32 Years of Brap
by Hester Megan O'Donnell
BRAP ( v.) brapped, brap-ping, braps: To get together, hook up electronic instruments, get high, and record.
With the May 2013 release of ‘Weapon’ and the first North American tour in five years scheduled to launch January 24, Skinny Puppy fans across the globe have a lot to smile about. While there’s been much speculation in online Puppy forums as to which songs will don the set lists throughout the ‘Shapes for Arms’ tour, one thing is certain: these pioneers of the Industrial genre have persevered within the music industry for 32 amazing years.
Skinny Puppy, the brainchild of former Images in Vogue drummer and renowned synth guru cEvin Key, (aka Kevin Crompton) began as an experimental project in 1982 which seemingly took on a life of its own. Based in Vancouver, BC, Canada, Key teamed up with vocalist Nivek Ogre (aka Kevin Ogilvie) and producer Dave (‘Rave’) Ogilvie. After a plentitude of ‘brap’ (a verb coined by the duo) sessions, they had enough material to self-release 1984’s EP cassette ‘Back and Forth,’ and signed on with the label Nettwerk later that year. Countless horror movies later, the year 1985 brought the ‘Remission’ EP and first studio album ‘Bites’ into fruition, but when a band called ‘Water’ opened for them in Edmonton, Alberta, there took place an encounter which forever changed the course of Puppy history.
At this very show the Pups met ‘Water’ member Dwayne Rudolph Goettel, a classically trained pianist whom inevitably joined Skinny Puppy for their second studio album ‘Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse’ which was then released in 1986. Goettel remained with Skinny Puppy for six more studio albums: Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate (1987), VIVIsectVI (1988), Rabies (on which Ministry’s Al Jourgensen contributed electric guitar on various tracks and co-produced the album with Rave in 1989), Too Dark Park (1990), Last Rites (1992) and The Process. The timeline surrounding the recording of The Process has been often referred to as the ‘dark days’ due to the personal differences within the group which prompted Ogre’s resignation in June of 1995; two months later, news broke that Dwayne Goettel had died of a drug overdose. The Process’s future seemed uncertain until it was completed with Rave in 1996 and dedicated to the memory of Dwayne. To this day Goettel remains a much-respected musician and a crucial element which contributed to the musical growth of Skinny Puppy.
It wouldn’t be until 2000 that Ogre and Key would reunite to play at the Doomsday Festival in Dresden. Four years later, Skinny Puppy officially rose from the ashes with the release of their ninth studio album ‘The Greater Wrong of the Right.’ ‘Mythmaker’ (2007), 2011’s ‘Handover’ and the 2013 release of ‘Weapon’ brings the total of 12 SP studio albums to date.
Skinny Puppy essentially serves as a lyrical whistle blower. Those unfamiliar with the inner-workings of the group may be misled by its external image, through Ogre’s guttural vocals, the blood-stained onstage theatrics (typically garnished by an elaborate costume and all-encompassing mask), or music videos littered with skulls. The secret to unveiling the underlying themes is to peel back the layers and take a closer look inside; therein lay messages conveying the group’s disdain for deforestation, animal experimentation, governmental deception, and the use of chemical warfare as well as prevalent others.
Similarly, ‘Weapon’ is a well-crafted concept album emanating an in-your-face sense of urgency while addressing timely issues such as our ever-growing gun culture as well as the invasion of privacy due to the heightened use of digital media. The heavy distribution of firearms and overall accessibility of weaponry has significantly increased over the years; this problematic swell has spilled into our neighborhoods and affects us all. The album’s overall theme is self-described by the group (comprised of Industrial veterans Key, Ogre and multi-faceted musician Mark Walk) as being “the concurrent glorification of the gun culture and simultaneous horror at the devastation guns can cause.” This poses a relevant question: do guns carried for protection help or hinder society’s quest for self-preservation?
During the November 18 live Litany webchat with Jason (Jensen) Alacrity and co-host/webmaster Corey Goldberg, Ogre disclosed his own, personal brushes with violence during which he was unarmed. He aptly conveyed that those situations resulted neither with shots fired nor jail time and, most importantly, left him no worse for wear.
While ‘Weapon’ tracks such as paragUn, plastiCage and survivalisto address the broad spectrum and utilization of weaponry, the video for illisiT signals Alacrity’s triumphant translation of a contextual message into compelling imagery regarding both governmental deception and voyeurism. illisiT depicts a man (‘everyman’) struggling to maintain his anonymity as he’s relentlessly pursued by an individual (‘Big Brother’) wearing riot gear. ‘Everyman’ crudely cuts a ‘bug’ out of his arm and smashes his Smartphone to rid himself of the impending threat to his personal privacy. In addition, the lyric “A terrorist is suspect/a terrorist is blamed. We’re the receivers/living in a game” hints at highly probable misinformation spoon-fed to us by our own government.
‘Weapon’ features the cover art of graphic designer Steven R. Gilmore and is available for purchase. Tickets for the 29-date ‘Shapes for Arms’ tour are on sale now.
As Ogre says, “Come to the show; it’ll be cool.”
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