MS. "Skinny Puppy (cEvin Key) Interview." Terrorverlag, 27 August 2007.
German to English translation by Pessi.
If someone had told me some years ago that I would have an opportunity to interview one of the two creative heads behind Skinny Puppy a few hours before band's concert, I would have shook my head in disbelief. Now it is August the 7th 2007 and I'm waiting for cEvin Key to enter the office of Columbia Club and answer my questions. Despite the stress and tight schedule, patiently and friendly he takes the time to answer my questions. Although he is considered as rather tough conversation partner, I didn't notice that at all. As there was very little time (circa 15 minutes), we get started right away:
cEvin, "Mythmaker" is now your second album in three years. What was different from the production of "TGWOTR"? What was more difficult or easier when producing this album?
It was a lot different. I would describe "TGWOTR" as an album which was conceived through discussion. With Mythmaker I could rather say that there was a "conceptual language" going on. The production was a lot more constant and exiting. Mythmaker can be seen as a "return to form" for the band. There were remarkably fewer participants involved with the production. We went back into the studio after the tour and sat there developing ideas substantially longer than with TGWOTR. Songs like Goneja from TGWOTR reflected the development which we then took further with Mythmaker. Compared to TGWOTR Mythmaker is more personal album for me and Ogre.
There were only four people working with the album; Ogre, Kevin [sic] Marshall, Mark Walk and you. What was this co-operation like, how did it work?
First, I came up with the ideas, which I gave forward to Ken and Mark. Then Ken developed these ideas further and gave them back to me - there was collaboration between us. Politikil, Pasturn and Jaher were the songs which I first gave to Ken. I came back to him and the whole thing was forwarded to Mark and then he gave it to Ogre. Then he said, "oh, good idea", but they both came up with changes, like new arrangements and when i heard the results it was "as if a door had opened". You heard what Mark wanted to express with that and and finally Ken mixed the songs.
Would you see both of them and Justin Bennet as full band members or do they have a guest musician status?
Well, Ken was already there in 1988 (Rabies), he has co-produced few albums and has become a part of the band, like Rave (David Ogilvie) did, because he has worked with us for so long. By the way, we hired him back then because he was the best mixer I have heard. With the many shows we have done together, Justin has become the most important person for the band of all the participants, because he took the place Dwayne had without deliberation or trying. He has established an inspiring role and he has done that without us telling him how to. He is on the same wavelength with us and he will definitely have a role on the next album.
Yea, what he does on the drums is already absolutely mindblowing, he really does a fantastic job. For me Mythmaker combines the best bits of your solo projects. How do you see these extreme contrasts have affected the new SP material?
I created lots of songs and ideas and Mark decided for me which tracks would work and be suitable for Skinny Puppy and which would fit better for Download, Tear Garden or Plateau. For Mythmaker I created for example 25 songs of which Mark selected the ten which would fit best for Skinny Puppy. Quite many of the leftovers ended up on FiXeR instead.
You used two paintings for the album cover, is there a particular "message" behind that?
Every artist wants to express something or make a statement. We have worked together with Steven R. Gilmore since the beginning; we have the same vision of what the design should look like. There is such a passion in him. Just like with music, everything works as a collaboration. We want him to design CDs and offer interesting and beautiful packages for the fans.
What did the artist Manuel Ocampo think about his painting being used?
Of course we had to ask him first, so he was involved and said that we could use his painting. Steven cooperated with him which guaranteed that it worked out.
On your last two albums I missed such minimalist songs like Icebreaker, Choralone or Fritter. Is there no place for that kind of songs in the new SP concept or is for example Lestiduz a current update of this style?
I think they will come back. When we started over Mark thought that TGWOTR has to be an album which would open for people straight away. The current album was a return to the personal Skinny Puppy rails and now Mark thinks it is time for something which will help us return to what Skinny Puppy does best, that is to say different styles. This kind of songs originate because we have so many different ideas. The focus of a new album could be in experimenting even more, but honestly, we don't know yet which direction we choose to pursue.
That sounds already very good. By which criteria do you select the songs to perform live? I've gotten the impression that you pick songs which are loved and known by every SP fan and leave out the ones which even the non-SP experts could recognize, e.g. Assimilate.
We were planning to play Assimilate to see what happens. We sat then there, having many songs played and looked at, what kind of feeling they built and what we wanted. We had tried some songs three times to see what kind of atmosphere they create etc. You see, some of these ideas are over 20 years old, and we thought, what can we do? We could change the sounds so that they fit to the modern times but also so that they keep their character and work on a new level. Justin is now a part of the band, as well as some other persons and we must see if it would still work. Assimilate was a song which was hard to perceive and didn't really work out. Deep Down Trauma Hounds looked different on last tour, we played it and thought, "cool". Then there are many other songs, like Amnesia, which we haven't performed previously and surprises like Dig It. There are songs that we haven't played in a long time and still they make a statement. A gig is over unbelievably fast, and we would also want to mesmerize the people with what we play and it includes also tracks which are unnecessary to count.
Very interesting. I hope that you would sometime on future tours play my favorite song One Time One Place.
We have performed that very often and sometimes I say to Ogre: "Let's play it tonight", but it is also so that the lyrics aren't completely familiar for us anymore and so we look for few other songs which are easier to perform.
Will Morrison as a guitarist on your last tour was an interesting new aspect for me, is he going to be on following tours?
Will is also a director and he is involved in few projects, documentaries for instance, at the moment. So he has pretty much to do. He also did our live-DVD. It was wonderful to see him perform the songs on last tour.
Would you actually say that you have reached all your goals with SP or is there still something you want to achieve?
When I think about it, that we have been there for 25 years and it reminds me how all began, everything was very amazing right from the start. Everything evolved by accident and now we are waiting to see how it goes forward. Now we are both discovering the Hollywood film industry, for example acting (author's note: Ogre is supposed to play in a horror movie with Paris Hilton) and soundtrack production. We hadn't expected that we would both work once in this interesting field. We both feel that it must be a blessing and a chance for us.
Your fans are very active on the Litany forum. Do you support this site and are you in close contact with the maintainers?
Oh yeah, Scott and Corey are fantastic guys and they keep this site so exiting I must sometimes look up info there myself. They devote themselves very intensively and currently they promote the Vault II Series, which was released on Subconscious. Sometimes I think that if they didn't exist, I wouldn't probably sit here now.
It really is a nice site, it's also on my top links. Now that we are on topic of internet and media, what do you think about new media forms, such as Youtube? Are they musicians' curse or blessing?
On the one hand it is cool, that you can find fast the most unbelievable things but on the other hand copyrights etc. aren't really governed there. I hope, that people who use this site, make themselves aware of this and act carefully there.
If you think how fast e.g. your concert documentations find their way there, that's just crazy.
Yeah, like when we were on Convergence festival with Bill Leeb on stage with us, that was online only a couple of hours later.
Do you think it would be better if you had more public focus or are you happy with your status as an underground cult band?
Well, I don't know. I think both ways are good, if you make music and have success that way. My best friend for instance is a drummer in Tool and it nice to sit and watch him there. If you make music yourself, and believe in it, then it is neat. If you make music to simply sell records, then it isn't so neat. But if the sales are a result of you believing in your product, then it is all that matters.
Finally the question about what follows after this tour, perhaps a new tour with Download?
When the tour ends I will presumably do a couple of new tracks with Ken Marshall as Scaremeister for the movie industry and then there are a few releases due for Subconscious.
cEvin, thank you for the informative conversation and I wish you a good concert tonight.
Thanks, you too, have a good time on the gig.