I'm sitting in my living room. All sound has been shut out but for the hum of the air conditioner saving my skin from the deep Florida heat. My nerves are rattled. I am burning up smokes as fast as I can. I am about to interview Nivek Ogre. From my perspective I might as well be interviewing Bowie. Though not as commercially marketable, the music of Skinny Puppy, fronted by Ogre, has had a far reaching world wide effect on the Goth/Indusrial scene. Oddly they were neither Goth or industrial. Skinny Puppy fell into a genre all their own. Samples, guitar, drums, synthesizers and growling distorted prose made up the Canada based bands unique sound.
Their career was as turbulent and controversial as many bands, fueled at times by ravenous drug dependency and personal conflict. Their reign came to an abrupt end when synthesist Dwayne Ghottel died of a drug overdose. This crushing blow, not only to the remaining two members but to the millions of Skinny Puppy fans seemed to mark the end of Skinny Puppy and it would seem that their legacy had been lain to rest with the release of The Process, their first and final album on American Recordings.
Ogre and Cevin Key's relationship also deteriorated and both went their separate ways to pursue other projects. Key went on to create and/or perform in Download, Tear Garden and Doubting Thomas to name a few. Key has also worked on film and video game scores. Ogre made a one of album under the name RITALIN with Invisible records and Pigface mastermind Martin Atkins and was a guest on the final KMFDM tour.
In the interim Ogre continued work on a project with Mark Walk under the name WELT. Due to contract complications the album was shelved and Ogre and Mark Walk waited out the expiration of the contacts that held them up. In that time, it would seem that the saying is true, time heals all wounds. Walk and Ogre began rerecording the entire project under the name "OhGr" and released the album Welt on Spitfire Records.
During this time relations between Key and Ogre were also on the mend and talks began as they entertained the idea of resurrecting Skinny Puppy. Dresden Germany saw the return of Skinny Puppy in August of 2000 as a one off show. The live recording and video from Dresden will be released this year on Nettwerk records.
Currently "OhGr" is one tour across America. In a brilliant feat of fate Movement Magazine is able to bring OhGr to Florida, our home town of Jacksonville to be more specific, with the invaluable support of Club Five. Saturday, June 23rd OhGr will perform live at Club Five in historic Five points. To promote the album and the tour Ogre kindly agreed to once again subject himself to the Movement interview.
I've just finished another smoke and the phone is ringing. Ogre is on the other end. I pick up the phone and sort through the formalities. The interview begins.
How's the tour going?
"Its doing good, were getting up to speed. The communication between the label and their mechanics and putting promotion behind the tour has been a little lacking, but we're hoping that will pick up a bit in the next couple of weeks ... but it's a lot of fun and we're having a lot of fun doing it."
Doesn't that always seem to be the problem with the labels?
"I guess... I don't know, I guess I've been so out in the peripheral in the past with regards to this part of the business, and this tour I've been involved with every aspect of it right from the beginning so A. I had a huge approach avoidance from going out in the first place and B. started getting kind of these mounting, mounting task work that it takes to put something like this together, when somebody drops the ball you really feel it. And there were promised that were promised in an ambiguous way ... or their version of sniping differs from the real version of sniping...or the general definition of sniping. You know, just things like that. And that had a bit of an effect on me, just being so stressed out with the organization on this. But I finally got a good group of people together on this... a really good front end team of people on this. Which I was trying to do kind of a hybrid thing on this where I wasn't having as many crew people, but you know crew people are really important. By that measure, when I finally got on tour, it was kind of like I didn't have to do that anymore because other people were doing all this stuff. So I kind of relaxed then I got really sick. And I had already gotten like two colds in the last two months, so I've kind of had this really nasty virus that just won't go away."
"But I'm definitely on the mend."
Oh that's good ... when was the last time you were actually on tour? Its been a while...
"With KMFDM on tour with 1997."
Did you go with them on that entire tour?
"I did, yeah, I didn't do any of the European dates but I did the entire North American leg."
Is it strange being back out on the road for you?
"Ah well, I think it would be under any other circumstance, but again I'm playing with a band that I put together, and its not like a put together band from session music, it's people that I really want to play with."
Who have you got out with you?
"Well, kind of a mismatched team of people, which is kind of interesting, Kevin's playing drums. And Tim Skold's playing bass, and then Bill Morrison who directed all of our videos and worked on the Process project with me has been around me for a long time, and is an award winning director in Canada. He's playing guitar. And Loki, who's a good friend of mine, who kind of my brain in a lot of this stuff, he's got amazing organizational skills, but he's also a keyboardist so he's playing keyboards. So it kind of has moments when it has feelings of like, you know, the spark of being in a band for the first time, which is kind of cool."
Right, it's good to hear that Kevin's out with you, that must be kind of crazy.
"Yeah it's really comforting, you know, it's a whole different thing between us. Well, you know, you grow up a bit. I mean, you can hold grudges, or you can let them go. I don't know, there's just no real fear in that relationship right now, and we know each others boundaries really well so, and totally respect that. "
That's really good to hear. How did the Doomsday thing go off?
"It was awesome. That's what kind of lead to all this. We traveled over to Europe together to see how that whole thing was, it was really a great experience on so many levels. From the point of view of trying to dig myself out of a whole performance wise, and actually doing it and really working on my feet, as far as conceptualizing things which is something I love to do. And that's all theater and that was great. And there's moments of panic, and then just to be able to walk away from it being able to travel. We traveled for like two or three weeks after ... it was a really great experience."
Excellent, are you looking forward to the doomsday release on Nettwerk?
"Am I looking forward to it. (laughter) That's a funny question… I mean I don't necessarily look forward to stuff like that anymore. I mean I used to back like when Remission came out and then Bites came out and then mine came out and I had like three records out, and it was really exciting. And now, I mean, it's encumbered with a bunch of other stuff that's either not being done, or not being done the way you want it to. So ... am I looking forward to it... I don't know (sarcastically) ... sure. It will be another marker in my life. I'll have another sales guy to tell me how many or little units I'm selling ... probably the latter, ya know. (laughter)"
Have you and Kevin talked about doing any more shows as Skinny Puppy.
"Yeah, if the conditions are right and if there's somebody wants to put the money up for the actual production and is really willing to promote it and do something. We'd be into doing like specialty shows and things like that, and we have some ideas too, I mean there's some things we've been kicking around. I've just come to the conclusion, again within me there's this kind of duplicity and you know this OhGr thing is a really great way of me getting out parts of my psyche that were perhaps a bit, maybe, a bit too veiled or put off in the background for fear of being discovered as not what most people would think Ogre was per say. And my biggest fear throughout this whole thing was just that, you know I'm not necessarily a bad person, I'm a nice person if you get to actually talk to me and meet me and I portray something that's quite the opposite. But I do carry a huge imbalance of rage within me that I'm slowly dealing with, but that has finally justified that character for me or that representation or that expression so I'm definitely interested in the bipolar view of having, like two ways of expressing things, and maybe that's what this is ... because I really like working with Mark (Walk) too."
And he's out on tour with you too?
"No... He's doing his own project right now. It's called Ophonic. It's funny...heh. Its really good."
That's a solo thing?
That's awesome. He's really great I love his remix stuff and stuff on Dys Temper (the Skinny Puppy remix album).
"Yeah … he's a really talented person."
Yeah… Your album has gotten… I run a Goth/Industrial club here in Jacksonville, Fl. It gets a really good response.
"Excellent ... what songs do they play."
There's a few songs. They even played the whole album one night so that everyone could hear it. Everybody has really taken to it.
It's good ... it's got so much energy to it. It just seems like you guys really pulled it off 110%.
"Well, thank you."
Yeah. No doubt. I've read a couple of interviews and you said that there was a point when you said everything was falling apart and you didn't know what was happening with everything that was going on. So if you weren't doing music, what would you be doing?
"Oh, I think like, custodial work. Or like… Something that was just minimal time share with other people. I mean I was really depressed, and you know I'm still kind of dealing with a lot of those things, because a lot of stuff happened to me last year. It continued on, it didn't stop. But I'm just dealing with things a little better, I'm not suffering as much. I mean pain is inevitable...but..."
Yeah … how are you joints after the Skinny Puppy show. Did you fall around a lot?
"Yeah, I mean I did, but I've been doing a lot of yoga. I found something that really helps me to bounce back from all that stuff as long as I stick with it. I love disciplines like that, I mean the payoff is just so profound. Just coming from a person whose had injuries, quite serious back and neck injuries from when I was 17, and somebody landed on my head when I was playing football."
Playing football? Heh....
"Playing football yeah, playing high school football."
Wow ... that's ... uh (laughter)
"What? The idea of me playing football."
The visual picture of that is just.. I don't know (laughter)
"Yeah, I play hockey too. I love playing hockey... I mean I'm from Canada. Its awesome, I was really a hard hitter. I does kind of make sense."
Do you still play every once in a while?
"No... I mean, I love playing certain sports but I hated the idea of watching them, and the emotional release that certain people got from it and the way that they react and the anger and all that bullshit."
Heeeeeeyyy. Wifebeatahh... Wifebeeetaahhh. Heeehhehee. So yeah, so right now ... my most despised subjects is probably sports, yeah."
Yeah, I don't watch any sports. A lot of people down here are into football.
"Well, It's a great distraction you know. I would really rather stare into space and drool. And kind of get into kind of a mindset where ... my wife is ... my ex-wife is really into the Lakers and she knows them…"
Ex-wife? Did you guys separate?
"Yeah..we separated last year."
I'm sorry to hear that.
"Oh... I mean, it still lingers on. We have animals and..."
I know, how's your squirrel?
"Awesome, she's awesome, I just bought her a six foot cage. She's really territorial, and she goes into heat and she comes after me ... but not in a nice, wanna-hump-your-leg way. It was just like biting and really protective of her home. So I mean, it's all cool. Things are in... I don't know. I don't think you ever really lose connection with relationships, I'm just not going to suffer anymore about it."
All that rage...where's the rest of the rage coming from?
"Well, I mean, I look around and I see this puppet president, and I see people being just. .. I'm not sure if I'm getting older or if we've somehow breed out all of the intelligent people and what's left and what's brewing is just a subspecies of people that are just being puppeted around by their need for fossil fuels and consumer goods and uh..."
Well, it's a consumer world, were completely run by economics and that's the ultimate god for them so...
"Yeah, and I guess the people that buy into it kind of freak me out because, you know their like, supporting a government that has a foreign policy against a country with what they say has massive human rights violations, and yet their lives are enriched and their businesses are made fat by the fact that all this stuff is done overseas in china. I don't know, it's gotten really kind of morose to me and really kind of dark how people really are. I mean is this really what they want is a cell phone and the ability to use anytime they want and Starbucks coffee ... or Frapaccino sorry. And they want this little thin...they want something that they think is reality, and its this vein kind of tightly controlled faith place which really doesn't exist, and it's such a minority when you look at the outside world where people are being hacked to bits and human life is really.... I mean just like Brazil outside the borders there's this whole other reality going on, that one day we'll have to contend with, but people are just happy to be consuming all this shit."
Well, their content to be given what they're fed. They have no problem with it, they'll take it and eat their 39¢ burger...
"Yeah. It's really just kind of, I don't know, unsettling ... it always will be. So my rage centers around all of that because, at the same time I have to try to be compassionate too, within that. And that creates more rage, because it's so blatantly obvious, but I want to be a compassionate person."
Lets go back to the tour, how far is that going to take you. Are you going to do a tour of Europe.
"Oh maybe, I mean we're just doing the US right now, and then we each have some different things we maybe doing over the summer and then depending on what happens there are some really great opportunities that might happen in the fall that we may jump at."
Excellent. We're looking into you playing down here.
"We're on a bit of a time schedule because Kevin's got a soundtrack that he's doing for something. Like a video game or something that he's got to get back to work on he's already extended it by nine days or so."
So glad to hear you guys on working on stuff together again. It's weird.
"What do you mean? Why's it weird?"
I dunno. Just being in another band together ... it's just nice.
"Yeah. Well, I mean we're really just seeing how we can play together again before we start doing something like tampering with what Skinny Puppy was."
Right. Is there anything that you haven't done yet that you can think of that you want to do? That you haven't been able to do.
"Not at the moment. I just want to feel better. I want to get some coffee right now and some food. Sorry, I've been traveling... I traveled all night."
Okay ... can I just ask one more question? Just about the barcode thing on the mouth in some of the pictures. Was that a spontaneous thing or was there any story behind that?
"It was kind of a spontaneous thing, in that there was somebody who could do that kind of airbrushing so I mentioned if she could do a barcode. The concept behind it being I got into music originally because I couldn't be a salesman, and I had real trouble figuring out what I wanted to do in life because everything more or less involved selling something to somebody, and life is like that. And so, when I stumbled into this I thought I saw that dilemma, and at this point in my life I kind of see everything as branding, so in a way its a bit self deprecating in a sense that I've kind of lost that feeling about the music industry and the kind of rules by which you have to follow around to do anything, and just with certain rules in media, and how media is free, and it isn't really a free market per say.. necessarily. For some people it is I guess. But I think things have been somewhat more diminished, I think maybe quality of life for generations to come. I mean, it sounds very old to me but I think quality of life is going to suffer in a lot of ways, based on technology. I mean I survive on technology, but if you ask any of my friends and they'll tell you what I really think. I'd rather be something that was just renewable, you know the idea of indigenous people going and being able to spend seven years clearing land, in order to be able to gain a really healthy sort of yield... a natural yield from an area. You know, taking the time to do that is unthinkable in our lifetime. Spending seven years to wait for one thing to happen."
True, it's not happening these days.
"No. So I don't know, its as everything speeds up. And I'm dying, and we're all dying. And so be it. I just hope to spread a bit of my own consciousness around, because I think I have an interesting was of looking at things. And its fun, it's all I can do. Otherwise I'd be a custodial engineer. (laughter)"
We'll you certainly do that, and I can tell you I appreciate that and so do a lot of others.
A very special thanks to Ogre for taking the time to do this interview. OhGr will perform will perform live at Club Five in historic Five points in Jacksonville, FL on Saturday, June 23rd. Brought to you by Movement Magazine and Club Five. Tickets are on sale now at all ticketmaster outlets.