Phil Western, a Canadian electronic and post-industrial artist who worked on several projects with Skinny Puppy’s cEvin Key, such as Download and PlatEAU, and also engineered, remixed or played on tracks for such heavyweights as Nine Inch Nails, Metallica and Bryan Adams, died Feb. 9 of a suspected accidental drug overdose. He was 47.
The latest Download album, Unknown Room, is scheduled for release March 8 on Artoffact. Western also released several solo albums, including 2017’s Neuro-Plastique.
“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we, Phil’s family, want to make this official announcement of his death this past week,” it reads on Western’s personal Facebook page. “The family are awaiting the Coroner’s investigation into an official time and cause of death but we believe it was an accidental overdose. We will update when we receive further information. Phil was loved by so many of us. He was funny, intelligent, deep, creative and so many other wonderful things. We will miss him more than we could ever accurately convey. Much love to all those who are grieving with us. Phil’s family xo.”
Western released work dating back to the early 90s, on his own; in Beehatch with Mark Spybey; Download; Kone; PlatEAU; XMT; Floatpoint; Off and Gone; Frozen Rabbit; and other bits and pieces. He started as a drummer and percussionist. In 1996, credited as “Philth,” he played keyboards (“wave manipulation”) on “Morter” and “Amnesia” on Skinny Puppy’s The Process.
Key, one of the first to post on social media about his passing, has made a series of heartfelt posts since, sharing photos and memories about his friend and partner, one with Gary Numan. “I’ll never forget how happy Phil was this night in October. I think meeting Gary Numan was a big thrill. I was so happy as well. Devastated,” he wrote, followed by a red heart.
In Key’s latest post, Western is dressed in green, face makeup and exceptional wig included, as a swami. “My favorite costume I ever saw Phil surprise us with. The moment he changed he would become the Swami. RIP, he wrote identifying those in the photo as Mark Spybey, Phillip C Western IV and cEvin Key.
On his Instagram, Bryan Adams posted a photo and this sentiment: “This is my mate Phil Western who passed away accidentally last weekend from an overdose of what was most likely caused by fentanyl. Phil was an amazingly talented keyboard programmer (and very funny too) who worked on a few of my recordings, most notably the album On A Day Like Today. Listen to songs like ‘Inside Out’ and ‘When You’re Gone,’ you’ll hear Phil’s wonderful subliminal sounds.
This is my mate Phil Western who passed away accidentally last weekend from an overdose of what was most likely caused by fentanyl. Phil was an amazingly talented keyboard programmer (and very funny too) who worked on a few of my recordings, most notably the album “on a day like today”. Listen to songs like “inside out” and “when you’re gone”, you’ll hear Phil’s wonderful subliminal sounds. All my love to his family and his beautiful daughter??. I’ll never forget you Phil, and thank you for all the music and sounds you gave to the world x
While it should be noted the cause of Western’s death has not yet been confirmed, a recent Coroners Service report on illicit drug overdose deaths in British Columbia found that there were 1489 deaths in 2018 alone.
In 2014, Western contracted a serious blood infection, which he beat and was able to return to work.