Nivek Ogre perched on a boulder near his home in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo by Chad Elder.
In addition to logging time with parent-repellers like KMFDM and Ministry, Nivek Ogre (né Kevin Graham Ogilvie) is best known as the guttural screech that is synonymous with Skinny Puppy, who arguably invented electro-industrial in the early 80s. This pedigree, coupled with a history of serious drug use and a penchant for slitting his throat onstage, has led generations of depressed teenagers who are curious about things like Anton LaVey and animal sacrifice to embrace Ogre’s macabre worldview: one in which we are all currently coasting along on a dying sphere, counting down the hours until life on Earth is made impossible due to human stupidity, negligence, and aggression.
This month marks the release of Skinny Puppy’s 15th record, Weapon, which features a giant spider made of guns, bombs, and knives on the cover and a quote from atom-bomb developer J. Robert Oppenheimer in its liner notes. I recently spoke with Ogre about such joyful matters as the Fukushima meltdown, mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, and the giant “Machiavellian death shroud” that imprisons us all.
VICE: Here’s an almost stupidly obvious question to start with, but I’m curious: Why did you call your new record Weapon?
Nivek Ogre: I recently came to this weird gestalt in my mind that everything we do has the potential to either harm or cause good. This is a choice we all make with every action. But I view the human being primarily as a weapon, and a lot of the things that we’ve created have had disastrous effects on us as a species. Guns are a tiny element of a much larger iceberg that’s latticed throughout history.
Did the Newtown massacre spark this record?
No, this started way before: March 11, 2011, when Fukushima melted down. It was at that point that I began to view abstract things as weapons. Right now we’re being inundated with a huge amount of radiation, so much so that in April, the EPA relaxed the amounts of radioactive iodine-131 allowed in water in the event of a radiological disaster like Fukushima. It was three picocuries per liter, now it’s 81,000 picocuries per liter. Now here we’ve got a huge Machiavellian death shroud being pulled over people, all based on nuclear power, and the underlying reason for that energy system is a weapons system. My question here is this: What inhuman force could possibly allow this atrocity to take place?
Speaking of inhumanity, I’ve read that Jeffrey Dahmer once came to a Skinny Puppy show. Is that true?
Yeah. Apparently Dahmer came to a show in Milwaukee to stalk a victim. I heard it from some people at a hotel I was staying at. We were playing a club that was sort of a gay and straight club. He would hang out there, stalking his victims.
Getting back to the record, I keep listening to the second track, “illisiT.” In the chorus you keep repeating, “This is the Criminal Age.” Considering you started your career at the height of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, do you really think of 2013 as any more criminal than the early 80s?
Absolutely. At least during the Cold War, the military-industrial complex kind of trickled down [laughs], and that’s why there was this huge boom in the middle class. I’m not a proponent of this, but at least people’s day-to-day lives were a bit better, and there was a glimmer of hope. But if the 70s and 80s were the Plastic Age, today we’ve entered an age where we’re openly embracing criminality. Although there’s apparently less death from wars these days, so I guess we’re living in a comparatively more peaceful time. People are living longer.
I’m really worried about the average lifespan increasing, honestly. I’m concerned that people living longer is profoundly unhealthy, and creates a pretty serious strain on the economy—
Oh, you shouldn’t go there, Ben. You’re talking about eugenics.
That’s not what I mean, though.
No, I know. And look, I almost agree with you. There is a dark side of me that thinks that if we were all living like cavemen, things would be better. That’s for your generation to figure out. I feel like I’m fucking tipping the scales here at 50.
Weapon is out this month on Metropolis Records.