More than 45 years since they first formed during the froth and frenzy of punk in Scotland, the Skids are coming to Australia for the first time for a “greatest hits” tour.

I lived overseas and saw them quite a few times in the 2010s, and each gig was a triumph. The last time I saw The Skids, in December 2019 in Glasgow, was the best of the lot.

The Skids blazed quite the trail during their brief (by today's standards) first incarnation from 1977-82. Hailing from Dunfermline, across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, they have a genuine claim to being Scotland's best punk band, and an even stronger claim to releasing its greatest punk single - 1978's rabble-rousing "Into the Valley".



With the, by his own admission, "vocally limited" but incredibly charismatic and literate frontman Richard Jobson and the unique guitarist Stuart Adamson (later of Big Country), the Skids made a considerable impact in punk's second wave, championed by the likes of legendary DJ John Peel. As Jobson says, speaking to I-94 Bar from his home in the UK, this Australian tour has been a long time coming.

"I'm looking forward to coming down your end, I've never been," says Jobson. It's the first time ever.

“I was supposed to come after ‘The Absolute Game’ album, the third Skids album, but then Stuart left. We were planning to come there and do a big tour, spend a couple of months down there, but that all fell apart. So I never got my chance.

“And then I wasn’t really doing anything that could take me there, and I don’t really have any family there either. I was invited to the Melbourne Film Festival a few times but I just was not available. So at this late stage of my life I’m getting an opportunity to come down there. I’m really excited.”

Playing live is Jobson’s passion.

“The Skids experience, live, is really how you should see the band. I love the live thing. I’ve always hated recording studios – you end up putting undue pressure on yourself about something that’s ridiculous, because you can only do what you can do.

“You have to be who you are. And sometimes I feel, well, when I was a kid, you were getting manipulated into being something that you weren’t particularly comfortable with.

“But the live thing, they couldn’t interfere with that, so I could always be my own man.”

Jobson, who’s now a very fit 63-years-old and still a great frontman, is speaking to I-94 Bar a few days after the 45th anniversary of the release of the “Into the Valley” single, which went to number 10 on the UK charts.

“I was 17 when that record came out, 16 when I wrote it,” he says. “You think back, ‘How could I have done that when I was such a kid?’ I literally joined the band straight from school, I was still 15 when I started hanging around with them. So we were a boy band, not a punk band,” he laughs.

“I remember Joe Strummer once said something to me when we played with them in Scotland, and he watched us with Mick Jones….I was only a kid, I think I was 16, and then Joe was looking down the front of the stage when they were on and he said he could see me and Stuart down the front.

“And after the show Joe said how much he loved that – really we were just fans who were in a band. And they said the same about themselves – although they were really superstars.

“Their experience was very different from mine. But essentially I think that’s what it was, we were just fans who stumbled into a band, like a lot of young punks did. We were just lucky because we had Stuart Adamson playing that amazing guitar.

“It was a sad day when Stuart left the band. We had written so many decent songs together. And we had a good relationship, but he wanted to go and do something else. And of course he went on to bigger and better things with Big Country.

“But they were more of a rock band, and the Skids are more interesting than that, I think. There was a bit of an edge to the Skids, both musically and lyrically.”

Adamson left the Skids in 1981 after three great albums – “Scared to Dance”, “Days in Europa” and “The Absolute Game” - which will make up the bulk of the set on the Australian tour. Jobson and then-bass player Russell Webb made a fourth album, “Joy”, tapping Jobson’s Celtic roots – something Adamson also did with Big Country. “Joy” is an ambitious album, and often underrated by fans, but a part of Jobson wishes Adamson had stayed to work on it.

“We used to write very quickly and he liked my words,” Jobson says of his partnership with Adamson.

“Because in the early days Stuart wrote all the words – ‘Charles’, ‘Test Tube Babies’ [from their self-released first single] – he did all the writing and his lyrics were much more social realist than mine. Mine were a bit more abstract. And then of course when he got into his Big Country groove it became much more romantic.

“We were working on the same idea for ‘Joy’ really, if you think about it, this kind of Scottish folky thing that had a fire to it. The problem with Joy is he’s not on it, if he was on it we probably could have had a really seriously good album. It’s an interesting album, no doubt about that, but it would have been better with him there.

“He took the genesis of that idea and went further with it with Big Country. It was already inherently part of his guitar playing, that Scottish open-string thing that he did. People sometimes said it sounded like bagpipes, personally I think he took it too far in that direction. It became a bit of a cliché in my mind. Whereas when we worked together it was always more interesting, we were looking to be more dynamic and take it somewhere else.

“But actually, in retrospect, Stuart, when we first met, he liked Nils Lofgren and Be-Bop Deluxe, Bruce Springsteen, whereas I was more Alex Harvey, Iggy Pop, MC5, Lou Reed. So I was a bit more into the darker side, and he liked this kind of romantic thing that Springsteen and Nils Lofgren and Bill Nelson did, so we had very different tastes at the beginning.

“Punk crashed us together, which is good, and that’s what made it interesting.”

Adamson took his own life in 2001, which led to a Skids reunion for a tribute concert for the late guitarist in 2002 at Glasgow’s legendary Barrowland Ballroom. Jobson had gone into television and film, and hadn’t performed live for many years. I was fortunate to be there that night: Jobson and the band were on top form, and the set went down an absolute storm. However it wasn’t until later that Jobson started to think about reforming the Skids to tour and record.

“Obviously I was as saddened as anyone else was by Stuart’s death, and the stories that surrounded it – it was a fairly tragic affair. So when I was asked by the family to do something, I thought they only wanted me to do maybe one song, or two songs at most,” Jobson says.

“But then they suddenly wanted the whole set, and I was thinking ‘I haven’t done this for a long, long time’. And the following day I was starting work on my directorial debut as a filmmaker [‘16 Years of Alcohol’]. I’d already made quite a few films as a producer and a writer, but I’d never directed one. So the day after that show, I was starting my career as a director, so my head was kind of somewhere else.

“I think that helped me – not that I just wanted to get the show over and done with, but I wasn’t nervous because I was thinking about the following day that was coming up, it was a new part of my own story, and here I was, on stage in the Barrowlands, part of the last story.

“I never thought I would return to the music industry, because I had a terrible time with my [post-Skids] project The Armoury Show, which didn’t go well at all – it left a lot of dents and bruises on me, that experience. I’d just decided ‘That’s it, I don’t want to be part of that industry, I don’t like it, it doesn’t like me any more, so fine. Cut the umbilical cord.’

“So it was a bit odd going onstage. But then, I’d been rehearsing the songs beforehand, and I’d forgotten the power they had. You get on stage – it was pretty busy that night, right? I think it had sold out. It was, I don’t know, three thousand people or more there, and they hadn’t seen the Skids since 1981, a lot of them – most of them had probably never seen them ever. I think I knew immediately the songs had power, but was that the calling card to come back? I don’t think it was to be honest. The following day was the beginning of where I wanted to go.

“I think it was much, much later, after U2 and Green Day did a cover of ‘The Saints Are Coming’, and people were interested in who the band were, that we did a couple of shows and I really enjoyed it.

And then, I think the first big show we did when we came back was in Newcastle, I remember the promoter came to me after the show and he said ‘God, you must feel like David Cassidy’. I said, ‘What the hell does that mean?’ ‘Because there’s 500 people waiting to meet you at the stage door.’

“I said ‘Really? How many are women?’ He went ‘None’. It was 500 big fat Geordies from Newcastle, it was hilarious. So I knew we had tapped into something – which of course is nostalgia. You can’t avoid it.”

Jobson didn’t want to just be a nostalgia act, and at the urging of his friend, the renowned producer and founding Killing Joke member Youth, the Skids recorded the 2018 album ‘Burning Cities’. Last year they followed up with ‘Destination Dusseldorf’.

“Then it had a relevance to me,” Jobson says.

“I’m not saying the band are relevant in the bigger picture, but you have to be relevant to yourself. Rather than just being cynical, and milking the nostalgia heritage thing – which of course we’re part of, I’m not saying we’re not part of that, I know that – but it has to be a wee bit more than that for me. It was never a financial decision, it was more to do with ‘Can you get something out of this creatively?’”

From the Stuart Adamson tribute show until last year, Bruce Watson – Adamson’s co-guitarist in Big Country – led the Skids’ guitar attack, and he brought his son Jamie Watson into the band on second guitar when they started touring regularly again. However Big Country are in high demand on the UK-Europe-US live circuit now, so the Watsons have decided to dedicate themselves to that full-time.

Jobson has brought in his frequent collaborators Martin Metcalfe (guitar) and Fin Wilson (bass), both of whom played in Scottish stalwarts Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, and later in the Filthy Tongues. Dunfermline guitarist Connor Whyte is also in the new lineup, along with drummer Nick Hernandez, who has been with the Skids since 2022.

“The really good songs on the new albums were the ones that Martin and I wrote, and he’s a massive Skids fan,” Jobson says. “So he said to me ‘Why don’t me and Fin get involved? Because I wrote five or six of those songs anyway’.”

The current lineup have already played numerous shows, and they’ll be playing 20 gigs this year before they arrive in Australia.

“I’m genuinely excited about playing there,” Jobson says. “It’s a great way of saying thank you to the people who have retained an interest in us. In a selfish way, it’s an opportunity to be a bit of a tourist, and to really enjoy Australia. It’s an amazing country – it’s not a country, it’s a continent! And I’m going for the first time ever. I want to embrace the place.

“I’ve never met an Australian I haven’t liked – I’m sure there are plenty of them I wouldn’t like, but I’ve never met one here, they’re always very positive people. And also, there’s a humility and irreverence in our performance, which I think people will get, down there.

“I don’t think it’s a culture that takes too kindly to arseholes, so we’ll do our best not to be that. And that’s not going to be hard, because we’re not, we’re not like that.”

As he speaks, Jobson looks up at a framed photo (not visible on screen in our video call) of him and Stuart Adamson at a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in 1981, on what would be the original Skids’ final tour. Both of them are leaping in mid-air – obviously it was an energetic show.

“It’s an amazing picture; it really captures the joy, the youthfulness, the energy and the irreverence,” Jobson says. “We were quite an irreverent bunch of kids, fairly feral. The edges of that have been burned away over the years but the joy’s still there. If the joy wasn’t there I wouldn’t do it, that’s for sure.”

The Skids’ 2024 tour takes in The Triffid in Brisbane on May 2, the Manning Bar in Sydney on May 3, Max Watts in Melbourne on May 4, The Gov in Adelaide on May 10 and the Rosemount in Perth on May 11. Tickets are available from the venues or from Metropolis Touring. The Skids will also play two shows in New Zealand – San Fran in Wellington on May 7 and the Power Station in Auckland on May 8.