With their just-released new album, hanDover, Canadian electro-industrial pioneers Skinny Puppy have delivered their strongest artistic statement yet since reforming in the year 2000. Darkly cinematic, with moments of great beauty to be found amidst the usual Puppy brand of organized sonic chaos, hanDover represents a return to the darkly existential concerns characteristic of the pre-breakup unit (mainly comprised of vocalist Nivek Ogre, and multi-instrumentalist cEvin Key, along with late keyboardist Dwayne Goettel) and fully unites that vision with the progressive sonic experimentation of the reformed 2000s band.
Guttercandy recently talked to cEvin Key about the evolution of Skinny Puppy and in particular, about how he feels the band fits into the current musical landscape, and more specifically, his thoughts about some of the tracks on the excellent hanDover. Along the way, we also got to chat about Canada, Rammstein, Lou Reed and Metallica’s new project, and of course, cats! Read on!
GutterCandy: I first saw you guys in Windsor, Ontario, many years ago….
Cevin Key: That was ancient times! I remember that show because a bomb went off in my face!
GC: I do vaguely remember something odd happening at the show — I was just so happy Skinny Puppy was playing my hometown of Windsor, because usually bands just played across the river in Detroit.
CK: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I don’t think we ever played Windsor again, after that – always Detroit.
GC: How do you think being from Canada has colored your view of the U.S.? The band has done stuff critical of Bush-era policies, for instance.
CK: It’s kind of like watching the fish tank from the outside, then jumping in and experiencing it from the inside. I’ve been living in L.A. for about the last 13 years, so I dunno. I think we have a pretty sheltered, more protected type of existence in Canada, but at the same time, the pressure is still there. The pressure of the economy is what created a large part of what Skinny Puppy is all about. We were suffering from a bad economy in Vancouver at the time when we were starting — it was really hard to find jobs, there was not a lot of money, so I think we could relate to the position of anybody that doesn’t have anything, you know? Whether that be in America or Canada.
GC: How would you compare hanDover to the last couple of Skinny Puppy albums (The Greater Wrong of the Right  and Mythmaker ) since you’ve been back together?
CK: Definitely when we first reformed the band again, the concept was there to make Skinny Puppy … to re-form the basis of what it was about; really the whole discussion of it and eventual recording of it is idealized into a collaboration. It was really about testing the water with a bunch of different things, which eventually became the first album, Greater Wrong of the Right, and then with more fiddle, I believe, Mythmaker. But then I think that with the similarity, I’ll say, of the [current] economy of the U.S. and Canada [to] the time when we first started, [it] started catching up, so let’s say the pressure came on, and the variables in the band…. It’s now not about a collaborative project that we are starting, it’s now what we’re experiencing.
What I like about this album is definitely more about a personal experience, about the place of where we’re at. Instead of, “oh, let’s conceive what Skinny Puppy is and let’s bounce around the idea about it,” it’s truly to me about what Skinny Puppy should be, which is a barometer of what you’re feeling and the expression of it. To me, it’s more melancholic, it’s darker, it has more of the boundaries that a person that is a loner, that is in need of like, their record, which is what I feel Skinny Puppy was about in the past, these misfit feeling people who need that connection with something in the music biz. I feel that this album is truer to that sense of that….
GC: It struck me as being more organic.
GC: More about the individual, more existential feelings.