Noah “Shark” Robertson interviews cEvin Key from Skinny Puppy (Amp Magazine)

A while back, I had the opportunity to Interview cEvin Key from Skinny Puppy…

Skinny Puppy is considered to be one of the founders of the electro-industrial genre, has inspired and influenced audiences all over the globe. When I ran across the opportunity to speak with one of the founders of the band, Cevin Key, and pick his brain; I pounced on the opportunity!

Date: (The following is the result of our phone interview done on 9/27/2011) This interview was featured in Amp Magazine…

Noah: How does it feel to be such an integral part of the electronic industrial music scene and to be considered one of the true pioneers of the genre?

Cevin: “It’s crazy to think about, there wasn’t really a scene when we started. There wasn’t really hardly anyone doing anything like this when we first got started. We really liked experimental music and we began messing with electronics and the productions of rhythm. Out of that came a new scene. We weren’t trying to create a scene, we were just mixing it up. Hip Hop wasn’t even around when Skinny Puppy was starting, we saw the birth of Hip Hop happen.”

Noah: What inspired you to experiment with electronics and begin incorporating it into your music?

Cevin: “There were bands that had interesting synthesizers and we paid attention to that…I realized I could express myself using Synthesizer. I also got exposed to
a lot of really good situations at a ripe young age…I was always listening to Pink Floyd and things like that growing up so…I remember being at a Yellow Magic Orchestra concert and I thought, “Wow, what an amazing thing this is!” I went and did some investigating which led me to other bands like Kraftwerk…that’s when I heard stuff by them like Showroom Dummies. I remember being at The Luv-a-Fair in Vancouver Canada. There were Japanese people running around in red plastic pants. I thought, “Wow, what’s going on here?!” It was in the 70’s so we hadn’t seen this yet. Very futuristic…mixture of punk and new-wavers…very ahead of its time…before goth even starting gelling. It was a great scene to be a part of. We could see the various types of music coming out and could see what was making people dance. I knew if I was gonna make music it would have to be a form of all this…”

Noah: Skinny Puppy’s music has been labeled many different ways, by many different people, how would YOU describe the music to someone who has never heard you before?

Cevin: “Audio Sculpture is what we used to say. We hate definitions…and that’s why every album is different. *thinks for a moment* “I would say electronic excursions of a dark nature.”

Noah: Skinny Puppy is widely regarded for their avid use of art and theatrics which embellishes the music. What inspires such dark imagery and lyrics?

Cevin: “We used to be obsessed with horror movies and we used a lot of the dialogue in those movies as inspiration. That was until sample clearance and copyright laws starting happening. We felt like we had taken all the clips that we wanted to be immortalized anyways. There’s literature out there that would be a major influence, especially with Ogre. We had historian friends that had spent numerous years in university and they were steering us through what had been done by who…and when and what they had they had acheived. It was like being coached by elders. They helped us to be more relevant….steer us in not being cheesy. Ogre had a vision as well…He had an interest in magic, illusions, and being a magician. He would break mirrors and take shards of glass…running them across his face…slashing his face open…way high intensity level!”

Noah: It’s amazing that Skinny Puppy has influenced an entire genre of music and paved the way for such legendary acts as Nine Inch Nails and countless others. Do you feel you’ve been given enough credit for pioneering this genre or do you feel these bands have essentially borrowed from your sound without giving proper credit?

Cevin: “We had Reznor as one of our opening acts on a tour we did…it was definitely crazy to witness him at quite a young age. He seemed to be borrowing from a number of artists like Al Jourgensen (Ministry) and Ogre (Skinny Puppy)…he was borrowing from quite a few people but he was writing in a way that was a more commercial style. He earned what he earned on his own and you can’t blame somebody for being in a certain scene and borrowing from those around them. I’m not jealous…I don’t look around and wait for somebody to look over and point and say, “Hey, look at me!” I saw Marylin Manson walking around on stilts at a show and I thought, “How boring!”…Ogre was doing that a long time ago…”

Noah: How do live crowd reactions differ from country to country? Are the European crowds drastically different from the ones here in the states?

Cevin: “Generally not too different, however in Germany there are much larger crowds…they seem to be stuck in a time capsule…it could be 1992 there! I really like the eastern block countries like Hungary and Czec Republic because they are so into it and it feels like going back in time there. In America it’s a completely different story and all the scenes are well carved out. In Europe it’s not like that, though.”

Noah: What has been your favorite tour experience, or wow moment in your career?

Cevin: “It’s hard to pinpoint one…we sort of group those as the pre-Dwayne and post-Dwayne eras…I kind of think of them as two separate entities. In 2000 we put the band (Skinny Puppy) back together…When I got the phone call I just laughed and I said, “Hey, you know one guys is dead right?” And they said, “Yeah, I know.” A lot of people were supporting us to make it happen though…Our return show was in Dresden Germany at an old communist-era skating/rehearsal outdoor area and the most torrential storm of storms just started coming down on everybody. The most gigantic thunder-clap happened during the show…if you’ve ever heard older Skinny Puppy albums, there are a few thunder-claps in there and it was amazing to hear it happen in real life. It really felt like the spirit of Dwayne was present. There were about 20,000 people there, one of the largest shows we ever did. I believe it was August 20th, 2000.”

Noah: You’ve actually been involved with many different music projects, can you tell us about some of your side projects over the years?

Cevin: “Download is one of my side projects with Phil Western…Mark Spybey and Dwayne Goettel (Skinny Puppy) were also involved with the project before Dwayne passed away several years ago. We just had an album come out on Metropolis Records entitled, HElicopTEr. We’ve been doing that project around 17 years with 10 albums out now. Also, PlatEAU, with Phil Western… similar to Download in some sense…we’ve got 6 albums out. Another is Tear Garden…25 years and 11 albums now. Hilt was a band we made 6 albums with, Dwayne was involved in that as well. There are other projects as well like Doubting Thomas and Banana Sloth, all of which can be checked out I have also starting to make synthesyzers with a euro rack format…these are module-by-module…collectible devices. I have a Modulator and an LFO released at the moment, they can be pre-ordered now.”

Noah: Are there any current bands that you listen to?

Cevin: “I listen to all sorts of stuff, all over the map. I just had to listen to all of Sun Ra’s material and listen to all 100 albums he’s been involved with. Great jazz musician…been going through a dub-steppy phase as well. Who doesn’t appreciate Skrillex these days?”

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