Ogre was born on December 5, 1962 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. From a young age, he had imagined working in a studio as a singer, believing it was his own "manifest destiny". He was also interested in magic and had attempted to become a magician, joining the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He entertained his parents with magic shows, during which his tricks would often fail humorously. He described his childhood as "introverted", and that he would take refuge in watching monster movies; he also enjoyed the horror fantasy writings of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.
As a child, he was fascinated with words and would spend time in his basement writing poetry. He would write several pages at a time and then play around with what he had written. "From that, I developed a keen sense of how words sound, how they can phonetically sound and be changed. How words obviously have different meanings and with a slight displacement can take on almost a surreal meaning". This interest in language and vocabulary stemmed from his love of music and lyrics. His subsequent musical stylings were informed by the likes of Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, and Kraftwerk. He said listening to the Cure album Pornography was a "transformative" moment for him, and that Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures introduced him to "the dark side of music". He soon found himself gravitating towards musicians such as Throbbing Gristle, Portion Control, and Front 242.
Ogre left Calgary for Vancouver, British Columbia at the age of twenty. "Vancouver has an edge to it; an attitude; an arrogance when it comes to music. I came there as a young 20-year-old from Calgary and entered into a world I’d never seen before". In 1982, he attempted to start a record distribution company using borrowed money, a venture that ultimately failed. He was further troubled by the death of his father and a divorce from his wife. Ogre was roommates with Images in Vogue member Gary Blair Smith when he met cEvin Key (Kevin Crompton), the drummer for Smith's band, at a party. He also met future collaborator Steven Gilmore, whom he learned had also attended Ernest Manning High School in Calgary. Key asked Ogre to join his project, Skinny Puppy, an invitation he accepted. Images in Vogue recording engineer Dave Ogilvie also signed up. The pair adopted stage names to avoid the confusion brought by having two people named Kevin in one group.