wEird Energy an interview with cEvin Key
With all the plot twists of a mystery and way too many arcane agendas, Skinny Puppy's final album, The Process has been finally released. Wounds are slow to heal and with the crushing blow of Dwayne's death, what once was, has been forever laid to rest. cEvin spoke candidly to me about the past, but with the even greater vision of putting it all behind him and forging ahead - a testament to his own inner strength.
Tell me about your family - what it was like growing up?
It was unusual. My mother was okay about quite a few things. Like when she found this bag of weed in my pocket as a kid, she gave it back to me and said, "Better hide it before your dad finds it!"
Because your dad would disapprove... or smoke it himself?
My dad was off in his own world. My dad is pretty straight. For the better part of his life, he's was like in the second World War. I think he's still living a bit of carrying all the dates, times and history of it all like it should be done in some sort of interesting way. Like if you want to know anything about that time period to the second, you'd go, "What happened on September 9, 1946?" and he'd go, "Well, that was the day that France...", whatever...
So he's kept it all in his brain.
Is he aware of your smoking preferences now?
Oh yeah... I'm completely myself to him. Also, I've got to say, he has been completely supportive of me being a musician. I don't know from whence it came. Actually, I think it all started the day, I was about 17, and I came home with purple hair. He just said, "Well - that's it. Whatever you're gonna do, you're gonna do."
It's just another color!
Me and my mom - she used to freak out and put makeup all over me and do stuff too - we were a bit glammy for a while.
So you had a glam mom and a World War II Vet dad. Any brothers or sisters?
An older brother and a younger sister.
And what do they do now?
They're both incredibly successful at what they do. My brother's an artist and a designer. My sister is a legal assistant, like a legal executive secretary. I'm the complete out-on-the-edge one.
Well somebody had to be there.
They can both relate to me, because they both have their out-on-the-edgeness about them. My sister is very - I mean - she just makes everything. She's making little goblins and paintings and dolls and all sorts of things. She's a jack-of-all-crafts. And my brother has the gift of the pen. He can draw a thing on a piece of paper that you could walk into.
Well, that's convenient - in case you want to go somewhere new.
What did your parents do to produce three talented children?
(laughs) I don't know. They didn't do what they were supposed to do.
And what would that be?
Well, it wasn't the "Brady Bunch", if that's what you mean. Probably we just had to fend from a really young age. My brother left home at 17 and hasn't been home since.
Did you follow in his footsteps?
No. I stayed a bit longer. But I didn't have any money, or anything coming really through them. I knew that I had to get on my own, pretty much, because my dad had unfortunately developed a really bad alcohol problem from the war. That was the time when it really peaked out, and it got really scary and really bad and we all had to fend for ourselves. And so part of that whole thing was getting away from that, and once I got away from that, I was sort of floating around. Doing a whole bunch of weird things, like going to Japan.
What did you do in Japan?
Originally my dad sent me there. It was really weird. He just said one day, "Hey, how'd you like to spend the summer in Japan?"
How old were you?
Seventeen. He goes, "That could be a possibility." And I said, "Yeah... great" (cynical tone). And so I never thought of it again. And then one day he came home and said, "By the way - your date of departure is..." and I sort of blinked a couple of times and went, "Oh no!" and then had a very massive culture shock. Because that was in the 70's and Japan was still suffering from post-war prejudice, like white people were seen upon as people who came down and blew up their whole country.
You were the "evil white man".
Yeah. The evil white man. I was put way out to the suburbs of Japan, not in Tokyo, then I travelled around doing some weird things culturally through City Hall actually, which was pretty weird. It sort of changed my life. I was completely warped out.
Warped out in what way?
It just made me pull myself completely out of the North American perspective of what we do and where we come from, where we should go, what we should be doing, how we should get there and all that sort of thing.
And where did it take you?
It took me back there again years later for half a year. That was the ultimate learning experience because that's the time I did it without the aid of my dad's organization, which was the Lion's Club, which had sent us over there on a youth exchange. This time I did it with a friend, did it with my own energy. We travelled all over - it was really - I don't know... I'm still recovering from some of the experiences.
Have you been to any other countries that had an impact on you?
Jamaica, actually, took me as well. I went there in '88 and just went there, spur of the moment. A guy came up to me and said, "You want to go to Jamaica?" and I'm like, "What?" and he goes, "Let's go tomorrow." It was $450 for this all-inclusive week down there, including flight and everything, and I said, "Sure." We get down there and the very first thing we hear while we're out in the boat waterskiing is, "Tomorrow - big storm come." And then the next day it was that legendary Hurricane Gilbert, which completely destroyed the entire island, along the same lines as say Hurricane Andrew, or whatever we hear about here in the States. But Hurricane Gilbert just devastated the whole island, plus that hotel and that whole experience once again just completely catapulted me into a situation where I was out in the ghetto helping people reassemble their shacks and stuff, feeling like a National Geographic-type reporter. It was just insane just how damaged everything was. There was nothing left of that city where I was.
So that was your vacation - bailing these people out from a disaster?
Yeah. But I made a lot of friends there that made me feel that I was on the right track. So actually I've gone back there a lot of times to get that "back on track" feeling. To get put back on the track - know that you feel that you're doing your best. I think Japan was the original thing like that for me. I went back to Japan in '93 and it's changed quite a bit. It's much more modernized - much more Westernized now. You couldn't even get a knife and fork back in the late 70's or in the 80's.
Culture shock for you was a life-changing experience.
Sometimes you'll find yourself in that situation where you just think, "Well, this is insane - this is just 'all the way'!" Luckily, even with Skinny Puppy, that has sort of continued with that. It was always halfway between real and imagined. Even just the fact that we were travelling.
Are you saying that the whole experience has been on a spiritual level?
Oh, yeah. I wouldn't say completely just spiritual. I'd say it's been on a very Kafka-esque type level, in the sense that I couldn't predict what could possibly transpire from the next sequence of events. I never would have predicted that it done what it did, or it went where it went, or it does what it does, or it's gonna do what it's gonna do...
Just life in general?
Everything! Constantly in question of everything - in a good way. Like what? - holy shit!
So that's your philosophy anyway - we'll call it the "Holy Shit" philosophy.
Yeah. And you know, it's amazing that synthesizers - you can keep getting sounds that continually blow you away for over 10 years. Still hear and listen to them and not ever feel like you've ever really fully explored the full potential of them. And so, in a weird way, synthesizers are like science. Like a physics thing. There has to be some sort of balance in there, but there has to be some sort of exploratory behavior going on for it to be interesting.
What music did you listen to when you were growing up?
Kraftwerk Radio Activity made me give away my entire record collection and then start again. In 1975 I saw David Bowie at what we call The Colosseum here and he wanted Kraftwerk to be his touring opening band, but they couldn't at that time. So he played Radio Activity with the lights down and he showed Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou (film). It was so amazing that the next day I hunted down that album with a vengeance. I knew that that was where I wanted to go and what I wanted to hear and that was basically it. Actually, there is one record that I bought before that, and that was a 7" single by Deodato, called The Theme from 2001. My mother had given me Hot Butter's Popcorn as a kid, which I think is pretty classic. And actually, I was sort of getting into the whole sort of Genesis thing, and I was getting into Seconds Out, and that era of Genesis. And that's when I went to Japan. But when I went to Japan, that's when I once again got hit with the Kraftwerk situation again, with Showroom Dummies being the single over there at that time. And it was insanely huge. And then that opened the whole other side of that type of music, which was like the late night, dance club sound just started at that point, with things like The Norml and The Human League and the early forms of all those bands that became huge.
How did you meet Edward Ka-spel?
Just by chance I got an album called The Elephant Table Album and there was a track on it that had a song called, "Surprise Surprise," which I still think is one of my favorite Pink Dots tracks. It had a contact address below, but also I believe one evening, a long, long time ago in '85, we called Edward at this office, but we didn't actually expect him to be there, but we called the number that was inside the album jacket, and it so happened that Edward was there. And I think that was really weird, so we ended up talking for quite a while. We sort of told him that we had become quite big fans and we were talking to him about travelling and stuff like that, if he'd ever do a show, and I think some hype and energy came about after that and actually we ended up - one of the clubs in Vancouver actually exclusively flew Edward over in '86 for three shows. He did three evenings of solo performances and he wrote me and asked me if I would do his live sound. So that's essentially how I first met Edward. I went over and met him when he arrived, did his sound and we went to Seattle and did one show and then we came back and did an EP.
Shortly after meeting you decided to work together?
Yeah. And I was completely honored, working with Edward, because I was a huge fan of Pink Dots as well. I still think Edward is one of the great - he's not really famous or he's not really popular or anything, in that way, but I think he is a brilliant and talented writer.
I'm not really sure why, but his following is so steadfast, but so few.
Well, I don't know. He always has had quite a struggle with his life and with his career, to try and make money and to try and survive. Partially, the system in which record labels will take advantage of artists and not give them much money and not help them out and give them the tour support. Well, Edward's definitely been in that situation for a long time with the companies he's worked with. They put his records out, but they haven't really helped...
They haven't promoted his albums?
Well, I think that he's been around for quite a long time and I think that for the amount of struggle that he goes through in his life, he deserves more.
I agree with that. Do you think it's partly the European thing - being over there? Quite a few European bands have come to live in the States, because there appears to be a greater market for their music and therefore greater rewards.
For them, they have a good cult level of success in the States, which is good. That's the best thing about what's happened with the Pink Dots, is that if it wasn't for the fact that they could come over here and do that - they're not as popular in Europe as they are in the States, actually.
Well, that's exactly what I mean. If they lived here, it would be a lot less expensive for them to tour quite a bit, like other bands that live in this country, and their existing fanbase would have more opportunity to expand.
Tell me about how you met Bill Leeb?
I was introduced to Bill because a girl that I knew as a friend, who actually plays in a band in Holland called Exquisite Corpse, she and Bill used to be - she had just met him and she brought him in - in 1979 - this girl brought him in as her new "score". It was like, "Hey, this is Bill", and I was like (in the deepest voice possible) "Hey Bill...". Actually, I've known Bill for ages. We were good friends for a while, and then we weren't such good friends and now, we're sort of, sort of... well, we live in the same building. Let's put it that way. I have no problem with Bill.
Yeah, I spoke to him a few weeks ago and he told me how you guys were neighbors.
Yeah, we're neighbors. I don't think he's the greatest neighbor... (jokingly)
What exactly does that mean?
He never has that extra cup of sugar when I need it.
And you see I specifically asked him if you borrow sugar from him. He said, "No. He just calls me on the phone." But let's talk about Rave. Did you feel he'd been insulted when asked to be an engineer versus a producer on The Process?
Yeah. I fully regret that now.
Was it unintentional? Were you caught up in something?
It was just - all I can say was it was a big mistake and that that was probably, at least for me anyway, my most unfocussed period of my life and I'm glad that it all turned out the way that it did though.
Really - he came back. And amazing too, because he came back for less money than would be usual, correct?
Um, well I don't know because I just never wanted to get involved with that side of it. That's how it originally got all fucked up - through the money side of it. That's why we hired these managers - to deal with our stuff, and they just dealt with things in such a way that I thought was just completely... just, I don't know, I'm probably still going to pay the price for them misrepresenting us...
So you think your management didn't understand where you were coming from?
Yeah. That's correct. But also they didn't understand the seriousness of how well-rooted everything was without them having to have felt like they needed to come along and do something which required whatever it was that - I don't know where management got off on the decision that they're going to override the artists and say, "We're going to do something for their own good because we think ...". Well, in this case, the comment was that we wanted an outside producer to have imput, but we didn't want to lose Rave. We wanted to be able to work with a bunch of people, together. And that was the whole concept. But that isn't what ended up happening. What ended up happening was it all just turned into a war of managers and lawyers because it was just in the financial negotiations for the album that everything got really horribly messed up, and it wasn't the intention.
Sounds like the worst case scenario played itself out.
Oh - absolutely. Except one last thing - the worst case scenario would never obviously have included Rave's return. So in some ways, it's not the worst case scenario played out all the way.
You know, I saw him, right before he was asked back to work on The Process. I asked him about it and his comment was that he wished you all well, but he was not going to be involved.
Actually, I did call Rave - I left a message on his answering machine from Malibu. We weren't even there for two months. I actually attempted to contact him, but there was no return call. But hey - as far as I'm concerned, Malibu and The Process and everything - it's all water under the bridge. I'm at a point where I'm just laying it to rest. I don't agree with Ogre's version, but then I don't have to - we all have our own vision of what happened and I wish Ogre well and I'm not going to get into any "he said/he said" about Malibu or anything anymore. Do you know what I mean?
Right. Of course. Do you think that your difference of opinion from his could be the result of the fact that his project (WELT) is now signed with American in lieu of Skinny Puppy's contract?
No. I really don't. That has no bearing on anything in my relation with him.
I don't mean in your relation with him. I mean in terms of whatever his opinion might be towards the record label - I mean, he's still ON the record label you're criticizing.
Yeah. I know. I saw him make a comment the other day where he actually said something about "a company that lacks the leader they so desperately try to please..." And I thought that was quite brave of him considering he's on the label. And that's like saying, "Come on, Rave, pick up the pieces." Because let's face it - there's a certain amount of awkwardness going on in that ship called American. It's not just Skinny Puppy - we've heard it from a lot of other artists that have been involved with them. But hey - I'm not into slagging American anymore either. I think, whatever Ogre's deal with American is right now, I think basically, it's irrelevant, because on that issue - we will always agree to disagree. I think it's best sure to agree to disagree in this case, because I definitely don't agree with some of his major points that he brings up and how he brings them up - but that's just the way it will be I'm sure forever. That's the way it pretty much has always been.
It's not striving for a point of resolution.
Actually, the point of resolving has happened, in the sense that we're now doing our own separate things, and occasionally we'll get an e-mail from each other, so that's the most commitment that we actually really have towards having to agree.
You don't have to agree.
No. I don't. And I won't anymore. I won't second my own self for anybody else anymore.
I think people understand that there are different sides to everything that happens. Everyone's lived long enough to know that much, I hope.
We've all learned lessons the hard way. Like I feel, in my case, the issue of death is just - I lost my mom quite early in '85 and I lost a very good close friend in the same year, and then this past year, losing Dwayne was just like - I got to the ten year point and I finally felt, gee, I was realizing that my only problem was that I needed to take my car in to have a tune-up. And after the whole issue with Dwayne hit, I was devastated, because I thought I had a problem because I had to go get my car fixed. It was just insane, like how much I was sort of forgetting the real issues of life - not that I needed to be reminded in this way, but once again, I'm a totally different person. I think we change quite a bit through our lives and I think some of us sort of welcome a new perspective.
Did you have any clue as to the seriousness of his drug problem?
I had a clue and I was so devastated by it myself that I was completely - I was worried about him as much as one could be, and I really took offense to Martin Atkins' comment, "Oh, we all hold the responsibility - we all shied away." Well, we didn't shy away. We did as much as we possibly could, even to the point where we were sitting around having discussions with people about how - the sort of N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) kind of approach, and Dwayne hadn't actually even cleaned up yet. But he was telling everybody that he was. So, I mean, in that sort of situation - he actually came to me and told me he had been using the whole time, and I was completely devastated when he told me that, because I realized, just in my mind, how much I was counting on him too. I was really going, "God - he's doing good, you know, he's getting better and better ..."
Have you ever used heroin yourself?
I've gone through my period, so I'm very familiar with the period of how long it takes to get away... his (Dwayne's) eyes weren't even tinged - I have no idea. He said, "Look at me," you know, when he told me. He said, "Look - don't I look unusual?" And I was really looking at him for something else - it was the last thing at this point. 'Cause he had gone all the way home to Edmonton, he had spent almost a month there, he had come back and we were working on Furnace, and four or five days in he said, "Oh, God - I'm not feeling so well, I think I might have to go back." And I said, "Gee, you know - that's too bad - you gotta do what you gotta do though." And the next day he came in and said, "No - it was just a bad day. I had a bad day yesterday and I feel a lot better now." Looking back, I sort of feel from that moment that that's probably when he started using again.
When he said that he felt better, after feeling so bad on the previous day?
He just started getting the anxiety and wasn't sleeping...
So his sudden return to "feeling better" was suspicious.
Yeah. But he didn't tell anybody that he was using. He was saying, "Oh, that was just a bad day." So about two weeks later, during the mix down, he came to me and said, "Don't you notice anything?" and I said, "No, I don't." And he goes, "Well, I've been using again." And I said, "Oh - no... for how long?" And he goes, "Like ten days or so." And I go, "Are you using a needle?" And he's like, "Yeah." And I just almost burst into tears right then and there when he told me, because I was just like, oh my God, I realized - what's gonna happen? And he said, "I have to go back to Edmonton, and I'm going to go tomorrow - I've got it booked." And then he called and got a bus right then. So he said, "Will you drive me to the bus?" And I said, "Yeah, I'll drive you." And I drove him to the bus and that was it. He went back to Edmonton. I talked to him when he arrived there to make sure that he arrived okay and to ask him a few questions about the S-1000 set up, because we were still mixing.
Did his family know about his condition?
Oh yeah, he had just left from going through the hospital, going through a potential suicide attempt where he cut his arms.
This was after the incident with the barbed wire?
This was even after that. People were too afraid to say, "Come over and see that Dwayne's cut himself." After Dwayne died, it didn't make me feel any better to find out that he was shooting up ten times a night and that he slashed himself to the point where he had to go to the hospital and get stitches. And his roommates wouldn't even take him to the hospital for stitches.
That's really hideous... and for the "friend" who sent Dwayne that package - carrying the guilt of Dwayne's death will be his own torment.
Tell me about Download.
It's the main focus now. We actually just finished a new album with Nettwerk/Capitol again - it is called The Eyes of Stanley Pain, it's a new LP coming out in May, and an EP coming out in April. We hit the road for a tour in Europe starting May 15th.
Okay. And when do you come back?
We will be touring the U.S. this summertime - in hopefully July it's being slated for right now, but it could be a little bit later than that. But we will definitely continue through to the United States.
So you'll be playing drums?
Yeah. I'm the drummer. And I play keyboards too.
Of course. I meant on the tour - will you be the drummer?
Keyboards and drums. We're also gonna have Ryan Moore (The Legendary Pink Dots) also joining us on drums and of course, Mark Spybey, and Anthony "The Fu Man" Valcic doing live sound - destroying the venues throughout the world.
He's on the album credits - right?
Anthony mastered everything - and all that sort of technical stuff that Fu does.
Who wrote all those words on the Download album and what is it all supposed to mean?
That's Mark Spybey's style of lyric writing.
And what is it?
It's improvisational language based upon - he's from Northern England, around that area, so he sort of draws upon old Gaelic, Scottish languages, as well as Sanskrit and old weird sounding languages - he's into the art of improvisation.
How did you get the name Kenny King?
I was christened with that name, in Cincinnatti, Ohio, actually, because some guy was calling me to the phone for an interview and he mispronounced my name. Instead of saying, "cEvin Key," he said, "Kenny King."
Was this when you guys were arrested for killing Chud (a stuffed animal)?
It was the same day. It was that very day. It was the same day that we got arrested that I was given the name "Kenny King."
So Chud would be Kenny King's dog?
Well, Ogre and I rescued Chud after it was stolen in Detroit, and I can say that that was one of the greatest adventures Skinny Puppy ever had. If any movie was to be based around Skinny Puppy, that night of the dog being stolen and the retrieval of it would probably be one of the most exciting adventures.
I think you should reenact it. If you could get back together on any project, it'd be just something different - and Ogre is already into acting - you could do this. Dwayne was not arrested, was he?
No. Dwayne slipped out the door. It was really funny. Actually, at the time, when those guys came bursting into the dressing room, they were plain-clothed officers, so we thought - what the hell - these guys are superfans! So they came in and they were just looking at everything and Dwayne was sitting in the corner rolling a big joint. And he didn't actually clue in that they were cops until well after they had already made it clear that they were cops, and that they wanted to see the dog. I had to turn to Dwayne and say, "Hey, Dwayne - check it out man!" He sort of put it down and walked out of the room and it was like he was invisible. I don't know how he did that. I still have no idea how he got away.
Let's save that whole story for another time... After writing a review of The Process, I am curious as to your opinion of it - are you satisfied?
I'm 100% happy with a job that's 75% of the way done. I cannot deny that other 25 missing per cent is again something that I feel, which is that American wouldn't let us finish the album. That's the thing that upsets me most of all - that once Rave came back on the job, those guys should have let down the guns, they should have put us into a situation, being creative, being supportive. That's one thing they didn't do. So for that, Rave got an ultimate slap in the face and then we weren't able to finish, and plus that and the frustration just was one more notch in the belt for all of us, including Dwayne. And so therefore, there's only that resentment about the album for me. Once I'm passed that period, then I'm sure I'll be more happier about it. It's funny, because all the news that we received about the ongoing battles of The Process would always affect the day in the studio. The record company doesn't have any idea of that - I think that that is a travesty.
That's too bad that you had to be so involved in what was happening on a business level.
Well, I went to Mark Geiger on behalf of me and Dwayne in Malibu and said, "We really want to go back to Vancouver." We gave him our feelings. We just said we didn't think that what was being done was being true to Skinny Puppy and then, I don't know, just from that point on, it was like we held the responsibility for anything that went wrong, even though we were the ones that were carrying the ball and we were the ones who would finish the album. I don't understand that. It was like, here they're all at peace about supporting a side project with Ogre in the studio, and we're finishing The Process album and they hold off the budget on us, and when they held the budget off on us, we started making Download, because obviously, we had to do something with our days and with our lives, and we were very frustrated. Anything they (American) say about us underhanding Skinny Puppy with Download - that's totally untrue. It was a bit of a relief from the stress.
But don't you have a right to work on what you want to?
Well, we do - and that's just it. In the process of working on Skinny Puppy, we always come up with stuff which either won't be suitable or we know Ogre won't like, or whatever. The fact is we don't throw those things away. We'll put it down and that's what we were doing. You know, believe it or not, American never tells the side of the story where they say, "At one time we were actually going to make the members of Skinny Puppy pay for the mix-down from this point on if the album wants to come out." And then when Dwayne died, they freed up the budget. They won't EVER tell that story. Then, when we did go in to do the album with Rave and Ken Marshall, the guy who started the album and was fired, who came in and did it FREE OF CHARGE on Dwayne's behalf, they ended up doing it, and the record company didn't even pay for it. I don't know if the bill's been paid as of right now, but they didn't pay it for six months.
Are you in court with them over this?
No. But they're certainly going ahead and releasing it. They weren't so hot on paying the mixing bills, or tidying up their relationship with Rave, so... I just think we could have resolved this long, long, long ago. We didn't have to end up being hugely bitter about everything. It could've been worked out.
Why was the situation SO explosive?
Well, because at one point, there was a situation where you had Ken Marshall, you had myself and you had Dwayne standing up in a band meeting in Malibu saying, "Hey - something's missing here." And then you had the Ogre camp.
When you say - something's missing - you mean Ogre's not there working with you?
Well, both that and the fact that Rave isn't there obviously dictating the procedure.
When you said that Rave "controlled" Ogre, is that what you meant - that he could bring him in when necessary?
Well, I didn't mean that he controlled Ogre in every sense of the word. But he was the Producer of Ogre. He was the person that would hear the ideas that Ogre would come up with and he would be able to extract from Ogre the best performance. Which is - if you look into the definition of a good producer - that is exactly what a good producer is. And I never saw that happen with anybody that was down in Malibu, for that matter, hired by the record company as a Producer. So, in that way, I mean, that Rave is a controller, but he doesn't control Ogre. He's someone who is able to discern the difference between something which is of high quality versus something which is may be unappealing and upon repeated listening is sort of mundane.
Are some of the tracks on The Process lacking Rave's touch?
Yeah. There are certain few tracks which Rave fully intended to redo the vocals and redo certain parts, but was never given the chance. I'm gonna leave the names of those songs a mystery and see who can tell the difference between ones that were worked on and ones that weren't. And I think it's sort of a bit obvious.
It IS pretty obvious.
There are certain ones that I can't live with and certain ones that I can.
Did you feel like you were caught with your pants down with this album?
Well, believe me, with Martin Atkins at the helm, I definitely did. I felt like, oh my God - what's happening? - especially with the ideas that were being worked at that time, me and Dwayne couldn't even find ourselves to understand just exactly why or what was going on the way that it was and it was pretty frustrating, to say the least.
So what did you think about the things Martin Atkins said in the interview I did with him?
He's entitled to his own opinions - I don't doubt that he's gonna have lots to say. But I think it's sort of funny and hilarious to think that he describes each one of his experiences as one of the most darkest experiences of his life. Everything he talks about (in a deep voice with a Brit accent): "Darkest pit! More darker than Public Image! More darker than Killing Joke!" It's like, "more powerful than a locomotive!"
When he said "Shakespearean ugliness", my jaw dropped...
I think it's sort of funny, because if you ask anybody like Trent or Al about Martin, they'll just basically say the same thing - "Settle down, Martin, settle down!" I mean, I gave him the full respect all along - I was even a friend of Martin's for, I would say, a couple of years before this. I even went over there and hung out at his place before - I didn't really know him that well, but I liked to hang out with him and I still don't have a problem with Martin, really, it's just how much he insulted me and everybody in Malibu that really did the damage. And I really made a point of saying to Martin in front of people in Malibu, "Martin, just let it be known that I'm going to let you respond in this way, and I'm going to let it be known that this is typically bad treatment by somebody and I'm not going to play on your level."
Why would he side with Ogre?
Because Ogre is one of the only star people left in Pigface - he doesn't want to sacrifice that. And that was the big question at the band meeting. Dwayne would always turn to Martin and go, "Well, you're not gonna turn to Ogre and tell Ogre to get to work and get him in the studio. You don't want to get him mad at you! You don't want to lose him over your fringe projects. You're just gonna sit there and have everything to say about me and Kenny and not say anything to Ogre." And he (Martin) never did. He would never turn to Ogre and say, "Ogre, come on - pick up the pieces," in front of us. If he did say it to Ogre behind our backs and try and coax him into working...
Well, what was Ogre doing - not working?
Not working. We were in a house for six months and I've got three albums worth of material still not sifted through. We've got a shitload of music.
So do you think he was using (coke) again?
At that period in the house, everybody went through their period of using. And we all did, so we all share equal blame for not showing a good role model. Like Ken Marshall was the role model for the entire album - he worked his ass off to get done what got done, and then Martin (Atkins) and Mark Walk came along and essentially just sort of worked with what had been recorded already. They recorded some vocals and they're trying to get credit for vocals which have been mostly replaced by Rave. Rave completely reworked most of the ideas that he heard so - I don't know. I resent Martin's comments because we were at peace - we weren't going to drag up any dirt on anybody. The one comment I said to Roli Mosimann is that I love the guy, as a friend. I went out and I hung out with him, I had the greatest time. I said to Roli's face, "The last thing I'm gonna do is go out and say something bad about you because it's not your fault that you can't get this situation to glue together." You know, he couldn't get Ogre to go into the studio and sing and he couldn't get the results.
Why wouldn't he go into the studio?
Well, he would, Ogre would go into the studio, but Roli couldn't get the results out of him. It would be like he'd sit there, and there was no firm direction.
Roli is known as one of the laziest producers around.
That's just it. That's exactly what he came in to do on this album, is that he was extremely laid back - and I won't even use the word lazy - I'll just say extremely laid back, and that wasn't the type of thing we're used to. If you know Rave, if you've worked around Rave, you'll know that that guy is energy.
Right - he's high energy. Roli Mosimann is - the expression I've heard is that "you have to kick his ass to get him to move."
Yeah. You do.
He waits for inspiration, and if it's not there, he doesn't do anything. And if you guys were arguing, he's certainly not going to get involved in that.
Well, there were no arguments at the time when Roli was there, believe it or not. The arguments really did come right at the point of where we knew we had to get - well, me, Ken and Dwayne were still standing up at band meetings and going, "We need Rave - this is ridiculous. We need Rave." And that wasn't going to be tolerated by Ogre at the beginning - he was just adamant that he could do it without him and he had to do it without him.
Did you feel that he was siding with the record label with regards to not bringing in Rave, to be on their good side as he pursued the signing of WELT?
Ogre's painted a picture to the record label that is definitely NOT the reality of what Skinny Puppy is about. He painted a situation where he said that he fully dictated all the regular moves and choices in the band, and even Marc Geiger's come out in public and said that one thing he didn't realize is that it's always been an unusual relationship in the band. It's always been something that - Rave definitely was the guy that would work with the musicians, and that he would wait for Ogre to get in whenever he would get in, and work with Ogre all night, and then we'd come in the next day and Ogre would be gone and we'd hear the results, and we'd end up working further on the ideas, and that's how we've worked on all of the albums.
Are you saying you catered to Ogre's habits?
Always. Ogre's always demanded the special treatment. ALWAYS.
You sound a bit bitter. But it's not over yet - the album's just coming out. It will take a long time for all of it to pass.
I don't think it will ever be over for me, as an experience.
Unfortunate also there's no tour to go with the release of the album.
Yeah. I know. And the whole thing was, that when we got back together with Rave, that was the whole talk - it was all about the concepts for the tour, and then American, I don't know what happened, but they just freaked at this point - ask THEM why. And that whole thing about "big dicks swingin' in the wind" - it's just not the case. I never even said to Ogre anything like "I'll never speak to you again."
(laughing) At least he said "BIG"!
I don't know if you read that AP (Alternative Press - March '96) article.
Well of course I read it!
Well - he was wrong! I was actually taking the advice of our lawyer, who said, "Just hang tight, and I'm going to talk to these guys for a while and we're going to adhere to the reason why we made a contract."
I believe it was imagery Ogre was going for.
Absolutely. And the whole thing is as soon as we, the people that really did want to - oh, thank God we did make a safe contract that would have protected us in this case - and of course, the first person to jump was the person that obviously wanted to rescue themselves in whatever deal. But I see it as a fabrication all along, in the end. They obviously had paid studio bills for WELT while they were seizing the budget up on Skinny Puppy, long before Ogre quit Skinny Puppy.
Speaking of WELT - now that Ogre will be fully responsible for all aspects of the musical content of WELT, I wondered how much or little Ogre contributed to the music of Skinny Puppy in the past.
Only on an extremely minor level. In the course of an evening while doing vocals, I believe he did a guitar track in Last Rights. Other than that, I don't think he's ever played any instrument. Even though asked, he's never even been in the studio while the music part was being made. He's usually either sitting in the other room or he's at home. And to get him to the studio we would always have to call him and then await his convenient arrival. For years. That was the worst part, really. One show we did in L.A., he was late for the show and the audience had seen both warm-up bands, and it was like two hours now in between the last warm-up band and us and they were going out-of-control - like they were just going nuts, and it sounded like the whole place was going to fall down. Sure enough, there were huge floods of water coming down the stairs and all sorts of stuff, and just at that point, Ogre arrived. They were going to tear the place up. Everybody was really upset, really mad because there had been such a gap between the bands. And so Ogre arrived and we immediately went on stage, and I think Ogre collapsed on stage that night...
Did you ever think of getting another vocalist?
Well, but the whole thing was that there's always been this hope inside me that when Ogre cleaned up or when he became aware of what he was doing, or I don't even know how to capsulate it, but I always had a hope that he would snap out of it. And also, I sort of see Skinny Puppy, because of all that energy bouncing off each other, that's why we were able to get some intense results out of things. Because, in some ways, we always knew that the music would be intended for the other person to hear, and in the way that we worked, quite often that was without the other people. So, say for him, the next time Dwayne and I would work on a song, we knew that he would hear it - we would bear it in mind - to have that extra heavy impact. And I'm sure he would do the same. And I know Rave was very interested in the game of getting the mind-boggling things happening. The next day - coming in - listening to it - he was obviously very proud of what would come of their sessions as well.
So he was the glue?
Absolutely. And the whole thing about Ogre working by himself with Rave is a testament to say, well, I guess it was a bit of mystery as to what was going on. Not that Ogre shouldn't take the credit for doing what he did, but Rave should also get credit for being very crafty at extracting Ogre's creativity.
Tell me how you heard that Dwayne had died.
It was the weirdest, oddest déja vu when Dwayne's sister called me and told me that Dwayne died. It was almost as though I had lived it in a dream. I know that I'd gone through that feeling once in my life, like recently, about Dwayne, and it only just triggered it, it only just made me realize that holy smokes, this is something I've dreamt of, or something that I've felt - this feeling.
So you've been in touch with Dwayne's sister?
Yeah. And his family. Went to the funeral - did a eulogy.
Ogre told me he didn't go to the funeral.
Yeah. Well, he shouldn't worry about it - I mean, it's not like he has to make peace with Dwayne now that Dwayne's gone. His big thing about saying - he wants to have peace and he should - he has peace in his own way by saying that he and Dwayne talked or whatever, well - it wasn't at peace by any means with Dwayne's feelings. But that's just too bad that death has to do these types of things.