Metal Life Exclusive Interview With SKINLESS
A very jetlagged Sherwood Webster joined resident Metal Life reporter Karila in conversation regarding Skinless’ recent touring and festival patterns.
K: It’s good to have you on Metal Life, Sherwood! You poor thing, you still sound jetlagged from Hellfest, and you’ve been doing interviews all day! How was Hellfest?
S: It was a blast, we had the opportunity to play and see some of our favorite bands of all time.
And honestly, I ain’t no poor thing when it comes to all this work; I chose this life and it’s all good.
K: Have you ever been a spectator at these big European festivals like Wacken or Hellfest?
S: Never to Wacken but I’ve been to various European festivals as well like other US fests. I went to Coachella two years ago, and I fucking hated every minute of it. It’s another well produced festival like Hellfest, but with that many people there….it just wasn’t for me. I ended up not going after the first day. I did what I would have rather done which is sit in my condo and drink beer. And Hellfest just has more likeminded people instead of vacationers and fucked up kids doing drugs.
K: You told me before the interview that you work for AEG Live, which not only seems like an awesome gig, but it obviously shows that you know a thing or two about live event planning.
How impactful do you think having festivals for the metal community is for the scene?
S: I would really love to see festivals in the US grow even stronger. I think there’s a number of reasons why that doesn’t happen. Number one: Proximity in Europe. Cities are a lot closer together and people can travel from all over Europe, whereas here in the US we are much more spread out and usually have to fly to get to most of the major US festivals. But also, there’s such a tremendous risk involved in starting a festival. Most festivals don’t make money for the first four or five years on a large scale until the name’s out. Coachella’s a great example: at one point they were just at the brink of going away forever, and then it started to really take off. And now it sells out before the lineup is even announced; it became a household name as far as festivals go. With that said, I prefer a smaller club atmosphere to see shows. I don’t need the sensory overload of seeing a million bands per day. [man shouts “I love your work!”] Oh, that was my boss.
K: Haha, hello boss man! Back on the subject, I can see why especially bands like Skinless would love more intimate shows. Death metal shows are just so much more fun when the fans are in close corners.
S: Great point, we just played two festivals right in a row: Maryland Deathfest and then Hellfest.
It’s amazing to be able to play to that many people on that kind of scale. But there’s 20 feet between you and the audience, you’re on a very very tall stage, and the barricades loseonnection between you and the audience. Seeing the sea of people is great, but a tighter environment when you’re facetoface with the musicians is always a good time. It would actually sound a lot tighter too because on large stages, there’s all kinds of acoustic variables that just make things messy.
K: What’s one of the craziest small shows you remember playing?
S: We used to play a lot of basements. Those were usually the best shows with no production whatsoever.
K: And of course in those early days in the 90s, Skinless was known for handing audience members those pool noodles to bash each other with. That sounds like so much fun.
S: Yeah, one of the guys knew somebody that worked at a wacky noodle factory. We just brought boatloads of those to the shows and watched everybody destroy each other. We haven’t really grown up much since those days either.
K: But actually you have grown up! One thing I’ve always admired about Skinless is your guys’ love for family life; even more so you have a commendable knack for balance. You don’t fool yourselves into believing you can be the next Cannibal Corpse and make your living solely off death metal, but you don’t completely quit music altogether because family life has some kind of stigma of necessity, whether you want a family or not.
S: You’re right on all fronts, but you’re also the first person to ever call anyone from Skinless mature so congratulations on that! I’m 36, and most of the guys in the band are in their 40s or approaching their 40s. After we got back to the US from Hellfest, we all wondered, “How the fuck did we used to tour all the time?” And that was after one show! It’s not a question of being out of shape. But Skinless is a different kind of band than some other death metal bands that get up there and just stand in one place doing their thing. We are like a half prowrestling/half comedy show that usually leaves someone hurting at the end. That was all good when we were doing that at 22 and 24 years old, but now that we’re all approaching 40, we all get serious hangovers afterwards.
K: On top of that, was there ever a point when you were in your early twenties when you thought that death metal was what you always wanted to do for the rest of your life? Or have you always had the family life mentality in the back of your mind since the beginning?
S: I think at that age you don’t really think about where it’s going or what you’re going to be doing in ten years. Skinless would have been perfectly capable of being a career band if we had chosen that path. But that would be all you would do and it would be our entire identity for everybody else. Now, we can go and be big rockstars in France for the weekend, but I have to get home after work and mow the lawn. I’d honestly rather do that. I love my family and kids,and to me being boring ol’ dad is better than getting a slap on the back from someone at Hellfest. I think that is maturity for ya!
K: Any plans to stop over on the West Coast at any point?
S: It’s perfectly possible. Right now, we are finishing booking a couple weekends on the East Coast. I think we will knock those out this fall for October and November, and of course December will be Black Sky here in Denver. After that, yeah it’s perfectly possible. We get a lot of show offers which is very flattering. There is a lot of interest out there but we can only do so much at a time.