Pigface with Gravity Kills, Godhead, Meg Lee Chin, Chris ConnelLy and Damage Manual at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday (November 16). $22. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
pigface comes across like something you'd expect from a group of art students -- a musical collaboration where people just show up and play whatever. Except Pigface isn't art students, but musicians brought together by drummer Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd. and Killing Joke).Since 1990, Pigface has released 12 albums. This year's The Best Of Pigface: Preaching To The Perverted bounces from sweet ambient to post-punk.
The music is always about collaborations. More than 100 people have joined the band to date, on the albums or onstage, including such notables as Trent Reznor, Jello Biafra, En Esch (KMFDM), Nivek Ogre (Skinny Puppy) and Shonen Knife.
Those in the November 16 lineup, including Chris Connelly (ex of Ministry and the Revolting Cocks) and cool electronic vocalist Meg Lee Chin, have given themselves two days to recreate and totally morph Pigface songs. Atkins claims that by the time the band reaches Toronto to play the Opera House, they'll know what they're doing.
"I think we're pretty good at this now," says Atkins from his office in Chicago, where he runs the Invisible label and a new umbrella company, Underground Inc., that helps other bands set up labels.
"In early Pigface we questioned everything, and one of the things we questioned was rehearsing.
"The formula at first was that there was no formula, so we just got on a bus and the first 10 shows we did, opening for the Butthole Surfers, we didn't know what we were doing, and we thought that was fun."
Since then, Atkins has learned the importance of giving people a good show, so even if they walk away hating the music, at least it's not due to a crappy performance.
"We don't rehearse to the point that we're reproducing the songs parrot fashion, but really there are so many technical things we need to do with the looping that we must have a balance between keeping it fresh for ourselves and not short-changing the audience," explains Atkins.
"The rehearsal provides a skeleton, and the flesh on the skeleton changes nightly."
With an ever-changing cast of performers -- and who knows what Torontonians will be hopping onto the stage? -- he's happy to keep it unpredictable.
"I've invited the members of Gravity Kills and Godhead onstage whenever they feel like joining us. And anybody who wants to bring a sitar to the Toronto show, or a record deck or trumpet, or a dragon costume or two-person cow suit, then fine, you're getting in for free and you'll be onstage."