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Mike Skinner never wanted to tour The Streets. He’s happiest producing or, latterly, spinning records in clubs tucked away in a corner out of view.
The only reason The Streets became the sort of band that could flog a tour’s entire ticket allocation within a few days of release was thanks to the other people talking him into it.
“It was other people who told me that we had to play live,” he says, chatting to The Guide as he races around an airport en route to Vienna, before he returns to the UK for a string of dates.
“That’s why by the end the shows got good. If it hadn’t been for other people, it never would have happened.”
That’s not the case for his first serious project since The Streets disbanded in 2011.
The D.O.T sees Skinner join forces with old pal Rob Harvey, former singer with energetic Leeds rockers The Music, whose hair no longer matches his giant voice for size.
“There has never been a debate with Rob. It was always obvious we would do a tour. I think if I had been singing on this album I would have been a bit afraid of taking it out on tour but because Rob is out there it’s not so pressured.”
Speak to Skinner – the switched-on Brummie geezer who penned Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free, two records that defined a new era for urban British music – and it’s hard to believe he might suffer nerves.
He certainly appears to know his own mind – if not always his limits.
His autobiography, The Story Of The Streets, was released earlier this year. In it he recalls being sent a note by that bastion of Zen, Paul Oakenfold – a machine who partied with Primal Scream and Happy Mondays – telling him to calm down after doing a string of shows hammered.
Skinner says now he’s at the back producing and programming, he sticks to backing vocals and gags between tracks rather than going hell for leather up front.
“Back then it was more constant but I’m no angel,” he says.
“No one is. I think my life is pretty healthy. A lot of people go the other way after something like that and become a monk and I’m glad I never have.”
Skinner and Harvey, who first met 12 years ago and share the same management, have penned as many as 70 tracks since they first got in the studio together a year and a half ago.
Two songs from that original session, Most Of My Time and Left Alone, have actually been held back for a second album, which is already pencilled in for release early next year.
In the meantime, debut record And That features tracks which have become live favourites after the pair decided to share them online at the-dot.net.
“Weirdly, the music on the first album is later than that on the second album, and the second album is stuff we felt was better and the first one is the best stuff we’ve put on the internet – if that makes any sense.
“I suppose when you give stuff away you tend to forget that it can be a good song that’s worth putting on a record.”
Skinner admits there is always the problem of making music stick – even for musicians with an existing fan base.
“People have access to it all now, and people constantly ask how you do it. No one knows how it is done, there is just a whole load of people who seem to revisit things on YouTube and it builds that way.
“We try to be creative and good. I think you need to take the music that’s around, reinterpret that and do it well.”
Skinner is no longer writing the majority of the words; he’s sticking down the beats over Harvey’s top-line melodies.
He believes Harvey is the best singer he has worked with – “everything he does carries an emotion” – and the duo works because Harvey is instinctual while Skinner likes to work things over.
As with The Streets, it is Skinner’s production which glues the sound together – from the shuffling and techy 1980s dance on And That’s opener And A Hero, through the glitchy ballad Like You Used To, to Where Did I Go? the euphoric closer with its sunrise vocals.
He admits working within the confines of The Streets sound became frustrating, that it’s good to be able to embrace recent club sounds.
“More than ever I’m involved in the club side. And simply being in nightclubs more often means your style completely changes.
“Also, I don’t have to come up with stories that produce a beginning, middle and end anymore. I guess that story side was an itch I always had with The Streets – an itch I scratched a bit too much for a bit too long.”
For the first tour the pair will stop at venues a rung or two above the toilet circuit. Though it’s hardly a return to the start (The Streets were straight into bigger venues), Skinner admits it makes for new experiences that stimulate creative spirit.
“After a project has been going for so many years, it’s quite predictable. It needs to be quite predictable because that’s how you build a career. But I don’t think I wanted to build a career as much as to express myself and live at the limits.
“So far with The D.O.T. everything is a surprise.”
- The D.O.T play The Haunt, Pool Valley, Brighton, on Saturday, November 10. Starts 7pm, tickets £15. Call Resident on 01273 606312
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