When I was about 21 years old, Skinny Puppy was one of the most influential bands for me. I saw them twice in 2004. Otto von Schirach opened for them.
Their music is relevant for brining together an eclectic batch of influences such as electronica, musique concrète, punk, and synth-pop. Their music was really sample heavy and this was incredibly influential. Their music sounded insane to me because it was so dissonant and so bizarre. If you strip out all elements and just listen to drums and bassline, they might sound like Depeche Mode or something of that style. Nivek Ogre’s vocals were heavily processed and reminiscent of cheesy 80s horror film creatures. Dwayne Goettel added a lot of heavily processed samples taken from so many sources. I recall bits of Charles Manson, cyberpunk sci-fi films, blasts of radio static, Gregorian chants, film trailers, recycled drum bits, classical music, and so many other sources.
Here is where Skinny Puppy was really important for me, they made mention of being heavily influenced by reggae and world music and saying this was the biggest influence for them. This was pretty important to hear because their aesthetic on a superficial level had no relation to reggae music and no resemblance to world music. After a bit of closer analysis, I could hear the way these influences had driven their seemingly chaotic drum arrangements. Cevin Key’s up-cycled oil barrel in the Ain’t It Dead Yet? VHS had ancestry in the regional music of many different cultures.
This is an important concept for me: synthesis and transposition. In my own musical compositions, as well as my artwork, I take various influences from various places. If I attempted to make a comprehensive list it might look something like this:
I am even wondering as I write this, if it might be a fruitful endeavor if I were to embark on a project where I attempt to bring all my influences into a singular creation. It would be incredibly ridiculous, but it would definitely have its roots in the strain of thought that Skinny Puppy sent me down for the last decade or so. God bless ‘em. lol
The playlist for this post is the set list from the last Skinny Puppy show I attended in Tucson, Halloween 2015. I had pizza, got drunk with a closeted Republican wannabe rockstar gun happy punk, enjoyed the show and then partied with a goth-girl and her fishnet clad boy-toy in an Airbnb until sunrise.
I can’t make something like that up.
I’ve been working with models. Well, I “worked” with one “model”. The rest are girls and women who have been messaging me about setting up shoots, and have failed to set up any shoots. The one who came through, managed to contact me, set up a shoot, show up, get drunk, pose, pop pills, and nearly crash her car in a matter of 24 hours.
I have to admit, the situation has left me disillusioned. I suppose it is the state I live in, or the fact that countless artists and photographers have disillusioned the talent by inviting them over to shoot and then trying to fuck them, rendering my efforts in vain. I could analyze the situation a thousand different ways but I don’t think it’s completely necessary to go over this fact again and again, the fact that I am disillusioned with the search for models for my art.
Making matters worse is the vague apocalyptic scenario that America finds itself in at the moment, the country certainly does seem on the verge of collapse and here I am, trying to build a fucking career! It’s a rather exciting time to be alive in a sense, but the fact is that the largest mass murder in American history was committed this year in Las Vegas (again, the largest was committed last year in 2016 in Orlando). The planet gets hotter and hotter and our violence grows in immensity with each passing year. The weather becomes tempestuous and erratic and our gunfire becomes stormy and chaotic. We are products of our destroyed environment.
What I do know is that right now, as an artist, as a member of the creative community, the modes of production are back in my hands. I can up-cycle materials to create paintings, to create installations, to create assemblage, and then photograph the work in my own home and endlessly share it online, even making adjustments in Photoshop to each reiteration (re: Baudrillard’s Evil Demon of Images). Can we even call this capitalism anymore? If one is willing to suffer and ignore that pain, one can assume all responsibility and treat objects as objects, material as material, and humans as obstacles and ultimately become one’s own boss. This isn’t a form of self-employment as an artist, this is a true embrace of minimalism.
I do not mean minimalism in a formal sense or aesthetic sense, but in terms of building something from nothing, building the biggest fucking buildings from absolutely nothing. We are in the middle of the beginning of the era when our own inventions and science are beginning to turn on us and devour us (guns, climate change, polluted water, our own inept lawmaking, etc.). For me, in this moment, the big question is how to earn enough money to pay my minimal overhead and afford me the luxury of hanging out on the weekends without ever answering to another boss, teacher, or mentor? Because fuck parents (re: authority figures). They left us with this accursed inheritance we call the future.