Former Skinny Puppy vocalis Kevin Ogilvie has lead a split existence in the music world, even speaking of his alter ego, Ogre, as the "demonization of my own character." Until June of 1995 he regularly became Ogre for intense Skinny Puppy recording sessions and tormented theatrical live performances. Since the end of the band he's been looking for a solo identity somewhere in the middle ground between Kevin and Nivek, while killing time as a guest in Pigface and KMFDM. Now in the company of Pigface's Martin Atkins, Bedside Toxicology (on Invisible) presents an Ogre unmasked and personal, exploring his psyche in a way that some would say is the role of the artist in the 20th century - art as the making of the self.
"Bedside Toxicology is the idea of things on the outside coming close enough to affect you at a place where you feel very comfortable," Kevin explains from his Californian home. "The music business, for me, is a tainted job. It's a dark place, it's a horrible place. It's full of a lot of nasty people, strange occurrences and a lot of good cop/bad cop behaviour. A lot of things that send you into this tizzy of paranoia and lack of confidence and blah blah blah."
Working with what is behind his charismatic surface is not an easy thing, and the album is filled with the all-too-human knowledge of his insecurities, delusions and faint hopes. His layered chants on confessional tracks like "Imago" dig into despair and dysfunction, looking for a sense of overcoming and accepting the struggle of growing up in public. The opening track addresses his public image, while at the same time upsetting fan expectations with an acoustic sound. The song is Syd Barrett's "Scarecrow" (from the first Pink Floyd album), which is perfectly suited for Kevin's need for an image that is not as menacing as it may appear.
"There are three verses about this solitary object and descriptions in three different ways, and yet the object is always the same, alone in a field. These are really poetic lyrics. Syd has these moments where he's snapping through all this weird imagery - hot, fiery, explosive thought patterns, definitely. Then he just comes out with very frail, very beautiful gestures. When I listen to his music you can hear this fragile mixture of beauty and ugliness. A mind is kind of dissolving right in front of you. It's being honestly laid out for you. And that's what keeps me interested in music."
When Skinny Puppy ended, Kevin was still signed to their label, American, but his project WELT wasn't a priority for them. A 14-track album was produced with Ruby's Mark Walk (another Pigface alumnus) but was not released. "I sat in my room here for a year when I was on American, really depressed. I bought a Pink Floyd book and just started fucking playing with the guitar. That was really good for me, it was really good therapy. It took hours and hours of time that would have been spent fixating on a problem that there was really nothing I could do about. So 'Scarecrow' pays tribute to that, and to Syd."
Bedside Toxicology's "The Daze" is another song that came from Kevin's encounters with depression, as a Wire-like dirge ploughs through his insecurities built up from years of creative stalemate. "'The Daze' is kind of about my life," he laughs. "I'm really lucky, but I have this thing that just keeps going on and on and on. I tend to find myself staring at the ceiling in a daze. There's this weird thing going on, like Brian Wilson in a sandbox up to his fucking nose. And I was just playing with that whole idea and had a bit of fun with it. You know, I don't have a steady job, I don't do that much, and at times I think I should be doing more. It bothers me, but at the same time I'm really apathetic about it too. It's just a constant dilemma. It isn't a post drug thing; it's always been this thing for me. I am this underachiever who wants to achieve so much, and that's a weird place to be."
Occasionally Ogre trades the sandbox for the soapbox, as he did in Skinny Puppy when he took up the issue of cruelty against animals. Bedside Toxicology is released under the name of Rx, an adaptation of the medical symbol, because his latest cause concerns the healing arts, namely the over-prescription of behaviour-modifying drugs like Ritalin to school children who just aren't fitting into today's classrooms. Ritalin is becoming an issue in Canada, where the use of it has increased five times in recent years. Not one to just say no, Kevin tried the remedy himself before passing judgement.
"My wife did a paper on doling out anti-depressants to children, and how drug companies are starting to manufacture drugs in a more palatable form for children, like syrups and pills. You know, Flintstones chewable anti-depressants and things like that. She was expressing this concern in her paper about the effects of these drugs on developing brains. I had 12 Ritalin pills prescribed to me before I started this project, because I wanted to see what the effects were. I still have eight, so that gives you an idea of what I thought of the effects. I have a lot of friends who have kids and a few of them have put them on Ritalin, and they have had disastrous stories with the whole thing. Their kids are fine during the day, but when they come home at four o'clock, the drug wears off and they are just down. It's nasty, and hopefully the drug will be outlawed soon. I've talked to my brother, who is a doctor, and he is totally down on it. It's a huge medical conglomerate, a multinational corporation that is just pumping this stuff out."