SKINFLINT – Reigning Down In Africa
July 10, 2018, 6 months ago
“Africa” and “heavy metal.” Not exactly two things that have often been linked together over the years. But there are certainly signs of “metallic life” on the world’s second largest continent – as evidenced by the emergence of Skinflint. The trio – which is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Giuseppe Sbrana, bassist Kebonye Nkoloso, and drummer Alessandra Sbrana – has issued a self-titled album, which serves as their fifth full-length release overall, via INTO Records (distributed by Cargo Records). To celebrate the occasion, Giuseppe and Kebonye chatted with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about the album, Africa’s metal scene, and touring plans.
BraveWords: How did Skinflint form?
Kebonye Nkoloso: “It was around 2006, and my cousin and I had been playing together – just jamming in the studio for a couple of months – and then we decided to look for a bass player.”
BraveWords: How would you describe the hard rock and heavy metal scene in Botswana, and in Africa in general?
Giuseppe Sbrana: “I think Botswana has a very strong underground metal scene. It’s not as big as say, Europe or the States, but there is a strong, dedicated underground scene. I think we get about 100 or 200 people at the shows, but they have a very distinctive style – with chains, and they’ve got his ‘cowboy look.’ So, I think it’s an interesting scene in Botswana.”
BraveWords: Would you suggest that metal bands from elsewhere should play Africa?
Kebonye Nkoloso: “I think it would definitely be a very different experience – mainly because of the fans and the energy that they have. It’s quite a memorable experience.”
Giuseppe Sbrana: “I think also the bands are very expressive. I think it would be a good thing if more international bands come and play here.”
BraveWords: Who are some of the band’s influences?
Kebonye Nkoloso: “We all have varied interests. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and alternative rock. But Giuseppe introduced me to bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.”
Giuseppe Sbrana: “Growing up, my uncle, Ray Sbrana, was a blues guitarist, and he introduced me to Jimi Hendrix. I grew up listening to a lot of blues artists, like Howlin’ Wolf, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson. So, I actually started as a blues guitarist, and then I discovered Black Sabbath, who has some blues in their music. I kind of liked that, and I got into metal around 2006 or so, and then founded Skinflint with the idea of blending elements of African culture with heavy metal.”
BraveWords: The band has just issued a self-titled album.
Kebonye Nkoloso: “We are quite proud of it, because it sums up the style of music that we are trying to achieve over the years, and it’s a really good representation of our musical style and the direction we want to keep going in.”
BraveWords: How would you compare this album to previous albums by the band?
Giuseppe Sbrana: “I think after many years or playing music, you tend to discover elements in your music that sound unique. So, I think in this particular album, we tended to push those elements to the forefront. I think this album – compared to the other albums – has a very distinctive tone. It has a very strong identity. And I think you can hear a band that is more confident to express their uniqueness that makes it different.”
BraveWords: Favorite tracks?
Giuseppe Sbrana: “I think my favorites would definitely be ‘The Hyena Sorcerer’ and ‘Tokoloshe.’ I think ‘The Hyena Sorcerer’ mostly because of the riff that has a very African rhythm to it. I’m quite proud of that. And ‘Tokoloshe’ because of the mythology in the lyrics – it has a very strong African mythology in the lyrics.
Kebonye Nkoloso: “I definitely agree with both of those songs. But I also love ‘Birds and Milk, Bloody Milk,’ because it was one of the first songs we wrote in the studio that took us in the direction of combining a lot of African percussion into the music.”
BraveWords: ‘Birds and Milk, Bloody Milk’ is not your average/ordinary song title.
Giuseppe Sbrana: “It is about the story of a bird that tells this man to kill his only male cow, and in turn, the bird will give him a hundred more cows. The man was desperate to support his family, so the man does comply with the agreement, but the bird does not keep up his end of the agreement. So, most of the song is about the storytelling, because storytelling is a strong aspect of African culture. We wanted to incorporate that in to the lyrics.”
BraveWords: And there is a video for that song, as well.
Kebonye Nkoloso: “The video we shot very close to where we live – on a farm. We wanted to try and make it different this time, by including dancers. Which was a really cool experience, because that whole theme of African mythology and African rhythm is emphasized visually.”
Giuseppe Sbrana: “I think it was also important to include the dancers because of the rhythm of the song. This was the first time for us – we had never incorporated heavy metal with that style of African rhythm. I think it was a unique combination.”
BraveWords: Touring plans?
Kebonye Nkoloso: “We would really love to tour in the United States, but at the moment, we do not have any confirmed dates yet.”
Giuseppe Sbrana: “We would definitely be interested in touring in the United States, and also Europe again – because we went there last year with Tarja, and the feedback was really positive.”