Skunk Anansie's Guitar Ace
Martin Kent

(who hates the name "Ace"...)

by Paul Guy
Interview for FUZZ magazine #4/97
© Paul Guy 1997

Skunk Anansie website
ACE (guitar), SKIN (vocals), ROBBIE (drums), and CASS (bass)

How did Skunk Anansie get together? Had you known each other long before you formed the band?

- I used to run the Splash club in North London, which used to book all the cool indie rock bands. I was playing in one band there, and so was Robbie, and Cass and Skin played in another band that was there, and I met them as friends. And then Skin said she was going to form a new band with Cass, cause they didn't like their people. They were going to audition all these other people. And I said, well, do the auditions and I'll just come round at the end, you know, when you've all finished, and have a jam with you, cause I didn't like my people either. And I just took an amp and some pedals - and Cass, he's an amazing bass player, he gave me all the hard basslines, and I just had to match him. And what I couldn't match, I bluffed, I was seriously bluffing the riffs on top, you know. I just found the keys really fast, did all the riffs, and everyone was just like laughing - you know when people just start laughing, cause it feels good? And we got on really well from then on, we're just like best friends. (It's a rock dream for a kid, isn't it?)

- We formed the one band between us, and we rehearsed for two weeks, did our first gig, packed the place out - after two gigs we got offered seven record deals, that's like the next month - and from there we sorted it out and within ten gigs we'd signed in Britain to One Little Indian, fourteen gigs and we'd signed for America. and it just rocketed, you know, it went so fast. And we went from the Splash club, which takes like 100 people, 3 years ago and now we're doing Brixton Academy which takes like 4500. And it's just gone from strength to strength. The amazing thing about it is that we've stayed together, we really made sure we got the right people together, cause we've all been in bands where we hated people.

What made you want to play the guitar in the first place?

- My brother took me to a Motorhead gig when I was about 12, and I was just... you know, when you're a kid and you become obsessed by music - I thought, oh my God, this is the best thing I've ever seen! - and it just changed my life. It was the first gig I ever saw, it was the Ace of Spades tour and that was when they were really peaking. And then I just thought, I've got to be like that, I must be a guitar player! And the funny thing was, when I met Lemmy the other night - he came to the gig in Bordeaux - and he was there on the side of the stage and watched the whole show, and it was a really good show, it was a wicked show - and he came downstairs and he said, your band is absolutely amazing, I love it, I've been trying to see you six times, I've got the records and I really love it - and all of a sudden I was like, my God, fifteen years later or something and I actually meet him and he comes to the gig! And I said to him, you know what, I saw you when I was twelve, and I told him the story, and then we partied all night! That was a high point for me. And also, we went to an award ceremony - and one of my all-time favourite bands is Black Sabbath, cause they were like the riff masters - and we won an award and so did Tony Iommi, for you know, the riff master or something, and I actually got to meet him as well and chat to him. Every time I meet someone like that I'm like wow, isn't this amazing, I never thought like fifteen years ago that I'd be meeting these people. The same with touring with the Sex Pistols, and I never would have imagined that I would hang out with Steve Jones every night and have a drink and chat and things.

What was your first guitar?

- A Kay, an SG copy. It cost twenty quid. I saw it hanging in a second-hand shop, and it was on a Sunday, and I thought oh my God, I gotta have it, someone's gonna buy it! So I rang up my Dad and I said, there's this guitar in a shop, right, and I saw the guy in there, I could see him cleaning up the shop or something - and my Dad drove into town and we banged on the window, and the guy opened the door and said like, yeah?, and we said, can we buy that guitar off you now, and he said, yeah, all right, and he sold it to us on a Sunday!

Who were your earliest influences?

- Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Motorhead ... I really like riffs, you know, really good riffs. Any band that's got great riffs. That's why I like Rage Against The Machine, cause they've got really great riffs.

What other guitar players do you listen to?

- My favourite band is a band called Tool, for me I just think they're the best thing around at the moment, they're like a heavy, heavy kind of rock band , but they write amazing songs and their playing is just like really, really good, but it doesn't seem retro, it seems like now. I like their guitar player, Adam. I think The Edge is really cool, as well, especially that stuff on "Achtung Baby".

There's a couple of tracks on "Stoosh" where you sound a bit Hendrix-influenced.

- Oh, I love him. You know what I love about Jimi Hendrix the most, first off, he was out there, when he played his solos he was just out on a limb. But I used to love the way he played clean guitar - the way he played "Little Wing" - you can probably tell that. You know, I've never actually copied anything, I've never learnt anything, cause I've always thought, oh, I don't want to when it's too hard. But I'd always loved that, "Little Wing", "Angel", all those type of things. I really liked that style, you know, I thought it was absolutely beautiful. And that's why you hear those things on the albums, like on "Charity" and "Hedonism", for instance, where I'm kind of barring it, and I just slide up the neck and fiddle. I love "Castles Made of Sand", that's one of my favourite songs.

What's your main guitar?

- My main guitar is a black Les Paul Custom. I've snapped the headstock off it four times so far! We're pretty wild on stage.

Is it an old one?

- No, it's a '92. I went out, you know, and I'm one of those people that if I want something, I'll go out and be searching for the best one possible. And I tried out all these 70's ones, cause I wanted a 70's one really - and then I tried 80's ones, and they weren't all that great - and I went into every shop, and then I just picked up this one, and it was beyond any Les Paul I've ever played. And then I bought almost the same model in New York, I bought a 1976 Custom as well. I got a couple of Guilds recently too, I got a Guild Bluesbird and an SG type.

Do you have a lot of guitars?

- Not a vast number, no, I've probably got about 15.

What strings do you use?

- I use D'Addario .011's. Any heavier, it gets a bit tough every night playing solos and things, and any lighter, I just break them all.

Do you use standard E-tuning?

- Yeah.

What about acoustics?

- I've got the most beautiful acoustic guitar in the world. A Guild Peacock. It's a new one, a limited edition. Rare woods, gold parts, all mother-of-pearl inlay, two peacocks in mother-of-pearl on the guitar - it's beyond any acoustic guitar you've ever heard.

Do you ever play acoustic live?

- Not in the set, but we do a lot of acoustic things around, like on radio and TV, and I play acoustic on the recordings.

- Miked how?

Well, it's miked, but I also have a Fishman Matrix pickup in it, just for the monitors. I've got a Guild 12-string as well, which is really nice.

Can you descibe your effects and amp setup?

- Oh, I'm an effects freak. Live, it's - Cry Baby wah-wah - DOD Graphic EQ - DOD Supersonic Stereo Flange - DOD Vibro-Fang - DOD Envelope Filter - Pearl Octave Divider - Boss Digital Delay - Ibanez Super Tube Screamer - Boss Super Phaser - and an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone phaser. But I use two systems, so the wah-wah and the graphic go through a loop on the back of the amp, the Vibro-Fang and the Supersonic Flanger go to a clean setup, which is an Orange stack, and then all the others go to a stereo setup, two Marshall stacks. So you've got this super massive distortion sound, and then you can just step on it and go to the beautiful clean sounds.

You've been criticised a lot for being political - I actually find that refreshing, so much music is so bland today.

- Well, you know, everyone used to be political in the old days - rock'n'roll bands were like the typical anti-heroes, weren't they. The Sex Pistols, you know, they hated everything about the establishment - The Stones, The Beatles, all those people, right down to Motorhead, were anti-establishment. We're not political in the sense of being a party political anti- government band, we're like socially political, we're saying what we don't like about what's going on.

But what's most important for you, the message or the music?

- Well I think they go hand in hand, because if you've got really good music but your lyrics are absolute twaddle, everyone just goes, you bunch of wankers. And the same goes the other way, because if you have great lyrics and the music's crap, they say, great lyrics, but the music's crap! Generally I think they have to go together. Even if you're not a political band, your lyrics still have to be good, because it's what people take seriously, isn't it.

I just have to ask you this question - how did you come by the name "Ace"?

- Oh God - the bane of my life! I keep saying, I've got to lose this name - did you see, on this album, I put down my initials, M. K., with "Ace" in brackets, because I've been called it so long - you know, in Gloucestershire, where I'm from, everybody says "Oh, that's ace, that is", or "I saw this ace film", or "I've got this ace car". So when I came up to London - I didn't know anyone in London - I came up with just one suitcase and a Stratocaster, and I rented a room in an attic, and I just went and auditioned for everyone who was advertising in Melody Maker. And I met these guys, and they used to take the piss out of me really hard for saying "ace". And they told everyone my name was Ace, and I've been trying to lose it ever since!

So what's your real name?

- My real name is Martin Kent. On the album I just put M.K. down, cause they rang me and said, did you want to change your name?, and I went, I've got to get rid of this name, but I don't know what I want to change it to! So I said, just put my initials down, and they said, well, we'll put Ace down too, because everybody knows you as that anyway. But I'm still trying to lose it!

© Paul Guy 1997

Skunk Anansie website