An Interview with Ogre
LOLLIPOP: I just got Ritalin in the mail yesterday. The first thing I noticed is that it really showcased your voice. You're actually singing! I hope you don't take this as a back-handed compliment, but I was surprised at how good it sounded:
OGRE: No. I think I understand what you mean. It has to do with when I was up in Seattle; I did a lot of work on my voice and maybe that's starting to show through a little bit
LOLLIPOP: So I take it that you cut down the smoking.
OGRE: Well, yeah, I did smoke quite a bit, and guess that contributed to the lowering of my voice. I think before I sang a lot lower. I think I've gotten a better tone.
LOLLIPOP: I know you have to answer this question a lot, but why did you and Martin (Atkins) name the band after kiddie speed? Did you just like the way it sounded?
OGRE: Well, for that reason, and at the time, my wife was doing a paper on children and the use of anti-depressants and Ritalin to change behavior (and the drug's effects on) the developing brain. Maybe not so much the dangers of them, but the uncharted territories of using them. Before starting this project, I went to my doctor and got prescribed 12 tabs of Ritalin to try it. I have to concur with my wife that Ritalin should be taken off the market. It's a really, really nasty cover-up drug that's probably being dealt to 80% of kids who have diet problems, sugar-related, too much television. These kids are just amped out all the time, and this is supposed to be a cure-all. That segues into certain brain chemistry drugs (and their effects on) developing brains that are being packaged and marketed in all these different flavored syrups, chewable anti-depressants... It's a bit creepy to me. I'm sure there are a small number of children that need, not so much Ritalin, but some sort of treatment. My brother is a doctor in Canada, and he doesn't go near Ritalin. Why it's still on the market, I don't know. Like you said: it's kiddie speed. I understand the mechanism of a reverse tolerance, and how a hyperactive kid can be calmed down by speed. I did a fuckload of speed when I was young, and had the same reaction. But I don't think it would be good for kids after years of taking it.
LOLLIPOP: How does that relate to the band?
OGRE: Well, it gives me a platform to speak about something I'm endeared to speak about. Also, I tend to lapse into different forms of ADD, and have been medicating myself for years. I can draw direct correlation's to my own life and how my fears of Attention Deficit Disorder have played havoc with my life, and my own personal inertia and momentum. I also like the word.
LOLLIPOP: It's also not a drug that a band would normally name themselves after.
OGRE: Right. But we also aren't directly going by that name, it's more just by association (The pharmacy symboLollipop: "Rx" as well as Ogre & Atkins are the names on the CD. No mention of the word Ritalin anywhere). We don't want to be sued by anybody.
LOLLIPOP: The songs, though parts are chopped up and skewed, have a clean, focused sound.
OGRE: Yeah, and that's kind of interesting. When I was thinking of doing this, the biggest step for me was finding a bit of focus. In a sense, I've conquered that part of my life. And I'm still dealing with it. Like "The Daze". It's about my bouts of staring into space and not knowing what I'm doing from one moment to the next, not knowing if what I'm saying is making any sense. Not knowing if any of this matters at all. Ultimately, what does it matter? This is just some transient little point in both of our lives, right now we're talking on the phone through some mere chance, and you're going to write an article that'll e seen for a while and it'll go away, just like my record.
LOLLIPOP: Well, records tend to stay around longer than articles do.
OGRE: Yeah, well maybe. It's all relative. There many records that come out in pop music, and once you've circled around the block a few times like I have, you know what you're up against. The innocence of music is totally lost for me. The days of, for instance, when I used to work in record stores and the manager would have complete control over the store and would sell what he wanted to sell and play what he wanted to play are over. The payola of the '70s and '80s has almost turned legal, and that's really twisted to me. I guess within all this I'm trying to find a channel I can slip into and just be me. I've had a bad experience over the last few years with a major label.
OGRE: Yeah. That left a bitter taste in my mouth for a long time. I was really distraught over my feelings for this business. Now it's still the same, but the Ritalin project, like you were saying, it allowed me to focus on something. It had all the elements of ADD, yet it seemed to find its place and find some clarity, which is the most exciting thing about this record.
LOLLIPOP: I'm just guessing, but the songs on the record, just by the way they're structured, were written as songs, with the production as an afterthought.
OGRE: It was a reverse of the way I was used to working. I think that's why the vocals became a prominent factor. I think Martin's idea of bringing out the character in my voice and not masking it worked well. "Exfoliate" was more drum-oriented in the beginning, and we went back and did a lot of manual punch-ins and mutes on different tracks, and we found a whole other vibe that way.
LOLLIPOP: How did this project start? Did you approach Martin or did he approach you?
OGRE: He approached me. He owns the label (Invisible) and came to me with the idea of doing this. It was good for me because at the time, I was feeling a lot of different things about what I wanted to do. He came to me with the idea of doing this one off record.
LOLLIPOP: Any plans to do any shows in support of this record?
OGRE: I don't' know. That's all down to economics. You don't want to go out and lose a bunch of money, and you don't want to go out and tour uncomfortably. I'm past the point in my life of doing tours in the backs of trucks and vans. I'm just trying to build my momentum again. I had a real lapse of ambition. I've never been that ambitious anyway, but I certainly had a dark spell.
LOLLIPOP: Which is why we haven't heard from you in a long time.
OGRE: Yeah, and there was all this stuff with American Records. I was recording in '95-'96, and all those tapes were shelved when the company got absorbed by Warner Bros. I've been working on getting the tapes back, but there seems to be some personal resentments that are making it difficult.
LOLLIPOP: On the Ritalin record, you have two cover songs that seem inexplicable at first. You did Petula Clark's "Downtown" and Syd Barrett's "Scarecrow". They fit in, but they seem like strange choices.
OGRE: That was the whole point. I've always been a big fan of Syd Barrett's music. Characters like him have always kept me interested in music. I've always wanted to do a Syd Barrett cover, and I kind of took a lot flack from some people for introducing guitars to Skinny Puppy and turning them into a "metal" band or something. That struck me as funny because Skinny Puppy always used guitars, and Dave Ogilvie came from a total guitar production background. I decided to do a minute and a half of acoustic guitar, and satisfied my desire to do a Syd Barrett cover. It's also reflective on my own dark period. The one thing I found comforting was sitting down, playing guitar and singing. That connected me to music again. We did "Downtown" just because I always wanted to do that song. It was one of the first songs I ever heard on the radio when I was growing up. It gave me this real odd feeling, this kind of surreal feeling as a child. I have no idea what it was, but it gave me this creepy feeling. I don't know why.
LOLLIPOP: You to
LOLLIPOP: That song creeped me out too.
OGRE: Martin felt the same way as well. So we looked at it and did something that was drug related. We were going to tag on a prologue that explained the set-up, but we cut out one verse and didn't add the prologue. It makes it a lot creepier. If you listen to it and think about heroin it makes a lot more sense. (laughs).
LOLLIPOP: How did you like the KMFDM tour?
OGRE: Oh, it was the most debauched tour ever. There were women, drugs... (laughs). It was totally easy and a good time. One of the best I've been on.
LOLLIPOP: I didn't get a chance to see the tour, so how did they work it? Were you on stage the whole time?
OGRE: I was termed "the secret weapon".
LOLLIPOP: Was it cool to hear the crowd go nuts for you again?
OGRE: Yeah, yeah. It was good for getting over the friction of going onstage with a different band.
LOLLIPOP: One last question. I interviewed cEvin Key a few weeks ago. He mentioned that he'd gotten some offers for you two to work together again and that he'd tried to contact you saying that if you ever wanted to do a couple of songs at some point he wouldn't mind. The story is that you didn't respond.
OGRE: I think I did get back to him. Maybe not about that, but about some other stuff.