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Skin explains the origins of Skunk Anansie’s unusual and misunderstood name

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·4-min read
Skin revealed that a stinky animal, and not drugs, were the inspiration behind Skunk Anansie's name (Image: Getty)
Skin revealed that a stinky animal, and not drugs, were the inspiration behind Skunk Anansie's name (Image: Getty)

When Skunk Anansie burst onto the music scene in 1994, they shook the charts up with their very own brand of rock music. They also stood apart from many of their Britpop peers such as Blur and Oasis – not least because their name was more unusual.

Speaking on White Wine Question Time, front woman Skin told Kate Thornton that they were keen to have a longer name to set themselves apart from the other British bands of the time.

She said: “I called the band Skunk Anansie because everybody was calling themselves these four letter word or five letter words – Oasis, Blur, Elastica or whatever. Short sharp words – keep it simple.”

Read more: Skunk Anansie rocker Skin recalls historic Glastonbury headline slot

While the second part of their name is inspired by Anansi the spider-man from Akan folk tales, the first part of their name has often been misinterpreted.

Listen: Skin talks about growing up in Brixton and why she shunned soul for rock

“To be honest, a lot of people think it's all about weed,” laughed Skin.

“A lot of people think, 'Oh, they're just a bunch of weed smokers', especially in the beginning, but I've never smoked a spliff in my life. I don't smoke at all!”

Skin, who has just released her auto biography It Takes Blood And Guts, revealed that they were instead inspired by the black and white animal of the same name.

The rock group Skunk Anansie make a webcast, as they chat live to fans over the internet on the Virgin website the-raft.com. L-R: Cass, Ace, lead singer Skin and Mark.   (Photo by Michael Walters - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The rock group Skunk Anansie make a webcast, as they chat live to fans over the internet on the Virgin website the-raft.com. L-R: Cass, Ace, lead singer Skin and Mark. (Photo by Michael Walters - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

“The reason why we called it skunk is because not only is the animal black and white, but it's the stinkiest one,” she laughed.

Read more: Oasis vs Blur feud caused by love rivalry between Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn

“It's the one that not even a tiger or lion will go near it. It's this kind of little creature that everyone is so scared of getting smelly that they just stay away from it. It's empowered by its stink!”

The animal world wasn’t the only inspiration for their name though – a very famous actor also played a part in Skin creating something so unique.

“I remember seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger in an interview,” the singer recalled, “and someone said to him, 'Why did you keep the name Schwarzenegger? It's quite difficult for people to learn.' And he said, 'Yes, that's exactly why, because it's so hard for you to learn it that once you've learned it, you will never forget.'

“And I was just like, that's great and that's why we have such a complicated name. It kind of redefined us as being away from all of the Britpop as well because they had all very similar type of names.”

Earlier this year, Skin took part in The Masked Singer and was eventually unmasked as Duck. It’s worlds away from what the rock singer normally does – and she admitted, it was also super scary!

The Masked Singer was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done in my whole life,” the 53-year-old told Thornton.

Read more: Michael Eavis reveals potential ‘massive Covid-19 testing arrangements’ for Glastonbury 2021

“It's about credibility. I really value not looking stupid. I really value people not laughing at me, and that's why I did it because I was scared about people laughing. It scared me about how I was going to be perceived by my peers, my other musicians.

“The lesson I learned from it is that everybody loved it. At this age of 53 -years-old, that's a lesson I needed to learn. Coolness is not something people give you – it’s something you decide you have!”

Hear Skin talk more about life in Skunk Anansie and why she felt shunned by the music industry in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.