Skinny Puppy - Darker swing of the pendulum
After nearly a decade since their last release, The Process, Skinny Puppy have made a roaring comeback with their latest album, The Greater Wrong of the Right. One can get a glimpse into the direction of the album by merely reading the title. Skinny Puppy are launching a not-so-timid attack on the political power-brokers of the United States. They have created a markedly different album than their musical forays from the past, due in large part to new collaborations with several notable musicians. A lot of old fans have cried foul because of this striking modernization in the Skinny Puppy sound; some people have even cited the band as traitors to America in the Wolrd Wide Echo Chamber. If there's anything that Skinny Puppy doesn't lack, it's an ability to stir debate and generate (hopefully) meaningful discussion. This is part one of a two-part interview with Ogre, dealing primarily with politics. Part two is a discussion of the artistic side of Skinny Puppy. It's morning in America when Ogre phones in to talk to ReGen's pHil.PTI...
How did the “Pro-Test” video come about? Who was involved in that?</p>
Ogre: The “Pro-Test” video is kind of a caricature of war that takes place between two groups of people. In this case, it’s a dance war. And the underlying, underpinning message of the song is more political. The video is a bit more tongue-in-cheek as it shows, kind of. We tried to merge two styles of music in the sense that my friend, coworker, videographer, roommate and guitar player in the band, Bill Morrison, has done a number of break-dance documentaries and we came across a new form of break-dancing that is essentially called “crumping.” It relies heavily on African dance and a lot of break-dances—it’s kind of a hybrid of that. It literally blew us away. So we got two of them to come out and they agreed to do it, even though they didn’t want to do it. We had to use BPM music that was their own, but they ended up liking the song anyway. And so we decided to come up with this idea of goth culture clashing with break-dance culture in a more respectful way. As it all turns out, it’s more about the dance more than beating the shit out of each other. That was the idea of the video, to kind of put these two types of music together.
Yeah, it seems like a lot of people that have seen the video online. They were just totally taken aback by the whole thing because it seemed so odd. It seemed such a departure from some of the past videos you guys have been involved in. Did you direct it or did you have somebody else do it?
Ogre: Bill directed it. We agreed to it for that very reason.
Right. Now I’ve also read that there’s been a group online that’s trying to get the video pulled from rotation due to Skinny Puppy’s “anti-American” beliefs.
Ogre: I’m not sure when that happened.
I think I read that a couple of weeks ago.
Ogre: What was the group called?
I am not sure on that. But it always seems like there are all these small groups that somehow find you guys and try to protest against you, and it’s always small groups. I’m wondering: how do these people find you? Why do they think you’re so important that they have to protest against what you guys are trying to do?
Ogre: Well I think at this point in time it’s probably, as you say, small groups of people. In the ‘80s, it was Tipper Gore. There was a big race to ban lyrics, or at least label them as being nasty, which I think in the long run probably blew up in their face in the sense that it probably made those purchasable, or more wanted by putting that label on it. But there was a whole slew of things. We had them come after us slightly with some of the visuals that we’ve been using. We’ve been slighted at different times at our live shows for obscenity, and the funniest thing about that obscenity is that we’re only showing things that were being done in laboratories every day in America.
You’re referring to the debacle in Ohio?
Ogre: Right. And, it’s led us to today where the Internet has created a whole slew of detectives and more or less armchair American rationalists who are kind of coming out of the woodwork and trying to do whatever they can to ban whatever. I think the reason why it’s ineffective for us is that there are a bunch of groups and I know that there’s one person online, but I don’t know if he’s still around and I’m not sure if it’s a group of people or one person, but it’s “American Patriot 2004.” And this person took a stab at me by creating a personality construct based on rumor and that was on the Web. Not the reality, but took all the bits that were in a sense dramatized or fabricated or whatever. It’s the same as Ozzy doing whatever at The Alamo. All these things that are kind of fictional, but there’s something true about them. Like the fact that I had a dog on stage during that Ohio incident. And to that person, I was basically mutilating dogs every night on stage. So they’d run with that whole idea and create a personality construct out of that. And it was interesting to me just how he or she wrapped all this stuff together and then had the time to place it everywhere on the Internet on these various Web sites that would eventually take their time to put an artist up to be boycotted or whatever. I think the interesting thing was that the larger groups these people were going after didn’t see us as that big. We’re a pretty small duck in big pond, and if we were selling more records, we’d probably have more of an effect and they’d probably do more to come against us. I think that we land in that space in-between. It’s the gray area where we’re not really in a demographic where we’re affecting that many people and selling that much to where a boycott would be that effective, so it becomes kind of a moot point. I think these people are just coming after it because obviously we’ve turned back into a pseudo-puritanical nation of thought police that are trying to shape and mold whatever they think is right in the world. And again, I think it becomes something that allows them to wash their own hands clean of the truth and what’s going on. It’s their truth, and they’re allowed to have it, right?
Yeah. I did see one thing online a couple of months ago, and I’m not sure if it’s the same guy that did this profile on you, where there was like a poll that said, ‘Who would you rather have for President?’ And there was a picture of George Bush and there was a picture of you covered in mud or blood.
Ogre: Probably looking very sneaky.
It didn’t look too good. And it had a bulleted list of his accomplishments against yours. Is that the same guy who did that profile?
Ogre: It probably is. I don’t know. That sounds familiar, so it probably is the same person who’s been doing this since. For my solo record, I did an animation called “Majik,” and it was basically looking at consumerism. It had George Bush in the sense that it we was a caricature on a podium.
In fact, that might be the video that they were talking about that they wanted pulled.
Ogre: It probably was, because [they said] I was showing George Bush to be a Nazi, which I wasn’t. I was showing him to be a megalomaniac, not a Nazi. And he’s basically on a podium, and I mean he’s more like Mickey Mouse, and his bottom half is like Mickey Mouse with a gas pump for a tail. And maybe these people don’t look at the details or anything, but he or she mainly saw this overwhelming Nazi kind of figure. It was a funny thing to watch what he or she did, going up to a bunch of groups trying to point out the video as anti-Semitic and taking the wind out of, I guess, the Jewish people in America by saying Bush was like Hitler, which of course was examined by a Jewish group and somebody actually wrote back because this person sent it to a bunch of newspapers. A lot of editors wrote back and said that they didn’t see that association. So, I mean nasty people really trying to attach people’s viewpoints to other things to try and create monsters out of people. So I think, in that case, by putting me against George Bush, if they put a picture of me from my high school yearbook up against George Bush, it might be different. But they chose that picture, so it becomes a bit maligned, and a bit…
A little tilted.
Ogre: Right, tilted, at least.
Now, I can’t remember who said this, if it was Al Jourgensen or Chris Randall from Sister Machine Gun, but there’s this idea that when a Republican is in office the music scene tends to produce better music. Do you feel this to be true?
Ogre: I feel that in the sense that when Skinny Puppy came back in the year 2000, we did a show in Germany and we had an absence for six years because we had a death in the band. I think cEvin and I finally saw each other as friends and saw that we shared a lot of history and we had that experience and decided we were going to do another record. It took us until around 2003 to really get the deal going and to get started and stuff like that. But I will say that in my lifetime I went through Reagan—I was in my twenties with Reagan. This is the darker swing of the pendulum that I think brings out a lot of this stuff. And I think that when all of this stuff comes to light, as I fully believe, in a way, that we have kind of one path that we’re riding down and whoever makes these decisions in power or a power coven or whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter whether right or left, the path, the goal at the end is the same. So I see both sides as being, in the long run, on this path to somewhere. I don’t know where that is to be honest, but, ultimately, I think it’s about trying to grab as many natural resources as possible before everything goes out. There are certain movements of fundamentalism that truly believe that they are taking the idea of one part of Genesis and running with it with regards to this using up everything in the world, or interpreting this passage from Genesis as they should go out and just use everything up because the world’s fucked basically. So whenever that starts happening, I tend to take a dislike to policies and I think a lot of children do too. A lot of kids start to feeling a bit disenfranchised. I think the music becomes more and more popular as generations come and go through that and feel that. Even though I think now that I’m a little older, I kind of see that there is no light on the other side of the tunnel, either. Soldiers might get better equipment, there might be a bit more money going into healthcare for seniors, but the path remains the same because we’re so entrenched now. It’s a bit depressing to me, but, again, it’s my own opinion and it’s completely subjective. But it’s sad to me because growing up in Canada in the shadow of America, I thought it was one of the most amazing countries and I still do, but right now I think is a turning point. It’s an amazing time to be alive because you’re seeing a country of great power, wealth and technology being tested to its fullest right now. Its people are [being tested] as well because for so many generations we’ve been kept under this spell of this idea of righteousness, and it’s time to kind of turn the mirror back on ourselves and have a look, and then turn it back outward. It might be too late, I don’t know. Again, growing up in Canada, we’ve been through the ‘80s when traveling with American groups was a bit scary because they would all be wearing Canadian flags, and in the ‘70s as well. Now we’re in a time when I don’t think I’ve ever seen this country more isolated in the world.
Right. Now, you’ve stated a couple of months ago that if George Bush was re-elected that you’d leave the country. Is that still true? Do you think that even if Kerry wins, is it going to be that different?
Ogre: No, I don’t think that if Kerry wins it’s going to be that different. I think it will be a better statement to make to the world if Kerry wins, to be honest with you. Again, I’ve told you about how I’ve felt about…
The left and the right being very similar…
Ogre: …the very same small group of people that Bush is from in a lot of ways. He was educated at Yale, and the goal being to amass as many natural resources as possible. I think that they’re not really achieving that right now. I think the idea of going into Iraq and having the oil pay for the restoration of that country has failed miserably and I think that this country is paying like 200 billion dollars alone to maintain that mess. Somebody has to unfortunately manage that. I mean, it’s a done deal. So you either pull out, which he might do (and I really can’t see that happening because the stability of that country and that area is going to be a complete mess), or you continue on the path in much the same way. I don’t know. I have some fear that it’s just a different pack of wolves.
You’re very informed with what’s going on in world events. How are you keeping up with daily events on the road now?
Ogre: It’s painful to watch any of the 24-hour news channels just because I get furious at the fact that we have so much bandwidth and we have such a limited scope of view. Back in the ‘80s when CNN first came online, I was like, ‘This is brilliant. We’re going to see a little bit of everything, everywhere, all the time.’ Instead, you have all of these really banal shallow news stories that are followed ad nauseam, like the Laci Peterson murder.
Or Kobe Bryant.
Ogre: Black women are murdered the same way every day that don’t get the same coverage. Things are so… yes, the election is important, but it takes up every bit of bandwidth, and to me, it’s an atrocity in this day and age of information. You know, you do leave the country, and even on CNN you see a different side of the news. What I do is, I usually go online and there are a few places that cull a lot of news stories from the Associated Press, Reuters and from other sources where you can get a bit more of a balanced subjective/objective viewpoint. But it all comes down to subjective feeling, I guess, in the end. I guess I’ve always been a bit of an alienist, so I tend to lurk on the outside of all of that, and I tend to be more scrutinizing of things. I don’t accept what just the common news releases are. I try to look a little deeper and see another side to things, and I love reading news stories from another government’s perspective as well.