Artist News

Mike Skinner “guilty” about playing Bristol’s Colston Hall

By | Published on Monday 6 July 2020

Mike Skinner

Mike Skinner says that he regrets not boycotting Bristol’s Colston Hall over the link between its name and the slave trade. The venue, of course, is now planning to change that name when it re-opens following renovations.

“I feel a bit guilty”, he says in an interview with The Independent. “I shouldn’t have played at Bristol Colston Hall. Massive Attack haven’t been playing there for years. At the time, I just thought it was just a name”.

The venue takes its name from slave owner Edward Colston, whose past philanthropy in Bristol means there are lots of streets and institutions containing the ‘Colston’ word across the city. There was also, until recently, of course, a Grade II listed statue of him in the city centre. That was pulled down and dumped in the harbour during the Black Lives Matter protests last month.

“It was a fantastic moment pulling the statue down”, says Skinner. “It was driven as much by white guilt as black power. Even Piers Morgan backs it. If he backs it, I’m pretty confident that we’re good to go”.

As for the wider resurgence of the BLM protests, Skinner says: “It’s been incredibly moving. It’s easy for me to say, but I don’t think racist people are the problem, even though they are being quite vocal on Twitter. I think racist systems are by orders of magnitude more damaging. I think what’s going on at the moment is people are starting to understand the difference between racist people and racist systems”.

Speaking of Twitter, The Independent also wonders how some off Skinner’s older work might be taken on social media if it were released today. Skinner concedes that tracks like ‘Fit But You Know It’ could see him “cancelled”. But, he goes on: “It could be a lot worse. I could have made much more problematic music. I don’t worry about it”.

“I think social media is going to have to find a way of addressing the context thing”, he continues. “I think context exists in the real world, what someone looks like is quite important to what they’re saying. And on Twitter you don’t get that to any sort of satisfactory level. And it also works when you’re looking back at stuff. So probably at best ‘Fit But You Know It’ can just be seen as something cheeky that’s maybe of its time. In context of FHM culture and Nuts magazine, it’s probably a bit more woke than that, but definitely less woke than now”.

Skinner will release his first Streets record for nearly a decade this week, which he describes as “a rap duets album”. It features collaborations with Tame Impala, Idles, Jesse James Solomon and more.