The history of Skinny Puppy begins in the summer of 1983, when Cevin
Key-distorted synths, metallic percussion--and Nivek Ogre--vocals, and horn treatments--discovering a similar
taste for the bizarre and mutant in music, joined forces and recorded the Back & Forth cassette.
This cassette, now a treasured rarity amongst S.P. fans, drew the attention of Nettwerk Productions to the band. Skinny Puppy
eventually agreed to record two albums upon the Nettwerk label.
Soon after this, Skinny Puppy's Remission EP, produced by Cevin Key and David Ogilvie, was released by Nettwerk, and the band jumped
out of the dungeon shadows and into enigmatic notoriety.
The crushing combination of percussive keyboard and rhythm work and
malignant, cryptic vocals, have surprised and disturbed ears throughout North America. With Remission now licensed to Play it Again Sam
Records in Brussels, listeners in Europe are being exposed to the same treatment.
Skinny Puppy was joined by synth-man Wilhelm Schroeder shortly after the release of Remission.
In October 1985, with synthesist Wilhelm Schroeder in the ranks, Skinny Puppy released their debut LP, Bites. Production was once
again handled by Cevin Key and Dave Ogilvie, with the exception of
Assimilate, which was produced by Tom Ellard of Severed Heads. Bites quickly received critical acclaim in North America and Europe
and charted higher than an other Canadian independent release in recent memory on charts like CMJ, Rockpool, and U.S. Rock. Songs
like The Choke and Assimilate laid waste to dance floors on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the summer of 1986 Wilhelm Schroeder left the band to pursue solo work and was replaced by Dwayne Goettel, formerly of the
In September, 1986, Skinny Puppy's second LP, Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse was released. Boiling over with fresh sounds and
rhythms, Mind: TPI remains an expedition into a nether world of sonic, seething emotion.
The first single, Dig It, shot to the #10 position on the Rockpool/Rolling Stone dance chart
and the LP reached #17 on CMJ's chart. Stairs and Flowers, remixed from Mind: TPI by New York DJ's Justin Strauss and Murray Elias,
expanded on the mutant hip hop beat of Dig It. Combined with the new
track, Chainsaw, the single summed up Skinny Puppy's psycho-dance strategy and it reached #8 on the Rockpool/Rolling Stone chart.
Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate, Skinny Puppy's third full length LP, was released worldwide in October, 1987. The LP contained some of their
most coherent, powerful material to date. Tracks such as Anger, Tear or Beat, and Shadow Cast, with their heavy rhythms, balanced
perfectly with the more atmospheric feel of The Mourn and Epilogue. The 12" single of Addiction and Deep Down Trauma Hounds, remixed
by British noise-supremo Adrian Sherwood, was simply one of the most intense moments in Skinny Puppy's vinyl history.
Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate marked a crossover of sorts for Skinny
Puppy. The public was finally coming around to Skinny Puppy's nightmarish world on a larger scale. They could no longer be dismissed
as a cult phenomenon, and when People magazine reviewed the LP, their popularity was undeniably confirmed.
Said David Hildebrand (People): "Skinny Puppy craft what they call audio sculpture. Of course, listeners might have other names for it.
Like insanity. Strange random sounds and echoes ricochet through the mix. Dialogue drifts in and out, like sounds from a TV set in an
adjoining hotel room. The effect is like stepping into a nightmare being
experienced by the Phantom of the Opera."
Even the ever-fickle British press succumbed to Skinny Puppy's aural
Melody Maker: "Skinny Puppy are unspeakable. They hurt and they
exhilarate. Skinny Puppy do what the greatest do--they determine mood."
New Musical Express: "Like the best horror books and films, Skinny Puppy take one into one's darkest dreams and never let up the
pressure. The irony is the dream they are dealing with is the reality we
experience everyday we wake up. Extraordinary in every way."
VIVIsectVI, released in October, 1988, was the long awaited follow up. The LP and the first single, Censor (alternately titled Dogshit), were
characterized by both brutal, relentless rhythms and strangely accessible melodic lines. Testure, the next single, was the band's
most approachable song since Dig It. To many people's surprise, it cracked the Billboard Dance Chart Top 20.
In support of the LP, Skinny Puppy undertook their most ambitious tour to date. The trademark mind-bending live show had evolved to
more powerfully reflect the band's ongoing concerns for animal rights. Throughout the show, the audience witnessed a transformation. Ogre
became the laboratory vivisectionist, the enlightened man, and finally the tortured test subject himself.
Skinny Puppy have become the premier practitioners of punishing, ultra-aggressive, no-holds-barred electronic music. Skinny Puppy
create the ultimate sonic, aural goosing.
Biography © 1998 Nettwerk Productions
Brief History of Skinny Puppy
Achieving an accurate account of the genesis of Skinny Puppy is a
daunting task. Occurring almost twenty years ago, little documentation (or even clear
memory) exists of the conception of what would become one of the most innovative, expressive, and unique musical entities ever.
Furthermore, the band did not burst into formation in the typical tradition; but
rather developed gradually as the essential elements came into place.
This makes a retrospective history all the more difficult. A few things are clear, however. Kevin Crompton, having played in bands
since the age of 13, was the drummer for the Canadian synth-pop band Images In Vogue in the early '80s. Eventually, he found the format all
too restrictive and yearned to create something without such limitations. He began to experiment with raw, caustic sounds on his
own, inspired by the potentials of pushing the electronic music technology he
had become familiar with in Images In Vogue to new levels. Kevin explored the concept of found sounds as the basis for music and
discovered the limitless potential of treating instruments with effects such as delay. He
was lashing out at the pop music he had become sick of playing in order to satisfy his edgy aesthetic by perverting the very tools which it
used. As far back as '81, Kevin had the idea for an experimental band named Skinny Puppy and even created membership cards for a few of his
friends, the presumed future band members. To A Baser Nature, featured on the Back and Forth series 2 CD, was recorded by Kevin and IIV
band-mate Joe Vizvary in May of '83 as the first 'official' Skinny Puppy
recording. Another early, pre-Ogre track was Meat Flavor. It is highly possible that other tracks from Back and Forth series 1 /2 and vol. 3
are also from this period. The name was in place, but soon the next vital component would be added, that being a vocalist.
Sometime in '82 or '83 Kevin Crompton encountered Kevin Ogilvie (reportedly at a party although Ogilvie was roommates with Gary Blair
Smith of IIV beginning in May of '83). Ogilvie had not been in a band before but was an amateur author of sorts. Their recollections of their
meeting differ, but both seem to agree that they ended up jamming on some music together. This eventually spilled over into improvisations
at their respective apartments. Legend has it that at one point during one of these 'brap' sessions Crompton had to leave for an Images In
Vogue practice. While he was gone, Ogilvie is said to have written the lyrics to K-9. A picture of life through the eyes of a dog, it quickly
became the perfect concept for a band called Skinny Puppy, both of the members of which just happened to be animal
Ogilvie now found himself permanently in the role of lead vocalist. Separating himself from both his drumming duties in Images In Vogue and
his identically surnamed band-mate, Kevin Crompton donned the pseudonym cEvin Key. Ogilvie adopted the moniker Nivek Ogre, a reverse spelling
of his first name and a rather menacing corruption of his last. In February of '84 the band made their live debut. Confusion about this
event is also rampant, but it seems that the band performed at a Vancouver art gallery called Unovis. A friend named Wilhelm Schroeder
was in the audience, though he would not remain there for long. While aside from Ogre's face paint this first show was a 'normal' concert, on
subsequent occasions Puppy quickly developed the theatric sensibility that would be their live trademark. Skinny Puppy had a need to distort
the perceptions of an audience tranquilized by the all too common performances of electronic bands which were distinctly
Ogre's sense of theatre, combined with their mutual love of horror
films, made for a blood soaked performance leaving the audience
questioning just what was real and what was not. Skinny Puppy would
continue to create this horror theatre through every live performance in
the band's existence. The duo had soon finished their first collection
of music, Back and Forth series 1, the legendary demo tape self-produced
in a run of only 35 copies in early '84. The tape was compiled almost
entirely from their home recordings, save one track which was recorded
at Mushroom studios. This session was due to the help of Dave 'the
Rave' Ogilvie. Rave had worked on some of the Images In Vogue records
and allowed for Skinny Puppy to have free studio time at Mushroom. Rave
would soon become a vital part of the band's work, co-producing their
every recording after this initial session and earning the status of
unofficial band member. While only a minute number of copies were made,
Back and Forth series 1 had a massive impact for the band. The tape, in
part, led to the band's signing to Nettwerk Records, a new independent
label started by cEvin's friend and fellow electronic music buff, Terry
McBride. Their first EP was recorded at Mushroom and released in '84.
Their true debut, Remission features Skinny Puppy with a more refined
vision than on their previous tape, yet a wider scope conceptually. The
idea of life through a dog's eyes was quickly being expanded as Ogre
improved at his new skill of lyric writing. For the listeners, this EP
established the sound that would become Skinny Puppy's trademark and the
foundation for all that would follow. Harsh vocals, dark synths,
jumping rhythms, and dialogue samples, all processed and distorted.
Skinny Puppy's sound was in some respects a bridge between the old
school industrial sound, such as that of Throbbing Gristle, with the
more traditionally musical techniques of early electronic bands such as
Kraftwerk. Along with a uniquely dark tone, this made for a truly
innovative combination. For a time, Skinny Puppy acted as cEvin's
expressive outlet while he continued to play in Images In Vogue. During
this period, cEvin and Ogre performed as the opening act for Chris and
Cosey, however they were billed as Hell 'O' Death Day rather than Skinny
Puppy. This intended one-time project focused on the more experimental
soundscape side of the duo's music rather than the more danceable side
shown by the Remission EP. It shortly became clear that this music was
too good to not release. Much of it was included in the various versions
of their next work, the full length Bites LP. Bites saw Skinny Puppy
developing their sound further and utilizing the LP format for a greater
diversity of styles. On the date of its release in '85, cEvin quit
Images In Vogue, making Skinny Puppy his full time project. It would
remain so for the next ten years. Bites also featured guest appearances
by Wilhelm Schroeder on bass synth. Wilhelm, better known as Bill Leeb,
was a friend of the band who was enthusiastic about making music.
Needing another performer to fill out their live lineup, cEvin showed
him how to play bass synth and brought him onboard.
Never listed as an actual member of the band on any release, Wilhelm's
input on the records was minimal, but his presence was necessary for the
North American tour Skinny Puppy was about to undertake. The Bites tour
saw Ogre develop his conceptual theatrics to a new level. Featuring a
massive stage set, the Bites show was a carefully developed and
choreographed combination of performance art and music. Audiences
expecting to see a normal concert were shocked to see the lead vocalist
slice his own throat and fall backwards into smoke, grinning as stage
blood seemingly poured from his wound. Ogre would continue to develop
these uniquely orchestrated and ever more conceptual shows for each tour
the band would undertake. Following the tour, Skinny Puppy found
themselves in a state of transition as they recorded their third
release, Mind: the Perpetual Intercourse. Wilhelm decided to leave the
band during the making of this record, facing the prospect of a world
tour which he was not interested in doing. cEvin did not need to look
far for his replacement. Dwayne Goettel had performed as the keyboardist
of a band which once opened for Skinny Puppy. After their initial
meeting, cEvin and Dwayne jammed together, resulting in the track
Antagonism. As the two formed a musical alliance, the final component
of Skinny Puppy was put into place. Dwayne was a classically trained
musician and brought a new level technical skill to the band. This,
coupled with the introduction of new technology to the bands' arsenal,
made Mind:TPI a vast musical advancement. A more lush, carefully
produced record than previous, it showed Skinny Puppy developing the
unparalleled sonic depth that was their trademark. The album also
contained their first single, Dig It, which became an instant
underground classic. With Dwayne, the band had completed the lineup that
would remain for the rest of their career and their '86 worldwide tour
in support of the Mind:TPI album established Skinny Puppy's reputation
among electronic and underground music fans across the globe. Later in
the year the Chainsaw EP was released as a stopgap record between
Mind:TPI and their next full-length Puppy album. In addition, another
important EP was recorded, though not under the name Skinny Puppy.
Edward Ka-Spel, the lead singer of the Legendary Pink Dots and longtime
correspondent of cEvin, performed his solo show as the opener for Skinny
Puppy. cEvin handled his sound and before long the two were
collaborating in the studio together. The pair recorded an EP as The
Tear Garden, including a version of The Center Bullet with newly written
lyrics by Edward. This began a long and fruitful project which would
eventually include all members of the Legendary Pink Dots and Skinny
Puppy (although Ogre's appearance was limited to one song). The Tear
Garden still continue their infrequent but always glorious
By '87, Skinny Puppy were leaders in the electronic-industrial music
scene. With Dwayne now a full member, they recorded their fourth record
for Nettwerk, Cleanse Fold and Manipulate. Expanding upon the
innovations in the mixing, production, and use of digital technology on
Mind:TPI, the record saw Skinny Puppy fully hitting their stride.
Whereas on previous albums the band seemed to develop their trademark
sound alongside separate experimental tracks (as with the Hell O Death
Day material), CFM fully integrated their various techniques into a
coherent and solid work. As a result, CFM was their most focused record
yet and is, to some extent, the definitive example of the 'raw puppy'
sound. The record explored dark ambient and noise/sound collage, the
latter style being used to close
almost every album after. Ogre underwent a major evolution as well.
While not their first instance, CFM marked the shift to social issues
and external concerns as the central theme in his lyrics. Following the
album, the band undertook a North American tour which would be captured
on the live album and video Ain't It Dead Yet?. The tour was their most
lavish yet. Their fans now knew to expect blood from a Puppy
performance, so the focus shifted from shocking the audience to more
complex onstage imagery. While only one of the many themes of the show,
introduced for the first time was Ogre's battle with drug addiction,
portrayed for the audience. As '88 the band took the tour to Europe.
However, in the interim, they had been exposed to the issues of animal
experimentation. In an attempt to show people what was going on behind
the closed doors of laboratories, Ogre orchestrated a new performance
which would be the bands most effective show yet. Ogre played the role
of experimenter, vivisecting a very lifelike stuffed dog (nicknamed
C.H.U.D. after the horror movie) before the audiences eyes. As the show
progressed, the tables were turned and Ogre became the subject of the
experiment. Continuing the theme of drug addiction, Ogre was subdued
with needles and eventually strapped into a chair. The apparatus then
threw him upside down, simulating the sudden head trauma experiments
subjected upon laboratory apes.
Their following album, VIVIsectVI, further attempted to expose the
horrors of animal testing. Testure was protest against such
experimentation and by confronting listeners with the cold, hard facts,
Skinny Puppy attempted to raise awareness of what was usually kept
quiet. The album touched upon issues of chemical warfare, political
reaction to AIDS, and industrial pollution. Surrounding these lyrics was
a much harsher and noisier soundscape. Having built the model 'puppy
sound' on the previous record, the band was now experimenting with it
and taking it in new directions. They constructed songs out of found
sounds such as radio samples, used an increasing amount of live
drumming, and included even more detail in the treatments of voice and
instruments and the mix itself. VIVIsectVI was the most sonically dense
Puppy record yet and was absolutely unrelenting. The single B-sides and
CD bonus tracks also hinted at the variety of styles cEvin and Dwayne
were experimenting with as a team on their own. In time, those styles
which did not fit Skinny Puppy would find their own outlets in various
side projects in which the duo would participate. The band toured North
America, utilizing the same stage show as the previous European tour
with a new set-list. Audiences everywhere were shocked by the
previously hidden horrors of animal experimentation. The band would be
forever synonymous with animal rights. Another important event in the
life of Skinny Puppy occurred around this period when Ogre and Al
Jourgensen of Ministry became friends. Ogre toured with Ministry, even
playing a version of Smothered Hope with the band, and became part of
Al's ever rotating line-up of collaborators. In a surprising move, Al
was brought on to co-produce Puppy's next album, Rabies. Whether
friendly competition or serious battle for control over the sound of the
record, the conflicts brought into the open long-brewing interpersonal
problems in the band. The record was completed, and to the shock of
many fans featured a stripped down, skeletal sound more akin to Puppy's
early records than the dense textures of VIVIsectVI. Indeed, Bites begot
Rabies. Much has been made of Al's influence on the project, some saying
he ruined it by injecting it with his trademark sound, but the fact is
that the Puppy's themselves were interested in pulling the music back to
the basics. With the exception of their final album, Rabies is the most
controversial of their career. Paradoxically, it contains one of the
most universally loved tracks, the eerily beautiful Worlock. After
completing the album, Ogre and Rave returned with Al to Chicago to
finish his next Ministry record. With the band's relations in a
precarious state, the concept of a support tour for Rabies was dashed
and Ogre chose to tour with Ministry again. It appeared that Skinny
Puppy was dead and for a time they were all but officially broken up.
The members pursued other projects and styles of musical expression
outside of Puppy's idiom. Ogre was pursuing a project with Al called
W.E.L.T. (a name he
would later resurrect multiple times). Titled perhaps in response, cEvin
and Dwayne got together with some of cEvin's old band-mates from his
pre-Puppy days and formed Hilt. Al Nelson, who also managed the film
aspect of Puppy's live shows, was the lead vocalist for a project that
surprised and offended the sensibilities of many electro-philes. An odd
combination of hardcore, reggae, rock, and almost any genre you could
think of, Hilt displayed a more humorous side of cEvin and Dwayne's
work. The project was continued, ultimately amassing two full-length
albums, an EP, and two singles. Sadly, Al Nelson passed away early in
2000, though the possibility of further Hilt material emerging from the
vaults exists. In addition to their planned W.E.L.T. collaboration, Al
Jourgensen was also apparently grooming Ogre for a spot as lead vocalist
on his Revolting Cocks project. Ogre recorded two tracks which
eventually appeared on the album Beers, Steers and Queers, but his
relationship with Al soured while on the tour and the two never worked
professionally again. Nothing came of their W.E.L.T. project, although
one track circulates among tape-traders and Al ended up with the
non-existent band's logo tattooed on his arm. Though many had already
delivered the band's eulogy, Skinny Puppy reconvened in 1990 and
recorded what for many years was a fan-favorite album, Too Dark Park.
The album's sound was a quantum leap ahead of
Rabies. Anything but skeletal, the lush textures and mind-bogglingly
enormous amount of tracks were new territory. They were taking
advantage of new technology, and in the process created an audio
environment more dense and warped than they had ever achieved before.
Tensions within the band still existed, and the members began doing
shift-work in the studio. Ogre would work when cEvin and Dwayne weren't
there and vice versa. With Rave as the go-between, they were able to
find common ground in the music itself. Lyrically, Ogre expanded upon
the environmental issues covered on the previous two records, with ever
increasing parallels to the pollution of his own body with chemicals.
In addition to the change of sound, and of decade, Puppy went a
different route for their artwork on Too Dark Park. Having used
Nettwerk favorite Steven Gilmore for all their previous records, Puppy
decided to go for a different look, seeking Jim "I,
braineater" Cummins, an artist for whom they had a longtime
appreciation. Sharply opposed to Gilmore's photo based texture collages,
Cummins full, painterly style and penchant for grotesque, disturbing
creatures encapsulated the new album's sound perfectly.
2000 by Corey Goldberg