Interview with the SKINNY PUPPY-member cEvin Key and the ORKUS Musikmagazin, from the current issue
july/august 2000 :
Since their formation
in 1983 the Canadian band Skinny Puppy grew to be a powerful force in
the Electro-Industrial genre, a genre that, at the time, could hardly be
said to have existed and which probably would not endure in its present
form were it not for the considerable influence of the Vancouver scene.
Bill Leeb, the man behind Frontline Assembly and Delerium, earned his
spurs there as well in the early 1980s. Along with Front 242, Skinny
Puppy number among the most influential electronic acts of the 80s, and
their North American chart success aside, they inspired an entire
generation of musicians all over the world to what more or less amounted
to independent developments of that Vancouver “sound”. The overdose
death of member Dwayn Goettel, problems with former label American
Recordings, and internal conflicts led to the end of the legend five
years ago, with the remaining members Nivek Ogre and cEvin Key devoting
themselves to their own (considerably less successful) projects, among
them Download, Plateau, Tear Garden and Rx-Ritalin.
So for many fans it must have sounded like a bad joke, that after all
these years an new chapter in the Skinny Puppy story was slated to take
place at a festival in Dresden. A venture notable not only because it
will be the first Skinny Puppy concert in Germany in some twelve years,
but also because it will be the musical basis for a live album “Back
And Forth Vol. 5: Doomsday”, which will be the fifth part of the “Back
And Forth” historical document series. Dresden as the focal point of
electro history? The following interview should answer more than a few
Orkus: so how is it that you found one
another again, and decided to play this festival in Germany? A lot of
fans reacted to the announcement as if it were a bad joke...
cEvin Key: my relationship with Ogre has improved a lot in the
recent past, and a lot of it had to do with the enthusiasm of the
promoter, who kept asking us every year if we didn’t want to do a
reunion show. The idea was to make the reunion something special,
because it’s only one show. So we look at it more like a party or a
visit and less like an obligation. Just that aspect of it I think we
Orkus: So it’s not a reunion in the
strict sense of the word, insofar as that implies working together again
as a band and writing new material...
cEvin Key: To be perfectly honest, we haven’t really though
about that yet. At this point, the show is our biggest priority, because
it’s going to be recorded for a live album. We’re working really
intensely on the show and the accompanying release, it’s almost like
we’re working on a new album and a live show simultaneously. And that’s
a big step for us, if you think about the fact that the band basically
hasn’t existed for the past 5 years. At this point we just have to
wait and see how things develop and how much fun we’re having. I
cannot envision it continuing afterwards. It’s really important to us
that it’s only one show and that we can concentrate completely on that.
We’re putting a lot of energy into this project, and we’ll see if
working together again pans out or not. I think one of the main reasons
we’re doing this concert is because the last time we were in Europe,
the Wall still existed and there still was an Eastern Bloc. Even if it’s
only for one show, it’s a good feeling for me that we can finally play
in the former East for people who, before, couldn’t make the decision
to see one of our concerts even if they wanted to.
Orkus: How does it feel, after five years,
to suddenly be a part of Skinny Puppy again?
cEvin Key: We’ll see. I like talking to Ogre again, but there’s
still this hole that Dwayne’s death created. He just can’t be
replaced. And we decided, for this concert, to go into the studio and
integrate his original material directly into the set, so we can work
that into the live show. So I’ll basically be taking over his musical
contribution to the band. I think that’s a good way to pay proper
tribute to him during the show...if feels good, somehow, to be in Skinny
Puppy again. For 14 years Skinny Puppy was a big part of my life. When I
write music now, it’s like I have to tear myself apart, because if I
try to write something spontaneously, it would be typical Skinny Puppy.
It’s really strange, but for me it’s much more difficult to write a
song that doesn’t sound like Skinny Puppy.
Orkus: A lot of fans are probably
wondering if you’re going to completely rework the old material for
cEvin Key: It won’t be changed to the point where it no longer
resembles the originals. We’re not going to add jungle loops or
anything like that, we don’t want to go in a direction that people
aren’t going to like. Our old hardcore fans want us to sound like
Skinny Puppy, they don’t want some 1999/2000 Skinny Puppy remix album
with a bunch of songs that sound like Prodigy. On stage we hope to be as
authentic and believable as possible and in the style of our last live
performances. So it’s all going to be very theatrical and planned out,
and we want it to be not just a musical but also a psychedelic
experience. Everything that Skinny Puppy used to be about live will be
present in this show. We’re starting again exactly where we left off.
We even have the same sound engineer who did sound for our last European
tour. We even have the same keyboard stands... I find it very exciting
that we’re basically starting exactly where we left off in 1992.
Orkus: Will it just be you and Ogre on
cEvin Key: Yeah, just the two of us. Since it’s only one show,
we thought it best to leave Dwayne’s spot empty. People know that we
make electronic music and that you can let a lot of stuff run
automatically from the sequencer. And since it’s possible to perform
that way, we didn’t want to put someone else in Dwayne’s place. We’ve
spent a lot of time on pre-production to insure that all of his material
is put to use in the show.
Orkus: Will there also be a multimedia
show? In what respects will this show differ from your last European
cEvin Key: The last time we were in Europe was in 1988, and at
that time we didn’t have anything to work with. We never had the
opportunity to bring the changes and improvements of our show from 1988
to 1992 to Europe. The stage show now is a lot like the “Last Rights”
tour from 1992, with special effects, multimedia projections and it’s
interactive in the sense that all the elements play off one another.
Orkus: And what about the infamous
cEvin Key: I think at this point they have become an institution
and an inseparable part of Skinny Puppy. I think I can pretty safely
promise they’ll be there (laughs).
Orkus: When did the idea for a live album
cEvin Key: There was a huge amount of pre-production necessary to
prepare because of the missing member. We have to record a certain
amount live beforehand anyway. The record label was extremely interested
as to whether or not the gig was going to be recorded. And last but
certainly not least was the incredible reaction that the announcement of
the concert spurred all over the world. We got emails from fans all over
the world, people wanting to fly in from Africa, South America or China
just for the show. It’s crazy.
Orkus: So you wanted to increase the
sphere of influence of the show?
cEvin Key: A lot of people aren’t going to be able to make it
to this one show in East Germany. We’re hoping that everything that we’ve
put into this project will come across on the live album for these
people. And people who will be there can be just as happy because they
will have experienced the event live and through the recording they will
have become part of the show. As a fan I find stuff like that really
exciting. For example, I had to wait 23 years to finally see Kraftwerk
live. That was an incredible moment for me. You feel like a little kid
again. I want that feeling possible for people for whom Skinny Puppy
maybe is similarly important.
Orkus: Is this concert in some way an
attempt to bring the pioneering spirit that you had as forerunners of
the electronic scene to the present?
cEvin Key: Definitely. Since we started in the early eighties we’ve
always tried to represent current trends in our music, and we hope that
every track that we play can capture the feeling of the times. That’s
the biggest challenge for me.
Translation: Ned Kirby
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