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Book (Our Generation)

The following is an interview with Wayne that was done for Keepin On Records for their re-release of the album More Than Skin-Deep in 2014.

First of all, thank you very much Wayne for your attention and your answers. How do you feel when someone, after so many years, approaches you regarding Skin-Deep?

I am amazed that people are still interested in the band after all these years. When we started the band we couldn’t imagine people would be interested 2 or 3 years ahead, never mind 25 years ahead. I still get people asking if we are going to reform and play a few gigs. We have even had teenagers get in touch who were not even born when we split up and say how much they love the music. It is all very flattering.


How was growing up in Doncaster in the 80’s? And how did you become a skinhead? Any fond memories of those early days with a crop?

I think 99% of people look back at their teen years with fondness. It was great, everything was new and exciting. Discovering girls and Punk music messed up my school work but I wouldn’t change a thing. I got into the Skinhead scene because the punk scene was going all gothic and a bit trendy. The Skinhead scene was still working class music for working class kids, or at least that is how I saw it. Even in my earliest memories I was very rebellious. I have always been attracted to rebellious things, attitudes, styles, ideas. I still am. To me the Punk scene was no longer rebellious the way it was heading. We used to go to a gig at least once a week, travelling to Sheffield, Leeds, London etc and saw most of the punk bands of the time. We used to jump the trains (not pay for a ticket).

Which were the reasons to form Skin-Deep back in 1985? Which were your musical inspirations, any band you wanted to sound like?

I can only really speak for Myself, Mik and Andy as we formed the band and met the others later. But we were into the punk scene and wanted to do something creative. We were into SLF, Angelic Upstarts, PTTB, Cockney Rejects, Sex Pistols, UK Subs, Chelsea, The Clash etc.

I think we were trying to have that kind of sound in the beginning but then Mik got into effects pedals, Jud introduced us to the Redskins and we started listening to bands like The Housemartins and even The Smiths. We were still into the punk bands but had just widened our musical taste. We also started to get back into Madness and The Specials.

You started with a more punk/Oi! Sound, but I think that changed with the 'My Life's Fine' track, and definitely with 'More Than Skin -Deep' LP. Why did you change your style?

Following what I said in the last question, we just got better as musicians and song writers. Our musical tastes became broader and this influenced our sound.

When I first listened to 'More Than Skin -Deep' it was like a breath of fresh air, sussed skins playing amazing music that reminded me of The Redskins or The Housemartins! What do you think about the comparison? Did you like those bands? Did you have the chance to watch them on stage?

Yes as I just mentioned we loved those 2 bands and they obviously had a big influence on our sound. When I first heard the Redskins I was unsure and thought they were a bit too poppy. But after a few listens I was hooked. I never saw any of those bands live. I wish I did. If they ever invent a time machine I know exactly where I am going first, ha ha. Or maybe second, I will get the winning lottery numbers first.

We also wanted to try to create a new sound. We had been listening to The Burial and loved the way they added Ska influences in their punk/pop sound. The Skinhead scene had never really had its own sound, its own bands. It was originally derived from Jamaican Ska, then the Punk and 2 Tone scenes. We wanted to create a sound for skinheads created by skinheads.

I guess you loved early ska, skinhead reggae but also 2-Tone… Your cover of The Bleechers sound to me really 2-Tonish and by the way, it makes people dance instantly when I have the chance to Dj it! Any favourite bands or tunes? Guess Madness have something to do also in your sound.

Yes of course. Mik was really into the early Ska and skinhead reggae. I liked it but I was more into 2 tone. It was more my generation.  I loved Madness, even their later albums that people seem to forget about. I think they are the most under rated song writers of all time.

Looking back, are you happy with how 'More Than Skin -Deep' LP sounds? Anything you would have changed?

Ha Ha, We all got ill towards the end of the recording and this really caused the mixing to be rushed. I think if we had maybe waited another 7 or 8 months to record it we would have produced a much better record. We were also working on some new songs which were moving towards a Redskins sound. As I remember they were pretty good but unfortunately are now lost forever.

I think your voice Wayne, was one of the main assets of Skin Deep, a really soulful voice, akin to that of Paul Heaton. It gave Skin-Deep a warm, familiar feeling, augmented by the chorus as in 'I Won’t Be Fooled', which made tunes even catchier. What do you think?

Thanks for the compliment. I always thought and still think I can’t sing, ha ha. But I have never met a singer that likes their own voice. I have always tried to write catchy tunes from the Skin-Deep days and with all the bands I have been in. When I write a song I ask myself would I like it if it wasn’t mine. If the answer is no, then I scrap it.

Besides your amazing music, your lyrics put you also away from the stereotypical skinhead band of the 80’s, shouting empty clichés about football agro. Who wrote the lyrics of Skin Deep? What did you try to reflect in them?

Mik would record himself playing the guitar chords on an old cassette recorder and give it to me. I would then write the lyrics and vocal melody while listening to it. I just wrote about what I was seeing around me and tried to be interesting in what I was writing.

Although they are not political, I think there is a kind of social awareness in them. Were you influenced by the social climate of the time, miner’s strike, Maggie’s policies and so on…? Did you ever think about writing more overtly political lyrics at that time?

Yes I think so. Doncaster is right in the heart of the mining community I was actually a miner for 18 months after I left school. The last track on the album ‘What else could we do’ is about Thatcher’s government.


How was the skinhead scene in the UK in the mid-late 80’s? Did you have any problem with boneheads?

By the late 80’s it was coming to an end. We never really had any trouble with boneheads, they were all talk. Some people have asked why we played gigs with some of the dodgy bands that had right wing followings. Well it is easy to play to the converted. It was much more productive playing gigs where there would be boneheads and hopefully educating them. I remember at Leamington Spa one of our road crew (Beck) arguing with a gang of right wing skinheads outside. He was actually getting them to agree with him. A lot of people hid behind fanzines and spouted their views. Nowadays people hide behind computers to do it. We went out and took our message to the ‘enemy’. Skin-Deep faced them in the flesh.

Much water has passed under the bridge since those days, but do you have any particular fond memory of a gig, or any funny moments to remember?

Too many to mention but every gig was memorable for a different reason. We used to have a lot of fun on stage and try to make every gig enjoyable but travelling to and from the gigs was also a big part in the enjoyment. We were kids so everything was new and a buzz. Just hanging round with your mates in a skinhead ‘gang’ was good fun. My girlfriend at the time used to get very jealous of the skinhead girls that would send us pics or approach us at gigs and ask if we were single. Oh the perils of being a ‘rock star’, ha ha.

One thing that amused us was when the UK’s biggest newspaper reported that we were partly to blame for England football fans rioting in Germany. They claimed we were the music of football hooligans and followed by Leeds Utd service crew. News to us, ha ha.

Why did you split up? Are you still in touch with the other members of the band?

That is a good question. We fell out with Link records over the artwork for the album and tried to stop the album being released. But we had basically signed our rights away and could do nothing about it. We decided to split and form a new band with new songs, but by mid to late 1989 we had started to drift apart musically. It just ran its course I suppose.

I am still in touch with Jud and Cal. Jud is a recording engineer in a local studio. Mik is now playing with Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles and is not really in touch. We had a ‘fall out’ about Babyshambles using one of my songs and not crediting me. Last I heard Stig was living in Japan. I have not heard from Andy for over 20 years and Gav I have not seen for maybe 10 years. It is quite sad how you can lose contact with people that were such good friends.

After the split, you formed The Ferrymen, another superb band that I think followed the path already drawn by Skin-Deep. In fact, I think the 'Northern Pop' tag could be perfectly attached also to Skin-Deep. How did The Ferrymen fare? You even played in Spain, what do you remember about that tour?

It was good fun but not like the Skin-Deep days. We were really close mates in Skin-Deep, The Ferrymen never really felt like that. In Skin-Deep you knew the guys had you back if there was trouble but in The Ferrymen I felt like I was on my own. Even on stage.

The tour in Spain was great fun. Very tiring and lots of travelling. The Tarragona gig was crazy. We played on the street about 2 o’clock in the morning and the whole street was bouncing. We felt like U2 up there on stage, ha ha.

Zaragoza was a great night. I remember getting to the venue and they were playing the Skin-deep album. The place was packed. We used to do an encore with bits from pop songs for fun. To see a room full of skinheads singing along to songs from Grease and the Spice Girls was very funny.

We always used to get requests for Skin-Deep songs but we had never rehearsed any. The only time we did one was when we jammed ‘The Sycamores’ in Madrid after it was requested about 10 times.

One of the best things about being in a band is all the new places you go and all the new people you meet.

And how are you doing nowadays? Any new musical projects or are family and kids too much to cope with? ;-)

Ha ha thanks for reminding me. I have played in several bands since Skin-Deep. Obviously The Ferrymen and then a band called Angry Dolphin which was more Britpop. I then played in a band called Monte Carlo Safe Crackers which I wrote all the songs for but just played guitar. I didn’t sing. We occasionally still play the odd gig.

It will always be in my blood to want to create music. I hope when my son is old enough he will want to do the same.

"It goes more than skin deep."