Skin's solo career gets into its stride

She shot to fame in the mid-Nineties as Skunk Anansie’s frontwoman and by far the most striking face on any teenager’s bedroom wall. Sarah Brealey catches up with Skin as her solo career gets into its stride.

The adverts for Skin's forthcoming tour bill her as “the voice of Skunk Anansie”, and four years after the band split up, that is probably how most people remember her. But then it was Skin (real name Deborah Ann Dyer) that made Skunk Anansie memorable - for her attitude and a voice that could switch from soothing to searing, as well as the fact that there weren't many bald black women rock stars around.

Songs such as Little Baby Swastika made waves, while later releases including Hedonism and Twisted (Every Day Hurts) were faultless and memorable, love songs with a dose of vitriol thrown in.

When we catch up, she is struggling with her internet connection, but otherwise “everything is fabulous”.

The Brixton-raised singer is getting ready for “about a year” of touring. The Alone in My Room tour, which kicks off in Norwich on Tuesday, will see her play a series of intimate gigs in smaller venues. It heralds the new single, which has just been released over the internet.

Fans without the technology will have to wait until March, when the album, Fake Chemical State, is released via more conventional methods. Then the gig whirlwhind picks up even more speed. Fortunately, Skin enjoys touring. “I've done a lot of writing.” As for the new album, she declares it “my best ever”. Don't they have to say that? “I have never used that cliché before, but this one really is, and I am very pleased with it.”

Her debut album, Fleshwounds, was well received: softer than Skunk Anansie, more Portishead than punk. Fake Chemical State, she says, “is completely different, actually. It's a different vibe. The differences were always in the mood I was in at the time. With Fleshwounds I was having differences with the record company, I had a relationship that broke up, an important relationship, so it was all a weird, blue time. Now I am out and all those problems have gone away. I am happier and not so introverted on it.

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“It is more dirty, more rock. It is out there.” So is this a return to the style of Skunk Anansie?

“I don't think it sounds like Skunk Anansie, but I think if Skunk Anansie were around now and just starting out, I think this is what we would would sound like. It is like an obnoxious little child, with the intelligence. It is a bit stroppy and a bit shouty.”

She uses the word “obnoxious” again, which seems odd for an album that is supposed to be the product of a happier time in her life. Why all the anger? “I think it is angry times. You know when you feel you have been shot in the back by your Government?”

She is furious about the Iraq war and nuclear missiles and feels we have taken “a step backwards”. It is with a profound sense of having been betrayed that she says: “I voted for Tony Blair. The problem is that there is no one else.”

But Fake Chemical State is not a political album; she says it is personal, but “socially aware”.

So I ask her what it is like being one of the few black women in pop, and she furiously corrects me. “In rock!”

“I think that is a positive, not a negative. It means I have a different perspective.”

Whatever the reason, Skin is a true original in a music world that sometimes seems swamped by teenagers and manufactured acts. It seems likely she will have plenty to say in Norwich on Tuesday. Just don't dare mention the p-word.

t Skin is at Norwich Waterfront on Tuesday, November 15. Doors 7.30pm. Tickets at £11 in advance are available in Norwich from UEA Union, Waterfront, Soundclash and HMV. Credit card bookings 01603 508050 or www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk

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