Fisher, Mark. "ohGr." 1340Mag, October (?) 2003.
OhGr (the band) frontman Ogre (the man, who is also frontman for legendary cult act Skinny Puppy) recently released the electronic wizardry that is "SunnyPsyOp" on Spitfire Records. Trying his best to break the mold Ogre (the man) has been cast into over the years, this album brings some new elements into the light while leaving others to return to the shadows. I had the privilege of talking with Ogre (the man) about OhGr (the band), the current state of music, politics, and pre conceived notions and here's what he had to tell me...
How are you Ogre?
I'm doing pretty well. I had kind of a rough night out! I don't do that very much anymore so when I do I have one of those nights. (laughter)
Let's start with the new record. This is a bit different from the last OhGr record as I understand it?
Well I hesitate to say that its different because some of the songs I composed I did while I was trying to get released from American Recordings. The first record was originally written for American Recordings and then it got lost and stuck and I had to actually rerecord everything on the album due to a problem with licensing from Rick Rubin. During that rerecording we were writing some of the songs for this record because we were stuck in the studio waiting for the licensing to go through. So, some of the songs on "SunnyPsyOp" are similar to the first record. When it came time to wrap this record up we went back through everything. Songs like "JaKo" were changed completely and turned into a totally different vibe, despite the vocals staying the same. It sounds like a completely different song than it did a few years ago. The other different thing about this one though is that it sounds maybe more like an album. We approached this one like a band, in say the 70's, would have approached a sophomore record. It's more of a record and less of a collection of songs seen as potential singles. That was a decision we made about blending and creating a composition that had more of an overall vibe to the concepts and more feeling that crosses over into my personal feelings at the moment. I think the album maybe takes a few more chances production wise also. We didn't really stick to conventional techniques the whole way through. We really pushed things, not necessarily forward, although maybe forward to some people. Some of the elements of old industrial music, the non-listenable stuff got thrown in as well.
Was there a specific instance that pushed you over the edge and made you want to approach this differently than you would have say 2 years ago?
Maybe. When you go into a new label situation you are never quite sure what their label and their system is all about. All you're going on is what they tell you and you are going on with the belief that they are gonna do what they told you they would do. When that doesn't happen sometimes you are left to go, "Well...OK". We wrote the first record with more of a pop initiative to fit the aesthetic of my voice. It was taking whatever I was in Skinny Puppy and exploring the abstract that would be contradictory to what people would expect. We wanted it to kind of groove. The ultimate goal would be to have something that would appeal on one side to more of a commercial value and to have that option and on the other side be kind of a dirty pleasure for those who didn't find it industrial enough or perverse enough or cold enough or whatever. The second record I found myself coming back to America. The first record was released in 2000 and I left the country for a few months on Sept. 10, 2001. I arrived in Amsterdam and went down to Italy and a few other countries and came back a few months later to a completely different country. It was probably one of the most amazing and disturbing experiences of my life. I needed and outlet for that so I guess the second record is a bit more self-indulgent in that respect. I chose that as a vehicle to express it.
How has response been to "SunnyPsyOp"?
It's been good I think. After 20 years, you don't really pay attention anymore. I'm just on to the next thing. I'm not really interested anymore in how things are received, I'm more interested in just doing the work. I have my own self-continuation and things like that. I think it's Ok though. For the most part, I think my fanbase likes it a lot. Some will like it, some will hate it, I don't know whether its cutting any new paths through the jungle or anything. I guess after 20 years you don't really need to care what the press thinks. No. Over the years I have gotten about 4 new as*holes ripped so I have a lot of scar tissue! (laughter) I'm lucky to be doing this and I enjoy doing this and I have a fanbase that's into it and understands me. It's a niche sort of thing, I'm definitely not a mainstream artist. It would be great to expand on that fanbase but it's obviously not the most important thing in my life at this point.
You mentioned your fanbase. Who do you find your fanbase to be? Have the Skinny Puppy fans come along for this project?
Yep, that's kind of predominately my fanbase. There has been some crossover from other people but it's mainly the Skinny Puppy fans. Hopefully this is something that they have gravitated to and they see what I'm doing and kind of understand and have come along for the ride. That's more important to me than the press. The most important thing to me is touching those people. If they can trust in it and gravitate towards it and after a few times start to get it then that is the most rewarding thing for me. I don't think art exist without and audience. It can be therapy and exist in your own mind but forums need audiences to make their art come alive.
How do you work your live show when you are out? Do you do mainly OhGr stuff or do angry fans that want to hear Skinny Puppy songs push you towards those songs?
We did a tour in 2000 and I made it a point not to play any Skinny Puppy songs, even though Kevin, who's in Skinny Puppy, was playing with me on the tour. There were some people outside of the clubs that would be like, "They were sh*t. They didn't play any Skinny Puppy songs." Whatever. Yeah, some people are gonna see things that way but most people that come to see you live are gonna enjoy it. You can always dip back into the Skinny Puppy pool and we intend to do that. It's just an asset that we haven't really had time to do. Again, Skinny Puppy is more of a cult band. It's something we can go back to and explore. It's like a split personality between the 2 things. I don't mean that in a horrible, nasty, psychological way, it just is what it is. I'm typecast into being a certain role or a certain person. Like me being the guy you thought you were going to hear when we started this interview, (editor's note: Ogre is referring to the initial chatting before the interview began when I told him that I thought he would sound "meaner" than he does.) (laughter)
Can you tell our readers a little about the song "ChemTale"?
Well. That was probably one of the last songs that we wrote for the record. Obviously it has a bit of a defiant edge towards the current in the United States. It is kind of chaotic in and of itself. There are a lot of disembodied voices in it that really have no unified direction and are almost fragmented with their dissent and powerless with it. They are almost unintelligible. The main vocal is a rant against Mr. Bush and where he is taking the country as well as the world. To me it's almost neo-fascism in this country right now. It's neo-fascism with a smile! (laughter) Maybe this is a time period where there will be an awakening in seeing that we are not liberators. Wars are fought for a lot of reasons, the least of which is to liberate a country from something. We have to look at everything in that perspective. I mean, we planted the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have done that in other countries as well geo-politically. We have controlled different countries at different times. I think that if people would see that maybe we are an imperialist nation and maybe we need to be that to keep our oil prices down and keep things all happy on this side of the ocean then maybe the choices people make might be different. I wonder about that too, it's a bit of a nauseating time for me. I don't feel comfortable watching, reading, or hearing the news. It's really propaganda and it's disturbing to me that we have been cushioned from so much information for so many years and then when people are batted on the head with it in a profoundly propagandized way, they just shut down. They just allow whoever is in power to do what they want to do as long as the people get their sunny times back. It makes me a bit sad. I wish that there were a bit more of a feeling of dissent, like there is in Europe, here towards the current administration and towards the political agenda of this country in general. I think that the saddest thing for this country is that eventually these small despot countries that we see as evil, even though they are raised the same way we are to vilify and demonize other countries, are going to get us on the outside and there won't be to many countries along with us for the ride. That's when you are gonna see something of an evil empire. This is historically what all big civilizations go through when they reach to far out into the world. That's just my take on things, you know? I am very happy to be free and to have what I have here. It's just that I think at some point you have to take an inventory and take a look at why you are free and the cost of that as well as what we are doing to other countries.
So would you say the intent of the song was more motivational or self expression?
Definitely to express myself. I wonder sometimes if I'm a good motivator. I don't think I am really. I lack ambition, I lack a lot of things. I am a bit apathetic. The idea of the name Ogre in the first place is that I have a great amount of rage from my childhood and things that have happened throughout my life that I have or am dealing with. The apathetic rage is what I have in me. It's not actionable rage really its just apathy and anger. They go hand and hand. Maybe that's the consciousness of this country also, I don't know. Maybe it's just the consciousness of western life in general. I don't think I'm really and action guy unfortunately. I'm certainly going to and do speak my mind but it doesn't help my career sometimes! (laughter) I could give a sh*t about that really though.
I absolutely love the artwork to this album. Can you tell us a little about it?
Yeah! Camille Rose Garcia and Steven Gilmore did it. Steven Gilmore has done a lot of the Skinny Puppy layouts since the early 80's. He was doing on film and on cut and paste drawing boards what a lot of people are doing now on computers. He's a really good friend of mine and he introduced me about 3 years ago to Camille Rose Garcia and I bought one of her first paintings at her first show. She's one of my favorite artists here in Los Angeles. When it came time to find a cover, Steven presented the idea that she might be interested in doing it. I didn't think she would be because she is pretty expensive now but we got her to do it anyway. She was very nice to do it. We had one meeting and I explained to her the concept of the record. We didn't have a name yet, so she kind of inspired the title of the record. I'm really happy how the title evolved from that. "SunnyPsyOp" is sunny psychological operations, which is to me what the news media is in America with the amount of bandwidth we have with 24-hour news stations that vary from each other only slightly. They deliver these very congruent ways of thinking. They are sort of these talking heads that very happily tell us what we should do and what we should and shouldn't like, what we should watch out for, what's healthy and what isn't, and so on. "SunnyPsyOp" is sort of based on her painting. There's sort of an A character perched on a sort of house with an oil can and he's pouring blood over this sea of oil. It's a kind of humpty dumpty type character. The name is also a play on Sunny Side Up basically. That's the way it came together really. Unfortunately that's the way my brain works, I have to have these cryptic weird little things in my life. (laughter) I'm really happy with it though. The painting itself ahs been abstracted and segmented for the album cover. Steven did that and he did a brilliant job on it. The pictures on the inside are from the "maJiK" video.
Obviously, You have been around a longtime. In 2003 what is the best thing you see in music?
I like the fact that music has become so diverse again. It's like trees, it keeps growing different branches. It's really diverse right now.
What's the worst thing you see right now?
You don't really have any focus right now on the development of bands. I think that right now it's horrible time for musicians. The record companies have finally woken up to the fact that they have to do something about their transmission of music. Record companies haven't accepted culpability for the fact that they are way behind the curve on the technological distribution of music and downloaders aren't respecting intellectual property. The artist is stuck in a sort of pit because the record labels have pulled the wagons around themselves. They start charging more for record because they are losing money due to downloaders and then they pay the musicians less. The back end is really bad right now. I feel bad for any band starting out in this business. I know some bands, platinum selling bands, that are only really making money of their touring at the moment. It seems like that's the only way anyone can make money right now. It is. It used to be that you could create a little nest egg with the money from your mechanicals and royalties. It isn't a lot, artists get like 20 cents a record and the guy who buys it pays $20. That's an obscene to me too. You an buy a DVD cheaper than a record, so why wouldn't somebody download music? I don't know why they don't come up with a model to sell records cheaper. They need to cut their own fat. They are obviously not willing to do that, they are holding on to an old antiquated system for dear life and they have no idea how to change it. Hopefully it will change now that people are copying DVDs and you are talking about people exchanging something that cost $100 million dollars to make. I have kinda lived through all that. Mainstream music is just culture shaping and I obviously am not down with that. I turn away from mainstream music to be honest. There is still some really great music out there though, you just have to go find it. I hope kids get a little more into that than just accepting what MTV force-feeds them.
Any tours planned?
I was going to do a tour with Al Jorgenson but he had to go back to El Paso to do a new 'Cocks record and the new Ministry and Lard. He's got a compound out there and he dos a bunch of stuff. I'm starting to go into a Skinny Puppy cycle so we are getting some stuff done for a new Skinny Puppy record. If I do some OhGr stuff than it may be after a Skinny Puppy tour.
I have no parting thoughts. I think I have done enough rambling for one day.Article Taken From The Great Nothing http://www.thegreatnothing.com/interviews/view.php?interview_no=57 [DEAD LINK]