Why heavy metal band Skinlab is still synonymous with MMA after all these years

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Few bands have as lengthy of a connection to MMA as has the Bay Area’s Skinlab. Forming in 1994, the band quickly found its music as the soundtrack to some of MMA’s earliest documentaries, such as Rites of Passage, and most recently featured UFC alum Nate Quarry in the video for their song “In for the Kill.”

Following a 10-year absence from releasing albums, Skinlab returned on October 25 with their fifth release, Venomous. Speaking to MMAWeekly.com, Skinlab vocalist/bassist Steev Esquivel talked about the band’s connection to MMA, their new album and what fans can expect from the group in 2020.

MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Steev, tell us how the band first got connected with MMA leading up to the release of the previous album, The Scars Between Us, and the video for “In for the Kill.”

Steev Esquivel: Back early in the day when MMA was just starting a fellow named Jeff Weller, and Josh Rosenthal, the MMA referee, they had something going in the Bay Area and used our music early on, and it wasn’t until that it actually got going a little bit that we learned people were reacting to our music on there. We were really stoked.

Then we met a guy named (Bobby) Razak, a videographer, who did a couple of documentaries on earlier MMA. They included our music in their documentaries. That’s where it all started for us. We were hooked. We actually got to go to the movie premier at (what is now the TCL) Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, sitting amongst all the guys before they were stars; guys like Tank Abbott just screaming in the room and starting mayhem. It was kind of crazy.

Then Jordan (McClure), who directed the (“In for the Kill”) video, he knew Nate and his partner. It was a real easy connection to make. They came down to Oakland to our rehearsal room and we spent the weekend making the video. He’s a really cool dude, a really great guy, he came down and was really easy to work with and we’ve been friends ever since.

MMAWeekly.com: What do you feel makes for the connection between MMA and heavy metal so natural?

Steev Esquivel: I think it’s the intensity of the sport, the adrenaline, and (heavy metal) music of that intensity goes hand in hand with it. I think it’s a great soundtrack to the mayhem that’s going on out there. It’s great to see people in music like Zoltan (Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch) be into martial arts for such a long time. So many different people (in heavy metal) are. Obviously it goes hand and hand. I think it’s a great marriage.

MMAWeekly.com: The last time we spoke to you was just prior to the release of The Scars Between Us. What’s been going on with the band since then, and what made now the time for Skinlab to return?

Steev Esquivel: Skinlab were always operating just under the radar. We never broke up. We’ve just been writing this record for the last 11 years it seems like, through many variations of my brothers back in the band. Scott (Sargeant) at one point was going to come back; we started writing. Mike Roberts was going to come back; we started writing. Gary (Wendt) started writing with Paul (Hopkins); things didn’t work out with Paul. Snake (Steve Green) came back to the band.

We didn’t have a big machine – we didn’t even have a small machine – to back us up. It’s kind of hard to get out there. There’s no sense getting out there and putting out false smoke signals to people that you’re thinking of writing. We’ve been going and we’re real fortunate that we have a label (in Art of War Records) and a manager (in Shawn Glass) who believe in us again.

MMAWeekly.com: Tell us about the new album, Venomous, and what fans can expect from it.

Steev Esquivel: Venomosity! Is that a word? We stay true to our roots. To tell you the truth, we’ve come with our cards down, and we feel like we wrote an amazing record that we feel proud of. Being gone so long, we had no idea what to expect. I’ll tell you what; the response that we’ve gotten (since the album’s release) has been overwhelming. We’re just waiting for a bad review to come in. It’s been really cool.

We have no expectations, but we’re back in the game and we know we have to get out and work and pay our dues. It’s a really super heavy record. It defines everything that Skinlab is in 2019. I think it’s a record like somebody will be listening to (for years to come). It’s not a quick release. I think all of our music stands the test of time, and I think this record is going to be another nice addition to someone’s collection.

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MMAWeekly.com: What would you say would be a good song or two off Venomous should a fighter want some entrance music?

Steev Esquivel: I would say “Amerikill” would be a good slammer, (also) “End of Silence.” There’s some great bruisers on there; a couple soundtracks for some walk-out music. We always consider that; it’s always in the back of our mind as we write a song; any single one can be something, it just depends on how dramatic you want to be. You put on a ‘lab track and walk up to the stage or down a cat ramp.

MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Steev. In closing, tell us what’s on the horizon for Skinlab in 2020.

Steev Esquivel: We’re going on a tour (starting in January) with a band called Bleed the Sky; a younger band; but we’re taking the opportunity to take the support slot and get out there and f—ing crush and do our thing for 45 minutes every night. It’s a tour that should be pretty cool. It’s going to go around a good portion of the States.

We just really appreciate everyone. The new people, it’s really exciting for us, because a lot of people don’t know who Skinlab are, but a lot of people do remember us and take the time to listen, we’re really grateful. It’s really cool being back. Look for us on the road, come out, shake our hands, have a beer, smoke a fatty, and maybe we’ll get you in a rear-naked choke.

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