what is it like, performing together again after years of being apart?
Interview with: Kevin Key, who is one of the founders of Skinny Puppy, a member in the industrial/psychedelic - Tear Garden and the person behind “Download”, ambient act which is active since the end of the 80's.
I didn't expect it, when it happened. It was nice. I thought Skinny Puppy was a done deal and it was nice to meet ohGr as people and talk about stuff. There is a group of Skinny Puppy fans in Germany, who called me every year, and offered us to perform in an event they organize, and after a few offers I told ohGr about it when we met. It took me by surprise that he wanted us to do it, and we started to organize it, which took a lot of time and money.
It was amazing to perform together again, so much that we decided we didn't want it to stop, which got us going along so good that we decided that we also want to record another album, which took some more time – because we decided that this time we want everything done right – producer, management, label – in a way that will fit us and the way we see things, and all that took as more time than we thought, almost four years. In that period we performed a lot (almost a hundred shows worldwide) and we established the way the album is going to sound. Before that Skinny Puppy albums were influenced from a year on the road – we would just take the vibe from that year and process it into an album, so we didn't assume it was going to take us almost five years 'till the album, but now we're already working on a new one.
How was the move to working as a duo, after being used to be a threesome. In the last album you added a lot of collaborators, which is something that didn't exist in former Skinny Puppy projects?
We wanted to co-operate with people who under stand the concept behind Skinny Puppy, and can also express their personal unique capabilities, so collaboration-wise we wanted people who fit, and what happened was that the right people just gathered along the way. We didn't search or called people we thought will fit, we just met people that are friendly, people with the right vibe, that also had an idea where SP are coming from and where SP are going to musically. We knew that not many people will fit, but those who collaborated at the end were a perfect match to the musical flow we wanted to broadcast. We did it a bit in the past, mainly with supporting musicians on tour, but not in the sense of writing and recording on the album, so that the collaboration was part of re-inventing Skinny Puppy (which started, by the way, in the Process album). The producer as well, he started working with us on The Process, really worked with us as if he is the third member of the group – he took the songs apart, rebuilt them, gave a lot of advices and criticism, and actually made the last two albums with us, which is nothing we did before, so that it was a positive challenge, which is something we really like.
Is SP back to being your central musical project – you and ohGr had a few side projects, and a few solo albums.
Definitely so. The other projects (Tear Garden, Download) still exist, but the center and a hundred percent of our attention are given to Skinny Puppy today. I mean, we had eight years for personal projects, that really helped, because they helped us reach understandings of who we are as people, and artists, to see where we come from, before we return to Skinny Puppy as stronger prple fro the group, so it's a good thing, having those eight years.
Do you save certain energies for each of your several musical projects, which sound quite differently from one another, different parts of your personality?
It's hard to define rationally when you're sitting down to write, but you still always look for something new. It's also a matter of what you feel internally, for each project. Tear Garden, for instance, come from a much more psychedelic place than the writing for SP. Usually, it's not even connected to your surrounding at the moment, I mean, I, for example, listen to a lot of reggae lately, and you cant really find it in Skinny Puppy and my other projects. Maybe in Download you can hear a bit, certainly in the early albums, but not in the more recent ones. Download has a small thing with ethnic music.
The Process – not the album, but the group of people who called themselves that way – in which symbol you used – do you still see your self as part of the idea?
It was actually ohGr and William Morison who were into that idea, and for them it was more like testing the ground for some ideal, an examination of ideas which we developed and moved away from, although I still recommend checking www.process.org
and Morison's continuing work in the matter. I have to admit that for me, I'm not really into the concrete side of these ideas. Today I mainly wonder in Jamaica and listen to reggae, and the musical energy is more important to me than abstract ideas. I'm more into the earth and animals, and I'm very different from ohGr in these things.
The matters of animals and nature and wildlife is prominent in Skinny Puppy…
Yes, but Skinny Puppy is more about the collision of several ideas that creates a different unique energy.
Do you write some of the texts?
No, no, absolutely not. I'm not very good at writing texts – I mean, I really like to use and play with voice samples and readings, and make some kind of mish-mash from, something like what Burroughs did. But actually writing a text? Frankly, I'm pretty bad at that.
Skinny Puppy always had a political agenda, and the group was always influential musically and politically, is part of the creation channeled to get to that influence?
I think ohGr is a real barometer for everything that's happening, socially and politically, ever since we started. He's really involved in everything that's happening, and he likes to talk about people in power position, government etc. so that all these issues find themselves, naturally, in everything that Skinny Puppy transmit. I think it's part of life that you have to understand and be aware of, and once you open the door and add your opinion, that’s your true power, and we believe that most people, especially those that listen to us in the first place, are already aware of these things. So we just give the forward push to the ideas.
some of the attraction of Skinny Puppy in Israel is from that political side – you were supposed to do a show here on your last tour…
we really wanted to come, but when we came to the end of the tour we already were in serious financial loses, mainly because of the amount of equipment we carry, so we couldn't continue the tour in Europe this time. We carry so much equipment that it sometimes happens we shoot ourselves in the leg.
Do you the theatrical side of the shows as part of the music, as part of the general concept that is SP?
The theatricality was part of Skinny Puppy from day one, and when we so ohGr do what he does for the first time we were amazed – it's just a very important way of his to communicate his messages. It was like being a witness to something that should have happened all along. I really didn't expect it at the beginning, but I really enjoyed it and saw that it takes the music to a new level of art. The live show, the way it develops, concerning what ohGr is doing with his means, has already become a part of the group that is not less important than the music, something that upgrades it, and ohGr is really doing something amazing.
Skinny Puppy is considered one of the main and important groups in Industrial Music, but it seems like the musical definitions made people musically "square" – where do you see the future of Industrial Music?
I think we're in a period of cultural overload. I mean, if you look at movies, you'll see that very few good movies come out – you sit and see a movie and it just sucks. Everything got into this "we have to do everything by this date… in that budget…" and then all of the hype around that. Today all the decisions are based on money, and all the decision makers work on formulas, always working by a formula, and I think it kills everything. And because so many people make so much money the message disappears completely. Those people, who are businessman, not artists, decide everything – from the show's venue, to the album's distribution and everything else. Everything is programmed so that the power to be creative is taken from the artists, and everything's gets swallowed by formula. And, of course, the beginning of Rock n' roll, and people that listened to the music of that time, and try to continue today get sucked deep into the formula. People who do new things and focus on other people, people who try to change, get pushed aside for people that would bring in the money – that's the way the company's treat both the artists and the public – as money bringers. It's going to be much more challenging and hard to do new and different things in this period, and still make it accessible to the public. And despite of that, people should try to continue to make and experiment new things, although I think it's going to be much more difficult. There are very few things I see or listen to nowadays that have the fire of originality of old. For instance, there's this band called Lightning Bolt, from the Boston area, and I saw them a few years back, and they are going to release a new album soon. They're together for something like six years now, and I must confess that when I saw them it was the first time I was amazed in a long time and I thought to myself that they are the ones carrying the torch of originality and power together with seriousness and honesty.
Do you think artists should keep themselves from the "Big Success", from the big labels, in order to keep himself original and honest (NIN for example)?
It happens that I have a different point of view on the Nine Inch Nails thing. I saw them live not to long ago, after seeing them last performing with us in 1988, and I saw them the same way they're audience sees them – and I finally realized that NIN are, and I mean it in a positive sense, the Bruce Springsteen of our times – for these kids. It's strange that he uses the black clothes and the pseudo-industrial setting, but actually most people can relate to what he says, like Bruce Springsteen, just packaged in a different way. I don't like the commonness, but me, I, for instance, like Tool and the one thing I can say about them is that they are the only band I know that releases an album, sells four or five million copies, brings 25,000 people to a show and still produces a high level of music, both in the personal and musical sense. But this is also the only example I can think off of a balance between great commercial success and the keeping of originality and honesty. I must admit that if I had the choice, I much rather be a part of Tool than of NIN.
Have you started the recording of the new album?
Yes, we already got eleven songs done, and now were working on ideas with our producer.
The last album had a change in the way Skinny Puppy sounded, what’s going to be on the new one?
We can't really know where the album's going to get and how the sound and everything will be, we're all victims of the Videodrome.
Can you give us five albums you're listening to?
Only four that I can think of:
1.Lightning bolt – everything they have done.
2.a lot of King Tubby
3.Damian Marlley – he's not trying to be calm and celebrate the fact that he's bob marley's son, but just being militant and strong.
4.Mauslemgauze – Maroon – his best album. An amazing masterpiece.
Sachi Piro & Lior Ashkenazy