Skindred Mikey Demus Interview

South Wales spawned a burst of energy back in 1999 when Dub War exploded onto the scene in the UK. Once the group disbanded, singer Benji and co decided to start a new project, called it Skindred and added Mikey Demus on guitar in replace of Jeff Rose.

Mikey joins Crossfire writer Kelly Renda for this weeks interview.

Hi Mikey, welcome to Crossfire, lets get stuck in…..who are your top 3 musical heros?

I grew up listening to alot of random stuff, not so much rock or metal at an early age, but a lot of punk and alternative stuff.

I think the main reasons I started playing guitar would have to be people like Jimi Hendrix; it didnt seem to me like he was ‘playing an instrument’, it was more like he was wielding some alien force around on stage and all the people looking on were just trying to keep up! He was a total badass, born to do it and in a league of his own. He made it look so easy, it was all off the cuff and never the same thing twice.

Song writing wise, I really dig Elvis Costello, he’s written so many songs that make me think “I wish I’d written that”, he has a natural understanding of melody and articulates amazing feeling with great diction. Plus he always looked so cool, in a really unconventional way.

These days I look up to guitarists who innovate their stage performance without being technical virtuosos; for this reason I think Aaron North (NIN, The Icarus Line, Jubilee) is the man. He shreds with feedback, amazing weird-ass tones and lo-fi noises. Plus I wish I could throw myself around the stage that much and still play the songs, its harder than it looks.

What is the most embarrassing CD in your collection?

I’m glad to say I’m not embarrassed by anything in my CD collection. Any cheesy shit I own, I bought with good reason and put it to good use at some point i’m sure! I’m sure there’s something in there that could be construed as terrible, but hey it could be worse! Thank god I’ve never owned anything like a Gary Glitter record, i’m sure HMV has trouble shifting any of his back catalogue these days. Even the charity shops won’t take them! I’m not speaking from personal experience here, I just have to keep telling myself that ‘Help The Aged’ are keen to also help the under-aged live a decent and Gary Glitter-free life.

Skindred have a band mascot called Mr C, what does the C stand for?

Its a secret that will die with us, I’m afraid. Lets just say that since we liberated him from captivity up in scotland, he has to keep a relatively low profile, and we are all there by his side to protect his anonymity.

I hear that you fancy yourself as a bit of a Gordan Ramsey, what is your favorite concoction to whip up?

He’s the kinda guy a lot of people love to hate so hopefully I’m nothing like him, personality wise… but I do think a lot of his food is good. I like making decent scrambled eggs. Its a really simple thing that so many people do badly. But then it’s all a matter of taste I suppose.

Are there any essentials that always go with you on tour? Apart from your guitars and the boys of course

Not many of us could survive without the trusty laptop. Its a window to the world, and keeps a lot of creative processes flowing on the road. I do a ton of graphics and web design stuff, Dan is well into his electronic music, Benji writes a hell of a lot, lyrics, stories, diaries and stuff. Arya organises a great deal of ongoing touring and band business stuff from his computer too. Other than certain pieces of said technology, we’re all pretty low maintenance.

If you could collaborate with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to just be around to watch Dub Trio write songs. Their music is so inspirational, it taps into so many ideas in my head; it all seems so effortless to them, they’re some of the most competent players i’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a stage with. I’d also love to be around to see how Sikth write; we both did a record with the same label’s studio and engineer, I’ve heard a lot of stories about how complicated their musical world is. I’d really like a first hand experience into how a song of theirs goes from concept to creation. I also think it would have been really cool to be around when punk and rock was such a new thing, I feel now like so many people try to reinvent the same old stuff, like tried and tested ideas with a younger face or something. Thats what makes me happy about being in Skindred; whether or not you dig it is your call, the great part is I get to tell my grandkids I was part of something that really didn’t sound like much else; and these days not many bands can say the same.

Do you have any party tricks?

I can moonwalk if the floor is suitable and I’m wearing correct footwear. I’m also told I do a convincing dolphin impression.

If you could pick three items to put into Room 101, what would they be and why?

I hate the fact that it costs more to eat organic foods in this country as opposed to stuff packed with additives. Two generations ago, people were told that that would be charged more for foods laced with preservatives that would make a better product, now we’re being made to pay more for the option of going back to the way things should be. I understand that the demand for organic produce is lower, hence the higher cost, but it sucks! If more people were educated about the realities of this, I think that there would be bigger demand for healthier options. So throw what ever you’d call the mass of non-organic produce into Room 101 if it’s possible.

Lazy journalism would have to go in the room I’m afraid; too often do music journalists try to put us in a pigeonhole that I feel is way off target… I suppose those fashionable bands out there are always going to disapprove of being shelved in a genre that doesn’t fit their seasonal taste. As for my band, whilst we’ve toured with far too many spectrally opposite bands from different stylistic backgrounds, we still find that press can be too keen to slap a generic label on a sound that we feel is, well, kinda different. All too often is the ‘Bad Brains‘ tag thrown around carelessly. I have to say, do your homework and try to look past a black guy with dreads singing his guts out… as much as I love that band, the last time i checked they rarely mixed it up, they played punk and reggae separately in their own unique way. I can see why fans of that band see similar qualities in us, maybe in terms of attitude or cultural reference (and hell, i take it as a compliment), but let’s be honest, sonically we sound nothing like them; Daryl Palumbo sounds more like HR than Benji does!

Man that all really sounded like one long rant. I’ll keep it simple from now on. Ok so the last one has to be quite easy, i’ll say band members who get on their high horse and turn what should have been a simple interview into their 15 minutes of fame and over-opinionated noise! So yes, that means I have to dive headfirst into Room 101, shit.

If you could be any piece of clothing, what would you be and who would you belong to?

I would be the cheap, ill-fitting, high-street bought, two-piece suit of every mobile phone salesperson and estate agent in the country, suddenly develop the ability to defy the laws of physics and spontaneously combust; leaving my owner unscathed but with a slight sense of shame and an overwhelming need to spend some real money, seeing as they act as if they have any in the first place. Miaow! God i’m such a complete bitch today, love it.

Do you have any odd interests?

I’m obsessive about typography (fonts and type, etc) and photography. Basically lots of things which end in ‘graphy’. And also architecture. I’m just a bit of a design nerd, I get excited about a certain aesthetic that a lot of people don’t begin to think about.

How do you feel about the font that I have written these questions in? Is there room for improvement?

Well, the font i’m reading this in left alot to be desired. Its a default looking serif font that Windows XP is clearly fond of… I’d have swapped it for Garamond, Century Schoolbook or something a little more sexy, if we’re talking serif fonts. My current sans serif fancies are LiHei Pro and also Korunishi. Otherwise you could talk to me in some Swis 721, or good old fashioned Helvetica. Sad but true. So yeh, back to the drawing board for you i’m afraid.

If you were granted three wishes, would you wish for three more wishes?

If I were dealing with a compassionate genie, then yes; most definitely. If not then probably the obvious three; world peace, an end to suffering, and an actual left handed controller for Guitar Hero III. Who wants to play an upside down Les Paul? I dont. Oh and teleporting, I want someone to invent that already. Ok thats four; yes I’d ask for a couple more wishes.

Black socks or white socks?

Generally black though, I always thought white socks were a bit perverted. I guess it all depends on the scenario… See party tricks above in that case.

You clearly like tattoos, how many do you have now?

Well I suppose I have to say 4 or 5, although they’re all fairly large. One is an entire sleeve; a few subtle ‘He-Man’ characters done in japanese style (by Jason Zigzag). It was my favourite as a kid, yes I’m aware that it’s a completely wooden and arguably homo-erotic cartoon. My other arm is almost totally covered now, i’ve got lots of various religious imagery on my left forearm and a big unfinished traditional piece on my upper arm. Its getting finished on this upcoming tour though, hurrah! The same artist (Kiley Truesoul) did this big traditional piece on my chest, it hurt like a bitch but was well worth it. There’s more to come at some point I’m sure, I’d get stuff done on my hands and neck too if i didn’t think i might have to go get a bank loan one day. Its all part of my master plan to distract people from my morbidly pale skin and misshaped body, ha.

I hear through the grapevine that you mix a mean cocktail. If you were a cocktail, what would you consist of and what would you be called?

It’s true i’m also a trained cocktail bartender. And I mean real cocktails like Old Fashioneds and Caipirinhas, not ‘Sex On The Beach‘ and all that other amateur hour shit, beam me up Scotty! I like a lot of things with bourbon in, the more straightforward and classic looking the better. I like making drinks like I the way I make food; simple things done really well. I like to think that I do consist of a good bourbon, I know for a fact that at least a 5th of me is pure booze. I had a catscan, honest.

Any words of wisdom for our readers?…

We just finished dates with with Bullet For My Valentine this February in the UK and Europe, plus we have lots more other things coming up this year. With the state of the industry and the internet these days, not many people are physically buying records. Everyone from kids to pensioners are downloading music, which is fine by me; But if you do want to support the bands you claim to be a fan of, come to a show and buy a t-shirt or something! It’s the best way to keep a band alive these days.

Roots, Rock and Riots is out now, find Skindred at www.myspace.com/skindred