a gig in Newport in Wales. “It’s our home-coming show really; the band’s been based in Newport and Benji (Webbe) is in Newport, and we haven’t played our own headline show in Wales for a long time and people have been asking for it. We play the Newport Centre and I hear it’s the last ever gig there, which is sad but also pretty epic at the same time.”

Then it’s off to Russia, Japan and the US – it’s a big tour indeed. “I know, mate! I know! It’s a long one; it starts in England and we’re goin’ everywhere on this one,” Luckily Arya is mad for touring. “We’ve been doing this a long time now and touring is a way of life for everyone in the band. It’s where everyone feels at home funnily enough – not having a home but feeling at home –it’s weird. Our home is the stage and the backstage rooms; that’s were we feel comfortable. Touring is the most exciting part of being in a band for me – you get to play shows! Best bit!”

When I spoke to Benji, he mentioned having to pace himself, what about you? “Naah! I’m still a young pup, I can manage it! I think I’m playing harder than ever nowadays. I have to pace myself in so far as I can’t booze like I used to but I find my nights to have fun!”

So what’s the effect of seeing a mass of people bobbing along to Skindred’s music? “It’s fantastic; it’s a feeling that you can’t really quantify to be honest. You’ve got tens of thousands of people in front of you, jumping up and down in sync and singing the words. It’s why I’m sitting on this bus; for that very reason; for that very feeling. It’s incredible.”

Getting back to Kill The Power, you returned to work with James Loughrey; was it good to work with him again? Arya’s response is “Let’s see how the record does – it’s only been out a week – if it flops then no!” before he collapses into laughter. You also collaborated with songwriter Russ Ballard on a couple of tracks? “We co-wrote two songs with him which was an amazing experience. He came to the studio and hung out for three or four days. He’s a great man and a great songwriter. He’s one of the best, he’s a classic songwriter. You’re never too old to learn and we just enjoyed soaking up his knowledge. He was an amazing person to be around. Very inspiring.”

And what’s your view on collaborating with other musicians? “On Union Black we got Jacoby (Shaddix) on a couple of tracks, which was cool, and on Kill The Power we got Arthur Brown on a track – he was on Ninja; he did the intro - and then we got a girl from Manchester; Jenna G, to sing one of the lead lines in Open Eyed; she’s a dance singer and she’s on all the dance tracks over here and we thought that would be a cool idea. I think going forward…I don’t know who I’d like to work with, really…I have no idea!” Anyone who’s up for it? “Yeah! If everyone in the band says ‘yes’ then it’s usually a winner. When someone says ‘no’ then we don’t usually do it. Everyone’s got to be into it.”

Given the diversity of styles employed by Skindred, I’m guessing that you have also have diverse musical taste? “Of course! It’s anything goes. We’re not musical nazis – anything’s up for grabs and nothing is off limits. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure in the band!” I mention Benji and his love of Michael Buble. “Oh, he does! He loves it! You have him in the back, getting ready for a show, listening to Michael Buble and Abba.” It’s a bizarre thing to picture. ”It is very bizarre. We’ve been on a tour bus with Soil at the moment and they do a death metal Thursday and we do an 80’s night on the Wednesday so there are all sorts going on on this bus!”

How did your approach to writing Kill The Power differ from Union Black? “We actually started writing in September 2012 and I think we had a lot of time to write as well. We were hard on ourselves and very hard on Benji. I think we pushed ourselves to the limit – we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to finish the record – we were working each other so hard! Every record you make gets harder and harder to make, and it’s never gonna be a walk in the park for us. It’s a tough old ride; you’ve got four guys with four different personalities who love four different types of music – every different type of music – and then you’ve gotta try and put that in to one song so it gets a little hairy sometimes; lots of arguing, lots of fighting but it’s what we do.”

Bugger! My time is almost at an end so I quickly ask what sounds haven’t been incorporated yet that Arya would like to include on the next album. “Actually, I don’t know. A bit of cow-bell, maybe?!”

You can never have enough cow-bell.
Skindred. Coming to fuck things up (in a good way) at Soundwave 2014.