Feb 2014 24

With a legacy of three decades and counting exposing the truth and calling on the masses to get educated about the injustices around them, Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre speaks with ReGen during the band’s Shapes for Arms tour.
Skinny Puppy

 

Part 1 of an InterView with Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy and OhGr

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

For over 30 years, Skinny Puppy has been one of the veritable signposts by which many identify the blanket term of industrial music. Renowned for a vicious juxtaposition of nightmarish ambience with driving rhythms and innovative sound design derived from clever manipulation of samples and synthesizers, the duo of cEvin Key and Nivek Ogre – along with numerous collaborators over the years – has created some of the most intricate and disturbing music ever conjured. As well, Skinny Puppy is revered for producing some of the most spectacular live performances conceived, employing a high range of theatricality and technical proficiency to further the band’s message to expose the injustices and hypocrisies of the world with lyrics touching on the horrors of war, animal cruelty, drug addiction, and insanity.
Few bands have been as embraced and as feared as Skinny Puppy, so it is perhaps to some little surprise given the unorthodox methods employed by the Canadian act over three decades the amount of mainstream media attention given for the band’s latest album, 2013’s Weapon. Calling into question the proliferation of the defense industry and bringing to light the use of the band’s music as a means of torture in Guantanamo, Weapon itself was Skinny Puppy’s invoice to the US government, resulting in a game of telephone and a media blitz at the start of the band’s 2014 Shapes for Arms tour… it was an opportunity Skinny Puppy could not ignore, with major news outlets reporting on the band’s activities of finally sending the government an invoice for $666,000.00, as well as Nivek Ogre appearing with Abby Martin on Russia Today’s Breaking the Set to clarify the circumstances behind the invoice and touch on the band’s 30 years legacy.
Shortly after that interview, Ogre took the time to speak with ReGen more about Skinny Puppy’s music and message. His words are a wakeup call to the masses at large – not just the band’s fans, but to the world – and to seek out the truth.

 

How has the tour gone for you and Skinny Puppy this time around?

Ogre: Really good; best response that we’ve had sense our reformation. I mean, some people now are kind of going back and within the tribe arguing the merits of the albums they hated beforehand.

It does seem like so many people are saying, ‘Oh, it’s better than HanDover,’ and the question becomes, ‘But weren’t you saying HanDover was better than Mythmaker?’

Ogre: And they’ll say Mythmaker was crap, and some people now are liking Mythmaker, and then some people go back and say, ‘Oh well, actually, I don’t like The Greater Wrong of the Right.’

And now The Greater Wrong of the Right has been rereleased on Metropolis.

Ogre: Yeah, it reverted back to us and we are finally getting smart; we have no idea where The Process went through.

Having been making music for three decades and playing numerous shows and tours, what do you find to be those aspects of touring that have gotten easier over time? As well, what has become more difficult?

Ogre: Well, I think the lead up and the fear and trepidation of… you know, ‘I’m 51; can I still do this’ was huge for me; this time around was a bit of a fear, but I took certain precautions. I started running with my dogs. I have two little dogs acting as sled fogs leading me up the hill. They actually gravitated towards it and took me on some good runs. I did that, and again, I think I kind of tortured myself earlier and didn’t enjoy the moment so much. Obviously, I was dealing with addiction and things like that on some tours. So I never really appreciated the moment so much and I found myself at least three or four times on the tour earlier on just kind of lying and covering my face and going like, ‘I’m really enjoying this,’ like, ‘I’m really having a good time doing this.’ I think over the years, you work out things like technical things. For me, from even the last tour to this tour, I’ll never wear a full silicone cowl again. I’ll have it down to half-masts and a ventilated hood. So that kind of makes a difference and I think you just get from conceptualization, you learn how much time it takes, and even though I’m still, you know, running right up until the end, that becomes a bit easier. I can’t think of things now that are more difficult because it’s just a lot of fun. And I’ve never felt that way on any other tour before, so that’s kind of a big change for me, which is very ironic considering I’m, you know, getting older and older; whether it’s because I’m appreciating where I am now more or because this show kind of worked out in a good way, all the concepts I had. Not just because of me, but because some of our crew, like Matthew Setzer – he plays for London After Midnight, but he’s an artist and a builder, and I came to him in the last minute with the security cam box that had been sitting by my front door with me fearfully going, ‘Tomorrow you’re going to have to open that box and figure this out.’ I gave it to him thinking, ‘Oh my god; I’m passing this off to him,’ and he was like, ‘I’ve always wanted one of those. I can’t believe I have this right now.’ He just took to all these things that needed to be built and was extremely helpful in all that stuff. So, it’s having a great crew and, you know, picking the right people. This time, we did a lot of it ourselves. We fired our management. We fired our other tour manager and we got a great guy that works for NoFX and is just straight up. I’ve never been with a better tour manager I think in my entire life. He’s just incredibly thorough and honest and that gives you a feeling of real momentum. And then, again, we’ve been lucky that we caught a little bit of press, you know, unintentionally too, with the Guantanamo thing, which is starting to pay off now. Last night, we played in Charlotte on a Monday and on the last tour, we were canceled in Charlotte for low ticket sales, half under the auspices of a heart attack or something, but we were canceled. And this year, the place was really full, so we’re starting to get, I think, people coming from all these news stories to see what it’s all about.

Skinny Puppy has been in the news a great deal lately, as you said, for the statements on your music in Guantanamo. Why do you feel that this is coming to the fore now and why it seems to be getting the media attention that it is now at this time?

Ogre: I have no idea other than it’s a big psy-ops; we’re being used like a magic trick. It’s like, ‘Look over here at the deviant…’ whatever it is – techno/Satanist, hard rock, metal death rockers, ‘fill in the blank here.’ Let’s not look over here, and at the same time, amazingly enough, it was something that we conceptualized. So the idea of concept becoming reality was fascinating to me, however it came out, and the end result, whether people falsely think that it was a publicity stunt by us, which it wasn’t… it caught us, it blindsided us in the same way as everybody else, to the point that even our fans are bitching about so many stories. I’m just like, ‘Come on guys.’ You should be happy that we actually got, you know… not even recognition, but it brought an issue to the forefront. Because this is something that Obama had promised to close when he was first elected and he re-upped it for the second election and instead of… even the prisoners that have been released have been moved to different rendition camps where they’re gone; just disappeared. The fact that people like Abby Martin from Russia Today, who’s been a tireless champion of this cause, can use something like that in order to reinvigorate the subject matter in the public, I think that’s the greatest thing for me. It has really nothing to do with us. We are just the messenger for soldier who was traumatized when he went across to Cuba, was taken there, was ordered to train to become basically a correctional officer in the military police, was given a two week training course in Muslim conditioning before being sent over there after being shown the World Trade Center and saying, ‘This is what they did to you.’ And he passed that message onto us that our music was used, which obviously, music being used to hurt anybody or any living thing, for us, is a bit of an aberration and a horrible thing. So we did what we could with it, but it was more to allow his story to be told. We are the ones just complaining about our music being used that way and we also decided do something a little different in a sense of doing an invoice and the idea of conceptually doing an invoice through the album cover and sending in invoices via people like the Gulf War Veterans Administration that we had done work with The Greater Wrong of the Right for our documentary on depleted uranium.

 

 

That was on the DVD of The Greater Wrong of the Right Live?

Ogre: Correct.

So having done that documentary and released it on your live DVD some years ago, and being involved in film as you are, are there any plans to do something similar now?

Ogre: I talked to Bill Morrison. Bill Morrison did that documentary. Bill tours with me in OhGr as the guitar player, and he’s done that American Memory project, so he’s very active in things of that. He and I have always kind of conspired through the years – he goes right back to Too Dark Park as far as working on the visuals for that. We’ve always kind of maintained that friendship and that perspective and he called me when he heard this and was so congratulatory, saying, ‘This is what I wanted to do for The Greater Wrong of the Right with that documentary. This is the kind of press I wanted to get for that. And it’s great. This is gear to hear.’ And so he is getting back in touch with some people to see how much further we could go down the wormhole with that. So, as far as moving forward, this show tonight is an abstract on Fukushima and the radiological disaster that is not only happening there but will be happening here if it’s not already happened and it’s been obfuscated away. Where I live is directly in line with where the fallout was two weeks after the first… you know, I saw on television both the hydrogen explosion and then I saw then another explosion, and I was like, ‘That’s a nuclear explosion.’ And it wasn’t until… they’re still debating it in a way, but it’s very obvious what had happened and that reactor three had lost fuel and had plutonium in it. Months later in Seattle and on the West Coast, people were breathing in no less than six to 10 hot particles. This isn’t that kind of background radiation or banana eating; this is like ionizing nucleotides that are lodging in your lungs and they keep cooking and cooking and cooking. Not to mention that UC Davis did a study showing that when the stuff comes over, and again, scientists keep saying that it will dilute, dilute, dilute… that’s not happening. It’s coming across in waves and what’s happening is that when it hits the water, it forms chlorine and it creates these kind of soccer ball shaped things they call buckyballs and they’re flying across at different levels based on what type of nucleotide they are. And once they hit the shore, they become vaporized again, and UC Davis has done a study of the mist and how far goes. It goes as much as 300 miles inland and they showed that within months after, they’re reporting Cesium 134 and 137 in pine needles and in almonds. And again, what they’re saying now three years later after everybody’s sucked it all up is basically this stuff isn’t diluting; it’s going to be coming in wave after wave after wave. Japan’s going to suddenly dump all its tanks and Tokyo’s gone. Tokyo two weeks ago had a fog storm that they’ve never seen at this time of the year before. Yoichi Shimatsu, who’s one of the best people to listen to about the subject, he used to work for the Japan Times as an editor, and his house was irradiated in Fukushima and he’s moved now to Thailand, but he’s gone back to Fukushima three times and gotten ill from doing it. A couple of days ago, there was a huge blizzard there and it’s completely radioactive, and when I was talking to Abby today, she was like, ‘Yeah, Japan’s gone.’ I mean, it’s gone, and that’s not being reported. But the scarier thing is the fact that now scientists here are saying that with this wave after wave coming towards us, because we are downwinders, it’s actually… we’re going to be more contaminated than actual Fukushima, right around Fukushima. It’s a military operation; it’s not a civilian operation. They don’t give a shit. They’re only worried about real estate values and about all their military assets up and down the West Coast. I think that’s why there’s no rain on the West Coast this year, and they’re trying to minimize the fall out as best as they can. But again, it all kind of goes up and Aleutian Islands. I’m only speculating. I’m not a genius and I certainly don’t know all of the information, but it seems pretty weird that the jet stream has gone up so high and dipped down so low, and the polar vortex this year… it’s obscenely strange and it’s obscenely strange when you have right on the southern tip of this country a chill that just above it there’s nothing. It’s almost unheard of. So, you can see then, just by logic that if they’re able to push the weather up high in the Aleutians, into Alaska, it’s going to have to go somewhere when that cold air hits it. And it’s probably going to probably come down a lot more force, so it just seems to me that the numbers add up. And I’m a Hair Club member that’s soon to be a hair loss member, and when it truly kicks in, and the unfortunate thing is the nuclear industry is relying on, and even the Nuclear Regulatory Administration is relying on the fact that you’re not going to have any mark or tumor that says it’s from Fukushima. It’s just going to be, ‘Cancer rates are up,’ you know, ‘Blah blah blah.’

Well, they already are.

Ogre: And they already are. I mean, there are thyroid cancers in children in Japan, and they’re starting to come forward with this stuff, but it’s going to be more horrific than Belarus Chernobyl where they hid it away. They hid all these people, these children in these infirmaries with legs there deformed and gave them bowls of food that have fallen the floor. They dehumanized them. Now, I don’t think that’s going to happen in Japan, but at the same time, with the secrecy act (Act on Protection of Specified Secrets) that was enabled just very recently by Shinzō Abe, there’s no reporting on it. Much in the same way over here, in a more free way, Obama has raised the allowable amount of Iodine-131 picocuries, because it has an eight day half-life from a hundred picocuries per liter. In Japan currently, they raised it from 100 to 400 picocuries per liter before they have to report, but they don’t because of the secrecy act. But here they’ve raised it from 100 picocuries per liters to guess how much… July 15th of this year it happened…
to 72,000 before they even need to report it to press or the people that it’s in the food, air, or water. So, it’s a 7,200 times increase in the allowable amount of Iodine-131.

And all you will hear in the news is that it won’t have any long term effects, and you just have to wonder what they are talking about.

Ogre: Well, it’s not going to affect anything because they raised the levels, but the affectation will be population reduction, which is a good thing, which they want – less and less people that they have to control, and again, I don’t know if they want it or if it’s just the line they have to tag. I don’t know. I often wonder about that because it seems almost sociopathic and inhuman. You know, it almost seems like it’s their own… it’s them too. I mean, unless they have something that we don’t know about.

Perhaps they do; it’s difficult to say if they’re stuck in a bubble of their own comfort zone because they have the finances and the resources that they feel they are protected, and because they are controlling the information, they feel safe.

Ogre: And they might have a magic pill. Who knows? But they’ve bought a lot of iodine tablets up, the Department of Homeland Security bought up a huge amount of bullets. And last night, there was a great show… a horrible show, but it was amazing to me. There was a show on the zombie apocalypse. Have you seen that? It’s basically like ex-military showing weapons. And kids are being like, and they’re talking about this like the zombie apocalypse is real and then they have these military guys coming on with different arms showing, ‘This is what’ll happen.’ They have head shots with the gel heads showing that, you know, the only way to like get rid of a zombie is to, you know, disconnect their brain functions. And they’re showing watchers what they do, and to these kids; it’s like, are kids really going to believe that? And then you start taking it one step further and you think, well if there’s starving people, if something happens and there is a disaster of such a scale and there are starving people that are stumbling around, you know, tired, dehydrated, and without food… I mean, it’s obvious that it’s going to be like, “Zombie! Zombie!” Bam! You know, it’s just the cognizant disconnect and dissonance in this country is just unbelievable.

Well, it does seem like the gun industry is seriously approaching the marketing and the development of its products from that angle. Recently, G2 Research released the R.I.P. bullets (Radically Invasive Projectile) and dubbing it ‘the last round you will ever need,’ and while the demonstrations of its capabilities were exaggerated, one has to wonder why anybody would need such ammunition outside of a combat zone… and within two days of its release, numerous vendors had sold out.
As well, there was a report I saw in the news asking if guns could be more attractive to little girls if they were painted pink.

Ogre: That’s what I always thought. When I see the AR15s that are dressed up like toys that we used to have and we thought those were cool, and there is a pink AR15. And then you just really see how the culture has propagated all that and has bought into it hook, line, and sinker. And then the other factor is that if there ever was an insurgence or uprising, it would be squashed because of the technology that the government has is years beyond small guns and small arms or even AR15s and automatic weapons.

Absolutely, and they think ‘The government’s coming to take my guns away!’

Ogre: Or those pinko commie lefties. And that to me, that is even more dangerous because I see them creating a divisive mechanism between citizens in this country and they’ll stand back and watch and then clean it up in the end. It’s perverse, and it’s cheaper to incarcerate than to educate. So you have a lot of prisons… you have a privatized prison system that’s waiting to uptake all of these people.

With Skinny Puppy having been making music for over 30 years, you’ve addressed all of these issues time and time again in your music and lyrics. To use the blanket term of ‘industrial music,’ so much of which was started to raise these concerns, even as far back as when Throbbing Gristle released The Second Annual Report. Does it ever concern you that the message is not getting heard or is getting lost?

Ogre: I think the news and the powers that be tend to do that and I’ve always thought that, you know, we’re allowed to exist in order to give a veneer or a façade that there is freedom of speech in this country and yeah, people generally toe the line of the generalized mainstream news media perspective and we, the outsiders, are looked upon as deviant, crazy, tinfoil hat wearers, and things like that. But, you know, you’re starting to see it shifting a little bit and I’m starting to see articles come out… I actually saw an article with a headline the other day; it was just like ‘Are the tinfoil hat wearers actually the sane ones?’ And I was kind of like, ‘Well yeah…’ But all I’m saying is that like the idea of conspiracy, at one time, I remember having so many arguments. ‘There are no conspiracies. How could there be conspiracies?’ And my answer to that is just like, well…

How could there not be conspiracies?

Ogre: Well, my answer to that is even more succinct, I think, in a sense of like, ‘Well then, the holocaust didn’t happen,’ because in order for the holocaust to have happened, there had to be a high level conspiracy at high levels of government. There just had to be. And that’s kind of my go to answer now. And of course the holocaust happened, and of course there was a conspiracy involved in that, so conspiracies do exist and I think as we kind of go further into this new paradigm, people will start to figure that out. But again, too little too late, you know, all that stuff unfortunately. And then people will just… again, because it’s so overwhelming, the information, they’ll be like ‘click.’ Housewives of Brooklyn, please? Or just whatever else they can look at and see and kind of nod at something that makes them feel better about themselves.

I got rid of television a long time ago, so I don’t have any idea what counts as entertainment these days.

Ogre: I’m an ultimate news junkie. I mean, I’m happy that there are things like Russia Today and Al Jazeera because those people are actually doing what I thought was going to happen on CNN. I was there when CNN first came on. I was in Skinny Puppy, I think. I think it was around ’83 or ’82, maybe a little before, but I was always a news junkie and I was always like we’re being misled because we’re only getting 10% of the story. I thought, ‘Finally, when there’s 24 hour news, we were going to have multilayered, full investigative reporting on all angles so people could make up their own mind,’ and I was never more wrong. It just became these hourly five minute news bites, which were on all three stations with a slightly different twist so you could find a talking head that fit your stance on the pendulum that goes right and left on a centrist government. It’s easy to demonize stations like Russia Today because they don’t look at their own… you’re not seeing what’s going on in Russia necessarily, but you are getting a fuller, broader spectrum of news coming from our own country and abroad too. I mean, Al Jazeera does really great stories internationally, really in depth reporting internationally.

 

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