takes the lead on new Skinny Puppy project

By: Alex Veronac

We called industrial music icon Cevin Key in Los Angeles (USA) from Toronto (Canada), for an interview set up by Swedish distributor Playground in Stockholm (Sweden) via Skinny Puppy's label SPV in Hannover (Germany)...
Their first Skinny Puppy studio album since 1995 is to be completed by the end of January 2004. Cevin Key talks about the move back towards his early musical passion, commencing in 1983, and the new processes involved in recording Puppy's first fully digital record for their newly signed label SPV. Just outside of Los Angeles, Key's Subconscious (home) studio is the hub of the record's creation. We ask about the back catalogue and original contract with Nettwerk as well as the band's future upon the as yet untitled CD's release.

The famous comeback gig at Doomsday.

Skinny Puppy comes to breathe
After the heavy rains left Doomsday Festival 2000 awash at Ostragehege Stadion in Dresden, a new Skinny Puppy had been born. Members Cevin Key and Nivek Ogre previously met on occasion in Los Angeles but never spoke about their music before the build-up prior to Doomsday Festival. After reflecting that they both had much to offer left inside of them, it was realised that Puppy should live on.
– We're not prepared to die ourselves. I have to be confident and say that it's turning out as best as I can see and humanly possible, Cevin Key says.
On working without member Dwayne Goettel this time around, Key says:
– The main ingredients are still happening except that we can't of course replace Dwayne. I'm sure that he would approve of us moving forward and working with and collaborating with certain individuals that he would even have respect for. We're moving ahead in a reasonable Skinny Puppy type manner which would not wipe out any of the aesthetic of what we feel we've moved towards or tried to achieve already.
After the Doomsday gig, we find the new Puppy working on a new sound, intent not as a retro recording but following the past.
– Just by doing it we realised how much it meant to us. If we were to do more, it would be fun to... not just follow suit from where we left off. We thought, after Doomsday, Ogre has still a lot of performing that people would enjoy to see and be a part of. It's almost easier to continue on and be ourselves as Skinny Puppy than it is to create music for any of the other groups that we're in I think... The whole essence is that we can't change anything that happened in the past. We have to try pick up on things or just put it away.
They're following similar themes and commenting on politics, typical worldly topics and commentary that they've been known for.

Illustration by: Simon Paul

People will Dig It
Key has been very accessible via the web and openly stated that over the last number of years they were working with musicians that they've respected. Puppy had always been a band that enjoyed collaboration during the recording process and this was their plan for further progression. Key has been instrumental in focusing on the new Puppy product for almost two years now taking the lead in the coordinating its creation.
As the collaborations began, Key was using tracks created with Danny Carey (Tool), Statik (Collide), Otto von Shirach (Schematic) and Omar Torres (Hologram) from some one-on-one sessions. Of the 40 song demos completed, the bulk were singly written by Key himself. From the many demos that Ogre would listen to, the more appropriate songs for his lyrical content were selected to continue on.
We find Ken Marshall (The Dragon Experience) mixing and Mark Walk (Ohgr) helping with writing, production and even some guitar. Pat Sprawl from the Process Sessions also contributes some guitar to the new album as well.
Key admits as the vocals have forced hairs to stand on end at the back of his head upon listening to the newly completed tracks.
– The old Ogre is back. It's been a while. This feeling is definitely back on many levels. People are definitely gonna Dig It.

Ogre live at Doomsday.
Photo by: Alex Veronac

Recording digitally
How will the addition of collaborators affect the sound of the new record?
– To toss ideas around without having someone to bounce ideas off is to me, a one-sided event. So the collaborators have been tossing in opinions, variations and other things typical of Skinny Puppy... there's always been a certain amount of collaboration. It always essentially starts off as discussion and then it gets realised. With today's technology, we've moved in a direction where each of us has our own studio.
The several musicians were never present at the same time in the studio as many sound files were exchanged in different formats (Logic Audio, Digital Performer, Pro Tools & Nuendo) to those involved in this digital collective.
– The ideas end up here at Subconscious Studios and then, from here, it goes back to Ogre and Mark, and it changes quite radically again there because, as the arrangements get steered towards more supporting vocal arrangements and so on, and that can alter the direction of the music. So then it comes back to me, and then I'd would sit here and work on it for about a week after that when it has the vocals so it's quite a lengthy procedure. It then leaves me and it will go back to a group thing where it will be me, Ken and Mark where it goes to a Neve or something like that and a final mix out.
Three early recorded demo tracks with working titles were packaged onto CD while the band worked on attaining a new record deal. Key mentions it took about a year longer that he originally thought, as it was being shopped. These three tracks are now reworked from their original form for the new album. Puppy's contribution to the "Underworld" soundtrack CD, "Optimissed", was only a demo mix, he admits.
– It was not mixed the way we would normally do it.
It might show up completed as a B-side of a future release. Now, three unique new songs are complete with about twelve total picked for the new album package. Many new era Puppy demo tracks were initially composed and recorded by Key alone at Subconscious Studios. The album is in the final mixing stage with a few tracks fully completed and the working title has not been disclosed yet.
– The music will speak for itself, I think you'll be stoked!

Ogre, Key, Goettel. "Process" era.

Try to avoid previous mess
Key speaking to us from a warm Los Angeles, is very upbeat about the new record licensing contract with SPV sub label Synthetic Symphony. He feels all the points have been addressed in their licensing contract with the label.
– We'll be able to produce this album (laughs) without the noodlings and manipulations of the last situation which I think ended up messing things up for the band.
The band has new management and will have more dialogue with the type of promotion and press coverage they intend on getting (like with Release perhaps). Packaging of the new product is one of the items that Key is also proud of as the band has always been active in developing their image. He hopes to have a great product available for purchasers of the new music. American fans will be happy to know that SPV America will be stocking shelves at US retailers upon the new record's release in Spring 2004. SPV is looking to bulk up their American market presence, also with the new Front Line Assembly album.
– I see no better way than attacking SPV's US market with Skinny Puppy.
Key feels the licensing deal with SPV will place their music into more international markets than a conventional American label's distribution reach. The recent Subconscious "From the Vault" subscription series discs will not be re-released through SPV but a couple Puppy items might be made available at the merchanding tables on their upcoming tour.

Key says, buy Canadian if you can
We spoke about the vast back catalogue that Nettwerk Records permanently owns since next year will spark sales of older material to a newer audience.
– Let's just say we've had some issues that are totally unresolved.
20 years after their initial EP release, Nettwerk will not respond to their telephone calls regarding their now vintage recording contract.
– I think they pay us a dollar (on a sale) and they keep $6.
Due to the original contract with the label Puppy helped to build, Key comments that the band gets a higher royalty payment per back catalogue CD if the product is bought on Canadian soil. The Vancouver based label's agreement sees all countries outside of home country Canada as a foreign territory and pays the band considerably less per CD sold there. He feels the band is not getting a fair share of record royalties considering that of today's typical new artist's recording contracts.
– It's very, very not right considering the length of time we've been with them and also when we approach them they won't modify the situation to be just fair.

Photo by: Alex Veronac

2004 world tour; their most extensive
Genesis P-Orridge wasn't part of the band's recent activities this time around.
– The door was opened long ago. It hasn't happened so far for this album. I see him as part of the extended family. I think Genesis has a direction that he's following through as well. If we come together and we do some shows or something like that...
Key mentions that if Puppy were to have their project ready, they'd love to be a part of the RE-TG Industrial Music festival weekend in Camber Sands, UK, in May 2004. Differing from Doomsday fest set list, more older songs with the new songs featured. Four performers will likely be on stage during next year's planned Puppy tour reminding us of the Dave "Rave" Ogilvie camaraderie in past touring. Puppy plans on doing "a lot of dates" next year with older songs and many surprises thrown in. Key would welcome Carey to drum on the upcoming tour but his 2004 schedule probably wouldn't allow it. Lollapalooza has been in contact with the band but Puppy's aggressive 2004 schedule would not allow for the US based roadshowfest.
Bill Morrison (Ohgr, sixtynine) will be heavily involved in the Skinny Puppy live show visuals to be announced later. The band's hopes are to provide a glimpse of the tour experience in 2004 on a new DVD with some vintage footage included. For those not present at Doomsday 2000, the live reunion content will finally be packaged visually in a DVD in some form for all to see.
A new band website (skinnypuppy.com) with rarities and "goodies" might even offer the possibility of gig after party passes to Skinny Puppy club members. Key believes it won't be a problem reaching worldwide fans on this tour as it'll be their most extensive to date.
These are very exciting times indeed as a new Skinny Puppy history is being written and the dark scene might noticeably be transformed.

Read more

See our Spotlight on Skinny Puppy's Ogre.
See our review of Skinny Puppy's last major release here.
A huge Skinny Puppy feature, based upon a Cevin Key interview, can be found in the printed Release edition 1/96.