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Credit: Simon Crompton Reid

Music

Mike Skinner's first band was a tribute to Rage Against The Machine

@josephtaysom

Over the last three decades, Mike Skinner has proven himself to be an institution of British music. With his prodigal way with words and the ability to transcend genres, Skinner shares a crossover appeal similar to that of Rage Against The Machine, the first rock band he ever loved.

Skinner, growing up in Birmingham during the 1990s, allowed the band fronted by Zack de la Rocha to soundtrack to his adolescence. Although on paper The Streets and Rage Against The Machine sit at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, both concocted a blend of rap music that is unique to the personalities and ethics of the thoughts on wider society.

Of course, both Rage and Skinner have had to deal with their fair share of imitators since they respectively gained success. In fact, the mastermind behind The Streets was one of many enchanted to such a degree by Rage Against The Machine that he felt compelled enough to start a band. `Writing in his autobiography, The Story Of The Streets, Skinner calls them “the rock band who spoke to me most directly,” which he puts down to the hip-hop element of their sound.

Adding: “It was constantly on heavy rotation in my bedroom, and when the moment came for me to start my first band, it was obvious what the template was going to be”.

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After purchasing his first guitar, a blue Fender Squire, and subsequently learning a few basic chords, Skinner was ready to start a group. His brother played the drums, his friend Chris rapped, while Mike played the guitar, and added “a bit of the shouty stuff”. Hilariously, they also found a local bass player who – was in his late 30s – and completed the line-up for Harry and The Krishnas.

“We played Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Bullet In The Head’ really badly,” Skinner continues. “Even though we only rehearsed — we never actually played a gig — and probably only did that for a month or so in total, when I look back on it, this band was a very big thing in my head. I was trying to be Tom Morello”.

Skinner’s life would, of course, take a different path, but decades later, his love for Rage Against The Machine would be revived at Rock Am Ring festival in 2010, even if Tom Morello’s security pushed him out of the way backstage. “I couldn’t really hold it against him, Skinner admits. “I was standing outside my dressing room at the time, and they were trying to get to the stage”.

Skinner adds, “Finally getting to see that band all those years later, you’d think they’d have been a disappointment, but they completely blew me away. I wish I’d been able to see them years before, but sadly they never made it to the Wulfrun Hall”.

The significance that Rage Against The Machine had on Skinner’s formative years is unparalleled. When he finally witnessed the band that illuminated a grey suburban childhood, they were everything and more.