Nivek Ogre Is Totally Doomed – Skinny Puppy’s Front Man Is Obsessed with Weapons
In addition to logging time with parent-repellers like KMFDM and Ministry, Nivek Ogre (né Kevin Graham Ogilvie) is best known as the guttural screech that is synonymous with Skinny Puppy, who arguably invented electro-industrial in the early 80s. This pedigree, coupled with a history of serious drug use and a penchant for slitting his throat onstage, has led generations of depressed teenagers who are curious about things like Anton LaVey and animal sacrifice to embrace Ogre’s macabre worldview: one in which we are all currently coasting along on a dying sphere, counting down the hours until life on Earth is made impossible due to human stupidity, negligence, and aggression.
This month marks the release of Skinny Puppy’s 15th record, Weapon, which features a giant spider made of guns, bombs, and knives on the cover and a quote from atom-bomb developer J. Robert Oppenheimer in its liner notes. I recently spoke with Ogre about such joyful matters as the Fukushima meltdown, mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, and the giant “Machiavellian death shroud” that imprisons us all.
VICE: Here’s an almost stupidly obvious question to start with, but I’m curious: Why did you call your new record Weapon?
Nivek Ogre: I recently came to this weird gestalt in my mind that everything we do has the potential to either harm or cause good. This is a choice we all make with every action. But I view the human being primarily as a weapon, and a lot of the things that we’ve created have had disastrous effects on us as a species. Guns are a tiny element of a much larger iceberg that’s latticed throughout history.
Did the Newtown massacre spark this record?
No, this started way before: March 11, 2011, when Fukushima melted down. It was at that point that I began to view abstract things as weapons. Right now we’re being inundated with a huge amount of radiation, so much so that in April, the EPA relaxed the amounts of radioactive iodine-131 allowed in water in the event of a radiological disaster like Fukushima. It was three picocuries per liter, now it’s 81,000 picocuries per liter. Now here we’ve got a huge Machiavellian death shroud being pulled over people, all based on nuclear power, and the underlying reason for that energy system is a weapons system. My question here is this: What inhuman force could possibly allow this atrocity to take place?
“They hid the guns when they saw an army helicopter,” the interpreter says. “They say they need the guns to protect the remaining tower. They knew we’d take their guns if they told us they had them. They are sorry for this. They want to know if they can keep the IED and show it to their employer.”
“What the fuck kind of question is that?” the lieutenant says. “No they fucking can’t keep it.”
What is the story behind the Iceage branded knives you were selling?
Johan: [Laughs] It’s amazing what a crazy big thing these knives have become. It was just an idea our friend in the US had that would just be a strange merch thing to do. And we were like, “Yeah, that sounds like fun.”
You weren’t slightly concerned that somebody might get stabbed or an accident might happen?
Johan: Yeah. But if someone stabs someone, I don’t think they’re doing it spontaneously. They’re not just spontaneously going to stab someone with an Iceage knife.
Jakob: Also, those knives are really small. If I wanted to stab somebody, I’d probably use another knife.
Johan: You could still stab a person with it, but it’s not like you can’t get knives anywhere else.
But doesn’t it concern you to be associated with weapons?
Johan: I didn’t see it as a weapon. I don’t know, I can see the stupidity of doing it; it is in some ways kind of idiotic. But we haven’t sold many of them, and we didn’t make a lot of them.
Assuming somebody was stabbed, even if you have faith that your audience wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t you admit that it’s risky?
Johan: Yeah, but then I would also say that any fan of ours could take another knife that didn’t have our logo on it and stab someone. Are you referring to a situation where someone has bought one of our knives and all of a sudden thinks it’s a good idea to stab someone?
–Talking About Knives & Fascism with Iceage
In December, the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, threw the country into a deep depression, followed by a fiery debate about guns. As January brought the US six more school shootings, many “solutions” were proposed, from arming janitors to banning all guns, while companies hawking bulletproof blazers, suits, and even children’s clothes saw sales skyrocket. One of these vendors, Amendment II, has bulletproof backpacks starting at $300. I called company president Derek Williams to ask if business was still booming.
VICE: I assume from your company’s name that you really love the Second Amendment?
Derek Williams: We’re trying to develop products that save lives, but we all are concealed-weapons carriers, and we all believe firmly in the right to bear arms.
Do you feel that selling body armor somehow encourages people to buy more guns?
I can see that from outward appearances, it looks like we’re promoting the Second Amendment by selling body armor. But there is really no causal relationship between body armor and shootings other than the fact that the increase in shootings has caused people to want body armor. The reason I stress that is that we’ve had a lot of hate mail from those who say that we’re contributing to the problem of gun violence.
You sell something called “designer armor.” What does that mean?
We can bulletproof anything you’ve got: jackets, dress shirts, things like that. Prices are high—some items cost $2,500. We sell to people like celebrities; anyone who wants to look good and be protected.
Could you bulletproof a beret? Or a cravat?
Tell me about the children’s backpacks that have caused all this controversy. How did they
At trade shows I’d have people come up to me and say, “Hey, this armor is lightweight, I’d love to have a vest or a backpack for my kid so I can take him hunting,” or, “My kid was at Virginia Tech during the  shooting, I don’t want to risk anything else like that.” After the Connecticut shooting everything just exploded, and we now have a four-week backlog on orders for the backpacks.
GUN-CRAZED AND DANGEROUS, MY AUNT DEBRA HAUNTED MY FAMILY FOR 20 YEARS
Foreground: Debra enlisted in the US Army in 1969 as a second lieutenant. In late 1971, after she had been promoted to captain, she received a letter stating she would not be retained for active duty. Photo courtesy of the National Personnel Records Center. Background: This suicide note was found near Debra’s body, along with a Bible opened to Psalm 23. Note courtesy of Janna Sorg.
It was Christmas of 1990 in my grandmother’s house. The thick, heavy curtains in the living room were drawn. My mother and I sat on the edge of a bed. In an armchair across from us sat Aunt Debra, my mother’s sister, who also lived there. In another sat my grandmother, who was in the middle stages of dementia. Around the room were several end tables and chairs. Sitting on each was a gun.
We had not planned to exchange Christmas gifts, yet Debra was handing me a .38-caliber handgun with a box of bullets, a holster, $100, and a note.
“Read it later,” she said.
At some point in the afternoon, the conversation deteriorated. Debra reached behind her and pulled a bullet from a box on a nearby bookshelf. She held it between her thumb and forefinger, looked at my mother, and said, “Janna, this has your name on it.”
My mother and I hurried down the driveway to our car, parked outside the ten-foot fence strung with razor wire that surrounded the property. As my mother turned the ignition, I glanced back and watched Debra run down the hill toward us. She was wearing a black ski mask, a camo jacket, blue jeans, and black boots. Her dark figure contrasted with the white snow, except for moments when she disappeared behind the pine trees. I stood with one foot in the car and the other in the snow. As Debra approached, I could see the vapor exhale from the mouth hole of her ski mask.
“I’ll give you this one, too,” she said, handing me a semiautomatic 9-mm with a box of bullets. She showed me how to load and unload the clip.
“Don’t blow us all to hell, Debra,” my mother yelled from the car.
“Merry Christmas,” Debra told me.
“Merry Christmas,” I replied. “Thanks for everything.”
unt Debra was notorious in the rural hamlet of Indiana where I grew up. For most of her adult life, she had threatened and attempted to kill people. My grandmother, by throwing a pan of hot grease at her head, and later by drugging her with medicine stolen from the psych wards and nursing homes where Debra worked. My mother, who Debra saw as competition for affection. My father, who, she claimed, would be felled by a hail of bullets unloaded into the side of his car. Her supervisors, who were reluctant to fire her for fear she would return to the workplace and shoot them. Her coworkers, who she had accused of “working at cross purposes” and plotting against her. The stranger on the street who looked at her the “wrong way.” The kids playing across the road she fired two shots at one day because they annoyed her. “She unnerved and frightened me, and I feared for the patients,” one of her bosses told my mother. “Her stare was pure evil.”
Yet for most of her adult life, Debra never killed anyone.
My grandmother was 40 years old when she had Debra—her first child after trying to get pregnant for 22 years. My mother was born just over a year later. She had always felt that her older sister wasn’t quite right. “When I said my prayers at night, I asked God to take some of my happiness and give it to her,” she told me. As a child, Debra hallucinated. She would sit in a chair and enter a trance. “You could get in her face and scream,” said my mother. “She’d never come out of it.”
In 1969, Debra enlisted in the US Army at the height of the Vietnam War. There she won marksmanship awards and was trained in the fundamentals of counterinsurgency, psychological operations, unconventional warfare, survival, escape, and evasion.
Four years later, having risen to the rank of captain, Debra received a letter from the Army saying she would no longer be retained on active duty. She was tossed out along with a friend—another woman. She moved back home.
I Was Attacked by Pirates
My friend Stephan is a freelance boat captain and owns his own boat charter business in the Seychelles. It’s a pretty amazing gig, all things considered. A couple of years ago, however, Stephan was asked to be Master of the Vessel on a ship sailing from the Seychelles to an island near Somalia. (That title is essentially the same thing as “Captain,” by the way, which means he was basically in charge of getting the boat from point A to point B without any hiccups.) The thing about Somalian waters is that they have this irksome little pirate infestation—I’ll excuse you if you didn’t know already, it’s not like it’s been in the news much for the past half-decade—which Stephan got to find out about first-hand.
I called him up on Skype and got him to tell me about all the fun he’s been having with the Somali pirates of the Arabian Sea.
Stephan with Fyodor, the preacher sailor.
VICE: Hey Stephan. So, tell me how you got yourself into this pirate situation.
Stephan: Well, in August of 2010, I was recruited by some Russians to take an old, wooden square rigger—this beautiful old ship built in 1928—from the Seychelles to Socotra, a small island just off the Somali coast. They were really vague about the travel plans, though, and five days into the trip, I was suddenly told, really casually, that, “Oh, it’s actually Montenegro we want to go to now,” which is a lot further than Socotra.
We had a guy named Valim, who was the owner’s nephew, Fyodor Konyukhov, this famous Russian sailor who was also a preacher and looked a lot like Jesus, and a Russian diplomat, as well as some of his staff. It was him who pulled the strings to let us bring firearms onboard, actually.
Why did he want to bring firearms with him? Because of the pirate threat?
Yeah, purely because he knew we’d be sailing past the Somali coast. We already had three Spetsnaz—Russian special forces—on board as well, and they were all armed to the teeth. Anyway, we eventually reached Socotra and had to make a load of repairs because the engine was a complete mess by that point.
Stephan with the three Russian Special Forces guys and a small selection of their arsenal.
No trouble up to that point?
Nope, not yet. But it was there we met the two boats that were going to be escorting us the rest of the way: Peter the Great, this big, old Russian warship, and SP36, a gigantic towboat. I went to greet the guys from SP36 and was grabbed by two guys in military uniform and dragged on to the boat. I sat there with the captain and discussed, in very broken English, what route we were going to take, how he was going to protect us and what weapons they had, all over a lot of vodka. I mean, an exceptional amount of vodka.
That sounds like fun.
Yeah, then we exchanged gifts. I gave him a flag from the Seychelles, and I think I wrote something stupid on there, like “From Seychelles, with love,” or something, and he gave me a bulletproof vest. Then this huge Russian guy in camo comes in with this fucking massive machine gun—it must have weighed ten kilos. We ended up calling that gun Gail.
Cool. It’s good to name your weapons.
Exactly. So I asked the captain if I was going to be armed, if I should get a pistol or something. He was like, “Nyet. Nyet pistol,” and I figured, ‘Oh well, you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?’ But then that same huge guy comes back in with an AK-74—not a 47, a 74—and gives that to me as my own personal weapon.
What did you call her?
I called her Betty.
- The U.S. Postal Service is asking Floridians to please stop crashing their cars into post offices, after 14 incidents so far this year.
- Former Broward County School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb had extramarital affairs with two high-ranking Citigroup bankers—while she was voting on business they were conducting with the school system. But she wasn’t indicted because there’s no “law forbidding voting on public matters involving intimate friends.”
- Marine scientists are asking Floridians to stop interrupting manatee orgies. Tempting though it may be.
- Casey Anthony (famous for being acquitted of murdering her daughter) has been offered $20,000 to fight Michelle “Bombshell” McGee (famous for breaking up Jesse James and Sandra Bullock’s marriage) in a “celebrity” boxing match in South Florida. I just hope this possible detour into boxing doesn’t delay Anthony’s inevitable porn debut.
- A Hollywood martial artists on trial for double homicide claims that he stabbed his wife 30 times and her 14-year-old son 51 times in self-defense.