Nivek Ogre, dressed in ebony from his spiky hair down to his scuffed army boots, looks like the Grim Reaper — so threatening that he might rob the Hollywood café where he’s doing an interview to promote his new recording.
The frontman forindustrial-rock pioneers Skinny Puppy is in a mood every bit as dark. It’s been a tough couple of years for the Vancouver-bred Ogre (born Kevin Ogilvie), an avid animal lover who recently lost one dog to lung cancer, his favorite cat to a liver tumor and his pet wolf to a pit bull attack.
Compounding that was a serious health scare last year, when Ogre’s white blood cell count dropped alarmingly low for several months.
Meanwhile, a close relationship was splintering — he won’t name names — a situation, he says, "where someone went farther than anybody I’ve known in trying to demonize me, even going as far as to say that I beat my animals. Someone who swore they were such a sensitive person, when in reality they’re a complete and utter monster."
What’s a ghoul to do but pen an entire album about his soul-searing experiences?
"Mythmaker" — the 13th salvo in Skinny Puppy’s 25-year career, which hits stores next Tuesday — turns grief into gold, with the vocoder-warped Ogre snarling through the apocalyptic synthscapes of co-founding keyboardist cEvin Key (with the singer’s partner in side project ohGr, Mark Walk, on bass).
His rage rises up through the unusually melodic miasma in anthems such as "Pedafly," and the gear-grinding "Politikil" — which is featured on the upcoming "Jackass" video game — putting this Puppy right back at the head of the Nine Inch Nails pack it originally whelped.
Ogre believes "Mythmaker" is the best work he’s done since 1990’s definitive "Too Dark Park." And his outlook has even started to brighten. Somewhat.
To rationalize "how people that you put a lot of faith in will easily sell you down the river to protect themselves, my mantra now to get me through the day is ‘Everybody is exactly where they’re supposed to be,’" he says.
He’ll also freely admit that angst and anger are the kibbles and bits that have kept Skinny Puppy alive, beginning with the early shows that involved anti-vivisectionist films and puppet shadow plays. But this shock-savvy showman isn’t as sinister as he appears.
He can’t resist adopting charity-case pets, the kind most folks might overlook.
He talks about being in a park, finding a "dog, just running, going nowhere. It was part Boston terrier, it had no hair on its ears, looked completely blind, and was doing this thing like Linda Blair, growling and shaking its head with snot pouring out of its nose."
He says, "I took the dog home, her eyesight started coming back, she doesn’t have those attacks anymore and she’s grown back all the hair on her ears. I call her Bat-Bat, and I’ve started a MySpace page for her called Blurry Dotted I’s. I’ve made blurry, low-grade video footage of her searching through my apartment, showing life through her eyes."
He smiles, "And it’s gonna segue into the ohGr record — she’s such an amazing dog, I’m gonna call it ‘Blurry Dotted I’s.’"