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CROSSROADS - SKINDRED's MIKEY DEE by Mark E. Waterbury
Pivotal moments in musicians' careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
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Copyright 2005 by Music Morsels,
a Serge Entertainment Publication.
Editor: Sandy Serge
Mark E. Waterbury, Scott Turner
Bands from England have to build their fan bases just like bands in the United States. Playing road warrior, connecting with fans, getting their music on radio...the recipes for success are similar on both sides of the big pond. Even when a band starts to cultivate their following in the European market, they know that true success lies in getting their music over to the States. After ensnaring a good portion of the British Isles and Europe in their clutches through hard work and innovative music, Skindred has placed themselves in a position for world domination. Like a one band nuclear fueled British invasion, this foursome paid their dues in their home regions which helped them reap a major U.S. label deal, tours supporting some of the hottest metal acts in the world, and a growing legion of fans worldwide. Fan loyalty has plenty to do with Skindred's mushrooming success.
The electric guitar was the coolest thing in the world, Mikey Dee recalls. Just had to get one and pick it up, and my dad helped me because he played guitar before. I was just trying to better myself by playing guitar. Mikey played in a number of bands in Great Britain, and over the years he came to know Daniel Pugsley, the bassist from a band called Skindred that was weaving elements of metal, reggae and punk together into a potent musical stew. I loved seeing the band live before I joined them. They put on one of the best shows I had ever seen in my life. They had a really good underground following because they played great live shows. Skindred formed in South Wales in 2001, from the ashes of the underground darling but not commercially successful band Dub War. Pugsley and vocalist Benji Webbe were the cornerstones of the band, and through the frenetic tour pace, managed to get a deal with BMG Europe for the debut CD ÒBabylon. In 2002, the original guitarist and drummer left Skindred, and were replaced by Mikey Dee and drummer Dirty Arya.I think I was right for the role and I fit in nicely and I had the right head on my shoulders. Mikey recalls. Since Dirty Arya and I both joined at the same time, we had a very fast learning curve, both with learning the songs and being able to put on the same live show as the previous line up. It was all quite a lot of work, but I got along with the other guys great and we became like a close family. We definitely jelled.
With the pieces now in place, Skindred got back to business. Through their hard work performing live wherever they could in their early days, the band had already cultivated a sizable following when the lineup retooling tookÊ place. ÒWhen I joined the band, I saw how a lot of their fans already knew the words to the songs and were really into them, Mikey recalls. ÒThey were already partway up the ladder when I joined the band. The main thing was just paying the live shows which spoke for themselves, and that is what really started building that fan base up. We get a real cross-section of people who come up and tell us they like the music. Everyone from rappers to punkers to skinheads to metalheads. Every single different type of person was into it, and I don't think a lot of bands can make that same claim. Skindred continued to tour, including a slot on 2002's Ozzfest. In spite of the hard work, ÒBabylon was not gaining the success it should have been considering the band's tenacious touring. Finally, their management company in the U.S. convinced Lava Records that they were worth taking a look at. ÒThey showed (Lava) how big we were going over in Europe and the U.K. They seemed to think it would work over in the States, too, so they signed us and brought us over here to tour. It started the snowball rolling. With the deal from Lava in hand, Skindred embarked on more high profile tours with bands such as Korn, Papa Roach, Sevendust and Chevelle. They also soon found one difference in how a band achieves success in the States. ÒIn the U.K., people come to the shows from reputation or what people have heard. Over here, people tend to come to the shows because of the strength of the songs they hear on the radio. If people like what they hear on the radio, they are more likely to come to the show.In late 2004, Lava re-released ÒBabylon with the addition of four previously unreleased tracks. The album and its first single ÒNobody started making an immediate impact on the rock radio charts, and surprisingly enough, shot into the top 10 of the reggae charts where it remained for a number of months. ÒThat is what is mostly responsible for why we are getting popular. People hear something new in us that they haven't really heard before. People like hearing a band who plays a combination of reggae, with metal, punk and drum and bass thrown in a melting pot. We never actually set out to do that. It was just the sound that naturally came out.
2005 finds Skindred busy as usual. They have been on a headlining tour through the States and are gearing up to join the VANS Warped Tour in late July. There is a new album in the future as well. The band began writing new material as soon as Mikey and Arya joined, and will go into the studio to refine those efforts once the tour is finished. Even as the popularity is growing, Skindred never forgets that the fans are the main reason why they are there, and interaction with their fans has been one of the most important factors in their success so far. ÒWe were really, really proactive on connecting with the fans. We all have personal e-mail addresses on the web site and I personally answer every e-mail that I get from the fans. None of us are scared of walking around in the crowd or standing by the merch table to talk to people and meet them and gauge their reactions. We are at the level right now we can hang around and talk to people. We don't have to hide back stage and pretend we are something we are not. As long as it is practical to get out there and interact with the fans, we will.
Mikey Dee's advice for musicians: Bands that stick together and are strong as a team tend to be more successful because with the close interactions where you are just about in each other's pockets 24/7. It is a miracle that some bands stay together. Some bands are just too much about business, where with us, we are more of a close-knit family. I think the hard work is not to forget what your goals are. Getting a label deal is really an accomplishment, but it is not the all-ender because there are a lot of levels of how a label deal can affect you. Sometimes you can sign a great deal and put out a great album and it just gets shelved and your career is over. You have to keep sticking to the basics of touring and touring and touring, and staying together like family.