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Interview with Giuseppe Sbrana of Skinflint

Posted on January 4, 2013 AT 12:18pm

(from left to right): Sandra Sbrana: Drums, Giuseppe “Juice” Sbrana: Guitar/Vox, Kebonye “Raskebo” Nkoloso: Bass
Photo by Daniele Tamagni

Heavy Metal is quite the fluid style given that it’s described as a solid. (Bad Joke)  It takes whatever shape that the mind and the environment makes it into. Whether it’s from The U.S.A., Sweden, Norway, Japan or even it’s birthplace of Birmingham, England. There’s always something unique to find within it. For a while now, Botswana, Africa has been the “small metal scene that could”. Giving birth to a small amount of bands with a decidedly older sound. The interesting part is that while some bands DO have a sort of retro sound, it doesn’t sound forced like most modern-retro bands have a problem with.  In spite of some of the flaws in production and songwriting with some bands, there’s no questioning their authenticity. The topic of Metal music in Africa isn’t the NEWEST thing out there, but it is seldom covered, unless you happen to be in South Africa which has the highest concentration of known metal acts. That hasn’t stopped Botswana from throwing its hat into the ring and sharing their flavor of Metal with the world. Thanks to the internet, the scene has only one direction to go: Up…   Enter Skinflint, the African Heavy Metal band from Gaborone, Botswana.  Giuseppe, vocalist and guitarist of the band, has been gracious enough to let us at DN conduct an interview concerning life in Botswana, their influences and their latest album “Dipoko”. On behalf of DigitalNoob, I personally hope you enjoy this glimpse into the African heavy metal band Skinflint!

So, tell us about your band:  Who are the members of your band? How did you guys get started? How long have you guys been established?

Giuseppe: Skinflint is a three piece African Heavy Metal band from Botswana, founded by frontman Giuseppe Sbrana in 2006! The current line-up consists of: Giuseppe Sbrana :Guitar/Vocals, Kebonye Nkoloso: Bass, and Sandra Sbrana: Drums.

What inspired you guys to create heavy metal music? How did you guys get started as fans of the genre?

Giuseppe: Heavy Metal has always been more than a music to us, as it is a symbol of power, independence and freedom! It is a music that encourages a strong sense of individuality, so it reflected our personalities, allowed us to express ourselves freely and this is where our love for Metal music grew from!

That’s interesting that you speak of Heavy Metal as a symbol of freedom. That seems to be a common theme in a lot areas, particularly areas with a lot of insanity going on right in their backyard. When you speak of Heavy Metal being a symbol of power, independence and freedom. I feel inclined to ask: What do these words mean to you as a metal band? Like, what IS freedom and independence for the folks in Skinflint? What are you guys seeking freedom/independence from?

Giuseppe: It is the rejection of the mainstream, as well as embracing African spirituality by honoring the traditions of warriors and ancestors. As a lot of these traditions have been forgotten in modern times, buried beneath the popularity of other religions such as Christianity!

What are your perspectives on the local scene in Botswana? To an outside perspective, it almost seems completely distant, like it’s growing and finding it’s own natural vibe without a whole lot of outside assistance/mainstream push.

Giuseppe: The local scene in Botswana has shown a lot of potential over the years, but there is still much work to do. I think the exposure is good, but what we don’t appreciate, is the fact that most of the media coverage has been focusing on the image, rather than the music… Honestly, Heavy Metal is not a circus show, nor do we care about image and we hope to see the media focus more on the music in future!

Yeah, I’ve noticed that a good bit of the coverage seems to be focused more on the image of the scene. Notably with Vice Magazine’s article, which I thought was good, but initially had me thinking: “What about the bands? What about the music?”  Especially since years ago as a metal fan in the US, the only bands I heard of in Botswana were Wrust, Crackdust and to a lesser extent Metal Orizon via  For the people outside of Botswana who might be curious about the metal scene, what other local bands would you recommend?

Giuseppe: Other Metal bands to check out are Remuda, Overthrust and Stane!

Skinflint on the rocks.
Photo by Daniele Tamagni

Is there a lot of unity and support between bands in the scene? If so, what is that like?

Giuseppe: Most of the bands do support each other, and its like a big family!

So being like a big metal family, is there a lot of support from other bands as far as booking shows and recording albums? How does that all work out?

Giuseppe: Booking shows in Botswana is HELL IN HELL!!! The main problem being that even though there is a decent amount of venues, most of the owners as well as promoters, do not want Metal bands. In fact, there is not a single Rock club, let alone a metal club in Botswana. So finding a decent venue, that can stage a Metal show is a big obstacle in itself, and the location as well as time is another point of concern! However, when we do succeed the support from both bands as well as fans is very good! Nosey Road band, has helped us to record as well as produce our albums at Metal Records Studios Botswana

I’ve noticed that your music and even your album art makes reference to african mythology and culture. Was that a conscious decision or did it just seem like a natural thing to write about?

Giuseppe: It has always been a natural thing to write about, as most of our inspiration comes from our experiences living in Africa!

What makes you guys stand out in your Metal scene? What do you consider to be your trademark style artistically?

Giuseppe: Our releases IKLWA and GAUNA were considered pioneering examples of blending traditional Heavy Metal with African concepts, as well as musical theory! Most of the bands from Southern Africa, have been westernising their music, but we felt that we should try play Metal from a different perspective and hopefully bring something unique to the genre… This is where we started hearing the term “African Heavy Metal” to describe our style!

So in a sense taking a similar route to bands like Sepultura and sticking to your roots. That makes a lot of sense, honestly because that’s what made a lot of the other worldwide scenes special. Taking elements of where they were from and incorporating that into their music. That’s really awesome, even so, do you guys have any western influences or any favorite western bands? Also, what bands did you guys grow up listening to?

Giuseppe: Yes, we have been influenced by Iron Maiden, and Manowar! We grew up listening to bands like Black Sabbath, Iron maiden, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica and also other genres of music!

Introducing others to your band and your music: What songs would you recommend to a new listener?

Giuseppe: Iron Pierced King is a good song to start with, as the opening riff has a very traditional African scented atmosphere…(sic) Blood Ox Ritual is also great if you are looking for a tribal exotic feel!

I want to start off by saying congratulations on releasing your latest album Dipoko! How was the writing/recording process? Where can people find your music?

Giuseppe: Thank you! Our philosophy for the writing and recording of Dipoko, was to keep the music as original and live as possible… We do not believe in using computers in post-production, as we want the audience to feel like they are in the same room as the band… So we kept it as human as possible, recorded live in the studio and we are happy with the outcome! Fans can get Dipoko, as well as IKLWA from both Amazon and iTunes!

Skinflint in the studio.

What can new listeners expect from the new album?

Giuseppe: Dipoko, has a tribal, somber and sometimes creepy atmosphere. As it deals with topics such as African spirituality, ancestral worship, wooden masks of death, and venturing into darker topics such as Ritual killing! So to put it short, it is about spiritual wickedness and the album sounds very different to anything we have done before!

Can you guys explain the meaning behind the title, “Dipoko” for our international readers?

Giuseppe: “DIPOKO” is a troubled spirit in Setswana! When someone living a life full of misfortune and illness dies, he doesn’t become a Badimo (Ancestor) instead he becomes a “DIPOKO” forever trapped in the torment of his illness and suffering!

What kind of gear do you guys use?

Giuseppe: [I use] a 1970s Fender Stratocaster, with Marshall amps
Kebonye uses Rogue Bass, with Vintage Vox Amps
Sandra uses Pearl Drums

You and Kebonye mention using vintage guitars and amps. Sounds like it’s pretty pricey with a lot of vintage gear being fairly expensive.  Is good gear particularly hard to come by over there?

Giuseppe: Finding decent gear here at a reasonable price, is near impossible… So we order most of our gear online!

Does being in a metal band affect your daily lives? If so, how?

Giuseppe: No, it doesn’t really change our daily lives!

It doesn’t affect your daily lives at all? No random run-ins with fans or occasional questions from family or coworkers about the music you guys play?

Giuseppe: In that case, yes we do have occasional run ins with fans which always motivates us… There are some people who think that playing Metal is some kind of devil worship thing, but we don’t let it bother us, because people like to criticise something they do not understand!

What are your plans for the future? Any outreach for an international audience?

Giuseppe: We are currently planning on shooting a video for one of the songs on Dipoko, after that we hope to do an international tour in 2013! Also, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our fans out there, as well as the readers for their support!

I personally hope the new video turns out well and I hope Skinflint has a successful tour in 2013.  Thanks for taking the time to have this interview with us at DigitalNoob.

Giuseppe: Thank you for the questions!

I am a photographer for Depth Mental Photography and a metal vocalist for Redgrave Syndicate. I'm on twitter (@ReaperX_) where I can be found hashtagging ridiculous things. For DigitalNoob, I write music columns and some things that pertain to gaming. I like rubber ducks, Heavy Metal, sriracha rooster sauce, youtube vlogs, pizza and sometimes I tumblr. How are you guys?

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