Skinny Puppy: Wielding New Weapons

weaponTwo excerpts from Ilker Yücel’s interview of Nivek Ogre for ReGen Magazine:

Skinny Puppy has never shied away from political topics, and as the new album is called Weapon and seems to approach the angle that human beings are the weapons themselves now, what spurned the lyrical concept behind the album?

Ogre: The Oppenheimer quote brings up one of the many concepts that I wanted to try to bring across, which is that midway in the last century, I think we made a horrible mistake by splitting the atom in that way. I think Oppenheimer’s face when he makes that quote clearly shows how horrendous that decision was in his full knowledge of the Pandora’s Box that he opened. The idea for Weapon, although it might seem timely to people seeing it advertised as a new Skinny Puppy album, actually came into fruition during the tour in 2011. We’d met a Guantanamo guard, a kid who was an MP who was shipped off to Guantanamo to become a prison guard basically. He trained for two weeks, and he was a huge Skinny Puppy fan, but while he was there, he heard Skinny Puppy music being used to torture people. So the impetus of the idea was to use Skinny Puppy as a weapon and write a record called Weapon and write it in a way that it could be used as a weapon and used to torture people. We were going to do some information requests and ask for papers or references on what frequencies they use, what was most effective, and we were even going to go the full nine yards and even release an instruction manual with the album on how to use the album to torture people. That would be followed with a tour that will incorporate aspects of the interrogation techniques onstage. Our tour manager’s an amazing woman of all traits, but she’s a freak herself – she nails $100 bills to her breasts and such – and she has access to a bunch of interesting people; performers who were going to be tortured onstage. That concept got really pointed and big and a bit too focused. Then I stumbled on the more abstract idea about all the things around us that are weapons that are dormant, that are built to be safe. Nuclear power became one of those; it was a big elephant in the room topics to me, especially after the meltdown in Fukushima and the subsequent clampdown in the media about what’s happening, what’s going to happen, and the fact that we have 23 of those similar reactors sitting around the United States, which are holding in their spent fuel pools. They were supposed to be used to transport one fuel rod bundle at a time from the reactor core into the fuel pool and then into cold or dry storage. These things are just accumulating nuclear waste; the second or third floors of these buildings are just targets, and they subsequently become weapons themselves. So it got me thinking about how these reactors were created by people and those decisions made back in the ’50s and ’40s – there were two meltdowns in California in ’59 of nuclear reactor engines they were working on; the reactors melted down in the testing range, which has been owned by Boeing and NASA and has had no cleanup since then. So I started seeing people and their traces as weapons. The idea to bring a weapon system into fruition by telling people that they have unlimited power that they probably couldn’t even meter – it would be running off the dials so fast and so clean, and it’s anything but clean; 96% comes out completely dirty and so dirty that it’s foreign to our planet. It makes me look all around at everything and seeing that we are, in a way, evolved weapons.

Having dealt with your own set of addictions in the past and with it seeming like people are more attuned to pharmaceuticals, everybody being on mood stabilizers or whatever medication is available, what are your thoughts on the effects of that?

Ogre: As I’m sure you’re aware, I’m no stranger when it comes to borderline psychological issues, mental illness, using drugs, using prescription drugs, and also using mood stabilizers for a certain period of time. Mood stabilizers were honestly the least amount of time in my addiction to self medicating. I got really weirded out by that. More importantly, I think what scares me is that people use those drugs as a crutch. We don’t even know what the life lifespan outcome of using those drugs is. Serotonin, inhibitors, psychotic medications – we don’t really know the end results. The one thing I’ll say about my various jaunts in and out of the netherworld is that every time I stopped using something, my brain reset in a different way. After every traumatic event, and I’ve had some traumatic events in my life not based on drugs, there is post-traumatic stress and then there is a reset. The body is an amazing thing and the mind is an amazing thing and I think that our ability to heal is preeminent in our species. Mind over matter is a lot stronger than we give it credit for. I think these pills are a way of disassociating ourselves from an innate sense that we’re being detached from. Obviously, there’s a hard fight in the world with all of the toxins in the environment, but there’s something to be said for the mind/body connection when it comes to healing and the placebo effect and all of those things. There’s a whole lot of room for people to take a break off of what it is and see where they are now. I’ve learned that nothing stays the same; everything is in transport. Everything is constantly changing, reawakening, reattaching, reconnecting, and sometimes you just have to sit with yourself for a little bit and see just where you’re at and you’ll be afraid to do that. That’s kind of the one thing that I would like to say to anybody having emotional problems. Nothing is fixed; your brain isn’t fixed in that place. There’s malleability and flexibility and there’s also the ability to rewire yourself. The bottom line is that whatever you go through, you might be feeling those things for a reason. That’s one of the things they leave out in modern living is that there might be a reason why people are feeling depressed, neurotic, full of anxiety, and like they’re going off the rails, because look around you. You know? The veil is coming down a little bit. I think that’s hard for a lot of people. I can speak for myself; I live a very bohemian life. I’ve never really felt disenfranchised because I’ve never been wealthy. I’ve never felt that kind of feeling that people would in that situation. I’ve always kind of lived my life in a bohemian way and always moving forward a little bit at a time, but also sitting back. I’ve never been inundated with having to go after these lofty goals. I used to beat myself up for it, like I had no ambition at all – you just want to exist, just to be. But that’s kind of cool.

Read more here.

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  • echar

    It’s great to see that they are still making music. What a strange concept for an album. It’s too bad they got ripped off on Handover. My Favorite album by Ogre is RX – Bedside Toxicology

    Rx – Exfoliate
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=750M3Eq3upc

    • The Well Dressed Man

      Saw this tour! The 90s are a blur, I think it was Download with RX… Sort of a Puppy Pigface reunion.

      What happened with Handover? I thought it was their strongest work in years!

      • echar

        The 90s are a blur. That would have been a great show. About Handover, it says in the full article. They got ripped by the record label.

        • The Well Dressed Man

          Music biz is completely messed up. You seriously make more money busking on the street than selling albums these days.

          • echar

            That’s a crying shame, at the same time it’s never been better to get your music heard.

          • Noah_Nine

            SP seems to have had more problems than most in the “industry”…

          • echar

            Is it poor choices on their end? Why not make their own label? Easier said than done?

          • sonicbphuct

            i’ve often wondered the same: why don’t more bands just make their own label. Then again, I’ve asked myself, why don’t I just open up my own shop doing what I do – my answer (maybe not theirs) i’m good at programing, not billing or administration. Running the business and *doing* the business, while not mutually exclusive, draw on different talents/skills. In my case, filing the right form at the right time appears, for me, to be an impossibility. I’m slowly coming to terms with it – only about 26 more years before I can be over it, with a new job as a wal-mart greeter :-)

          • echar

            This makes sense. Those are talents too. Waldemort greeter would be great for people watching. *silver lining*

          • sonicbphuct

            i confess it’s been a while since I’ve been in a waldemort. last time I was in there, I felt less like I was people watching and more like I was violating some social moray on attending freak/geek shows. These days, I go to the red light district for that :-)

          • echar

            No such thing as red light district here. You make another fine point.

  • Simon Valentine

    omgwut you mean people here also know about skinny puppy

    cool. made my day week month … yeah …

  • The Well Dressed Man

    Nice article! So much better than the 2 paragraph one on Vice this week.

  • Noah_Nine

    Skinny Puppy is a completely different band these days…. Not better or worse, just different….

  • emperorreagan

    Just bought their new album this morning. It’s really good. More of a throw back to their earlier sound.

  • BrianApocalypse

    It must be a bizarre feeling to realize that your art is being used as a psychic weapon in the war on terror, especially when that art is opposed to the very systems that conduct that war. I remember reading an interview with Al Jourgensen about how mortified he was to learn that American soldiers in Iraq were using his music to pump themselves up for battle, blowing up ‘insurgents’ with tanks to the soundtrack of Ministry.

    The music they use in Guantanamo to torture prisoners is selected to be the most alien and jarring to the victims culture and sensibilities. How ironic it is that much of the music they select is directly opposed to the ideology behind that torture. Shades of Clockwork Orange…

    Industrial music has always been a dark mirror to the horrors of technological civilization, a kind of parody that I suppose would be easy to misinterpret by some.

    I’m glad Skinny Puppy are still around, this is their best album since The Process IMO.

  • echar

    IDK about you all but Paragun is sounding real good

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUCatOT1D-Q