Best known as a co-founding member of popular 80’s band, The Romantics, singer-songwriter Mike Skill recently put out his new single, “’67 RiOT.” The track recounts a dark spot on American history that changed his hometown of Detroit forever. The song features Wayne Kramer, guitarist and founding member of legendary Detroit rock band, MC5, and whom Rolling Stone Magazine recognizes as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. “‘67 RiOT” is available now on all digital platforms.
The song was also released as a limited edition 7″ vinyl on Record Store Day, August 29th, in record stores throughout the U.S. and at mikeskill.com. The 7” record has Skill’s previously released track, “My Bad Pretty” on the B-side. Both songs were written and recorded by Skill and produced with Grammy Award-winning producer Chuck Alkazian (Soundgarden, Eminem) at Pearl Sound Studios in Detroit and Carver Studios in Oregon.
Detroit native and celebrated rock guitarist Mike Skill has been a working musician for more than four decades. Skill’s roots lay in 60’s Motown, Traditional-Garage Blues and the New Wave Punk movement. He spent his early days in New York City with one of his first bands, Motor City Rockers.
Best known as a founding member, guitarist and principal songwriter for The Romantics, Skill wrote the band’s ever-popular song, “What I Like About You.” He also co-wrote and created the heart-thumping bass groove for the global #1 hit “Talking in Your Sleep.”
Learn more about Mike Skill in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. Given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you? How have you adjusted to these times?
Thank you for asking. Not traveling city to city and not playing to fans are the biggest adjustments. This is the longest time I’ve ever been off the road since the 1980’s. I/we have never missed a year, a season of playing live. I’ve played every year since the 80’s! Now there’s a bit more time with my son and family, only leaving the house once a week to go to the market. We’ve always kept a little workout thing going–walking, running–especially now and wearing masks when needed. I’m always writing songs, lyrics coming up with new ideas and so on, and getting back into my drawing and painting together slowly, but it’s coming along! We are mostly staying at home, it’s not so challenging, just different. Plus there’s more time to clean the house; the garage and the garden look great!
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now?
Not opened fully yet, the numbers here in Portland are up and down. The Governor, being very responsible, she keeps a hard eye on the numbers and will lock down if they go back up.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more now to stay connected to fans and other musicians?
I have always stayed connected but there are more radio, podcasts and interviews that I’ve been doing since my first release of “Not My Business” in April during this pandemic, and visibility is more worldwide. I’m getting out to the masses!
What has it been like having to reschedule all your shows this year? What shows in 2021 are you already excited for? What has performing been like for you lately? Do you still get the same joy from it as you used to when you first started?
I still enjoy playing. Who knows what 2021 will look like? I sense that everything will change, fewer clubs, fewer venues, not as many festivals. There will be a lot of closures. I’m sure we’ll lose some favorite venues, unfortunately.
Since we are all desperately missing live music, can you recall a favorite show of yours from the past?
Not just one but touring with The Kinks, The Ramones, Cheap Trick, Adam Ant…just being on the side of the stage each night with all of them has been priceless! There’s just too many stories to tell.
What do you think ultimately makes for a great show for you?
Usually a good sound check makes a good show. And trying to get enough solid sleep!
What about a favorite show of someone else?
Ages ago, going to the Roxy in LA and meeting Brian Ferry, going to a David Bowie show in the mid 70’s. Watching Iggy and the Psychedelic Stooges and MC5 as a teen in Detroit.
Let’s talk about your newest track, “67 Riot.” What was the inspiration for it?
In 1967 there was a riot in Detroit. Soldiers were home celebrating from service in Vietnam and they had a late night gathering that went to the early morning hours. Police raided, the National Guard came in and soon there were 42 people shot and killed. Before that, there had been another incident not far away and tensions had been building. It was a very hot summer in many ways.
After the riot, with all of the fear instilled by local TV news and newspapers, the racial divide was wide and white Detroiters left Detroit for the northern suburbs. I don’t recall anyone coming together (the city, the people) to talk with one another and heal the deep wounds of racial inequality and injustice. The same feelings still exist and are now running through the whole US. It has all stuck with me and I felt a song and some words needed to come out.
What was it like having the legendary guitarist Wayne Kramer join you for the song? Why did it feel natural having him be part of it?
It was like it was meant to be. I grew up listening to MC5 on vinyl records and have been a long-time fan of Kramer, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been recognized by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. Wayne and the MC5 were in Detroit at the same time when I was growing up, when the riot took place, so it’s not some far away event.
What has it been like getting into the studio to record your new songs?
As luck would have it, the newer recordings were recorded in between my travels and shows and my time off from the road with The Romantics. More than an album’s worth of songs are complete. I think the last thing recorded was “’67 Riot” with Wayne Kramer’s solo guitar tracks. We sent the backtracks over to him, he was off the road from MC50, and he finished his solos in a few days. I’ve been listening to his guitar work with Fred “Sonic” Smith and the MC5 since I began playing guitar. If you’ve never heard Wayne and Fred on MC5’s let live LP “High Times” and “Back in The USA” records, their guitar arrangements, their orchestrated guitar parts were their foundation and insanely good. Just Rock ‘n’ Roll perfection.
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the US has been going through? How exactly is it inspiring you and your music?
Well I can’t speak for other artists, but if you’re a true artist, you have to feel and reflect the happy, sad, hurt and pain of others–be empathetic, feel the emotions we all project. I think it’s impossible to write a song, music/lyrics, paint (brush to canvas), write a book, whatever it is, without feeling what other humans experience and feel. It’s “walking in another person’s shoes.” All art reflects our life, the lives of others and how we bounce off of one another, come together or are influenced by, or affected, by other human beings. I’m Inspired by life, so yes it inspires me. For a long time, I wondered when folks were gonna wake up and get to the streets to stand against inequality.
If you could get into the studio with any artist today and collaborate on a new song for you, who would it be and why?
Maybe…BB King, Peter Green or maybe Bob Marley. I am a fan of their art, their music, their songwriting.
Is it hard to believe that you are still making music after all these years?
No, it is just what I do and it is what an artist does. When it is in you, you just have to get it out. The music and ideas are still there everyday.
If you could go back in time to tell your younger self something about being a musician, what would it be?
Make sure you have your own accountant, stay on top of your business side of things and the people who work for you.