Use Your Delusion
Skinny Puppy-when there's something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?
This article by Staci Bonner was originally published in the June 1992 edition of SPIN magazine.
"Horror is a valid artistic genre," insists lyricist-performer Ogre of Skinny Puppy. It can also be a way of life. Last Right's, Skinny Puppy's eighth release goes beyond gore and special effects; Ogre calls the album a "document delusion" of his personal experiences.
Ogre has just finished watching Ren and Stimpy and is feverishly playing Nintendo when I arrive to ask him about his work. Skinny Puppy-Ogre, keyboardist Dwayne Goettel, and multi-instrumentalist Cevin Key-began working on its nightmare industrial formula in Vancouver, Canada, almost ten years ago, but Ogre recently relocated to Los Angeles, after cleaning up his life considerably. During the recording of Last Rights, Ogre's almost-too-vivid imagination, combined with the mind-altering substances he was using to excess, resulted in a near breakdown for the singer.
"I was seeing things that I thought people were projecting into my room-like three-dimensional objects coming out of the walls. I'd go into the studio after incredible nights of hallucinations and hauntings. Those were the best sessions, but I was falling-down drunk. They'd stop the tape and say, 'Ogre, are you okay?' and then go, 'He's down,' and put me in a cab. Everyone was concerned about me dying. I was off my head way too much-there's no was I could ever do that again."
Using an imaginative combination of tape loops, samples, voice effects, and computer technology to create dense cryptic rhythms, which Ogre calls "audio sculpture," Skinny Puppy creates horrific, haunting sounds that have remained consistent over the years. The dark trio has influenced scores of bands who've attempted to fit into industrial music's nightmare niche.
The bands infamous visuals spring entirely from Ogre's vampiric imagination, but he stresses the role of the other two band members. "Everything is based around the music," he says. Goettel and Key create the haunting sounds; when they finish the track, they hand the tape over to Ogre for lyrical treatment. No printed lyrics are included with the album because they're are too personal, according to their author. The distorted vocals aren't easy to comprehend, underlining the mystery of the morbidly explosive music.
Ogre calls the Last Rights tour "a roller-coaster ride of graphic horror and violence," with emphasis on personal victimization. "I act out the creation of a monster that is your own nemesis but is actually yourself. We use the idea of being a puppet, a slave to different belief systems, and how you can be manipulated by people-if they know your weaknesses."
The concept behind Skinny Puppy's first recording, "Canine," was the world viewed through the eyes of a dog, and animal rights are a recurring theme. On the bands 1988 VIVIsectVI tour, Ogre played the role of a tortured lab animal, then became the torturer himself, ripping apart a stuffed dog. Audience responses varied from disgust to inappropriate enthusiasm: "Some people actually came up to me and said, 'I really dug that part where you were ripping apart the dog.'"
Over the years, Ogre has perfected his craft. "For the early shows, I'd do things onstage that would blow-they just wouldn't work." Fake blood and other gruesome props are still used, but they're handled more intelligently now. "Our shows combine images with theater. It works better than just coming out and doing a horror magic routine."
After the interview, Ogre takes me to a store on Melrose called Necromance, an "anatomical shop," to look at countertop displays of bones (including a kangaroo skeleton). Ogre looks disturbed. "I'm concerned about where they get the animal bones," he says. "I think it's probably okay, but you never know." I'm sure he's picturing an evil lab technician selling the skeletons of vivisected animals. Such would be typical of the terror Skinny Puppy dissects: real-life torment and B-movie-ish horror in equal parts-both a living nightmare and an elixir for the imagination.