Ogilvie was born on 5 December 1962 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. From a young age, he had imagined working in a studio as a singer, describing it as his own "manifest destiny". He was also interested in magic and had attempted to become a magician and joined the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He entertained his parents with magic shows, during which his tricks would often fail humorously. Ogilvie 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, Ogilvie was fascinated with words, and often used his basement as a writing space. 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 [these] words obviously have different meanings and with a slight displacement can take on almost a surreal meaning". This interest for language and vocabulary stemmed from Ogilvie's love of music and lyrics. His subsequent musical stylings were informed by the likes of Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, and Joy Division. He also described listening to the Cure album Pornography as being a "transformative" moment from his youth.
Ogilvie 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, Ogilvie attempted to start a record distribution company using borrowed money, a venture that ultimately failed. Ogilvie was further troubled by the death of his father due to cancer and a divorce from his wife. At the time, Ogilvie was roommates with Images in Vogue member Gary Blair Smith when he met Kevin Crompton, the drummer for Smith's band, at a party. Ogilvie also met future collaborator Steven Gilmore, who he learned went to the same high school as he, Ernest Manning High School. Crompton asked Ogilvie to join his project, Skinny Puppy, an invitation he accepted. Images in Vogue recording engineer Dave Ogilvie also signed up. They adopted stage names to avoid the confusion brought by having two people named Kevin in one group; Crompton became cEvin Key and Ogilvie became Nivek Ogre.