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.
This is actually two pieces cut together; my recent recollections of a week back in June ’96, plus an earlier telephone interview I’ve edited in after finding it in the attic (which answers my own question of why I didn’t bother to interview them when we met.)
CK: It’s very electronic, it’s very improvised and very experimental. I expect each evening to be different and spontaneous. I don’t know how well I’m answering your question …
Thousands of miles away in Vancouver, cEvin Key is on the telephone. I ask the man born Kevin William Crompton what the hell influences their weird noises.
CK: I don’t know. I know it sounds weird, but we don’t work like that. The thing is that we’ve been doing this for so long with Skinny Puppy that Download came about as a result of having too much pressure build up during that record. It was a lot of fun just to make a record with friends – and not doing it just to please a record company or whatever. Download was created as a stress release, which is somewhat how Skinny Puppy was formed. We just sort of found ourselves with a band. It wasn’t a case of being influenced. That is the antithesis of this album. The influences came from having original people to do it with. Mark Skybey is always doing totally different stuff, and Genesis (P Orridge) was great to collaborate with, and Philth – who’s more of a techno artist … Dwayne was always frustrated that we weren’t able to explore more of their ideas in Skinny Puppy, so Download was a special thing for us. We were getting a lot out of it, so it was good.
June 1996 – a few months later – and my best friend and I went to see Front Line Assembly play a gig. Before the band came on, I nipped to the bar and as I made my way back I spotted a guy in a Download shirt. “Hey!” I called to him, “Where did you get that shirt?”
“Oh, uh, I’m in the band,” he replied.
I’m too Irish for habitual blasphemy, but I’d said, “Oh my God!” before I could think the words.
I rushed over to where my friend was standing, pushed the pint into her hand, and dragged her over to meet Phil Western. We stood together through the show.
Afterwards, he took us back to meet FLA, and Bill Leeb thrust a bottle of whiskey into my hand. “Help yourself,” he said.
I poured myself about a quarter of a pint of the stuff and he stared at me as he took the bottle back. Feeling a little guilty, I drank it pretty quickly. I can’t remember what was said, but there was a room full of people. People were passing something smokeable around and, aged 19 and wanting to be cool, I partook.
Within seconds – might have been minutes – my heart started beating fast. I could feel it in huge, painful bounds. I could hear the sound of my pulse in my ears. I grabbed the guy nearest me – I think it was Rhys Fulber – “What the f*** was in that?”
He assured me it was just weed. It wasn’t laced with anything. It was harmless.
I thought I was dying.
By now, I was seeing in strobe. All I could hear was the sound of my heart – faster and louder.
Not now. Not like this.
I don’t think I have ever felt that scared.
My friend pulled me out into the corridor. She ushered me into the toilets, tried to make me throw up, but nothing happened. I was helpless. She made me walk up and down the corridor, silently resenting all the while how I’d embarrassed her in front of the band.
“Is she OK?” Somebody asked.
I started to come to as we walked down Tottenham Court Road and was moderately sober as we sat ourselves down at a table in an outdoor cafe. I asked for water, and everyone else ordered beers. I think it was me, my friend, Phil, cEvin Key, Anthony Valcic and one or two others. They talked, and after a while, I joined in. Two or three beers later, Phil remarked that even though we’d drunk all that whiskey and had all that beer, he wasn’t feeling particularly drunk.
I held up the can and showed it to him. “That’s because it’s 0.5% alcohol.”
At maybe five o’clock we went back to their tourbus: nothing would be open yet and my friend’s house was way up on the Northern Line. I’d left my house-keys (in my jacket pocket) over at her house because I was supposed to be staying over, so I couldn’t go home until she did.
I don’t remember much about the Sunday other than cEvin toking up at eight in the morning. We slept in the seats for a few hours. I can’t remember how or when we ate, but we must have done at some point. Anthony told me he thought [his friend] fancied my friend. I told him I thought he was wasting his time: the guy was cute enough, but we were no groupies.
On the Monday, as I recall, Alex Paterson from The Orb was doing a DJ set at Heaven. The band could get us in, so there we sat for most of the night – dazed from exhaustion, sat in a row on the floor with our backs propped up by the wall, bobbing our heads to the music.
Tuesday morning, cEvin emerged from his bunk and stared at me, still sitting on that bench-seat. Still here?
“I can’t go home until she does,” I explained, simply. I felt embarrassed, being the spare wheel – not entirely welcome, but offered hospitality on account of my (prettier) friend.
She and [redacted] were kissing in one of the other chairs. They were cute together; he continued calling her for maybe a year after that.
cEvin shook his head and rolled another.
CK: My relationship with Dwayne was very important. We were very close, and it’s made me very thankful for a lot of things I wouldn’t have been thankful for otherwise.
I still feel that I haven’t reached an area where I have all the answers. I’m still digging for answers and there are still questions in my head as to where all this leads. Part of the relationship in Download with all these individuals is that the energy is so right for me, where in Skinny Puppy it was very hard for me – and I’m sure for others too. It was very demanding, in terms of my relationship with Ogre. It was very hard but I got a lot in return. So now I’m in a situation with so much more humanity than at any point in Skinny Puppy. I have extremely high hopes for Download. We theorised about getting this band together and going on the road. Dwayne and I talked about it constantly. We wanted to be at peace and enjoy what we were doing and have good personal relationships.
What are your biggest remaining ambitions?
CK: I think just to have peace in life. I’d like to continue to work with people with a mutual interest in electronic music; to reach that without having to have a heart attack; without mind games or drug abuse. Mark Spybey is a great guy, we were friends already. We had worked together in Dead Voices On Air. We had always been good friends. We never had that with Ogre. So in that sense, theorising about Download was somewhat of a dream, and it sort of came true. It didn’t have to be put together – it wasn’t contrived – we don’t even remember naming the group Download. It was the same with Skinny Puppy. The energies just sort of came together and I think that’s the best way to go about things.
I just got back from Jamaica and that was a good experience – to get away. I’m generally a positive person, I don’t come down on anyone; I don’t go around screaming at people. (Laughs). I generally try to make the best of things. But then, there’s that whole thing with Dwayne and I’m still dealing with all that. But everything else is fine. There was a time when, before Dwayne died, I remember being worried because I was going to have my car fixed. And now, you know, there are much more important things to be concerned about.
I was losing track of the days by now. Still Tuesday, I think. Another cafe on another street in Soho. I spent most of the time chatting with Anthony – he was funny; I liked him. He’d smoked so much pot over so many years that his eyes quivered within their sockets. I asked him about how Download make their albums.
“Well,” he explained, “We go into the studio. We get really stoned, we jam, and then we press record.”
Explains a lot.
Later, after several beers, my bag was stolen. I retrieved my scattered belongings from the pub’s bathroom. I can’t remember what was missing; my credit card, not much else. They’d obviously emptied it out and took what they needed. Thank goodness my keys weren’t in there. I was still trapped here and couldn’t go home. I think I must have phoned through to cancel my card.
What broke my heart was that my t-shirt had been stolen. It was the special t-shirt with “I Killed Adam Franklin” scrawled on it in felt-tipped pen, which my best friend in high school had given me when the Swervedriver singer stepped out (unharmed) in front of my parents’ car. I took that shirt to two Reading Festivals and got bands I met to sign it. I must have had 200 signatures on there – from Babes In Toyland to the Buzzcocks. I stopped collecting autographs after that.
Early the next day, the band had to set off for their next tour date. They dropped us off somewhere – my friend went to pick up some breakfast, and I was to wait for her. I splash-washed my face and arms for the third (fourth? Fifth?) day running in a public bathroom and stood waiting outside for her to return. She was ages. My feet were hurting. I threw my cardigan down under me and sat down on it, hoping she wouldn’t be long.
A couple passed me by, and someone threw a couple of coins in my direction.
“Hey! I’m not homeless!” I called back. They ignored me.
I looked at the coins. Two pennies. Bastards!
How can you ever hope to justify the haircut you had in the Ain’t It Dead Yet video?
CK: Haha! I can’t! Er … this girl did our hair and makeup and so I guess she’s to blame. Heheheh. But, hey! What about Dwayne? His hair was way weirder than mine.
Yes, but his hair suited him.
CK: Oh … er … blame that girl. It wasn’t our fault. Heheh.
It felt weird going back to my friend’s house after that. We’d had our first proper taste of life on the road, and were understanding first-hand how it drives people crazy. You really learn to appreciate baths, sobriety, nutritious food, and being able to go home when you please.
I always took my keys with me after that.