INTERVIEW: Phil Owen of Skatenigs on Pigface, Wax Trax! History, & Future Plans for Making Life Livable

Austin, Texas’ Skatenigs have been making life livable for industrial/metal/punk aficionados since they released their debut single, “Chemical Imbalance,” on Wax Trax! Records in 1991. Led by Phil “Phildo” Owen, who also appeared on the Revolting Cocks 1990 LP Beers, Steers, and Queers, the band released two full-length albums in the 1990’s (1992’s Stupid People Shouldn’t Breed and 1994’s What a Mangled Web We Leave) before going on hiatus. Owen dabbled in other bands, like Choreboy and Snow Black, but returned to his Skatenigs project to release Adult Entertainment for Kids in 2016. Last year marked the 30th Anniversary of Owen’s band of misfits and it saw the band playing live shows and releasing a revamped version of their debut single (re-named “Self Medicated”) that featured the late, great Killing Joke/Ministry/Prong bassist Paul Raven.

Earlier this year, Phildo presented a SXSW showcase that featured the Skatenigs, as well as John Fryer’s Black Needle Noise (featuring Betty X on lead vocals), David Boring from Hong Kong, Esther Black, Project .44, Curse Mackey, and special guest MC Martin Atkins of Pigface. The Skatenigs have continued playing live and have been prepping new material for 2020.

Having existed as part of the Wax Trax! and Revolting Cocks/Ministry family, it was inevitable that Phildo would cross paths with Martin Atkins. Atkins toured as one of two drummers for Ministry’s 1989-1990 The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste tour and would later develop his Pigface project with fellow drummer Bill Rieflin. In 1995, Phildo contributed to Pigface’s album, Feels Like Heaven…Sounds Like Shit, with a remix of the track “Steamroller” from their Notes from Thee Underground LP.  It comes as no surprise that Atkins would call on the Skatenigs for a support slot for their upcoming gig at the Granada Theater.

We caught up with Phildo to learn a little about his relationship with Atkins, some Wax Trax! stories, and the future plans for the Skatenigs.

Skatenigs play w/ Pigface this Sunday, November 24th at the Granada Theater, Dallas, TX. Get tickets here.

Do you remember when you first met Martin Atkins of Pigface?

Phil Owen: We met at Chicago Trax studios during a Ministry recording session. From what I remember, he had just gotten back in town. I do remember he talked about starting a record label that would become Invisible Records. We also spent time on the The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste tour.

Any chance you will appear with Pigface during their set?

Phil Owen: Pigface is a sensory explosion, so you can never tell what will happen.

Do you have any especially fond memories or stories related to Wax Trax! Records that you can share?

Phil Owen: There are many for sure, but one that comes to mind…after signing the Skatenigs, Jim (Nash) and Dannie (Flesher), the owners of the label, took me up to their flat above the label and proceeded to show me videos of Al (Jourgensen of Ministry) with the disclaimer, “you can never tell Al we showed these to you.” These were videos such as Al’s appearance on the Phil Donahue show, where the title “Everyday is Halloween” came from, as well as a performance alongside drag queen superstar Divine singing the “Name Game.” They were very proud of Al and all of his accomplishments. Though it was very funny to watch at the time, it was a very warming experience of them showing off their illegitimate son.

Phil Owen performing with Skatenigs, February 2019 at Three Links in Deep Ellum. Photo by Carson Allen.

Last year, you celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the band with a revision of the track  “Chemical Imblance,” that also featured the late Killing Joke/Ministry bassist Paul Raven. Why was it important to you to release this updated version of the song?

Phil Owen: Raven had joined me in my project Snow Black at the time. He was also campaigning for a Killing Joke/Skatenigs tour at the time, as he was a big fan of our work. We recorded a few tracks at the time that were later lost to a robbery of hard dives that occurred. I later found the bass track on a back up drive and thought it was very fitting for this reincarnation.

There seems to be renewed interest in “industrial music” w/ some great new bands out there paying tribute to the genre that thrived in North America in the 1990’s. Do you have any thoughts regarding this new interest in the genre? Or was it just inevitable?

Phil Owen: I think it is great; however, I believe it is a narrow starting point for an artist to try to fit in to one genre or category. For me, it is too limiting.

Skatenigs, Revolting Cocks, and Pigface have a unique niche in industrial music. That is to say, they are mostly recognized as crass, juvenile, and more focused on partying than the more of the politically driven or dark subject matter of their peers. Is there any reason why you decided to take a more irreverent approach to the music?

Phil Owen: Good question, I would like to say “fuck you,” but you would expect that! So, I will answer by saying that too much seriousness or the shoving of political agendas down listeners throats approach is somewhat ego driven and assumes your audience can’t think for itself. I prefer to poke the bear lyrically and allow people to take their own stance, regardless of my true opinion. Tongue firmly inserted in cheeks!

Where do things stand for the next album?

Phil Owen: 2020 will see a release of “Chemical Imbalance” remixes titled Sharing Rigs with Gravediggers. Contributors to this project will be announced after New Year’s. Trust it is a very impressive group of artists/producers.

New songs are in the works and will be released next year as two EP’s titled The Beginning of the End and The End of the Beginning. We hope to have one of the releases out by Spring prior to our embarking on an Australia tour.

Skatenigs play w/ Pigface on Sunday, November 24th at the Granada Theater, Dallas, TX. Get tickets here.


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