When Metallica heard that guards at Guantanamo Bay were torturing detainees with their music, the thrash-metal pioneers requested the government cease and desist.
Skinny Puppy, which will perform Saturday at the Ritz Ybor, is taking it a step further. The Canadian industrial pioneers are billing the U.S. government for utilizing its songs to break down prisoners in America's war against terror.
“We thought we would invoice them properly, so we hit them with the evil numbers of $666,000,” Keyboardist CeVin Key said during a phone call from New Orleans. “We gave them a breakdown of the bill.”
According to a guard, who is writing a book about his Guantanamo experience, guards used Skinny Puppy songs on four occasions. “The funny thing is that one of those songs was used on a bootleg,” Key said. “What really bothers us is that they played our songs at an intolerable volume for hours on end. The guards would ridicule the detainees when they defecated or urinated themselves. How can there be a torture camp there? It's wrong. We've found out all about this over a year ago and it just ticked us off.”
Skinny Puppy, which also includes vocalist Ogre, channeled their anger into creativity. The Guantanamo flap inspired the band to create “The Weapon,” which dropped in May.
The album is filled with dense and intense industrial rock. The familiar ominous Skinny Puppy sound is present, but there's also a bit of funkiness and some catchy moments, unlike what the band presented throughout 2011's experimental “Handover.” “That was our 'Metal Machine Music,” Key said, referring to the late Lou Reed's inscrutable noise record.
Key and Ogre, longtime animal rights activists, are on the road 30 years after their debut album “Back & Forth” was released. The two lone original members of the industrial dance act co-exist peacefully.
“There was a time when that wasn't so,” Key said. “We had our rough patches.”
During the mid-'90s, the band's constant bickering led to a breakup. However, Ogre and Key, who weren't on speaking terms, ran into each other at a Bauhaus reunion show in Los Angeles in 1998. Ironically enough, the tandem, who were once best of friends, decided to reform Skinny Puppy at the event.
“We were at this incredible show with a band we respected, who were just great live,” Key said. “We decided to do it again just like Bauhaus and it's been nothing but positive ever since.”
The current Skinny Puppy configuration, which started playing live again in 2000, has been together longer than the initial version.
The band doesn't sound much different than Skinny Puppy did during its salad days. “I think that has something to do with the equipment,” Key said. “I remember buying analog synthesizers for about $180 back then. Nobody wanted them during the mid-'80s. Now if you go on Ebay, they're going for about $15,000. They still sound great. It proves that things from the '80s still sound good. Everything is good now. I think more people than ever are hearing our music.”
Even prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. “That's the one group of people I would rather not have exposed to our material,” Key said. “Especially in the manner they're hearing it. It's just not right.”