Litany: Interview Archive

Luhrssen, Dave. "Skinny Puppy makes the most of harsh reality." Milwaukee Journal, 26 October 1990, D03.

WITH A NAME like Ogre, you have to be one hideous, coarse, cruel dude, right? Especially if you happen to be a guiding force behind Skinny Puppy, a new music group abounding in violent imagery and malevolent vocals.

Ogre speaking by phone from a video studio in his hometown of Vancouver proved, however, to be friendly, low-key and disarming. The striking contrast between persona and person, the yawning abyss separating a performer who repeatedly stabs himself with genuine-looking knives from the soft-spoken creator of this hellish mayhem, is the key to getting inside Skinny Puppy.

The music, and the multimedia presentation of which sound is only one part, is a large distorting mirror held up in front of an already ugly society.

"We make no bones about it," Ogre said. "We're all about knocking people on their heads in the hope that their eyes will open up. When their eyes open, you can slip in stuff that could be helpful in changing their attitudes. The harshness of our presentation is just our method of reaching people. I'm sure there are subtler ways that work just as well for other groups."

Their new album "Too Dark Park" (Nettwerk/Capitol), which should be on sale locally by the time of their Halloween concert in Milwaukee, is a horror show of evil voices, tension-mounting tempos, and textures as abrasive as the most toxic cleaning agent.

Some of the material builds from sound collages, reveling in speedy tape reversals, found voices and sideways rhythms. Other tracks work well on the strobe-lit floors of urban dance dungeons, where the hypnotic beat invokes a dreamy state wavering at the rim of nightmare.

Rock critics tend to label Skinny Puppy an "industrial dance band." But, as is the case with most pop music criticism, the term falls short of the mark. The group's sonic harshness is congruent with the industrial sound, and some of its pieces are danceable, but Skinny Puppy draws its aesthetics from Artaud and the theater of cruelty from notions of rock rebellion.

Environmental destruction and animal rights are two recurring Skinny Puppy themes.

"Those are things that are really close to me. I want to affect people's perceptions of those issues. I give animals human qualities in our show," Ogre said, referring to his costumed role-playing.

"I've also always been conscious of the fact that the Earth is getting a lot smaller, and whatever we put into the Earth comes back to us. We're getting sicknesses and diseases from chemical seepage, from things that were developed to protect us and extend our lives. Now these same chemicals are coming back to harm us. I find it a very strange paradox."

Show Time Who: Skinny Puppy Where: Central Park When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday How Much: $14 in advance, $17 at the door

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