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

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A cyclist heads past an artistic sign onto Page Street, a Slow Street, at Stanyan Street near Golden Gate Park on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Push to make street closures permanent meets with resistance

Hastily thrown together during the pandemic, Slow Streets program now struggles to build support

Agnes Liang, who will be a senior at Mission High School, is running for one of the two student representative seats on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Turbulent year on school board leaves student delegates undeterred

Around this time last year, Shavonne Hines-Foster and Kathya Correa Almanza were… Continue reading

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Three people killed in SF shootings in less than 24 hours

San Francisco police were scrambling Saturday to respond to a series of… Continue reading

Muni operator Angel Carvajal drives the popular boat tram following a news conference celebrating the return of the historic F-line and subway service on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Mayor, transit officials celebrate return of Muni service

Mayor London Breed and city transit officials gathered Friday to welcome the… Continue reading

San Francisco police investigated the scene of a police shooting near Varney Place and Third Street on May 7. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFPD shooting may prompt new body camera rules for plainclothes cops

Police chief says incident ‘should not have happened’

Most Read