by Jane Roser
Canadian band Skinny Puppy, the pioneers of electro-industrial music, are fearless and all together ballsy (they billed the Pentagon $666,000 after discovering that their music was being used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay) and now they are back with a new album, a North American tour and a few well-earned battle scars along the way. Released May 28, 2013 via Metropolis Records, the band’s 12th studio album, Weapon, has been racking up accolades and fan approval, with many saying that this record brings Skinny Puppy back to their roots.
After nearly three decades, Skinny Puppy has established themselves as a groundbreaking, innovative force to be reckoned with in the world of electronic and industrial music, as well as taking a stand on important hot-button social and political issues. Weapon is no different, illustrating the current gun culture obsession and simultaneous horror at the destruction guns can cause.
Weapon’s ten tracks were all written specifically for the album with “ParagUn” completed a full six months before any other songs were recorded. “That one had an odd thing happen where some voices appear in the song which are not naturally occurring and they’re not samples,” explains Skinny Puppy founder and multi-instrumentalist cEvin Key. “It really gave me goosebumps when I went to investigate it because I was hearing this small voice in the intro- a sound that basically says “those days are over, this life is over” like, clearly saying it. It was created by some sort of natural effect on the synthesizer so that it almost felt like a haunted song. So that became one of the first songs for Weapon.”
One iTunes fan stated: “From lyrics to production to concept to execution, this is a fantastic album that really solidifies them as legends across several generations.” Key tries to keep their music fresh, exciting and relevant by never really forgetting the reason this happened in the first place.
“The band started under unusual circumstances,” laughs Key. “At the time…I’ll say drug party related and so the settings of most of the stories that could be told are very much cinematic, like there’s a lot of Lynchian moments going on and you kind of realize that you’re living on the fringe by making music. So, we’ve remained unaltered in growing up, for one, and two, changing perspectives for what our kind of musical picture was, which at the time wasn’t really inspired by anything that we had heard of yet. It was always based on something that we hadn’t heard. We feel that to stay truest to our form is to stay truest to our own concept of how we make the music. I think why people like Weapon, and why I like it is that it returns true to form to how we used to compose- the same instrumentation, the same style of where there actually is a verse and a chorus and a bridge. We’ve always tried to stay ourselves- just true to form Skinny Puppy.”
Key goes on to explain that Weapon had the least amount of changes on the demo, which is another reason why fans may see it as being closer to Skinny Puppy’s original releases since this is how they recorded in the past. “I always start with a song that is more or less completed.” says Key, “Then I’ll send it off to Mark Walk (guitar, drums, keyboards, synthesizers) and Ogre (vocals) and sometimes they’ll disassemble a section or add in a part. It then goes to Ken Marshall who mixes the end result. Ken’s been mixing Skinny Puppy for ages, so he always has a really good picture of what we should sound like.”
Their current tour was originally supposed to include VNV Nation in the lineup, but that changed recently when VNV Nation dropped out for various technical reasons and were replaced by Front Line Assembly. “It ended up being a bill more akin to what we’d want anyway,” says Key. “This show will be amazing. Because of our history with Bill Leeb [who played with Skinny Puppy from 1985 to 1986 under the name Wilhelm Schroeder before leaving to form Front Line Assembly] and the camaraderie over the years. Basically Skinny Puppy started as a result of Bill Leeb, so there’s nothing more suitable than having him on tour with us.”
Changing their tour name from Alliance of Sound to Eye vs. Spy, Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, along with Haujobb and Youth Code will be rocking out the Trocadero December 3rd and Key is excited to witness the full production because, he laughs, “I don’t know what’s actually going to happen either, so I have to play around that. I learn the set, but when it comes time to play the show it’s always- ok, now do it with THIS going on.”
“The Trocadero is a great venue,” says Key, “the last time we played there it was such a great show, so we should rock the planet.”
Musician Steve Watson, who previously performed with the DC-based industrial rock band Chemlab, found early inspiration in Skinny Puppy’s visceral commentaries and recalls when they first made an impression on him in the late 80s. “Their social awareness and animal rights messages intertwined with heavy rhythms and complex programming stole my attention. I remember listening to albums such as Remission, Bites and Cleanse Fold and Manipulate for the first time. No one was talking about the things Ogre was or programming like cEvin Key. They bring live performances to a whole new level with stunning visuals, driving beats and over-the-top theatrics. I was fortunate enough to see many of their shows and to have been a part of this music scene. Skinny Puppy definitely inspired me in my music career and helped to shape my own social awareness. It’s so cool to see these cats kicking it on tour again…sorry, I mean Puppies.”