RITALIN: OGRE's OVER THE COUNTER PRESCRIPTION by Simon Rust Lamb

--from FIX magazine #23 (1998)

"No matter what happens to you, you're still there and you can still find peace somewhere. All of these other things will pass and you will still be there, in some form or shade of yourself." As Ogre describes his reason for covering the Syd Barrett song 'Scarecrow' as the introductory track on his new Invisible album, 'Bedside Toxicology', he speaks from a similar perspective. Over the last few years, he has endured the destructive forces of the music industry before finally being able to release new music.

Last time any recorded sounds came from Ogre, outside of his contribution to th new KMFDM album, it came out of the ashes of American Recordings' final Skinny Puppy release, 'The Process'. What should have been the zenith of their thirteen year career turned into a bitter end. NIne Inch Nails gold gazillions of records and Skinny Puppy disintegrated. cEvin Key spliffed off into Download with fellow Puppy Dwayne Goettel, and Ogre began work on his project with producer Mark Walk (who had recently completed the Ruby album with Lesley Rankine). One song demo later, American expressed their interest in releasing an album from Ogre and Walk with the project called W.E.L.T., and encouraged them to proceed. The label liked the sound of the guitars in 'Water'--just the thing to satiate the youngsters clad in black.

Fast forward. American passes on the album but won't release Ogre to take the album elsewhere and all sorts of complication ensue. The tapes still linger in American's vaults but Ogre has moved on with his career. Enter Ritalin., Ogre's second project but his first release. Someday the messiness of the politics and hoo-hah of the music business might come undone and free his previous work but, in the meantime, Ogre has left behind the caricature that Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and a few others have borrowed from his closet. While those artists have made anger and darkness into theater, Ogre counters that Puppy acted honestly. "When I was in Skinny Puppy, that was all in real time. There was no big decisions being made--OK, I'm going to be a lot more psycho and be doing a lot more drugs. I'm going to be more deluded on this track than any of my other tracks."

Whilst others exploited aspects of this character and took the cover of magazines around the country, Ogre holed up in the hills outside of Los Angeles and took a two-year recess to enjoy the company of his wife and creatures. He walked his possum, his dogs, played with his squirrel and cats, noodled on his computer and let his frustrations slowly dissipate through his therapeutic rituals.

Following that period of relative calm, Ogre has taken a different course on 'Bedside Toxicology'. He emerges with a more exposed sound, less drenched in electronics, distilled down to the fundamentals of rhythm and voice. Keyboards, samples, (and) slowly disturbing lyrics remain, but Ogre's songwriting skills have been brought to the front of the mix--deciphering these lyrics offers less of a challenge than those from his older work. 'The Daze' and the covers of 'Downtown' and 'Scarecrow' reflect the freedom Ritalin created for Ogre.

'The Daze' developed on a day off contributing to a KMFDM song. "I was going through the archive of all the stuff we had left, and I found this Nord pulse that I did; for some reason I latched onto that. Let's make a song out of this. That's the most fun about the Ritalin record--there's no rules as to what does and does not comply with songwriting. The concept behind it was a long, monotonous pulse so let's just make a long, monotonous thing about the daze. The days, the daze, the daze, the haze in my daze. The days are long and the days keep getting longer and we have all these signs of catastrophe and revelations but the days keep going on."

Revisiting the theme of permanence in the face of change. Ogre agrees that the idea permeates the album. "We're all thinking the world is going to end, but it just keeps going on. And yet..things suddenly change within the world so maybe the world is ending? Maybe that's why schizophrenics pick up guns and shoot up places because they're tuned in and they see the changes and we don't because we're sleepwalking. We're all in a bit of a daze. Everybody is. There's so many things that creep into our conscious that we're not aware of. It's absolutely terrifying to me sometimes. Sometimes I'm in my days and the days just float by."

Ogre talks about his interest in former Pink Floyd madman Syd Barrett with the sort of enthusiasm you might get from someone trying to describe their favorite comic book character. "That's the one bit of mystification that still exists in music for me today, the characters. The technical part of it and the craft of music is incredible but it's technical. It's clinical; it's a process. The characters are still very mysterious to me. Syd Barrett is one of those kind of...he's totally on the apex of this guy I can't figure out but I totally love. I just find those incredible strengths in all his mistakes. 'The Madcap Laughs' is one record you can go back to and go, 'My God, you can actually feel the creepiness of being in the studio--this guy is just falling apart and these other people are trying to put things together around him and bolster him, but he's crumbling inside."

A different type of daze forms around the subject for in the cover of 'Downtown', originally performed by Petula Clark--an uplifting, happy song about the bright lights and appeal of the city center. The song left creepy feelings in his young, creative mind and his conspirator, Martin Atkins, had similar memories of the happy song that didn't quite evoke the feelings intended. Of course, they fertilized the song's original creepy quality and dropped out a few lyrics here and there to make it mean something different. "Probably what people won't pick up is that it symbolizes heroin for me because in Vancouver, the slang for heroin is downtown. I laugh at it every time I hear it because I think about heroin. I think it's this drawl of 'happy again'.

Strangely, his first live appearance in years came form a guest spot on the KMFDM tour and Ogre looked happy as a clam. The response in the crowd came instantaneously--everyone stared at him and a whisper spread throughout the Palladium quick--it's him! Ogre. "There was a really great vibe on that tour and I really got along with all the people and it gave me a chance to laugh maniacally. If you do the exact opposite of what people expect you to do, it feels good."

In yet another move contrary to popular tradition, it doesn't look like Ogre will be touring again for a few more months. He wants to come into the live arena with a full multi-media performance and have the option of a slightly larger song repertoire. Rather than fall back on Skinny Puppy tunes as filler, Ogre wants to keep on writing and developing new material. If he plays Puppy stuff, he plans to rework it and make it into something different.

Ogre has already begun working on new material with Mark Walk. With an upcoming Skinny Puppy tribute album on the way from Nettwerk, they had to reconstruct 'Smothered Hope' since the original masters disappeared somewhere along the way. The 'lost tapes' from the W.E.L.T. project sounded like "Weird Eno-esque pop, dark pop stuff". Unfortunately, due to all of the hubbub, no one can say say at this time what the next step will be for his music. He summarizes the state of his past musical affairs: "I'm talking and trying to formalize some sort of plan to totally release the past and let it go or hold on to some of it and bring it into the future with the stuff that we're recording. We did some sessions in February and the stuff is going in a different direction."

Regardless of what happens to the tapes, enough time has passed for Ogre to continue with the work that gives him pleasure. Like the feeling evoked from 'The Daze', Ogre will be writing and performing music throughout his days, with patches of haze here and there supplanted by the release of innovative new material.