Memory Lane: Skinny Puppy

Note: these interviews were conducted when I was 17-19 years old and running a music fanzine, so if they seem rather amateurish, it’s because they were. The italics are notes added 10-15 years after the event.

OK, this is the last one. It was pretty funny because we’d only dimly heard of Skinny Puppy before their PR agent sent us a copy of The Process. Immediately after the first track, we called up and requested an interview with Nivek Ogre “to talk to the old smackhead before he keels over, too”. It was maybe six months to a year after Dwayne Goettel overdosed, and the band had acrimoniously split. Aside from The Process, we weren’t hugely familiar with their stuff beyond knowing they’d influenced bands like Nine Inch Nails – an omission we corrected swiftly afterwards.
On the day of the interview, we were queued in the lobby of a classically-luxurious West End hotel, to be herded in ‘zine by ‘zine for a twenty-minute interview. Eventually we were beckoned upstairs, and caught a fleeting glimpse of Ogre – real name Kevin Ogilvy – who whispered “five minutes” and shut the door again.

I’m not sure if we actually expected Ogre to be big and green, but what we were definitely not expecting was hot. I don’t think we actually moved for the whole five minutes – just stared at the closed door, thunderstruck. When we were eventually allowed in to the sterile meeting room, we were still a little dazed, but it didn’t matter – when we read the interviews he’d given that day, they were all near-identical: it probably didn’t even matter what we’d asked, though we might have done better if we’d done our research properly. Live and learn …

What have been the highlights of your time in Skinny Puppy?

Ogre: For me, it has to be the theatrical side of it, and being able to personify things that were close to my heart. One little bit we did once was about cows being koshered and we were trying to take all those characters and feelings of pain and convey that pain to the audience. So we had this cow being koshered looping over and over again and I come out with a Big Mac, and I’d pull it out, massage it. Then I’d take it right over the audience and bit into it, and it had these blood bags tied up with elastic bands, really really tight inside it, so when I bit into it they exploded everywhere. It was really bad, the blood would just explode down the back of my throat and I was f***ing puking really badly, which is why I could never suck cock.

*blink*

.

.

At this point, on playback, we realise that Claire’s tape recorder is broken and has chewed up the precious interview tape! Could you effing believe it? I annoy Ogre by calling him Kevin, which is actually his name, but there is another member of the band called Kevin (cEvin Key), so he goes by “Nivek Ogre” to avoid confusion. He does admit that “Nivek” sounds “like an anorexic Eskimo”, so he drops the first half of his stage name. Ogre it is.

… and then there was the time I got Hepatitis A and my s*** turned white and my urine turned this really funny colour, he continues.

If there was one thing I wanted more than a working audio tape at this point, it would have been a video tape: our expressions have just gone from looking at Ogre like he’s a plate of fresh strawberries to looking at him as though we’ve just noticed the strawberries have maggots in them.

Dude! Enough with the overshare!

.

.

Wanting to steer the conversation away from poo, I rather indelicately ask him about the “really rough time of it – you know, earthquakes, fires, somebody died …”

His turn to blink. The tape resumes.

Ogre: A lot of it’s exaggerated. There were fires but they weren’t close to us. There was an earthquake right after New Year’s, which was very close to us, but it was more centred in the valley so it didn’t have as much impact in the mountains in Malibu where we were recording.

And then Dwayne died. He overdosed. It’s a difficult time, to say the least, so I’m left holding the big bag of s***. Meanwhile, cEvin went off to Germany because he has a record called Download coming out on Off-Beat. [The band was called Download.] I’ve actually been sabotaged in Germany now because I was apparently spotted outside Burger King eating meat. I was actually trying one of their veggie burgers, which are really f***ing awful anyway. Then I get labelled a “meater”. Hey! I’m a meater! And the German press are just coming at me with a just way-over-attitude for whatever reasons and probably what cEvin is saying.

So, what’s happening with  you now?

Ogre: WELT. Well, the record’s done. It’s with Mark Walk from Ruby.

Released under the moniker “ohGr”, WELT is a snarky reference to his long-running feud with Bill Leeb: “Wilhem Eats Lunch Today”. Bill had toured as Skinny Puppy’s keyboardist on their 1985 tour, and left shortly afterwards to form the equally-legendary Front Line Assembly.

Ogre: I wanted to work in a way that wasn’t leading off of anything I have done before. You know, if I hear another distorted vocal, I’m just going to f***ing puke. So, I started listening again to stuff like early Brian Eno and Syd Barrett, who is f***ing brilliant. When I first heard it when I was a kid, I was like, “What the f***? This guy is nuts!” – but there’s just so much emotion in that music, it’s very intense and very different.

So, it’s like Interstellar Overdrive: the industrial version?

Ogre: In a way, although with the WELT stuff, it’s a lot of keyboards and interesting melodies. And, of course, the album was done during the time of all this s*** with Skinny Puppy, so it’s totally reflective of that and other influences.

.

.

Who’s your favourite band who name-check you on a regular basis?

Ogre: I don’t have any favourites of current music at all. I really don’t like where industrial music is going – it has become so formulaic in a lot of ways. It’s becoming the new metal. Like, what industrial was, to what it is now: it’s becoming a place where you have to have all the guitars and you have to have all those things, but you have to have some electronics and a certain production technique to make it sound modern and more interesting.

Care to name anyone?

Ogre: Ministry and Nine Inch Nails are totally doing that; it’s cock rock. NIN are totally cock rock. They get the girls down on the floor at the end of the show and make them eat Froot Loops out of a bowl and say, “Wey-hey, that’s cool because we can do that!” I think the biggest thing about industrial music was it trying to break all those stereotypes and it succeeded but has ultimately failed again in a way. It’s just a name attached to cock rock and f***ing hate cock rock.

I’m totally into abusing myself and making myself eat Froot Loops out of a bowl on the floor in front of people, but to make someone else who you have power over and they’re just looking up to you … it’s bulls***! It’s just a sign of weakness to me; a sign of a really small ego who needs to do that to people to make their ego bigger. So, there you go.

And with that, our time is up.

Skinny Puppy reformed in 2000 for the Doomsday Festival in Dresden (the Smothered Hope live clip was recorded in 2005) and released an album The Greater Wrong of the Right in 2004 with a line up including Mark Walk, Danny Carey from Tool and Wayne from Static-X. Another album, Mythmaker, was released in 2007, but their 2010 album has been delayed by financial issues with label SPV. It is punningly entitled In Solvent See.

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6 comments on “Memory Lane: Skinny Puppy

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