To those who don’t “get it,” Skinny Puppy tend to come across as some of the most confusing and scary noise of the past century… To those who do “get it,” the Vancouver-born, Los-Angeles-dwelling Industrial outfit have proven to be one of the most beautifully chaotic and haphazardly fun dance parties of that very same century. I recently got a chance to chat with cEvin Key, one of my childhood heroes and one-constant-half of the band. When I asked him to sum up, in a general sense, what have been the highlights of Skinny Puppy’s now-three-decade-long career, he tells me, “Probably just having our own personal freedom. We were never really serious about it and we never really expected it to get popular, which always allowed us to have a lot of freedom.” Skinny Puppy are relatively unique in that way. A lot of people found beauty and/or brilliance in them… and those fans would seem to be willing to follow them and their sounds to the darkest corners of the earth… but they never had quite the mass appeal that would force them to uphold or conform to any arbitrary standards of the day.
Skinny Puppy are currently entangled in a few different projects/releases. In May of this year they released Weapon, their twelfth studio album, which they have yet to properly tour. And 2014 will see the reissue of Skinny Puppy’s 2004 “reunion” (first in eight years) album, The Greater Wrong of the Right, (and on vinyl, no less) courtesy of our very own Metropolis Records. In addition, the band are embarking on a month-long tour that has them stopping at the Trocadero on February 13th. I ask Key what can be expected of this tour, wondering whether it will be primarily promoting their latest output, or celebrating The Greater Wrong of the Right, or simply a tour embodying the current interests of Key and primary (at least “popularly”) musical partner [Skinny Puppy’s] Nivek Ogre. He tells me, “We haven’t toured the US in a few years and we’ve made a couple of albums over the past couple of years. We’ll be promoting our newest album, but also picking some fan favorites to include.”
Key explains to me that the reissuing of The Greater Wrong of the Right (One of the band’s most recent, and possibly sonically concentrated, releases, resembling a perfectly cohesive, avant-garde and postmodern hard rock album.) was actually quite practical: “One of our European distribution deals was about to run out for it and Metropolis picked it up because they wanted to bring it to vinyl, which I think they did a miraculous job of.” When I press him for his thoughts on the album, ten years after its initial release, he admits, “I always change quite radically after I make records. Certain tracks I like more than others, but I try not to hold onto albums, in terms of having to ‘like it’ or not.”
In a bit of a contrast to The Greater Wrong of the Right, Weapon proves to be more experimental and momentary than some of Skinny Puppy’s most recent ventures, using a most transgressive and noisy brand of dance music to explore our age’s very brand of politically(in every sense of the word)-inspired violence. Key tells me that, “For Weapon we wanted to make an album more like we used to make albums, bringing in whatever’s on our own minds at the moment and recording it relatively quickly.”
In addition to Skinny Puppy, cEvin Key has been a work with a handful of other projects. In fact, when I ask him about his highlights of 2013, he tells me that he’s just enjoyed being busy, having recorded around four albums this year. This coming January Metropolis will release Scaremeister’s 31 Spirits, the debut of a project that Key has been working on for several years now with Ken Marshall, whom he has been working with since SK’s 1989 album, Rabies. The album is a scarily exciting and endearingly enjoyable take on the horror score… the scores of horror and action trailers, packing an epically dramatic narrative into the course of a minute or two (31 times). Their work has actually been found in trailers for blockbusters such as Transformers II, Book of Eli, and Inglorious Bastards, just to name a few, but this January will be the first chance to hear the tracks outside of the context of a trailer. Key tells me, “We’ve done work on movie soundtracks over the years, most often un-credited. It actually sort of reminds me of how we work on things in Skinny Puppy. When it comes to our writing process, we’ll work on short versions of the songs and we’ll make a not-full-fledged version of a song before deciding if we want to expand on it or not.” He also tells me that they’re already two or three libraries into Scaremeister, as this first is set to be officially released.
I ask cEvin Key what he’s most anticipating in 2014 and as much as he’s excited for the release of Scaremeister’s debut and Skinny Puppy’s live show, he’s not quite sure where the remainder of the year will take him.
“I’m definitely most excited for the tour. We restructured almost absolutely everything we do on tour and have an almost entirely new staff. There’s a new energy to come, which we’re really excited about. I’m really excited for the Skinny Puppy tour and then I go to Japan and play some shows with friends in April and… After that, I really don’t know (laughs).”