Paradigm Shift Interview by Philip H. FarberOgre is best known as the vocalist for industrial music legends Skinny Puppy. In May of this year, he joined forces with Invisible Records founder and Pigface drummer Martin Atkins to create a project original called Ritalin. The album, titled "Bedside Toxicology," however, was released under the name Rx. Created over a period of eight months in both Chicago and London, "Bedside Toxicology" not only represents a new direction for both Ogre and Atkins, but is Ogre's first release since Skinny Puppy's final album, The Process, in 1996.
PHF: Is the project called Ritalin or Rx?
Ogre: Whoever wants to call it Ritalin can call it Ritalin. For legal reasons, obviously, it's called Rx. Originally, I wanted to test the waters, so to say, about free speech and being able to talk about a product. But when a product or product name becomes a property, it becomes a little more difficult. I want to test the ability of an artist -- there should be freedom to really say what you want about things. If I want to do a one-off project called Ritalin in order to draw attention to Ritalin, I should be able to do that. Within the confinement of Invisible [Records] and their limited resources where it would come to actually fighting a case like that in the courts, it became obvious that that was an impossibility at this time. Maybe one day when I have a lot of disposable income and I want to test that theory, I'll do it, but for this project, with us trying to get other people to talk about Ritalin, it's got a nickname of Ritalin and perhaps less attention is spent on Ritalin and more attention is put on the Rx symbol.
PHF: What's your interest in drawing attention to Ritalin?
Ogre: My wife did a paper on the use of antidepressants on children. That segued for me into the use of Ritalin. I talked to a lot of kids. I know some mothers at this point in my life, from people I used to party with, who have put their children on Ritalin. I explored that avenue. My brother is a doctor and I explored his take on Ritalin and talked to some kids I met here who were put on Ritalin when they were younger, and the demographic shows this scary curve of people who are transfixed with maintaining their material lifestyle, and won't let anything get in the way with that. They won't take the time, when their child shows some signs of Attention Deficit Disorder. Instead of looking at maybe dietary problems, or really trying to dig into the problem, they'll use the quick fix of Ritalin. My wife was doing a paper on antidepressants in the developing brain and whether or not we've had enough time spent with those substances. That class of drugs, for example, can be really helpful to some people, but at the same time the effects on a developing brain on still unknown. They are starting to package those drugs in flavored syrups and more palatable delivery systems. That kind of put me off a little bit.
I tried Ritalin before I did this project, and it's really a kind of nasty, horrible thing and should be put to sleep.
PHF: I know some people in the psychology field who are very opposed to it, right now.
My brother won't prescribe it to anybody. It's just one of those bad drugs that are out there making a lot of money. Again, it has to do with the way access is being given. The key is unlocking the door to abused children, to a certain degree, in terms of it being a quick fix.
PHF: How did you start working with Martin Atkins on this?
Ogre: I did work with Pigface, then I worked with Martin on The Process. We toured on The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and we became friends on that tour, then worked on some Pigface records off and on. That was really sporadic and kind of one-off recording sessions. I toured with Pigface quite a bit for a while. I seemed to be out on the road all the time for a portion of my life. Then I was working with a friend of his who had come down on The Process sessions, Mark Wauk, and we were working up in Seattle on some material for American Recordings. Due to the turmoil from Skinny Puppy itself and the label going into a tailspin itself, that got shelved. I was ready to pack it in.
I went through a slump artistically and really kind of undermined myself after that debacle. I chose to hide out for a while. Martin approached me about doing this record as a one-off thing. Mark and I were still pursuing a label, and are still pursing a label, for the WELT stuff, which will be coming out under a different moniker. This happened naturally over a period of time because we were both doing different things. He went out on a Pigface tour, I think I went out on a KMFDM tour.
PHF: The press release that accompanied the album said that you were working to "creatively invert the genre." What does that mean?
Ogre: I think what it means... my interpretation is that it's a press release saying that we're obviously screwing things up within the genre and taking it to some different place that it was maybe stuck from getting to. I suppose. "Invert the genre" is to kind of stand it on its head a little bit. From that perspective, I guess I see it as taking a lot of side roads and off roads and doesn't really stick to the tried and tested and true industrial pattern, which, to a certain degree, I see as being kind of limiting in a lot of ways. A lot of the bands that I hear now that are doing industrial music sound like the clanking chains of the past. Some medieval torture room... That's just from my own perspective. I think Ritalin, for me, as well, isn't a really modern sounding record, in the sense that it was done quite low-tech and it was done with a lot of elements from an old school perspective. It's just that it's got a lot of melodic vocals. It's got elements to it that maybe have appeared in music I've done in the past, certainly in Skinny Puppy, but have been more under the surface.
PHF: It seems like you might even be looking back further than the history of industrial music, with the Syd Barrett cut and "Downtown."
Ogre: Those are two things that have been haunting me since I was quite young. Well, not quite young. Syd Barrett I discovered in the late '80s. A friend of mine who is dead now, who committed suicide, turned me on to Syd Barrett. He was kind of my inspiration for getting into music. At a time when all this stuff was happening again, when I had this two-year break, break from reality, whatever, I found comfort in just picking up a guitar and playing those songs. So Syd Barrett became something I wanted to include in the whole package, especially when there was that much freedom to kind of go all over the place. "Downtown" was the same. It was a song from my childhood. It always kind of gave me a creepy feeling when I was young, and that kind of transposed into a metaphor for drugs, in a lot of ways, which is what the song sounds like now. It's a bit of a heroin metaphor.
PHF: You also did "The Crackhead Waltz" along similar lines.
Ogre: Yeah, that was something that was a loop that was so fucked up that it required something lyrically that was just as fucked up. At the time I was reading "Geek Love" by Katherine Diamond. That's where the inspiration for that came from, to a certain degree. As well, we were driving to some shitty restaurant in Chicago one night for some greasy, shitty food, and I burst out something about "Crackhead Waltz." That seemed to be the right impetus for what came after that. That was totally experimental and totally right off the borderline.
PHF: How has the Skinny Puppy contingent responded to this?
Ogre: I don't know. I don't pay much attention to it. There's always going to be two sides within the Skinny Puppy camp, unfortunately. Well, actually, three sides. There's people who still feel like there's some sort of feud between Kevin and myself, and they'll pick sides based on that. There's people that expect industrial music to always be heavily bass drum/snare drum driven with arpeggiators and totally distorted vocals, and that's something to content with, too. I think, overall, relative to who else listens to it and who cares about it, the concept of the album for me was to kind of escape whatever change would hold me back into a certain phase of my life and stretch into new areas.... It's just something we did and it was quite liberating.
PHF: For the ones who think there's still a feud between you and Kevin... is there?
Ogre: No, not really. I've seen him out at Bauhaus. It's time to go on... We're not going to be sitting down and putting out music again, but we certainly have let go of a lot of that anger that was around. What's the point of having it? It's just useless energy.
PHF: I've been a participant on the Process mailing list for a while... Genesis P-Orridge told me that you had asked for a demonstration of how sorcery works and got one. Is that it?
Ogre: To a certain degree, Gen showed me that you can manifest things. It was, in essence, a bit of Magick 101, in a lot of ways. We worked out a doctrine and put something up and from all of that, something was woken. Something rose up and came back to meet the call. That was really interesting. It was probably one of the most interesting projects I've done in my life. To this day, it's still one of the most interesting. I still delve into, and I still have contacts from that and I still utilize that whole experience. It was incredible. I think from where it's digressed to, I think to certain degree what may have happened within the Process and took 5 or 6 years to happen, happened on the Internet very quickly. The schisms and the arguments and the silly flamewars and the trite concepts that passed back and forth. That's what ultimately may or may not have had an effect on what that mailing list was for. Or what the web site was for. The web site did its job. The web site connected with people and brought back to life a certain side of the Process that was dormant. Once we made contact with those people, we turned it all over to them. It is rightfully theirs. And yet we totally retained our part within the Process. I ended up making some very nice contacts from the whole thing.
PHF: Do you keep tabs on what happens with the mailing list?
Ogre: No. Brion Gysin would always say that things would pass from hand to hand and my interest in the more esoteric side of things is more directly enabled by hand to hand passing. I find the Internet very interesting, but I just find it very confused right now.
PHF: That it is. Do you foresee any other projects of that nature?
Ogre: I started recording again with Mark Wauk, with the WELT stuff. That's going to be my real solo project, I think. Most of that work from 1995, which is in Rick Rubin's vaults right now, I'm trying to approach him with some way, means, or reason to resurrect some of that stuff. We're righting new material now. We just did a remix on the Skinny Puppy remix record that Nettwork is putting on... We actually reconstructed Smothered Hope, because the tapes were lost, and I'm really happy how that turned out. So that's coming up, and within that there will probably be a tour. I think there will be the means to do that properly. So another project will arise out of that that will be somewhat media-based, that will have some trappings to what has come, and will obviously manifest into something new.
PHF: Any manifestations of that that people should be alert for?
Ogre: I think once the Skinny Puppy remix record comes out, you'll get an idea of how the door is opening into another area with the Smothered Hope remix and stuff like that. I think that's the first transmission from this new thing. Everything else is totally conceptual and in my head right.
Music by Ogre.