Life of a Rock Star: Big Music Meets Ace (Skunk Anansie)

It is extremely hard for rock bands to break into the music scene. So we caught up with Ace to find out how Skunk Anansie reached success.


The Life of a Rock Star: Big Music Meets Ace (Skunk Anansie)

It is extremely hard for rock bands to break into the music scene. So, to reach notoriety you need something special.

But how hard can it really be to make it big? We had a chat with lead guitarist Ace, from UK rock band, Skunk Anansie to find out how his band became successful and what advice he has for emerging bands and artists.

Hey, Ace. Thanks so much for meeting Big Music, I hear you’ve been away lately?

Yes, I’ve been on a tour around Europe for 6 weeks rockin’ the masses and having way too much fun. It was sold out before we started in most venues, so when we came to play, the atmosphere was amazing. Crowds went crazy and T-shirts flew out of the Merch stand. Our fans are like us in that we are full of passion and energy and a lust for life!

So, Skunk Anansie have been around since 1994, that’s a long time to be in a band. How did it all begin?

Yes indeed. We all met at a club in North London called Splash, based in the old Water Rats Theatre – an old-school actors society hang out. Skin and Cass (other bandmates) were in a band that was playing gigs with my band and we were all friends in the unsigned underground scene. I was also DJing in the club with Skin and made friends with her socially.

One day, she said she was going to make a new band and I said I would be up for playing guitar in it. We met up in a rehearsal room and had a jam and it was full steam ahead after that.

Awesome. You have some real bangers out there! Who mainly writes the songs for Skunk Anansie?

We all write songs in the band, most of the time together in the same room. Some of the early songs were written before the band was formed by Skin and another guy she was writing with called Len Arran. We tend to all get together in places that inspire us and just write one or two songs per day. After that, we go through an experimental and refining process on the songs until we find the ones we think are worth working on.

The songs are then narrowed down to around 14 or 15 for an album.

How did you get noticed for the first time? It must have been an incredible feeling!

We got noticed by playing loads of live shows. We had all been in previous bands and playing on the circuit for quite a long time since we were teenagers. But now we had a manager who was helping us by bringing industry people to our shows.

The first time we were noticed was when we got a half-page image in NME magazine. This got people talking about us because it was quite radical at the time. But generally, we played lots of live gigs and built our audience over time so it didn’t feel like an overnight success.


What happened to your career after you were signed?

Once we got signed, the hard work began! We had to finish writing and recording our first album at the same time as playing gigs all over Europe. We did it at the same time so that when the album was released, there would be an audience to buy it. It was a lot of work but exciting.

Being able to financially support ourselves was probably one of the most exciting things. We could just write, play practice and tour…and make records of course.

By the time we had a hit album, we’d already toured a few times and we had a large fan base. Gigs got bigger and we made more money to invest in the band and ourselves.

What have been some of your best moments in Skunk Anansie?

There are just too many and they are still happening all the time. I suppose if you would like some headlines I could say:

  • Playing for Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday
  • Playing for the Dalai Lama
  • Playing on stage with Pavarotti
  • Headlining Glastonbury
  • Traveling around the world with my friends
  • Being friends with Lemmy for the last 20 years is a personal high for me.

Recently, we played on stage with Andrea Botticelli at the Valentino fashion show in New York. So, it’s not just all sweaty rock gigs for us!

I really enjoy some of our recording sessions. Especially recording with Andy Wallace in Bearsville studios in New York.

As well as working with Skunk Anansie, what other ways have you been involved in the music industry?

I’ve been involved in the music industry and still am. I’ve produced over 40 records across Europe, including a number one in Iceland! I’ve had sessions with other artists like Tony Lommi from Black Sabbath, I have three of my own part-time music schools in Italy called the Ace Guitar Academy, I’ve been all over Europe doing masterclasses, I help to develop software for guitar FX sounds, 
I’ve written 4 books and now I am the head of creative industry development for ACM and head of the Industry Link department for the four campuses. I have other products like my own custom FX pedals and signature PRS guitar as well.

You have a lot going on! What difficulties have you faced throughout your career that can act as advice for our readers?

Oh, I have had continuous setbacks! Personal problems, letdowns, disappointments, the wrong people around me, bad decisions… just basic stuff that we all go through in life but in a musical vein too.

My advice would be, when you face these challenges, sort them out and move on. It’s all character building and the good will outweigh the bad. It did in my case! I am pretty happy with what I have achieved so far and where I am now.

Skunk Anansie

What do you think a musician in the rock genre needs to do to become successful?

You need to have drive, focus, passion, originality, talent and a strong and persistent desire to succeed. Honesty and integrity, quality.
 Be the best you can be.

Any secret tips for anyone striving to make their dreams come true?

Get on with people. Be a good person to work with and be around. Look for and understand the opportunity, and take it. Enjoy what you do. Work really hard. Understand the business. Do it yourself and don’t wait for anyone else. You are not here to live up to anyone else’s expectations apart from your own.

Such a pleasure meeting you!

Thank you, Big Music!

Inspired? be sure to check out our careers advice section for heaps of hints and tips to help you break into the music scene. Be sure to also check out our interview with indie rising stars, Echoic.