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Skinny Puppy are one of the most influential bands in the field of Electronic Music. However, their mainstream success has been modest at best (a few hits on the dance music charts during The Eighties). The impact of "Skuppy" comes primarily from the amount of artists they in turn have influenced.
The band was formed when Kevin Crompton (a.k.a. cEvin Key), drummer for the Synth Pop band Images In Vogue, got bored with making Synth Pop and wanted to make new and groundbreaking Electronic Music. He got his friend Kevin Ogilvie (a.k.a. Nivek Ogre), to provide vocals. Along the way, various other members have provided the role of third member, such as Bill Leeb (who went on to form Front Line Assembly), and most famously Dwayne Rudolph Goettel (who died of a heroin overdose in the mid-90s, causing the band to break up for almost a decade), and most recently Mark Walk.
Skinny Puppy are widely considered the band responsible for the more popular vibe Industrial has today, as opposed earlier Industrial, which was largely inaccessible to the average audience. Basically, they took the experimental and bizzare approach pioneered by bands such as Throbbing Gristle and applied it to almost-entirely electronic music. Unsurprisingly, their first releases, "Remission" and "Bites" (their first full album, released in 1985), sounded like experimental, angry Synth Pop. Think of Skinny Puppy as "Kraftwerk (Trope Maker for Synth Pop) + Throbbing Gristle (Trope Maker for Industrial)" and you'll have a good idea of what they sound like.
Skinny Puppy were not the first band to take Throbbing Gristle's attitude and approach Electronic Music with it. Arguably, Throbbing Gristle did this (albiet their work was more eclectic and less electronic than Skinny Puppy's), and Cabaret Voltaire (as well as many other acts associated with early 80's Synth Pop) did it as well. But Skinny Puppy took these ideas into much Darker and Edgier territory and were easily the most influential partly because they had a truly gruesome stage act and never refrained from the use of High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
The band's second album, "Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse," added Dwayne Goettel to the lineup. Goettel was a classically-trained keyboardist who also had a knack for extremely demented synthesizer and sampler programming. This is the classic lineup that defined the band during their golden age.
Their output was released on the Nettwerk record label and managed to influence a very large number of artists. One of these artists was Trent Reznor, who decided to combine Skinny Puppy's style with heavy riffs and rock-style vocals and lyrics (and, at times, increased use of guitars). The result was Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor himself acknowledges his inspiration, and the song "Down In It" off of "Pretty Hate Machine" is very similar to Skinny Puppy's "Dig It" from "Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse." At one point in Trent's early career, Nine Inch Nails was the opening act for Skinny Puppy.
In 1989, Skinny Puppy released the album "Rabies," which was (upon release) considered a New Sound Album because it contained metal-style guitar riffs on three tracks, courtesy of Ministry's Al Jourgensen (who had struck up a friendship with Nivek Ogre when the two bands were touring together). In hindsight however, most Skinny Puppy fans have got over the 'surprise' and embraced the album, partly because the song "Worlock" is considered one of Skinny Puppy's Crowning Moments and to this day remains one of their Signature Songs. Unfortunately, it was during this era that Al introduced the band to heroin.
In 1990, the band released "Too Dark Park," which is arguably considered their artistic high point by the majority of their fans. The album is not the most bizzare and innaccessible of their works (that honor is reserved for 1988's "VIVIsectVI" (pronounced "Vivisect Six")), but it manages to approach it, with tighter songwriting, catchy basslines, and surprising sonic range that went from pure Mind Rape rhythmic noise (songs like "Convulssion") to dark ambient (like "Reclaimation") to danceable, melodic and bizzare industrial (like "Tormentor") to darker and more minimal industrial (like "Nature's Revenge") to going between all these various different styles within the same song (like "Shore Lined Poison").
In 1996, the band suffered Creator Breakdown after switching to a new label. They released what was believed to be their final album, "The Process" (a Concept Album about a psychotherapy cult known as the Process Church of Final Judgement), after Dwayne Goettel's fondness for heroin caught up with him and left him as a corpse in his parent's house.
In the early 2000's, Skuppy did a one-off reformation show in Dresden at that "Doomsday" festival. The two Kevins performed in front of a screaming crowd of goths and rivetheads; they left a spare spot on stage for Dwayne out of respect. This reformation resulted in new albums; 2004's "The Greater Wrong Of The Right" followed by 2008's "Mythmaker." and 2011's much delayed "hanDover", which incorporated more minimalist IDM elements.
Tropes Applicable To Skinny Puppy
- The Band Minus the Face - Subverted during their live reunion in Dresden; it was The Band Minus The Keyboardist.
- Banned From MTV - The above-mentioned "Worlock" video because all the film clips are the nasty bits from various horror flicks.
- Canon Dis Continuity - The "Too Dark Park" backing videos: the band made 14 high quality music videos songs performed on the "Too Dark Park" tour, most of which were songs that lacked an official video. Many fans consider the videos (God Gift Maggot, Tin Omen, etc) to be official music videos for said songs, a view not shared by the band sadly.
- Concept Album - The Process is about a religious cult called The Process Church Of Final Judgement. Last Rights is a loose concept album based around life and death as well.
- Creator Breakdown - Last Rights and The Process; the former was written and recorded when Nivek Ogre's heroin addiction pretty much reached critical mass and the lyrics reflect this. The Process meanwhile was a major debacle as far as keyboardist Dwayne Goettel's own heroin addiction ultimately overwhelming him and ultimately taking his life, as well as massive squabblings with the band and its label and climaxing with cEvin Keye and Nivek Ogre dissolving the band over the two being divided on whether or not to produce the mainstream Nine Inch Nails-type album that the label was demanding from them.
- Darker and Edgier - The basic concept of their work is Darker and Edgier (in the sense of being more bizzare and experimental) Synth Pop.
- Deleted Song - "Left Handshake", (aka "Song 10"), omitted from their "Last Rights" album because they couldn't get permission to use a lengthy sample of Timothy Leary's voice (Leary himself was fine with it, incidentally, but he did not own the rights to the sample). The original CD shipped with track 10 clocking in at 0:00 and with the liner notes reading SONG 10 IS MISSING? It later surfaced as a limited-edition single and has since been widely bootlegged.
- Development Hell - "hanDover" languished here for quite some time.
- Eighties Hair - Yes.
- Epic Riff - The strings during the chorus of "Worlock."
- Epic Rocking: The live noise jam "Spahn Dirge" is 16 1/2 minutes long.
- Follow the Leader - The Lighter and Softer sound of The Process was intended by American Recordings to capitalize on the success of Nine Inch Nails.
- Freudian Trio: Especially in this interview, it's easy to see Ogre as The McCoy, cEvin as The Spock and Dwayne as The Kirk.
- Gaia's Vengeance - Nature's Revenge
- Gorn - The stage show and most of the music videos. And sometimes the lyrics.
- Improv - A frequently-used compositional technique. Often done on drugs in a process the band called "Brap."
- Indecipherable Lyrics - And HOW!
- Instrumentals - "Riverz," "Stairs And Flowers," other examples.
- Last-Note Nightmare - Inverted with the album Last Rights. The majority of the album is dissonant, terrifying industrial noise, but the last several minutes of the song "Download" (the last song on the album) are serene ambient music that you could probably sleep to.
- Lighter and Softer - Arguably their best songs, "Worlock," "Testure," "Nature's Revenge" are all more accessible than the majority of their songs and these songs are generally fan favorites.
- The Process and The Greater Wrong of the Right combine this with New Sound Album.
- Mind Rape - What many of their songs can induce.
- Mood Whiplash - "Scrapyard" has a break in the song with a sample from the move Uncle Buck of Buck getting beaned by a bowling ball. And then the song restarts in all its nightmarish glory.
- New Sound Album - "Rabies" was originally seen as one, but now isn't. "The Greater Wrong Of The Right" is one however.
- One of Us - Their names are/were Kevin, Kevin and Dwayne, and all of them are complete technology geeks. Yep, they're One of Us.
- One Steve Limit - Averted. The band has two Kevins.
- Pun-Based Title - Frequently. "Lust Chance", Last Rights, "Knowhere?", VIVIsectVI (an association of vivisection with Six Six Six), etc.
- Sampling - Of any bizzare sound (but rarely other songs). Said sample is then warped to be made even more insane, then is spliced together with all the nasty bits from various Italian horror films, THEN a drumbeat and bassline are added, THEN you have a Skinny Puppy song.
- Scary Musician, Harmless Music - Subverted. Their appearance is frightening, but their rig appears harmless... until they play it.
- Sdrawkcab Name - Nivek Ogre.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll - Subverted, in that they're more Drugs Drugs And Industrial. Deconstructed tragically when Dwayne Goettel died of a heroin overdose. This deconstruction is subverted in a blackly comic fashion by the fact Goettel's overdose occurred in his parent's house rather than in an expensive hotel room or a supermodel's bedroom. One of Us indeed.
- Signature Song - "Worlock" to name just one.
- Stage Names - Kevin Crompton = cEvin Key, Kevin Ogilvie = Nivek Ogre
- Stock Scream: A somewhat common female scream is used in the track "Brap" on Remission.
- Surreal Music Video - All of their music videos are this as well as High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
- Theremin - Occasionally one of these is used.
- Torture Cellar - Skinny Puppy is the soundtrack for locales such as these.
- Troubled Production - The Process
- Video Full of Film Clips - "Worlock."
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs? - Subverted. Most of it was made on drugs and a copious quantity thereof.
- Word Salad Lyrics - All the time.
- X Meets Y - Their sound is arguably Throbbing Gristle meets Kraftwerk.