Sunday, March 12, 2023

Skinny Puppy "When Nothing is True... Anything is Possible" Final Tour with Lead Into Gold: Apr 6 - May 9

Following in the wake of punk and early new wave, industrial music culture bore many correspondences to its post-punk and gothic rock siblings, yet defined itself apart for the literal mechanics of its production and aesthetics. Globally a number of epicenters for the sound's earliest expression could be found in Berlin, Chicago, New York, London, and the major coastal cities of California. Most notably and formative for the sound and its culture, the German scene was the initial defining locus. Gathering around the Geniale Dilletanten Festival, and its burgeoning music and performance subculture through efforts largely spearheaded by Wolfgang Müller, the genre's origin immediately expanded outwards to encompass multimedia, performance art, print and literary works. In a span of half a decade, this thriving scene in the margins of the divided city, gave birth to such artists as Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Tödliche Doris, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, F.S.K., Mania D, Palais Schaumburg, Sprung Aus Den Wolken, Abwärts, and Malaria!. British labels like Some Bizarre, Mute and Throbbing Gristle's own Industrial Records, were concurrently at the epicenter the UK's own cross-pollination of performance, sound, visual art, theater and cultural action. These institutions were born of the contextual cultural moment of Thatcher's England, alongside protests from the labor class and the rise of underground Queer politics. In this environment, a corpus of varied interpretations of the industrial aesthetic and sound could be heard in the music of Test Dept., Coil, Psychic TV, Cabaret Voltaire, Whitehouse and Nurse With Wound. No better map to this decade's cultural continuum of overtly transgressive, (often) occult, outsider industrial music in the United Kingdom exists than David Keenan's "England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground".

The American continent saw its own variation on the form later harnessed by label's like Chicago's Wax Trax! Records. Their legacy, beyond just releasing a body of music that bred or came to influence more commercially successful acts of the 1990s, like Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy, Wax Trax! were defined by a then-radical business model. The revival of the label, by the daughter of its co-founder Julia Nash and her partner Mark Skillicorn, came in the heels of their 2017 documentary, "Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records". Again, acting as more than just the setting of a retail record store, and label with an atypical contract process, the environment its founders created a cultural locus of related aesthetics, sounds, values and lifestyles. This setting giving birth to the mid-to-late 1980s electro-industrial sound of Ministry, Meat Beat Manifesto, KMFDM, Front 242, and Controlled Bleeding. Further north, there was an affinity to be had with the concurrent Canadian scene largely released by Nettwerk Records, which issued albums from the influential Vancouver trio, Skinny Puppy, Australia's SPK, Severed Heads, and Toronto's Front Line Assembly. The duo of cEvin Key and Nivek Ogre as Skinny Puppy stood out from this set of artists for its use of an array of live instruments, treated samples, concrete sounds and media collage, as well as incorporating the use of "B-grade horror movie visuals", including fake blood and gore props, into their live performance spectacles. In advance of their very first release they were signed to a label deal with Nettwerk, and were invited to Vancouver's Mushroom Studios to work on the material which would become "Back & Forth". It was here that the group recruited Front Line Assembly's Bill Leeb to co-produce the EP and perform bass synth and backing vocal tracks.

The darkly electro and synth-horror albums, "Bites" and "Remission" would follow, with Leeb leaving in 1986 to pursue his Front Line Assembly project, and his replacement Dwayne Goettel stepping into the fray with, "Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse". This album and its 1987 follow-up "Cleanse Fold and Manipulate" would be the works that would both elevate and cement the Skinny Puppy sound and aesthetic. With graphics created by Nettwerk's in-house photographer and designer, Steven R. Gilmore, the cover art and accompanying music videos featured distorted images from horror films and pornography, news media and television snippets and abstract swathes of degraded printing artifacts and muted, dark color fields. The music would mirror these treatments, with horror movie samples and news media and social commentary dialog, often addressing the band's own fixation on the dehumanizing effects of the military industrial complex, cruelty, and animal rights activism. It was around this time that they enlisted producers to do remixes such as On-U Sound's Adrian Sherwoood for the developing industrial, goth, fetish alternative and countercultural club music scene, many of which were featured on the "Twelve Inch Anthology". A set of more dissonant, socially aggressive, and literal  politically-minded albums followed in 1988 and 1989, with the release of "VIVIsectVI", and "Rabies". With "Too Dark Park" and their final album of what is considered their classic electro-industrial era, 1992's "Last Rights", Skinny Puppy delivered two albums and a set of singles for "Tormentor", "Spasmolytic", and "Inquisition". Exhibiting such a refined and hard-hitting concentration of their sound set on the fringes of the genre, that there was seemingly no new territory left to explore.

After a thirteen year stretch, the band disbanded in 1996 with the release of "The Process" following Ogre's leaving on the eve of its release, and within a few months, Dwayne Goettel's death due to heroin use. Through their numerous side projects and collaborations of the 1990s, the remaining members continued to be active. Most notable among them was cEvin Key, Anthony Valcic, Phil Western, and Mark Spybey's Download project, which expanded their sound into the then thriving electronic music scene informed by labels like Rephlex and Warp Records. After nearly a decade, Skinny Puppy reformed in 2003 with producer Mark Walk and released their ninth album, "The Greater Wrong of the Right". This was followed by three albums in this new mode and configuration and numerous festival appearances, including Download Festival in France, Spain's Primavera Sound, and Leipzig's Wave-Gotik-Treffen. The first of which at the Doomsday festival in Germany, was detailed in, "Ain’t Dead Yet: An Interview with Skinny Puppy" on which Orge recalls; "Afterwards, we felt very energized and healed, putting water under the bridge, like it was a magical journey to get there. After we had done the show, we were sitting on a train to Prague and we said, “That was so much fun, we’ve gotta do some more. Maybe it would be more fun to not just do old, looking-backward shows, but make a new album and see where we would be now”. From this series of one-off festival shows, the current iteration of the band was born, and is now to conclude, with the When Nothing is True... Anything is Possible tour. In typically cryptic fashion for the band, announced as a lyrical stanza; "Withered bE this rope that smothers any hope and banG .. it’s been 40 Years .. ! .. all doGeared by memories formed through memory folds …these fevered dreams so far been told. When nothing is true?".