It's only the second week of May but we already have a sure-fire shot for one of the best albums of the year in Skindred's wonderful and groundbreaking new record 'Union Black', thirteen tracks that mix elements of Metal, Reggae, Grime, Dub and everything in between to devastating effect. Having owned the live circuit for the better part of a decade now, the ragga-metal heroes are rightfully heralded as one of the greatest live bands around, converting pretty much anyone who sees them into a fan. Now, with their strongest album to date, the band look set to attack the mainstream head on, destroying every obstacle in their path with the force of a thousand rhinos. We caught up with bassist Dan Pugsley and found out about their experiences recording the new album as well as delving further into the music that inspires them, what the future holds and who their tipping as other interesting acts worth checking out.

R13: 'Union Black' comprises a lot of different musical styles and flows seamlessly, was this a difficult process to master?
Dan: I think a lot of what we do is based on looking at the similarities of different musical styles we incorporate and bridging those gaps. For instance, one of the songs on the album, Doomriff, has a strong soca influence. Last summer I heard a band at a metal/punk festival using that feel being totally oblivious to its roots, which is genius really, so when I got home I checked out their record and figured out how the guitars worked with the drums and tried to make something that functioned in the same way. Or sometimes I'll hear a d&b track that to my ears sounds really punk, or a dubstep tune that sounds really metal, we'll take those feels and enhance them with guitars.

R13: 'Make Your Mark' is about standing up for yourself and making a difference or impact in the world we live; do you feel people aren't taking enough personal initiative in the present day and, if so, do you hope that this shall change in the coming years due to, for example, the moral triumphs of the recent governmental backlash?
Dan: I think that song is really about seizing the day, not being a passenger in life, being in the driver's seat. This album was a real first for us as far as we were on a new label, new management, we were writing and recording in the UK. I think that old adage "a change is as good as a holiday" really came into play, we were filled with a new drive and optimism so Benji's lyrics really reflected that on that particular song.

R13: On 'Cut Dem', 'Living a Lie' and 'Guntalk', Benji calls out those affiliated with street crime in different ways, do you hope that people may listen to your words and think about how they're damaging both their own lives and others?
Dan: Absolutely, Benj always says he really doesn't know a lot about politics, to sing about those issues would be very false, but he really has his finger on the pulse of what's happening in his community, his son being a victim of knife crime, living in close proximity to drug addicts and criminals. I think he'd really like to effect people on a grass roots level.

R13: All tracks on the album are experimental in their own way, which was the most fun to refine and record?
Dan: One of the most fun for me was Get It Now. Mikey had the pre part figured on guitar but every time he played it I could just hear a piano playing the part. I'm not really a very good pianist but I spent a little time figuring out the part and we eventually tracked it. It might not be that big of a deal to a lot of people, it's a relatively simple part, It was just such a satisfying thing to play, I'm really proud of that.

R13: The different musical elements on the album have a wonderful unpredictability and unique feel; do you feel this is important for bands to possess in the current musical climate?
Dan: I'm not sure if it's entirely relevant to all bands. I think bands like the Strokes or Coldplay bang out these classic songs, everything is totally song based, where as a lot of what we're about is a sound. The urban elements vs the metal and punk, I think that is really key to our existence.

R13: What was it like recording the album at Britannia Row Studios with James Loughrey? How did it compare to recording in America?
Dan: It was really great, I think from the beginning he really understood what we're about as a band and just let us be us. I think if we hadn't worked in America on the prior records, working with those really world class guys, Howard Benson, Matt Squire and Matt Laplant we wouldn't write songs the way we do, that was really important to us, but it was really wonderful to be able to talk about grime/dubstep references and him really know what we were on about. Prior to that a lot of that stuff would get discarded or homogenised. Also we'd always recorded in really hot climates, wake up in the morning, go for a walk on the beach, maybe a swim, this time we were faced with London during a blizzard. It was a slog to even make it to the studio some days. I think that really focused us.

R13: How was working with Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix? Did you get up to any mischief in the studio?
Dan: Jacoby was great, Benji had sent him the song but none of us had heard what he'd written to it until he reached the studio. He stood in the control room, asked James to for some playback and just cranked it out. We were just like "press record press record!". It was really instant, love what he did on that tune!

R13: Are there any new bands you are particularly into at the moment? I think I may have possibly spied Dan at Letlive's show at the Underworld in February!
Dan: Yup, I was at the Letlive show, they were recommended to me by a friend, thought they were really great, love the album too. As far as new bands go, well new to me, I'm really digging those guys, Lower Than Atlantis, The Worldonfire and Bad Rabbits.

R13: The album has a slight Nu-Metal tinge at times, with Benji being in Dub War throughout that period, is it a genre that the band enjoys or takes inspiration from?
Dan: I think there are a key few bands we really dig from that period, but I think that term is really broad, like we all like Limp Bizkit, Will Haven, Slipknot and System Of a Down, all considered Nu Metal but entirely different kinds of bands.

R13: As a band, if you could pick five distinctly different but all essential albums, what would they be?
Helmet - Betty
Black Flag - Damaged
Danny Byrd - Rave Digger
Barrington Levy - Here I Come
Faith No More - Angel Dust

R13: Who, to each band member, is you're chief musical inspiration?
Dan - Helmet
Arya- Queen
Mikey- Jimi Hendrix
Benji - Barrinton Levy

R13: What do you hope for 'Union Black' in terms of success for the band? Are there any venues/festivals that you would love to play but are yet to?
Dan: I'd really like for the band to play to a wider audience, like more mainstream festivals etc. I think the mainstream has been getting more accepting of harder stuff over the past few years, as a band we're not ever planning on "selling out" or anything like that, but we do feel what we do is pretty universal. I think it would be brilliant to play Glastonbury, or a T4 festival and just tear the place apart.

R13: Are you looking forward to your Download performance, if it's anything like last year's Sonisphere set, everyone there is in for a real treat! Are you hoping to catch anyone else on the bill?
Dan: Totally looking forward to Download! So stoked to be on main stage again. Hopefully I'll be there the whole week end, I'm going to try and catch CKY, The Damned Things, Danzig, Hyro, System Of a Down, Trash Talk, Letlive, King Blues, TRC, Karma To Burn. Pretty ambitious, especially on the day we're playing but you have to take advantage of these situations!

R13: Other than your good selves, do you feel there are any other British Metal/Rock bands doing interesting new things with music at the moment?
Dan: I think TRC are really great, like I like that in some ways they have the same kind of influences as us, but they've come out of the mixer in an entirely different way. Also I really like Anterior, it's been years since we've produced a really brilliant death metal band but I think those guys have nailed it.

Big thanks to Dan for taking the time out for a brilliant and informative chat and make sure you pick up a copy of 'Union Black'-it really is one of the most groundbreaking albums this year is going to produce. Catch the band on the main stage at this year's Download Festival on Saturday 11th June, you won't be disappointed!