Mike Skinner is back with his first proper album
Mike Skinner is back with his first proper album for The Streets in 12 years. AFP

Mike Skinner of The Streets has returned "rejuvenated" with a new album and his own self-made movie, optimistic for the future of music as it sits on the cusp of an AI revolution.

Having defined a musical era in the early 2000s with his unique mash-up of UK garage and US hip-hop, Skinner retired The Streets in 2011.

The project flickered back to life a few years ago with occasional tours and singles, and on Friday sees the release of the first proper album in 12 years, "The Darker The Shadow, The Brighter The Light".

But Skinner's real obsession for the past decade has been the movie of the same name which it soundtracks -- one in which he starred, as well as wrote, directed, shot, edited and funded by himself.

"It's actually a lot easier to make a film than you think... It's just the amount of work that's the problem," he told AFP during a trip to Paris.

"I really enjoyed each individual job -- recording the sound, lighting the scenes. Even the special effects -- which are awful -- I did myself," he said with typically self-deprecating frankness.

Set in the underworld of London clubs, the film has the same jarring feel as his music -- a homespun delivery that straddles the line between amateurish and daringly experimental.

"The reason it seems experimental is just because I did everything myself and I didn't really know how it's supposed to be done," he said.

"But my best work in the past I think has been when I didn't know how things were supposed to be done.

"I sabotage myself... Even if I could make my stuff sound slick I would pull it apart because I would feel that's fake somehow.

"I can't quite bear to do things well," he added with a chuckle.

It is that embracing of imperfection that has made The Streets such a singular musical creation.

It also gives Skinner hope for the future at a time when the industry is freaking out over the coming deluge of AI-generated music.

"AI will make human creativity so much weirder because in order to stand out against that you won't be able to copy anything," Skinner said.

"It will force humans to be a bit more bonkers and a bit more avant-garde."

The Streets released the game-changing "Original Pirate Material" in 2002, putting a laddish British spin on hip-hop with lyrics that were more about "greasy spoon cafeterias" than gangsters and diamond rings.

Four studio albums followed until Skinner announced he had "run out of new avenues".

The film, however, has "totally rejuvenated" his passion, and several years of DJ-ing in clubs have given him a slate of banging new tunes, such as recent hit "Troubled Waters".

He cannot quite help a bit more self-deprecation, though.

"I think we've only really got a few songs in us to be honest. Bob Dylan said it: 'I've only ever written one song but I just do it over and over again.'

"That's why I think adding a film to that just makes it more interesting."

One downer is that he cannot tour Europe.

"We can't afford to do a tour here, which is really sad. It's a Brexit-related thing," he said, outlining the onerous tax and paperwork problems that Brexit has caused for British musicians, though he hopes to come for festivals next summer.

Having returned to The Streets in his forties, can he see himself still clubbing into his old age?

"I think I might be dancing on the QM2 from Southampton to New York on an eight-day cruise," he said with a grin, referring to the luxury Queen Mary 2 cruise liner.

"And maybe I might sneak in some ecstasy. I'm sure they'll be up for it."

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