Skinny Puppy makes torturing music

COURTESY EMILIE ELIZABETH AND JOHN KRAWCanadian industrial band Skinny Puppy’s most recent recording is “Weapon.”

COURTESY EMILIE ELIZABETH AND JOHN KRAWCanadian industrial band Skinny Puppy’s most recent recording is “Weapon.”

When a recent Senate Intelligence Committee Report revealed that the CIA ran a hidden post-9/11 black site at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where prisoners were subjected to interrogation techniques that were tantamount to torture, the news didn’t shock Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre.

Two years ago, former Gitmo guard Terry Holdbrooks informed him that his band’s music had been employed to punish detainees there.

“They didn’t even use our actual recordings – they used bootlegs, so there was all sorts of hiss and distortion in the mix, which was probably even more disturbing to the person who was having it done to them,” says Ogre.

Given that Skinny Puppy – through definitive mid-1980s efforts like “Bites” and “Remission” – virtually created the gear-grinding industrial sound, Ogre responded aggressively, once provoked. First, he composed an entire album based on the incident, “Weapon,” which the group backs in The City this week.

Then he billed the U.S. government $666,000 for illegal usage of his material.

That’s his more merciful side. “Originally, we wanted to create an album to actually torture people,” he says. “We were going to learn everything we could about audible torture, use various frequencies, and even have a guidebook that went along with it. And the cover was going to be the invoice.”

Instead, “Weapon” features mechanical-spider artwork, and jarring juggernauts like “illisiT,” “survivalisto,” and the operatic closer “terminal,” plus a re-tooled “Remission”-era “solvent.”

It’s the group’s most commanding work in years. Initially, the treatise was met with silence.

“But in Arizona, we did one interview for the tour, and the story went viral,” Ogre recalls. “And honestly, I think it was a right-wing lash-out toward Obama, because he hadn’t done anything about Guantanamo, and shutting it was one of his promises. But in stories, we were called everything from ‘dark heavy-metal Canadian rockers’ to ‘Satanic Eskimo techno band.’”

Finally, BBC News weighed in on the Puppy plight, and contacted the Pentagon for an official statement.

“The Pentagon would neither confirm nor deny receiving my letter with our invoice,” says Ogre, laughing. “That was the best response I could have gotten, actually. And naturally, there were snarky online comments, like ‘I’d be tortured, just listening to Skinny Puppy, too!’”

Still, the group turned darkness into an uplifting concert.

The current tour features elaborate costumes, flickering TV screens, Go-Pro cameras, and a coyote taxidermy model named Cedric that’s become the band’s mascot. “The message is based on the trickle-up theory,” says Ogre. “That if you treat the smaller things better – like ants, bees, even bacteria – we might have a better world at the end of the day.”

IF YOU GO

Skinny Puppy

Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19

Tickets: $37.50 to $40

Contact: (415) 345-0900, www.axs.com

artsNivek OgrePop Music & JazzSkinny PuppyWeapon

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Courtesy Agustina Perretta/Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controversy during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

San Francisco supervisors are considering plans to replace trash cans — a “Renaissance” garbage can is pictured on Market Street — with pricey, unnecessary upgrades. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco must end ridiculous and expensive quest for ‘pretty’ trash cans

SF’s unique and pricey garbage bins a dream of disgraced former Public Works director

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

Most Read