Ritalin Interviewed by Sharon Maher
IN: So why is the word "Ritalin" not on this CD anywhere?
Ogre: Because it's a copyrighted name by a major pharmaceutical company. I think what happened is people are calling the project Ritalin and we tend to not pay attention.
IN: So the official name is Rx?
Ogre: Whatever you want it to be. It's a symbol on the album, but as far as it being something to fixate on, you just called it Ritalin, so be it.
IN: Ritalin it is, according to me. Have you ever taken Ritalin?
Ogre: Yes. I kind of found it to be a nasty experiment. I think giving that kind of drugs to kids whose brains are still connecting up is a dangerous thing.
IN: I think giving drugs to kids in general can be a dangerous thing.
Ogre: Yeah, I'd have to agree. I think its totally misdiagnosed too and I think a lot of it has to do with diet, it has to do with a lot of other things people just look over for a quick fix.
IN: I agree. Its like when you hit sixteen they all try to give you anti-depressants. It's the same deal.
Ogre: Right. I think they are a lot safer, but I think giving out anti-depressants to children especially is dangerous, and the marketing practices they're using with those drugs where they're coming up with flavored syrups and things like that is a bit depressing because its putting something that tastes good ahead of what its actually doing to the person - if the person actually needs it. There could be other issues, but I've also seen where its made major changes in certain people's lives. I think the judgement is still out on those drugs, but Ritalin is pretty nasty.
IN: It is a very nasty drug. So are these among the things that made the name, "bedside toxicology"?
Ogre: Well "bedside toxicology" was a name that I came up with years ago when I started doing W.E.L.T., and it lingered. I think the reason why I was a bit sensitive at first about you mentioning the name because it's a conundrum I put myself into, wanting to try and bring attention to something without bringing attention to it. In other words, get some other group of people talking about something without absorbing the casualty of naming yourself that. So it's kind of put me into this strange place where I have to come to bat for its cause.
IN: Well, when Invisible's publicist is using the name "Ritalin" and it appeared in Alternative Press, its kind of hard to get away from.
Ogre: Right, and that's fine if other people call the project Ritalin, because that was the intent. W.E.L.T. and Ritalin are just names that I liked that have either been taken or used or become used after they've been in my head for some time.
IN: I know there's another "Welt".
Ogre: They're copyrighted. So, they're just things I have to deal with. I just act spontaneously with a lot of thoughts. Bedside Toxicology was the same way, it has as much to do with Ritalin as it does to do with poisoned romances or drug addiction or things creeping up to your bedside as opposed to being totally, totally clinical and sterile in our houses. I mean things are starting to come in that are affecting us and poisoning us. Hopefully that's what Bedside Toxicology brings to mind - not that, that is verbatim. I mean, that's just two words. I just like putting words together.
IN: If I heard you correctly, part of it encompasses all the things you enumerated while still being only two words, am I correct? Is that how you view your writing process in general?
Ogre: Yeah, sometimes. I think on this record there's a little more focus put into some of it. To a certain degree. But, at the same time, I think the power of a good lyricist is not being too overly acute at times and being a bit more obtuse and allowing people to tag on to things and associate with things.
IN: Maybe you've already answered this question, but what are these things you think are creeping up at our bedside?
Ogre: Well, to be honest with you, at this point it would really easy to prophecies based on trends you see happening in the news and things that you see happening - I think the environment without realizing how close they really are to being affected by things that at one time were more parochial issues. I think that's a bit worrisome. Not, that I think there's any sort of conspiracy, at all. But I think there's a lot of volatile situations and volatile areas on this small globe. Certainly it doesn't take an idiot to realize something's got to give, because we're just moving into an age of higher and higher resolution. We demand more from our entertainment and demand more from say, technology and all technology is a by-product of our weapons and our ability to destroy each other. As far as this whole bedside thing, at times I think people don't realize that what was, at one time, far away from them is now a lot closer, Its like reaching up to where they sleep and where they feel comfortable.
IN: I think its interesting that you brought up that all technology is a by-product of our weapons systems. It's true actually, because all of our technological advances have come from military advances. Everything was developed to either protect ourselves or kill other people. I don't' think a lot of people are aware of that. What should the listener take away from whatever it is that we're calling this album?
Ogre: Bedside toxicology?
IN: Okay, bedside toxicology.
Ogre: You can call it Ritalin. Okay, here's a little off color thing: you seem to speak out and have some voice about young people taking pharmaceutical drugs, and that's probably from experience. Whether or not you believe in street drugs is hard to say. I don't know what phase you're at in your own self discovery. You might still be self medicating and you might be exploring and that's totally cool. But the very fact you spoke out about kids (and pharmaceutical drugs) then you chose your own path with what you call this because if you call it Ritalin then they can't sue me.
IN: No shit. It doesn't say Ritalin on the CD anywhere.
Ogre: But if you want to call it that, if you want to mention it, if you want to mention something about Ritalin in this article, please go ahead. Do you know what I mean? It's using the medium.
IN: It's almost disinformation.
Ogre: Well, I guess. Its disinformation in the sense of what isn't disinformation? We're in an age of altogether too much information. The 50s and Cold War was a time when there was so little information that people always assumed there was a conspiracy. Now we have a million takes on each conspiracy, a million stands, a million separate realities on like every instance that happens. There's fifty different perceptions of each even that everybody is so totally confused. So may as well say that all information is disinformation, because ultimately it is all subjective.
IN: Going back to the point you made regarding my own opinions about pharmaceutical drugs, is part of the point of this album that people walk away from it with their own preconceptions?
Ogre: Within Skinny Puppy my only hope was that people would think. To be honest, all of my lyrics and any music I've done has been something I loved doing. It's all been an exploration for me and the most prophetic things happened to me from my lyrics whether its self-fulfilling prophesy because I've lead myself down so really bad roads and I've seen myself chart through some really good spaces too. And as far as learning from what you see and how you perceive it, this record is, for me, after a number of years of feeling really humiliated by a lot of things and jus feeling totally squashed and having a go at it in a time and space where I felt really pretty good. From my point of view as the garbage can artist that I am, that's all it can be, its just this guttural bowel movement! And other bedside toxicology. It's like this gas that escapes when you're dreaming. No one knows what made you fart!
IN: So how did that album happen with you and Martin?
Ogre: Martin called me up and said...
IN: 'Do you want to do an album?'
Ogre: Yep. It seemed really uncomplicated compared to what was happening at the time. I agreed to do it and it was supposed to be a really casual thing. It progressed naturally into something I'm pretty happy with.
IN: It bares some resemblance to the Pigface stuff you did.
Ogre: Yeah, definitely, and that's a compliment. I mean, obviously, that's going to happen, I think because of the people who were working on it.
IN: Everybody was Pigface alumni, correct?
Ogre: Yeah, but I mean (Ritalin) is Martin and myself and that's where it will get its own flavor. Hopefully.
IN: What were you working through on this album?
Ogre: Well, I had a record I was working on with Mark Walk - the W.E.L.T. stuff. I've been working on getting that record back for two years. What happened surrounding that record, what happened surrounding the things that went down during the end of my career with Skinny Puppy and just coming to terms with really who I was. Like I said before, I've gone down quite a few paths and hopefully have tried to learn about certain things along the way, although it's taken a few good hits in the head to get some of them through. I think this is kind of an expression of who I am right now. And that's about as much as it can be. Its hard to dissect an entire album and make a general feeling about what the album is about when it was all done segmented and it just kind of came together. It's just a process you go through. In the process, what have I taken away from this album? I've taken away the fact that I can more or less compose and that I can sing - I have more control over harmonies. In these incremental ways you like grow as an artist, hopefully. That's kind of where I'm at with it. Its not so much about all these things that I'm experiencing and all these things that I'm going through right now, which is what Skinny Puppy was. It's more about reflecting a bit. I think that that comes through in just how it sounds.
IN: I think it does. And there was a lot more melody in your voice. It was great to hear you sing out more.
Ogre: Yeah, and there's some things I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to play guitar and sing a Syd Barret song. That was something I got to do and it was a total gas. Its really hard for me to explain to anybody else the feelings I get from the record as opposed to the feelings other people would get. There's moments of vengeance on the record for me. There's moments of sadness. There's moments of anger. There's moments of shear stupidity. There's all sorts of things. There's all sorts of feelings. I feel like they're a little more refined, a little more focused, or maybe a little more vague. It's all up to who's listening. Do you know what I mean?
IN: Totally: A little more in your head, maybe?
Ogre: I hope it's something that people aren't going to turn off or turn away from, at first. It's a little more intriguing. Because it is still fairly dark. There's some pretty dark happenings (on the record)
IN: Is that part of the reason why you chose not to print the lyrics or is it just the packaging?
Ogre: The real reason why I didn't print the lyrics is because Steven (Gilmore - the cover artist) hates lyrics. He hates printing lyrics on sleeves. And also, I just really like the photography and I kind of thought the vibe would be kind of nicer. You can always print lyrics and put them up where people can access them. If we had done a booklet, maybe we could've included lyrics but I think most of the lyrics are pretty clear and the ones that aren't its more of a vibe thing anyway.
IN: What I meant to say was, and I do think the lyrics are clearer as well, but it requires people to have to pay attention to what is being said.
Ogre: For instance, "And When" is a really good example, if you're just standing 20 feet away from it you might think it's a bit of a trite pop song or its really too clean or it doesn't appeal to our "industrial" sensibilities until you listen to what it's about and hopefully you'll come away with the meaning. And maybe you won't, but it's quite twisted.
IN: Do you mind it when people misinterpret you?
Ogre: Well, I don't really care. If someone misinterpreted me and went out and did something that was against my beliefs, yeah I guess that would bother me. But I think art is for interpretation and interpretation can take on whatever form it wants.