Singled Out: Skindred's Under Attack
This song was born, like most ideas I might bring to the Skindred table, from a group of riffs that I hummed into my phone. I seem to always come up with ideas for songs when I'm driving or walking somewhere, nowhere near a guitar basically. Recording voice notes on a phone has basically become my life line to memorable writing. I tend never to think in terms of key or pitch, generally speaking a tempo presents itself to me (usually one that I can imagine a big crowd jumping up and down to) and the riff follows. If it sounds and feels good to hum and slap some air drums to, I'll pick up a guitar and work out the best place for the riff to drop on the neck. In any writing period there will be four or five ideas in a similar bouncy vein, where one song presents itself as the winner. Most of our songs began as riffs that Dan or I bring to rehearsal, sometimes Benji will have a lyric that inspires a riff but its usually the other way around.
I'll always have an idea for a basic drum feel, a kick and snare pattern for example. If I can't feel what the riff does on the drums then I'll probably move on from it. A percussive approach to guitar has always been more my 'thing' than any kind of speed or virtuosity; feel is where it's at for me. I'll have an idea for what the bass could do but I refrain from dictating, Dan grasps what I'm after and does his thing. More often than not, Arya is on exactly the same page for what the riff requires, he'll embellish the feel and do his thing to it. As with all riffs or songs in their infancy, it's just sh*t hummed into a phone until the band get hold of it, then it becomes a Skindred song. Dan Sturgess might add a sample or sound that can't be generated with guitars, if the riff is calling for it.
The main riff evolved a bit in the rehearsal space, putting the guitar through an octave pedal gave it this really menacing quality, it sounded that extra bit more crushing. That 'sound' eventually appeared a few more times on the album, it really helped shape the identity of the record sonically. I don't like to use effects needlessly, sometimes a pedal can lift a riff from sounding flat into awesomeness. We felt that the riff was strong enough to be like a chorus itself - kind of an x-factor riff that we're always keen to get hold of. Any vocals on top just seemed gratuitous so it stayed largely instrumental.
The verses of the song are similar to the main riff, Arya brought this killer feel to the verses which we all loved. It was a fun song to play through, and Benji came up with vibes straight off the bat, which is usually a good sign for a song. Vocally, the chorus was a bit of a head scratcher for a minute, we were going round & round trying to find the right thing for a while. We basically press record, play a song through countless times then listen back. I had a scan through various takes & heard Benji just messing around singing between takes; he was singing this "Who's gonna help them, whoa" refrain acapella, out of nowhere. He does a lot of that. I told him "sing that on the chorus, it's badass!". And it was! Lyrically Benji has a lot to say, universal social commentary and observation is a big source of reference for him. Under Attack is like a call to arms, a unity song for people to think about the impact of certain actions on a global scale.
The song was written pretty quickly and we knew exactly how it sounded before going in to record the album, which always helps with the confidence of performances and so on. It was a stand out song and we figured it made for a good lead single. We shot a video in London featuring about 100 of our fans in a warehouse studio, it turned out to be a killer video that really embraced the Skindred live vibe.