At St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit, Michigan, Nivek Ogre, lyricist/vocalist for Skinny Puppy, tells me one of his vocal cords is swollen.
Just one. Isn't that fucking weird?! he exclaims, both annoyed and puzzled.
It is humid in Detroit, not the environment to which Canadian born and Los Angeles transplanted Ogre is accustomed. It just started raining, so things are getting better, he says over the phone. I brought my dog with me. She got her first hoodie today and I was trying to get her an all-access pass, but they don't have them that small, he says referring to Batbat, whom he found two years ago at a park.
In support of its thirteenth album, Mythmaker, Skinny Puppy's Mythrus Tour is the band's first North American circuit in three years. Released on January 30, Mythmaker marked 25 years since cEvin Key and Ogre formed Skinny Puppy, an electronic/industrial outfit, in Vancouver. This is the second release since the band's initial break up while recording The Process and the death of synthesist Dwayne Goettel in the mid-1990s. The album maintains the contemporary sound and political critique of 2004's The Greater Wrong of the Right.
Released through SPV America, Mythmaker came from experiences I had with a person that wasn't in a place in their life to realize what they were doing and what they were reacting to and how they were reacting and [then] did something heinous, Ogre shares. That was related to the population and how the population reacts out of fear [We're] dealing with a mythological sense of history. [History] is definitely manipulated to suit the present situation. I [also] began to look at my own ideas about control and what I can and can't control and I can't control a lot! Ogre laughs. It's interesting how things change, how historical constructs change and how a mythological sense of history can shape a future and make righteous what's so wrong.
Revered for the band's theatrics and highly visual live performance incorporating props and costumes, Ogre shares, We have this costume this year that my friend made me. It's made all out of air tubing high-pressure hoses. He chuckles again. Once again, I've created a costume that is the most difficult thing to clean. We're using less blood, but at the same time, [blood] just gets all over it. And trying to keep pressure in it has been difficult, he admits.
It looks good though, he concludes happily.
The three-piece performance has a different stage set-up on this tour. It's kind of taking the show back to a very, very, early place I'm remembering how I felt back when there was this much pomp and splendor and many things to hide behind I started working with a girl from CalArts. She studied shadow puppetry and was studying with this guy that Westernized the whole doctrine for Balinese puppetry. Some of the shows I saw prior to that incorporated modern choreography and large stages. You have a light source behind a person and they're down around the stage and you're looking at the image projected up on the screen and it's absolutely mind-blowing.
Ogre reflects on his band's earliest gigs. Our first show was at an after-hours club and our second or third [show] was at an art gallery we broke into. We didn't flog ourselves or put used condoms up or used tampons Those were the days, he trails off. Some of the stuff we can't do anymore, like use open flame [or] when we made our own bombs and cribs that would blow up he sighs. That's a thing of the past. That was really fun.
Ogre continues, Performing is something I enjoy but it is also something I have huge amounts of anxiety over," he continues. "I'm really a quiet person, [I'm] in my own head and isolated so to come out of isolation and step up on stage is kinda odd. I'm not as insecure as I was when I was younger. I don't take myself as seriously.
Skinny Puppy was originally based on writing from a dog's point of view and Ogre still keeps this concept in mind, even when he is working on his side project. This [next] ohGr album is going to revisit that theme. It is going to be called Blurry Dotted I's. It's going to be about everything that has happened to me in the last six to eight months through the eyes of my blind dog. [Batbat is] so perceptive on so many levels. I started a MySpace page [for her] and it will start showing things from her perspective. [That perspective] humbles you and makes you look at things in a different way. Skinny Puppy started that way 'cause it symbolizes youth and their inability to speak out and sometimes their lack of intelligence to speak out.
Ogre muses, I always wondered how the German nation walked through [WWII]. That's the only example of a 20th century modern, well-educated country that was sleepwalking! But I can see how that happens It's amazing to me in my short life how values have changed so drastically and how easy it is to manipulate and condition people [and] how we condition animals. Batbat, when I found her, was so passive because of fear. It's all fear-driven. But at a certain point, we'll just haul off and bite.
With members who are undeniable animal lovers and activists, Skinny Puppy has used its music to expose people to the horrific treatment of animals, which landed the band in jail during the VIVIsectVI tour in 1988. That was a complete misinterpretation of the whole show. Some kid comes in and is like, 'They're torturing a dog,' mocks Ogre in an arrogant, nasal voice. It was a stuffed toy Lab[rador]. The band was charged with disorderly conduct, spent the night in jail and was released the next morning.
The gratifying thing is the few people that you change. Like when people come up to me and say, 'Your music really changed my life' or 'It got me through a lot of shit' because that's what music did for me when I was younger and that makes me feel really good.
History may be a myth, but Skinny Puppy's Mythmaker and its biting, growling tenacity reaffirms its place as one of the most influential industrial bands.
by Kristen Kawaguchi