February 21, 2014


Skinny Puppy: Music As Torture?

How would you feel if the government was taking your art, your hard work that you poured your heart and soul into, and was using it to torture people? 

That's exactly what happened with industrial rock band Skinny Puppy

Their 2013 album Weapon was inspired by American soldier Terry Holdbrook, Jr., who was a guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba from 2003 to 2004.  While he was there, Holdbrook says he witnessed an unusual interrogation technique: Skinny Puppy's music being blasted at deafening levels.

"Terry came to us in 2011, and that was where we first found out our music was being used for torture," Nivek Ogre, founding member of Skinny Puppy, told Fuse News.  "Not only our music, but bootlegged versions of our music."

Skinny Puppy formed in 1982, and they have since become one of the most well-regarded industrial rock acts of all time.  But Ogre explains there is a difference between their musical personas and who they really are as people.  "We have always used shock theatrics and costumes and masks to portray the evils outside of us. I am the person that rescues bees and wasps from water; I am certainly not the character you see on stage.  It was never meant to be negative or Satanic, or even murderous or sociopathic.  It was never meant to express those things."

That's why the band was disappointed - but not surprised - that the government was using their music as a torture device without their permission. "I wouldn't expect anything else because our music is quite disturbing and quite dissonant," says Ogre.

This isn't the first time music has been played at extreme volumes during an interrogation.  Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time" and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." have also been used before, and like Skinny Puppy, neither Britney nor the Boss were asked for the permission to use their music. 

But Skinny Puppy wanted to make a statement, so they billed the government, in the hopes of raising money to donate to survivors of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  "We first conceptualized the idea of recording an album and using the album cover as an invoice to the government," says Ogre. "We sent an invoice when Weapon was being released."

The amount they're looking for?  "We did the symbolic sum of $666,000."  They recently resent the invoices, and they "are waiting to see now that they have received them," according to Ogre.

A representative from the Department of Defense told Fuse News, "The entire matter is comically absurd.  Though, to be sure, it's a clever way to resurrect their band's name in the press after so many years."

But Ogre refutes those claims.  "Even if we were using it as a publicity stunt - which we are not - it at least brings an issue that was starting to recede back into the background. We are approaching BMI and ASCAP.  Whether it is in some black site in Cuba, in a mall, or eating establishment, you have to pay for the right to use that music."

- Segment produced by Rebecca Teran
- Article by Alan Noah