by: Dawn Duncan
Jamal Skinner is a man driven by an innate drive to change the world one song at a time. The founder of the reggae act DubSkin, now celebrating 10 years together as a band, has been singing as long as he can remember and penning music since around the age of 10. The youngest in a family of nine kids and a family where everyone sings, including professionally (Skinner’s father), has music in his blood and a message in his heart that he wants to share with the world.
In these extremely rocky, uncertain times, it seems that writing about social injustice would be the way to go. We could all use a good dose of logic and progress right about now, and the DubSkin messages seem to echo what we’re seeing and experiencing all around us. (Fittingly, this interview was conducted the day before the Presidential election). “For me, it’s my responsibility to shed light on social injustice that exists in our country. It’s what I am passionate about and I believe it’s an artist’s duty to echo the times that they are living in,” Skinner said.
Like many musicians, Skinner will refer to his writing process as something that “comes to him.” The words flow back and forth through his mind as a result of a careful and nonstop observation and calculation of the world around him. The good, the bad, and the atrocious — all come together in Skinner’s mind to create the songs DubSkin is known for delivering in their enigmatic, high energy stage performances. Although the subject matter tends to be heavy, the overarching vibe at a DubSkin show is fun. People dance, they sing along, they share in the familiarity of the fandom that encompasses this band. They are diehards and newbies, young and old, black and white, everything in between. And that’s the point.
This is music and Skinner finds the message something that transcends gender, race, economic, and personality boundaries. These are real subjects, pertinent topics, and some of them are really uncomfortable. Again, that’s the point. Skinner added, “This is a band that has never really had “groupies.” I am very serious about what I’m saying and about delivering this message with honesty and purity. I move away from anything negative that pulls me from this mission.”
Formed in 2006 in Fort Collins following Skinner’s relocation from Long Island, NY to Colorado, DubSkin came together organically after Skinner met drummer Cory Eberhart. The two, in addition to the bassist Dean Curtis, are the remaining original members of the act, which now has six members. “We have, like most bands, had lineup changes over the years, but no real conflicts. We are lucky that way, I guess,” Skinner commented. Currently, DubSkin members in addition to Skinner, Eberhard, and Curtis, band members include Matt Grundstad (percussion), Jason Wieseler (keys/piano), Matt Wright (keys/piano), and Mike Tallman (guitar).
One story Skinner openly shared was regarding a performance several years ago in Northern Colorado when the band was still fairly new. They were booked to play an arts event that catered to a more upper crust, white demographic and when they arrived and discovered this, Skinner was instantly on edge. “I didn’t think we were going to be well-received. We were out of place. Our messages and our songs seemed really inappropriate for the crowd, the setting.” However, the band did the gig and afterward, a gentleman around 70 approached Skinner. “I just want to tell you that your song “Africa” that you did….that was really incredible and it really reached me. I didn’t expect that and I want you to know it really made an impact.” It’s moments like these, Skinner says, that really stand out when looking back over 10 years of playing in DubSkin. Additionally, the band has opened for Israel Vibrations, Burning Spear, SOJA, Matisyahu, and Collie Buddz, to name a few notable acts, and played Red Rocks in 2010 and 2011.
“I grew up singing — gospel, R&B, Motown, you name it. I was in a reggae band that also did classic rock covers in high school. I’ve performed a lot of types of music, but what DubSkin presents, that’s the real deal for me. I am passionate about changing society for the better and delivering a positive, relatable message that pushes people into action.” That idea is what Skinner has in mind with some of his community activism as well. As one of the founders and leaders of the Fort Collins Anti-Racism Network (FCARN), Skinner hopes to educate people, but also listen to their thoughts, ideas, and needs, and create a stronger community as a result.
In closing, Skinner remarked, “If you listen to music that inspires you to make positive changes, shifts in your life, then that is what you will do. Music is a strong influence.”
The December 2016 release of DubSkin’s album, Light the Dark, which was recorded in Fort Collins and with Jason “Jacko” Randall (John Brown’s Body), the album showcases the evolution of this strong team of brothers, as well as a fresh new sound for the band. December 17, the band will headline the Aggie, along with special guests Project 432, Abstract Rude, Mikey Thunder and The BeatServer. Check out this very special show designed to give back to the people who have supported DubSkin since the beginning as well as warmly welcome new fans to the mix. The show is free for 21+ before 9 pm and $10 after 9 pm. Under 21: $10 all night. This is a 16+ show.
Show: December 17, 8pm
Tickets: Free show entry until 9pm; after 9pm, tickets are: $10 (21+). Under 21: $10 all night. Doors @ 8pm
Album: Light the Dark, available Dec 17