Interview with Dave “Rave” Ogilvie
By Raphael Shlosman
We can often in this day and age take for granted the true art that an album is. The countless hours of crafting, recording, screaming, bleeding, and sweating that go into an album are beyond the outsiders’ understanding. One man that has helped guide the construction to some of music’s most influential works is second to none, Dave “Rave” Ogilvie. Almost every album that inspired even myself has his name on it, and if the production is not enough his own band Jakalope is an ode to the freedom of creating music with no bounds.
From Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, and Jakalope the prospect of sitting down with a true hero of music was all I needed. I caught up with Dave as he is gearing to tour with Jakalope post their new album ‘Things That Go Jump In The Night’. So for all of you sit back relax, and let one of the godfathers to the sound we love educate us a little. It’s an honor to present to you Dave “Rave” Ogilvie:
Rafi: To kick this off lets go a little further back, many are familiar with your years of production and being a musician, but where did your musical education start?
Dave: I was living in Montreal and going to college to get a marketing degree actually. Music was more or less a hobby at the time. I really loved driving around and listening to music when I discovered that what I was going to school for was not my main focus. I really wanted to figure out how to be that guy who helps put the albums together, the one who put time into producing it. Back then, and even now, I say I am not that great of a musician. I can make due with what I know about the instruments that I use. So I can’t say that being a full time musician was something that appealed to me, the process of making the music is where the real interest was with me.
The first two records that really got to me were Talking Heads ‘Remain in Light’ (1980) and Kraftwerk ‘Computer World’ (1981). These records really made me intrigued with the process of how they came to be. It fueled my desire to help facilitate people’s creativity while assisting to put their sound together. This lead me to a recording school in Montreal where I met someone who ended up giving me a shot after they moved to Vancouver. I always let him know if he ever needed any help I had a good work ethic and knew a few people. He kept this in the back of his mind till he moved to Vancouver. He called me one day and said “hey there is a position open, can you get out here tomorrow and get to work?” So I packed up my stuff and moved. My first day I went to see a band that he was working with called Images in Vogue. I was blown away by them. Their sound was purely electronic, and no one in Canada was making music like this. That also turned into the first night I met Cevin Key. It was ironic. My first night in town and I am seeing this band that influenced me. I met Cevin, who later was to form Skinny Puppy that I worked with, and the rest is history.
Rafi: Several artists I have talked to through the years, (i.e. Marilyn Manson, Left Spine Down, Genitorturers), have talked about how you have helped them to develop their sound and think outside of the box. Is this the role you enjoy most? And how does it make you feel to hear artists talk of you this way?
Dave: It is really great to hear that. It is the greatest thing I can hope to bring to a project. I have never been the guy to come in and say “hey this is what I do and it is the way things are going to be.” I have always been more about getting them into the studio, getting to know what they want to do and what they are good at, then helping them take it into a whole new realm. I think artists do their best when they are in a creative and safe environment, where they feel they won’t get judged or ridiculed. This way they really are inspired to create. It’s one of those atmospheres where you, as an artist, can write a good lyric and end up looking at it with the thought of “wow that is good but I could do a lot better than that.”
I have always loved working with some of the craziest singers; whether it be Manson, Gen, or even Ogre. People are always shocked at how I can get to such a comfort level with them so quickly. I have always had the ability to be very honest with people, I can tell them I don’t like something they are doing and they never take it to heart. They realize that I am not criticizing them, just being honest, and that generally I am right. I have just always had a knack for working with lead singers who are very quirky and hard for others to get along with. It’s all about getting them to be comfortable and not feel paranoid that you are trying to compromise their sound or who they are.
Rafi: One story that sticks out to me in that regard is when you worked with Gen of the Genitorturers on the Divinyls’ cover of “I Touch Myself”. She told me you were one of the first producers to help her think outside of the hardcore vocals and focus on her actual voice. How did you approach that? Was it something you simply heard in your head?
Dave: For me it was always a song that really fit the whole tongue in cheek thing they were doing. I didn’t want it to be just another Genitorturers song. I loved Gen as a singer, as a front person, and an artist, but I really wanted to help capture a different side to her persona. I wanted her to see she can sound very sexy and desirable in a way that people didn’t even know. It’s not an easy thing to do, but she really stepped up to the plate and did an amazing job with it. I never looked at it as a way to do a better version of the original, rather a version that the fans could identify with, and I think she did it.
Rafi: Material you have worked on like Marilyn Manson’s ‘Antichrist Superstar’ and some of the Skinny Puppy material was considered to be groundbreaking material that continues to influence artists of today. How does that make you feel to have worked with something that has done this?
Dave: In Skinny Puppy I always had the attitude, and pretty much everyone in the band did as well, we wanted to make music that the world wanted to listen to. We weren’t thinking “what are the people of Canada going to think?” We didn’t care. We wanted the whole world to like this. It was kind of the same way with the Manson “Antichrist” album. I don’t know if you know how it was put together but while on tour Manson and Twiggy would send Trent and I post recordings that they were making in hotel rooms. We were getting songs from their most ground up, innocent, and virgin forms; live with them and take them to the extremes that they ended up coming out in. It was a feeling you don’t always get when working on an album, but we all knew from those recordings that we had something really special. It was kind of like a “us against the world” scenario, where we knew that what we were making was something for the whole world to listen to. The atmosphere between the three of us was so special that it only happens every so often in your life. When it blew up the way it did, nothing could have made us prouder. It was like betting on a horse and the horse wins, I just knew that this was going to win over everyone.
I am always happy when people tell me something I worked on influenced them. I never cared for any kind of award show, in fact I am probably one of the most anti-awards person I know. The greatest return you can get is when someone in a different corner of the world tells you how much your material or work inspired them, influenced them creatively, or made their lives better. With my Skinny Puppy and Manson work, I get those comments all the time, and to this day it makes me proud.
Rafi: One aspect of the sound from ‘Antichrist Superstar’ to myself, was that it seemed to encapsulate a lot of the feel from the “Wax Trax Era” (i.e. Ministry, KMFDM, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult). Was this something that in fact influenced you in the production of the album?
Dave: Absolutely, that was one of the most defining eras for the genre I have come to love so much. It was not just the music though that influenced me, it was also working with people like Luc van Acker, Al Jourgenson, Chris Connelly, Dannie Flesher, and Jim Nash; seeing their mentality really became something that carried over in my work. It was just an amazing atmosphere at that label that helped fuel a lot of great music.
Rafi: A highlight of Wax Trax was the spirit of collaboration that seemed to surround it, creating new and great sounds. What has changed? That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Dave: It’s tough when there aren’t as many labels that are that diverse anymore. Wax Trax was very fortunate in that it was not only diverse in the projects that were signed, but the people involved. These days things are more specialized where it is a bunch of people that are from the same mindset. While that maybe a similar statement for Wax Trax, they all looked at it from a different angle. I would say that is the secret behind that label, everyone was all over the grid in the way they wanted to work together to create sounds no one had heard before. I can’t think of anywhere in the world where you can find that kind of environment. I love the spirit of collaboration whether it is working with Jeremy (Inkel) on Left Spine Down, or working on other projects with him, and then it spread to bands like Rabid Whole; I have got Andreas Weiss involved. Once we get that kind of energy, it is that kind of energy that keeps me going. It is great going between people like this and figuring out what everyone is good at in the spirit of collaboration, it is something I crave.
Rafi: Another side to your experience in the music industry is remixing. One in particular is the one you did for 2009’s KMFDM remix album ‘Krieg’. The song “Never Say Never” (Candy Apple Mix) was so different from the original track. What is your mindset going into remixing someone else’s music?
Dave: Honestly sometimes it depends on what the client is looking for, but if I am left to my own interpretation, then I really try to go in the direction of how the song makes me feel. That KMFDM track really gave me an almost Love and Rockets kind of feel, so I really wanted to take it more down that road than the KMFDM approach. A lot of people would say “yeah but that was not the original idea”, I understand that, but the real fun is in taking it another road and giving it a whole new interpretation. I love doing that, you already know how the original is going to go, why not take it to a whole new place? Maybe even a whole new genre, giving the song a whole new life. I really hate it when people do remixes that just sound like a worse version than the original. I understand that they added a little, maybe some new synth sounds and a couple of different drum patterns, but I still like the original one better. I would rather tell someone: ‘if you want the original it is already on the album, but here is something that puts a whole different sound to it.’
Rafi: Through all of the remixes you have done, which one is the most challenging, and which one did you enjoy the most?
Dave: That is a good question, the one that I did for Motley Crue was really strange. (both of us laughing) When I was approached to do that remix I had to explain that I don’t really know Motley Crue. When that whole scene was going on I was really focused on Industrial. Aside from going to a strip club and hearing a couple of songs that the girls danced to, I really knew nothing of them. The fact that this band was as big as they were, and I was not too familiar with them, was kind of intimidating at the time. One thing that helped was having Dwayne of Skinny Puppy there to help kind of see this through. We really wanted to show them what we were all about. This led to me coming in and actually mixing a song for their new album (‘Hooligan’s Holiday’). While we were doing that we had discussions about remixing the song “Shout at the Devil”, they thought it would sound good as a more industrial sounding song. I had to look them in the eye and tell them that I had never heard the song before, the looks on their faces was that of complete shock. They were so excited that I had not heard it before and handed me the music to work on. Everything came out great in the end and I am still good friends with those guys till this day.
Rafi: That has to be refreshing though. To bring in someone who is coming into unfamiliar territory, but is willing to take on something like that.
Dave: Yeah I think that is one thing people get about me. I am not afraid to do something like that. One thing though, there is one genre I just can’t fit into: the country pool. I just don’t get it. I can listen to it, I love classic country. One of the things that brought me and Al Jourgenson together was the love for some of the classics, but whenever I try to work in it I just can’t, maybe I am just not getting it.
Rafi: So we won’t be seeing any kind of Dave Rave remixes of country anytime soon?
Dave: That one I think everyone is going to have to wait for. (both of us laughing)
Rafi: Having worked with so many types of artists and genres, Jakalope is such a different project from everything else you have done. Is that the kind of mindset you wanted to go with when you started it?
Dave: Yes, and to take everything that I have learned and apply it to my own project. The fun thing about Jakalope is that I don’t care about what anyone thinks, so I am not afraid to try new types of songs. Except for our second record, which I had less to do with, as I was only a co-producer with Phil Caivano of Monster Magnet, so it was a little more Rock thank I would have liked it. The first one, (‘It Dreams’ (2004)), and the latest one, (‘Things That Go Jump In The Night’ (2010)), I love because it is basically me just having fun and doing whatever I want. We do have a broad scope of sounds which allows me to steer it live whenever I want to. If I want to do a pure Industrial hardcore show I can do that, if I wanted to play in front of a more pop scene I can do that, if I want to go play at a Goth festival I can do that; that is a few of the assets of this band. I never wanted to be pigeon holed into any sound outside of the one that came from my mind. Being able to do that is truly a great sense of freedom.
Rafi: The newer video for “Witness” was a perfect representation for the band. The song may have a slight industrial and R&B kind of feel to it, but the video itself has a very dark and almost creepy feel to it. How did you feel about the track, the video, and how they go together?
Dave: I was very happy with it. I am always trying to find new ways to really infiltrate peoples’ minds. With a song like that, I really wanted to infiltrate a whole new crowd that didn’t know we were there, but if they really dug into what we were all about they would probably hate us. The purpose behind the video is really to get people introduced to Chrystal Leigh and get to know her in a very grandiose kind of way. I love that approach, ever since I was on the set for the filming of NIN’s “Perfect Drug”. It was so well done, and on such a mass level, that I fell in love with the process. We have just wrapped up the video for a track called “Magnolia” that we will be showing on VampireFreaks. It will have a feel more like a short movie than an actual music video. Both of us are in it, and play roles in it, but I will let everyone watch it and make their own decision on what it is about. It’s a brilliant piece of work, that even the director was telling me how often bands do not give him that kind of freedom of interpretation. It’s hard to do that with labels as they want the video to be more of a calling card for the band, but we said “hey we have this great vision together, let’s see it through.” I think there is like one shot of me in it. It is not about me, it is about the music. I am really excited to see peoples’ reactions to it.
Rafi: Aside from Chrystal’s great vocals, I was reading up on her and the fact that she is an actual musician, classically trained on the piano even. How much did that help you putting together the new album?
Dave: It helped greatly, and how she is personally couldn’t have been a bigger benefit to me. We can truly relate on musical terms as well. Everything about her is exactly what I was looking for. She is a fantastic performer, she is a great friend, she will do whatever it takes to make the project work, she is a great singer, and absolutely beautiful; it’s really lucky that she sort of fell into my lap. Her musical prowess makes my life a lot easier.
Rafi: How does working with someone like her help spark a fire that may not have been there before?
Dave: Well the big difference between her and my previous singer (Katie B), was that Chrystal was a fan of the music that I worked on. If she is not familiar with it than she wants to get to know it, this benefits me in that she really knows where I am coming from. While my other singer really didn’t even know who Nine Inch Nails was, so that is really a big difference. If Chrystal doesn’t know it she will go out and check it out, then tell me “thanks for introducing me to that, I had no idea how inspirational that was.”
Rafi: Being that Jakalope is a band built on so many different sounds, does it ever overwhelm you or is that something you love to build on?
Dave: It is absolutely something I want to build on. “Witness” was a video that we were looking to really capture the mind of one group of people, and now that it is out we are looking to get a whole new group of people. I think right now I am really wanting to go back to my roots, so I think you will be seeing a lot of the schoolers’ pretty happy. It’s like Trent (Reznor) once wrote me in an email “don’t alienate your true fans, and never be afraid to make them happy.” So that is my attitude right now.
Rafi: Speaking of Trent, with your longtime history with him, how much has he influenced your production work and music?
Dave: One thing I can always say about Trent, more so than any other artist, is his desire to never repeat himself. He always has the desire to create new sounds, images, videos, etc. Sure he has the money and such to put together huge studios and elaborate tours to do this, but that is who he always was, and what he strived for. I guess that is one of the many reasons we always got along so well, neither of us are truly happy till we are happy. One thing that he did that inspired me in regards to the recording of Manson’s ‘Antichrist Superstar’ was that he wanted to record the whole album with no guitar amplifiers. That was a real challenge to record and really drove me to the brink, but it forced me to think of different ways to amplify things; one song it would be someone plugging from a pedal right into the board, next song would be three pedals plugged into a guitar simulator. It was overwhelming at first but afterwards it feels really good to bring out sounds that no one had ever heard before. That is what happens when you get off your ass and think outside the box; which is one thing Trent always taught me.
Rafi: I am sure that being overwhelmed is something that always comes into play when you are an individual as multi faceted like yourself. How do you get yourself through it?
Dave: By looking at what is in front of me and taking things one at a time. I have learned that when you feel like that, stop looking at the big picture and just start sifting away at it. It honestly keeps you from panicking about it, I am just not a big fan of panicking. I like to keep composure and a level head through anything. Whether it is another band imploding on itself because of personality, or if it’s a studio that you go into and nothing works, even if it is a recording that needs 200 tracks when you have a 48 track board. Don’t look at the big picture but rather go down the list and just knock things off to chip away at it.
Rafi: Ok back to Jakalope, the video for “Witness”, as mentioned, has a real good visual side to it. Is that something that you plan to carry over to the live aspect of the band?
Dave: Absolutely, the visual feel of everything is something that I am working really hard on, with some great stage designers, and special effects people. If I had two million dollars then fans would see the whole video practically recreated. I will say, that is the nice thing about this day and age, things that cost $100,000 before, you can get away these days with two to three thousand dollars. So that is definitely something that is currently in the works.
Rafi: With your background in the studio dealing with the sound, where is the biggest challenges for you? Is it more in the visual aspect or the audio side?
Dave: For live it is definitely with the visual. The live band, Chrystal, and myself, have tried so many approaches; even sitting down and simply playing a bare show to get peoples’ reaction to it. With that we really built a solid foundation of knowing how to work together and being very sound. So now building the whole “bigger than life” element is the real challenge.
Rafi: I saw the announcement of a few Canadian dates that have been planned, when can we expect a full on global assault from Jakalope?
Dave: I am going to say it is looking like this fall, maybe September, is when people can expect that. We really want to do a three band bill where all three come from different backgrounds and everyone gets a taste of something else. Since that is our interest, it is taking a bit longer to come together. With that, we are looking to invade North America, Europe, and then maybe Japan.
Rafi: On the topic of genres, it seems that ever since the fall of CD stores and the introduction of the digital era, things have become very genre specific. Why do you think that mentality took over?
Dave: Everyone just needs to attach a label to everything which is really very sad. We have gotten too used to the phrase “well what is it like?” That takes away from something being in a league of its own. Because of this mentality, it keeps being “different” something that is not acceptable. I think it keeps people from trying something new, and passing them by, just because it can’t be lumped into a category. I don’t think it is fair to artists or their individuality.
Rafi: While you may have worked with bands that have more than established themselves and their fan bases like Manson, NIN, and Genitorturers; you also work with the younger generation bands like Left Spine Down. What is the advice you give them in regards to surviving in this industry with their art?
Dave: I really try to make the bands I work with realize that the power they have comes from within. If you don’t have it all together, then you are honestly not ready to face the world. It is really important to not go about it half cocked or unprepared, otherwise you really risk putting the band at risk to go backwards or just die out. These days it is very much about what you are willing to do for your band on your own rather than expect to let somebody else do it for you. The more you put into it, it will become a snowball effect where you will start picking up fans, manager, or whatever else you need; and you did it by getting it rolling on your own. The situation really boils down to your own work ethic. That is why I am so picky about the bands I work with. I would hate to put all my time and effort into something only to find out that some band let it go to waste. I would say the newer bands I am working with all have this desire to move forward despite the circumstances that surround them.
Rafi: I have been meaning to ask you since I found out you were working on the new Left Spine Down album, they released a little bit of information saying that there will be actual classic string instruments on the album. Who’s idea was it to go this route?
Dave: I believe that was Jeremy’s idea. It came from as we were sitting down and recording they opened their eyes to the concept of not being afraid to take chances. That is the problem with a lot of the industrial out there, they are really afraid to make that leap and take the gamble. It’s not necessarily going to alienate the fans, you are already giving them what they want, don’t be afraid to build on that. I told LSD that the power and grit was already there. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability.
There is another band that I am working with called Raggedy Angry who is a very heavy band, I hope people really open up to them. Anyways, when talking to them I found that they are really influenced by the sound of The Beatles and wanted to do a song with a more Beatles-esque sound. Just a very stripped down and melodic kind of tune, and I said “well why can’t you write that?” I explained that while it will be different than anything on the record, you already are giving the fans what they want so why not try something new. I think that Jeremy of Left Spine Down really got it, because he realized there was plenty of heavy material on the album, why not add something else that was new. That band didn’t even flinch when it came to that, they thought it was very cool.
Rafi: As we were talking before about some of the social networks and how they have sort of replaced the record stores, do you think that damages music for future generations?
Dave: Well there is a downside and an upside. I hear some people say that it damages it, but personally I have never seen a time where more music was available than now. It has changed the way that you make money off of it, while you used to spend $50,000 to go into the studio and record, you can spend less than half that to get a laptop and some gear to just record it at home. Also all kinds of music from all over the world is available at the click of a button, while back in the early days of Skinny Puppy, I remember spending so much time at the record store sifting through the imports trying to find something new. That can be the downside though too. It can make someone lazy because everything is at your fingertips. It is not like it was before where it was a real passion so it made people go out of their way to find it. The other thing is that as much as there is some great undiscovered bands out there, there is also that much more crap out there, so you really have to search hard.
Rafi: To wrap it up, with so many things that you have worked on through the years, how do you hope your efforts and contributions are remembered in fifty years from now?
Dave: Most of all, I hope that whatever I have done that people are influenced by, will be taken to a whole new level. Seeing bands like Left Spine Down, who are influenced by what I have done, get out there and add their own spin to it. It is something great and you cannot put a price on it. While I may not be around in fifty years, I hope the main lessons that bands of the time take to heart, is don’t be afraid to take chances, go be yourself and take on the world.
Special Note Remix you are hearing of "Witness" is done by Jeremy Inkel of Left Spine Down and Frontline Assembly!
A new buildup of Russian troops along the Ukraine border raised concerns Tuesday that Moscow might be contemplating another intervention like the one that annexed Crimea earlier this year.According to a NATO official,
the official said. It comes a week after the United States and the European Union increased economic sanctions on Russia for supporting pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine government forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along the border with Russia.In addition,