Skinny Puppy's Ogre on Weapon and learning about the use of the band's music for torture

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I was like, "Man, I'm from Skinny Puppy, we do complete multi-media shows. We'd love to get on board with this. Is there any way you guys would be interested in sponsoring us. We do really theatrical programs that would really make use of all this technology." He turns to me and said, "Yeah, we'd love to. As long as you don't insult the president."

I can't say that I notice it because I haven't gone against my own Tourette's in speaking out against things. I don't feel disenfranchised because I don't know any better. I've always been kind of a dumpster artist that's been together with band aids. I don't really require sponsorships, we've never done a tour with sponsorships, we've never felt that pain. But we did inquire one year and no one really came to the table to sponsor us for anything. That's kind of how I think that works. Kid Rock can go to Wal-Mart and make sure every ticket's twenty bucks.

But that's the kind of entertainment you're getting, right? That's fine. I mean, that's entertainment, too. I'm not saying it's invalid; I'm just saying I think that's how it works in a capitalistic country as far as that stuff goes. You can even look at the 60s counterculture and the way that they squashed all those kids was with money--art programs and social programs. They flooded people with money.

You touched on this earlier, but Weapon seems very different from your most recent albums. Why did you want to go more toward that more basic songwriting for this album?

Again, during the talks for these concept within the idea for Weapon over the [two and a half years almost], we did talk about going back and using our original gear. More so to kind of approach our unhappiness with our original label, Nettwerk, and it was our fault, too, with whom we signed a terrible deal -- a seven album deal when we were really young in perpetuity to a label that has really done nothing with our product. One of the ideas we had was to go back and do an experiment with Remission and use all the old gear and only whatever was available at that time recording-wise. Two inch tape or whatever.

But that became cost-prohibitive. We went to our warehouse and a lot of that gear was broken and it became difficult to piece that concept together. What came out of all of that was a strong desire to move away from more production tracks and move into more simple and direct songwriting.

So the first song, "Wornin'," was kind of the prototype of that style. Then we wrote a lot of stuff and went back and listened to it all. That song really popped out and that proved to me that was the direction to go. We were at a bit of a stand-off to get cEvin to come forth with material. He did eventually. Right toward the end of the recording process he really came forth with some tracks that all kind of gelled.

The first three tracks were indicative of the sound I was going for. There's still a few production tracks. "paragUn" was more of a straight ahead production track. The other songs are more vibe-oriented, based around the vocal and a bit simpler. The idea was to get back to simple and direct as we did in the earlier days. But it's a bit more modern. The only kind of throwback to that period, we did a re-write of a song off our first album, Remission called "solvent."

That was just fun to do in the sense that when I first did that song I couldn't sing very well so I thought I never really nailed it. It all sounded very kind of fragile and vulnerable, which is probably what worked for it. Now it sounds a bit more boisterous, it has a bit more attitude and there's a bit more security in the voice so it turned out really well. I think it's a good choice because the album, when you play it, is much more consistent than, say, hanDover, which is a bit more based on production tracks.

The intro to "terminal" is reminiscent of the intro to "Worlock" in some ways. Was that intentional?

I can't speak for cEvin, he did that opening, and he actually cut back and reinforced that whole thing. There's aspects of Rabies in "illisiT." At the end of that song there's a little soliloquy where it says, "I am a weapon." It's kind of going back to that Rabies voice that we use at the end of the album. There's aspects of things we, I know I, cherry picked from Too Dark Park that lead directly to that vibe or epilogue in Too Dark Park. I think cEvin probably heard that because it's an emotional song and there are paths come that are very reminiscent of [our earlier music].

Your vocal style with Skinny Puppy has to take a toll on your voice. How have you been able to maintain and sustain the ability to do that all these years?

It's harder as you age. The hardest part is the screaming part of it. I've found some microphone tricks. I do a reverse scream kind of thing, inhalation, and with amplification, that helps. When I was younger, I was losing my voice after every show. Whether I was out with Ministry, or Skinny Puppy, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM or Pigface and whether one song, three songs or nine songs, I'd lose my voice.

So in 1995, I actually buckled down and thought it was going to change by going into drug rehab, and I went and took some training for my voice. You think you're going to end up singing in tenor or something. But it actually gave me tools to strengthen my voice. I've done exercises, not every day, but off and on, two or three times a week, ever since 1995.

One of the main things for a screamer is that when you're screaming, don't scream from the bottom up, scream from the top down and you'll never lose your voice. The rest is just that when you're on tour, and it's the hardest thing to do, after a show, shut the fuck up. That's really hard. It makes me feel sad for Roger Ebert, who lost his voice because you realize how important a voice is, for one thing. It's a strange identity crusher.

I train with it now and I try to treat it as well as I can. I don't smoke as much as I used to. I smoke with vaporizer now and do all sorts of geeky things. I don't smoke cigarettes, which is one good thing. I don't drink that much. Acid reflux is my big thing. I've gotten control of that by drinking lemon juice. I drink the juice of a fresh lemon in water first thing when I wake up and that's gotten ridden of any indigestion.

How did Skinny Puppy end up in The Doom Generation?

Just by happenstance. We were recording The Process at that time out in Malibu. Gregg Araki was working down in, I think, Long Beach. I think it was through American records and he got in touch with us. He's a big Skinny Puppy fan and he invited us to come down and play the goons, which was my first foray into acting. cEvin was seriously injured that night.

There's a part where we attack this car and he fell off, took a dive, and landed right on his face. Literally faceplanted into cement. They didn't have padding so there was this really odd silence after it happened. It was like a kid that falls down and gets up and everyone's like, "Are you okay?" "I'm okay." It was that weird. Then you realize that, oh no, his tooth is through his lip, he's broken his wrist, he fractured a rib, and we have to record.

I'm not sure what happened with cEvin. I think he had to go through insurance. I don't think we ever heard back from Gregg Araki after that, unfortunately. He's a great director, and it wasn't anything weird between us and him; it was just an odd thing that happened.

Was Dwayne Goettel in that as well?

Dwayne was in that as well, yup.

He never used any of your music in any of his movies? That's surprising.

I think if maybe we had had a better experience that first night, cEvin ended up having to sue his insurance for his injuries, so I'm not sure if the relationship could continue after that. Not that that there was anything bad said between anybody, it just faded away. He was into the music but I think it was literally that experience. I'd love to work with Gregg again, he was great.

Skinny Puppy, with Army of the Universe, 7 p.m. Monday, February 24, Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax, $35, 888-929-7849, 16+

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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