Tom Skinner on the Smile, Sons of Kemet and going solo: ‘It gives me a blank slate to explore’

The Sons of Kemet drummer explains how he’s keeping his cool while launching his debut record, working with Jonny and Thom from Radiohead – and preparing for the birth of his second child

It has been a head-spinning year for drummer Tom Skinner. He has been crossing the globe touring new albums simultaneously with London jazz group Sons of Kemet and with Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood as the Smile. Adding to the pressure, his partner is expecting their second child imminently. When we meet one bright Monday morning near his north London home, he keeps his phone on the table, ready to dash.

Skinner is remarkably calm amid the chaos, exuding the same groundedness that he brings to his collaborations. Onstage with Sons of Kemet, Skinner is loose-limbed as he battles through punishing rhythmic dialogues with second drummer Eddie Hick. Touring with Kano, he anchors a vast horn and string section; alongside trombonist Peter Zummo, his syncopated funk bolsters teetering melodies. “I’ve got to have a level of trust with someone before we even start playing, then it’s all about listening and allowing space for everyone to express themselves,” he says of these wide-ranging gigs.

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