Inspiration is where you find it. Just ask growly Skinny Puppy front-fiend Nivek Ogre. Two years ago, while on tour with his side project ohGr, he was trying to come up with a theme for the band's next record. That's when he was contacted by former Guantanamo guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr., who informed him that Skinny Puppy music was being used to torture prisoners there.
"We learned that they didn't even use our actual recordings," says the industrial-music trailblazer. "They used old bootlegs. So there was all sorts of hiss and distortion in the mix, which was probably even more disturbing to the person who was having it done to them."
This prompted Ogre to do two things. One, the Canadian actually sent the United States government a $666,000 invoice for illegal use of his recordings. And two, he shaped Holdbrooks' horrific revelation into Skinny Puppy's latest audio treatise. A gut-punching return to Remission form, the aptly title Weapon features socio-political salvos like "terminal," "IllisiT," "paragUn," and a re-tooled version of the vintage mangler "solvent."
Daunting as it may sound, this is actually a more palatable, sonically safer Mach 2 version of Weapon.
"Originally, we wanted to create an album to actually torture people," beams Ogre. "We were going to do various frequencies and learn everything we could about audible torture, and then have a guidebook that went along with it. And the cover itself was going to be the invoice for $666,000."
The story went viral and soon the BBC was contacting the Pentagon for an official statement. "The Pentagon said it could neither confirm nor deny receiving my invoice, and that was the best response I could have gotten."
The controversy ended up giving the band a new focus and sense of purpose. At the time, founding keyboardist cEvin Key was hoping to push the band in a more textural direction.
But Ogre wanted to boomerang back to the Vancouver collective's early '80s origins, when it laid the metallic cable for all future industrial-movement transmissions, including those from Nine Inch Nails. Holdbrooks' revelation provided the ammunition he'd been needing.
Skinny Puppy's current tour expands on the theme of man's inhumanity to man. It's an elaborate stage production that features GoPro cameras, Swamp-Thing-camouflage costuming, a violent video-screen assault, and a taxidermist's coyote that the group has named Cedric.
The underlying message? "It's all based on a trickle-up theory," Ogre says. "If you treat the smaller things better in this world — and I mean the tiniest things, like ants, bees, even bacteria — we might have a better world at the end of the day."
Ironically, the decidedly leftist Ogre believes the Far Right played a role in his band's increased notoriety.
"Honestly, I think our story went viral because it was a right-wing lash-out towards Obama," he reckons. "They used us, because he hadn't done anything about Guantanamo, and shutting it had been one of his promises. In the stories, we were called everything from 'Dark Canadian heavy-metal rockers' to 'Satanic Eskimo techno band.'
"So it was good for us. But still very, very strange."