Skinny Puppy Interview

Following a day off from their tour, Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy graciously took some time out to talk with me about the band, their history and their future.

Ogre: Hello

DK: Morning, is this Ogre?

Ogre: Yeah, speaking

DK: Hi, it’s Dennis Kelly from Chicago Music Guide

Ogre: Hey man

DK: How are you?

Ogre: Good… Good, good, good.

DK: I wanted to thank you very much for this opportunity I know your schedule is incredibly busy but I wanted to thank you right off the bat.

Ogre: Oh, you’re welcome.

DK: I appreciate that. Did you want to grab a coffee or anything before we start?

Ogre: I’ve got coffee and I’m all set to go

DK: I’d like to start off at the beginning… Why did you start Skinny Puppy?

Did you have a lot to say? Or was it more out of fun?

Ogre: Well, I think it was something we kind of fell into. I think both Kevin and I were a bit disenfranchised with our own situations. Kevin was in a band, a pop band called Images In Vogue and was looking for a different way to express himself and I was kind of careening off the edge so to say and not really, ya know, a bit feckless in my choices what I was doing and I always kind of written poetry and I started working with some people in Vancouver when I was in my early 20’s.

I was just learning about music and it was a timing thing where our paths literally crossed and we recorded 1 song together and that kinda started the whole ball rolling and then we had a number of studio sessions with a producer which ended up being Dave Ogilvie and that’s how our first EP came about. Yeah, we made a little tape and…

DK: Back and Fourth

Ogre: Yeah, Back and Fourth we made under 100 copies of it and sold those kind of just through mail and word of mouth and got picked up by Nettwerk after that.

DK: Have you, with Back and Fourth 2, 3 and 4, have you included any of the songs from volume 1?

Ogre: We did, I think there’s an extra release with the original songs. There was a metal box that came out with all that stuff and I am not sure if they’re still selling it, I can’t keep up with it all. I think they are still selling it. As far as I know it is still available.

DK: With your arrival on the music scene, you were looking at Pop and Rock being the dominant the charts more so, what kind of reactions did you receive, like with live shows and that..

Ogre: Our first release kind of came as a bit of a shock and I think that kind of propelled it a bit forward as far as the Canadian Press goes and things like that and they’ve kind of picked up on it and we did a video for our first single and that kind of was at a time when much music was kind of virgining video channel, so they played it a few times and it just kinda I think when it picked up for us when we started playing live shows, we started touring and I think that’s kind of when the word of mouth finally kind of connected. We never got much radio play, this little band has always been more about live performance and cult following in a way

DK: True, radio is nothing like what you sounded like.

Ogre: No, (laughs) never was. At the time when we started out there was a lot of the hair bands in the 80’s and we were kind of in revolt against that in a way I guess, it was our goal and methods back then as far as musical choice and looking back it was the beginning of obviously a longer career than any of us expected.

DK: That’s definitely a good thing!

Ogre: Yeah, definitely

DK: and with that, how did it come to be that the live shows became performances rather than performing the music alone

Ogre: Well, I mean to me there’s always kind of a separation between what I saw as electronic acts and the audience and kind of the sterile nature of being in an electronic band without having a lot of action on stage. I mean we’ve kind of resolved a lot of that now with a live drummer and guitar player and yet they’re all still kind of family in a way, they’re all people we’ve known from that period when we were doing that.

Originally there was kind of a desire to step up a notch from what electronic acts at the time were doing and dress the whole show up a bit by making more of a spectacle, I guess the whole idea was a spectacle being the key word of putting out all this information and drawing parallels between the theater and the visual media that we were using and then the music as well.

DK: I was never really sure if it was art, entertainment or a statement?

Ogre: We’re still not sure… (laughs)

DK: (laughs)

Ogre: It’s almost becoming political satire.

DK: Now shifting on to the current tour, how was Cleveland the other night?

Ogre: Cleveland was great the other night actually. It was a really good show.. surprisingly, it was one of those unexpected sorts of things where you kind of are not knowing what to anticipate. We’ve always had pretty good shows in Cleveland and been going out and having an audience that was receptive and we almost played 2 hours the other night, which was amazing for us.

DK: What do you find yourself doing on a night off in Ohio?

Ogre: Last night I walked the bare streets of Cincinnati, I crossed the river to Kentucky, and went and saw two movies and had some dinner.

DK: I can’t imagine what you’d do in Ohio on a night off

Ogre: Pretty exhausted actually. Find a really good bed… I’ve been dealing with this low grade fever or something for the last two or three weeks, it’s been tripping me out so I’ve been trying to get a lot of sleep actually. When I was up in Canada we were filming and I didn’t really have, my schedule gets turned around sometimes and I can’t sleep on the bus (I had some insomnia) and so I was on days of just trying to rest. We had a masseuse come in yesterday who was with us in Florida who flew in to do some work. So I did that and then just kind of vegged out and tried to eat good, like I said, saw some movies to take my mind off everything.

DK: Well you’re definitely going at it at a fast pace.

Ogre: We do have a pretty tough schedule this time, yeah. More so, were doing like 2 or 3 runs of 4 shows, 4 shows and 5 shows. So, I mean it doesn’t sound that debilitating but it really takes a lot out of you, so I’ve been trying to play catch up from that a little bit.

DK: This is definitely one of your more intense tours.

Ogre: Certainly is, we’ve never done two rounds of a country before either. We’ve never really done the two cycle run of the primary markets and secondary markets kind of, ya know. We’ve had some interesting pockets though I guess Ohio is one of those pockets. Ya know, it’s always kind of good for us in… seems like in Ohio we’ll see tonight and Cincinnati and we’ll see, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in Chicago again when we come back around. We came back around in Detroit and had a really good show, so ya know. It’s been good, it’s just been a little more difficult cause the schedules a little tougher.

DK: Now a couple questions on your OhGr solo tour, I was wondering how the OhGr tour differed from Skinny Puppy’s tour (as far as the performance aspect of the shows)

Ogre: Oh, I chose to make OhGr more, there’s a little bit of antics that went on for whatever reason, probably just more of a security measure for me as a performer but I really tried to keep OhGr as just me being more of a musical front man. Skinny Puppy gets more involved in the sense that there’s kind of a theme or there’s ya know, some sort of linear thing connecting everything together and it’s a lot more theatrical and a lot more colorful and a lot more fluidy (laughs)… there’s more fluidity (laughs) in a literal sense to like Skinny Puppy shows.

There’s a lot more stuff goin on and a much bigger visual presentation. We had a monitor wall that we are carrying this time as extra monitors but we had that as our main visual set up last time on our Ohgr tour. So it was something that I think in a segway was kind of something that further kind of cemented mine and Kevin’s desire to work together again. At the same time kind of allowed me to just be, the band for me is a way of kind of getting away from the more ya know this aspect of it being really heavily in performance. Heavy in performance a sense of the theater and the blood and the grue and all that and kind of stood back and be a singer for a change.

DK: I was reading in another interview that you don’t like covering yourself up with the blood

Ogre: It’s not that I don’t like it, I’ve gotten it done to an art now (laughs) as getting out of it and putting it on actually. I kind of enjoyed the process in a way, there’s a certain aspect of the process I like. It’s just that continually doing this for like 34 shows, it’s like, ya know. It depends on the place, if there’s a place that has an extremely clean shower and you can literally get offstage and like peel it off and get the stuff off you quick, great.

But if you have do a lot of moving back and fourth it can be, ya know, I tend to get sicker easier having that stuff on all the time. I had a bad run of luck with it on the first leg of the tour, I was using modeling clay and flour and I had an allergic reaction in Seattle I had a chemical burn actually in my eyes from the clay and the flour.

It kept returning in subtler and subtler ways as I blocked more and more things as I kind of reduced everything down to food edible products and still on the beginning leg of this tour, I had the same thing happen to me in San Diego and so I realized that it was probably a food allergy with flour, it was probably something the doctors were saying this time. I was going to go to the emergency room again but I didn’t want to because I had this Pavlovian response to but they called the hospital and said I might have a bakers allergy and so I stopped using flour and it’s finally under control but some of the most painful experiences.

DK: It’s something you don’t even think about.

Ogre: No, people don’t even think about it and I don’t think about it and I never had that problem before but for some reason, I have and it’s just worst….THE WORST situation. Luckily I had two days off after the Seattle show on the first leg which I just kinda flown my now present girlfriend up for a weekend in Seattle and she ended up having to nurse me.. sort of blind basically after this for two days and extremely light sensitive so it just was bit daunting so with those acting up, it like added on to the whole mess of things yeah, so I was a bit like fuck this! (laughs)

DK: Yeah, we’re definitely wearing yourself out.

Ogre: Yeah a couple days in the hospital will set ya straight (laughs).

DK: Changing subjects here…I understand that Cyberoptics was the company that designed the costume and other costumes as well?

Ogre: Right.

DK: Were you involved in the designing of it at all? Or did they have free reign?

Ogre: No, I was totally involved in the design, I kinda wanted something that… there was a number of ideas that went into it… Ya know, something that was kinda in a sense dog related or mythologically or historically related to a like a dog and then the idea of a plague doctor, came in with a nose and I wanted to take that a step further I wanted to incorporate a fire helmet into it because to me I kinda see firemen and people like that as first line defenders in this new kind of plague and in a lot of ways I kind of saw them, that image similar to what the old plague doctors wore during the black death with their long noses and thing. So I wanted to incorporate something like that, I never really got to that point with it and now it’s kind of turned into this… it’s taken a turn again as being a bit more militaristic in a way… becoming more of a soldier like character.

DK: On what song do you use it in?

Ogre: It actually starts the show with it

DK: New album… with the video for Pro-test… You deliberately came up with the direction on that one to defy expectations?

Ogre: I think that was our intention.. when we heard the idea, it wasn’t our idea necessarily, it was Bill who’s our guitar player and whose done our videos right back to “Too Dark Park” who had the idea based on this clash of cultures that we’re going through right now in a sense and so broke things down musically into how we thought it’d be interesting I think at this point of our career, the idea of caricatures starts to come up so we tried to take control of that and in a sense kind of shape our own caricature of what the band is and what people would expect from the band, always trying to kind of shift that away from what people expect to what they would not expect and play around with that whole thing.

So Bill knows all these break dancers who, he’s done a number of break dancing videos and so it was kind of an interesting idea for a video concept based on where we are right now with this label and how much funding we can get and the quality of video we can do with that kind of funding so. So we kind went for that idea, it was a lot of fun actually. The more fun for me was kind of being in the rehearsals or in the auditions.. I mean seeing some of these kids it’s amazing what these kids can do.

DK: Yeah, they were definitely impressive!

Ogre: Blew my mind actually. And then we also got in touch with these crumpers which is a new form of break dancing or a new form of black dancing in the sense that it’s coming out of south central and it’s based on Africa and break dancing and it’s a bit like speaking in tongues in a way, it’s like dancing in tongues it’s a really incredible, just amazing forceful, emotional form of dance, so we had some of that at the end and we might work further with those people on another video that’s more of an anti-war statement we’re very interested in doing.

DK: That’s something that would be cool to see.

Ogre: Yeah.

DK: In keeping with the Pro-test video, with remixes and single releases, is Pro-Test ever going to be released as a single?

Ogre: Ya know, I am not sure. We’re talking about making a remix CD and I am not sure what songs will be chosen, it’s all coming together now so yeah, there’s a possibility of being remixed. I don’t think it will ever be released as a single per se.

DK: I know you were really big on putting out the singles and b-sides.

Ogre: We were, yeah, absolutely; I mean there was more of a time of that ya know getting back in the day when they were pressing singles and stuff like that. Now it seems like the music’s kind of given way anyway, so. Ya know I am not sure, that’s kind of a marketing thing within the label and stuff like that in a lot of ways. Ya know we’re also open to that and I think the idea of doing a remix CD might be interesting and I think that’s what they’re working on right now, whether Pro-Test will be included on that, I can’t say.

DK: That’s what I was hoping for because with the remix CD that was out before (from other performers) it would definitely be appropriate for SP to remix their classics and new classics.

Ogre: Totally.

DK: OK, a couple more questions for you and then I will let ya go, if that is ok?

Ogre: Cool.

DK: Ok, now shooting for the future.. I understand you are talking about a new live DVD, is that correct?

Ogre: Yeah.

DK: Is that being filmed over the course of the tour?

Ogre: We actually just finished the shoot, we shot two shows. We shot Montreal and Toronto and Montreal was the kind of the precursor for the big shoot in Toronto show and shot 3 or 4 high definition cameras and ya know moving dolly in the front and a static camera in the back and then two roaming cameras, so we got a lot of stuff down. Bill is going to be traveling to a number of places around the world to get some additional footage and we’re going to put together a DVD… I think it’s going to be out by at least June, hopefully or even before.

DK: GREAT!! It’s been some time coming for another live DVD.

Ogre: Yeah, it’s cool because we have all this archival footage, ya know stuff that Dwayne shot and we’ve got, like something like 14 hours of tape from one of our tours in 1987 through Europe (our first tour through Europe) and we’re going to include all that stuff.

DK: Oh my God..!!

Ogre: Yeah, I know… it’s cool. We finally have a place where we can archive this stuff because Doomsday was something that was talked about as being a DVD but it was… the network never really came up to the plate and so now it’s done, it’s in the can… all the paperwork is done so it is definitely going to be a reality this time.

DK: Are we looking at maybe a double-disc DVD?

Ogre: I don’t know. That will depend on the information, Bill’s gotta go (literally) through all this information and digitize it see what’s there. There’s all sorts of stuff, there’s stuff from like “Too Dark Park” (It’s not great footage but it’s stuff I’m sure kids would love to see) from that period. I can kick myself for not having had that tour filmed because that was an amazing tour and there’s so little left of that tour, that it will all be put in this DVD.

DK: Last question… When the tours over do you have any plans thereafter?

Ogre: I’m taking a break just for a little bit. I’m going to spend time with my girlfriend and my animals and I think we have some other touring opportunities coming up in the future possibly South America, Mexico and possibly Asia and Australia as well and possibly some dates in Eastern Europe. So we’re looking at all that stuff and just fussing it out, logistically. Other than that we’re probably going to start recording again by the summer on a new record if all goes well and take a little bit of time to kind of like recharge

DK: Very cool. I would like to thank you again for your time and I want to thank you also for you guys getting together again because I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to see you guys, I’ve never gotten to see you guys yet.

Ogre: Cool man, this is a great time to see us because the bands’ really powerful and we’ve never sounded better, I mean as far as like sonically and I think the strength of the show is really good so it’s a good time to see Skinny Puppy, definitely.

DK: Cool! Well, I guess that’s it! I hope you have a great show tonight!

Ogre: Ok, thanks for your support.

DK: Not a problem and I’ll be seeing you guys on Friday.

Ogre: Cool man.

DK: Take Care!

Ogre: Bye

Check out our interview with Ogre from 2011 here!

Skinny Puppy The Greater Wrong Of the Right (live)