Jul 2018 30

Demanding that his disciples prey and obey to the pulpit of pork, the mighty swine Raymond Watts speaks with ReGen about his latest artistic endeavors, from his newest album to the upcoming U.S. tour.
 

 

An InterView with Raymond Watts of PIG

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Raymond Watts, better known to the industrial music scene as PIG, continues to ride high on the hog; having returned from a long period of inactivity with 2016’s The Gospel, followed by an extensive touring period, a remix album, and CD and vinyl EP releases, this year marked the release of a new album, Risen. With this latest outing, the prolific purveyor of perversion delivers unto his audience some of his most accomplished and stylistically assorted material as tracks like “Prey & Obey,” “The Revelation,” “The Chosen Few,” and “The Vice Girls” stand as modern industrial/rock classics sure to please the disorderly disciples. There will be hell to pay in the U.S.A. as PIG embarks on a tour supporting Killing Joke in September, with more headlining dates in October. ReGen Magazine was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with the Lord of Lard about his current musical activity, touching on the creation of Risen from his belligerent and boisterous lyrics to Vlad McNeally’s cover artwork to the numerous musical miscreants, past and present, in the PIG camp. In addition, Watts offers some words of praise for the current crop of up-and-coming industrial and underground electronic artists, disdain for the insanity of the status quo, the resurgence of vinyl, and some poignant memories of his longtime friend and musical partner Anna Wildsmith.

 

I had noted on The Gospel that there was a lack of the orchestral samples that many identify with your music, and on Risen, they’ve come back and the classic PIG sound is very sold on this album.

Watts: Yeah, there is a bit more of that going on again, and I don’t know if it was a ‘going back’ kind of thing because I’ve always liked that. I think on The Gospel, you’re right that we didn’t have that going on, and maybe that’s because… well, it was a different thing, and it had a few other ingredients. Obviously, Mark Gemini Thwaite is involved a lot less on this one and there was more stuff that was written with Mark on The Gospel. I do like to change things, that’s all.

Indeed, and Mark and En Esch are on Risen, and you’re still working heavily with Z.Marr, and your new guitarist is Ben Christo. How did you and Ben connect and how did he come to be so heavily involved on Risen?

Watts: I’m a fan of sending files when it’s for remixing, but it’s much harder when you’re actually writing together and doing stuff that’s on the go. If I have an idea, I want to work on it and have a guitarist I can work with shoulder-to-shoulder; the communication is just a lot easier. A number of things can be lost in translation via e-mails, sending files, or whatever. I was doing some gigs just over a year ago here in the U.K., and I spoke to Frank the booking agent, and I said, ‘Frank, I need a guitarist who is close by in London,’ and he said, ‘You ought to talk to Ben who plays in The Sisters of Mercy,’ and so we got in touch. We did one gig together, and that worked out well. Then we did another, and we spoke a good language. There was a lot of points of reference that he understood so that we could work quickly together and get shit done. It’s great! He’s very close, which is really cool for me, and I have a really good communication with him. I’m really pleased with the results.

Yes, his work on Risen is rather impressive, as well as his own band Diamond Black. Is he going to be involved in the upcoming tour?

Watts: Well, we’re hoping that they’ll all be involved.

Also appearing on this album is Anita Sylph; how did she come to be part of Risen?

Watts: Like these things, I was just listening to people, letting people know what I wanted in the way of female vocals. It’s really the way things work, and it is quite a small but resourceful scene, and it does just seem that way. I’d seen that fabulous WaxTrax! documentary, Industrial Accident – I saw it here when they’d brought it to London, and I was lucky enough to see it. I was really knocked out by how it was really well put together, the editing had a great rhythm to it, and like so many of these things, it could’ve been a disaster. It could’ve had so much footage. It was actually really well put together and had a great tempo to it. But watching it, I realized that this scene is really small. I would see the people in it and think, ‘Well, I worked with them, and I worked with them,’ and ‘Oh, I’d forgotten that I’d gotten that person on Sinsation,’ and ‘Oh yeah, he’d lent me that wacky bass in the ‘Painiac’ video.’ We were all connected; it was very weird, and I thought about that. It’s a really bizarre sort of family tree that seems to be quite stumpy.

Well, that is how these things work, as you said. And now, anybody who’s involved becomes part of it; for instance, on the last tour when Günther Schultz had to leave and Luke Dangler from Ghostfeeder stepped in on guitar – now, whether he’s ever involved in PIG again in the future, he’s part of it.

Watts: And I must say that he did a brilliant fucking job, man. Yes, Günter had to return home to Germany and it was a very difficult time for him, and Luke just slipped in and picked up the stuff and spent a day-and-a-half getting it all right. All of that kind of touches on how the PIG camp is, although I’ve worked with lots of other people, a smaller thing that casts a much bigger umbrella with people being involved in the videos, in the albums, in the label, remixes, and that’s a really great thing. I’m not going to say it’s looser, but it’s much more cohesive for me.

 

 

You’ve touched on the fact that some of the people you’re working with now are fairly close, and that you’re no stranger to working remotely and sending files back-and-forth. Is it that you prefer being in the studio with the same people, or do you like having the palette to work from when people send you different bits and pieces to use?

Watts: Well, as I said, I like to change things up and try not to repeat myself too much. When you do things by giving them a blank canvas to send you ideas and files, that’s great. But generally, most of the time, I prefer to be sitting next to them because I’m quite verbal and I figure it’s easier to get what I’ve got in my head across. It’s easier for pinpointing things or waving my hands about like I’m conducting; I think I get a lot more done when they’re sitting right next to me.

On a similar subject, Vlad McNeally has become one of the scene’s most reliable and accomplished artists, and he created Risen‘s very striking artwork. How did he come to work with you on that?

Watts: I was hassling Metropolis to do a cover some months ago, and I wanted it to be metallic or like the Public Image Ltd metallic box, and they were saying, ‘Can’t afford it, can’t afford it, can’t afford it,’ and I’d say, ‘But I think it’d be really great.’ They couldn’t pay for it, and that’s fine and said, ‘Okay, so I won’t do the metal cover on this one,’ and I later said to Dave at Metropolis, ‘All right, that’s fine, I’ll do my own vinyl then.’ He agreed, so I went to Giles Moorehouse at Armalyte Industries, and Armalyte did the vinyl for Risen. I then decided to go the opposite way, because I had this other work that involved a lenticular cover for the vinyl, so I did a version of that to send to Metropolis. So, Metropolis did the CD and Armalyte in London are doing the vinyl, and I wanted to do the lenticular cover, so I brought that to Giles and he said yes. I worked very closely with Jarred Everson on the previous one because he’d done loads of stuff for The Gospel and Rise & Repent, so Giles suggested that I try Vlad for Risen, because I knew that this would be a big job and I knew that Jarred had done a lot of stuff before and I didn’t want to stress him too much. So, I reached out to Vlad and I told him, ‘This is my idea. I’ve got this in mind and I want this kind of lenticular cover and foil for the CD,’ and I wanted like a pop art Russian icon – you know, those Russian religious things, that kind of style. And he was really brilliant! I told him what I wanted, and he came back like boom! ‘What do you think about this?’ He’d really done a brilliant job and really knocked it out of the ballpark.

So, it’s fair to say that you’re pleased with the resurgence of vinyl?

Watts: Yeah, well, think about it. It’s fucking great! To be perfectly honest, some people will play the vinyl and a few people have the sound systems to actually play them, and I’m not sure if that’s most people. But a vinyl is certainly much nicer to have, for some people, than a CD. For instance, the Risen vinyl is a great thing to have and look at and hold – a lot of shit there for you to feast your eyes on. But CDs are great as well and they sound really great, and vinyl sounds really great and it’s just a different thing. I think it’s really nice that we have these sorts of things.

I suppose the question had more to do with the current ‘retro’ trends with technology, older music, and what I was getting it was your thoughts on it. What would you hope that people take away from the older modes?

Watts: Oh, I don’t know, man. I just know that we used to be obsessed with ‘what’s new is good,’ and we used to assume that everything new is better. But I have loads of vintage Oberheim synths and all sorts of shit like that, sometimes old stuff is better than the new stuff. Records… I think people forgot how fucking good they are. I mean, bicycles are old and everyone realizes how fucking great bicycles are – a brilliant, simple invention! They’re nice and they feel great to ride… although I don’t think anyone wants to see me riding on a bicycle. (Laughter) It’s not a pretty sight.

(Laughter) I wouldn’t worry about it. The three songs from the Prey & Obey EP are on this album in new mixes; was it always intended that the EP was going to be a precursor for Risen?

Watts: Yeah! Because we were going on tour and these things were ready to go, and I suppose I could’ve kept them off the album, but as you mentioned, I’ve sort of remixed them and they fit with Risen. I think there are songs that were on Rise & Repent in different versions as well, so they all sort of hang together on Risen… at least, that was the intention.

It did take me awhile to realize that ‘Prey & Obey’ is essentially the same instrumental as Cubanate’s ‘We Are Crowd,’ and obviously Phil Barry and Marc Heal are credited as cowriters and having played on the track. For those who aren’t aware of the circumstances behind that, how did this come about?

Watts: So, what happened was I had done an EP some time ago with Marc called Compound Eye Sessions, that was MC Lord of the Flies and PIG. So, Marc was just sending me rough ideas of tracks, and there were tracks like ‘Drugzilla’ and ‘Shake,’ and we’d work on bits, change the riff, change the lyrics, that sort of thing. One of the tracks he’d sent me that I liked a lot actually was called ‘We Are Crowd,’ and we just never got around to doing it for the EP. Just after The Gospel when I started working on the tracks that were going to become Risen, I listened back and thought, ‘Oh shit, this could be something!’ I called up Marc and said, ‘Hey Marc, that one song, I think I could do something with that.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, but we did that as a Cubanate track on a compilation or something or other.’ I said, ‘Yeah well, let’s just do it and see what happens to it,’ and he said, ‘fine.’ So, I did some things to it, put my words on it, and he asked me, ‘Do you want me to send you what we’ve done with it,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s better that I should just work on these foundations from what you sent me three or four years ago.’ That turned into ‘Prey & Obey,’ and it still starts off with the original riff, so that’s the story behind it. They were happy to have both my version and their original version.

Yes, my girlfriend says that it’s both her favorite Cubanate song and her favorite PIG song.

Watts: Oh, brilliant! It’s been great doing things with Marc, dipping in and out while we go and do our things and then come back together and throw ideas around without being precious. It’s really great, and I must say that’s the different thing about doing things now; it’s much easier to throw ideas around and people are much easier dealing with each other. It’s good.

PIG played ColdWaves, Cubanate came back and played ColdWaves, H3llb3nt – which you contributed the song ‘Rubber Girls with Knives’ to – is playing this year; there is a plethora of legacy bands coming back for tours and albums over the last few years. What is it about this time now that makes it ripe for this sort of resurgence?

Watts: Well, I don’t really know; I can only speak for my experience. And my experience is that I had to go away and deal with some things because I was pretty fucking burned out; I’d worked on PIG throughout the ’80s and ’90s pretty constantly all the way up to 2000. I stayed involved in music, like doing the fashion thing and installations and art galleries at museums and shit. But I kind of started doing PIG stuff by accident, and I said, ‘You know what? I actually have much more fun now than I ever did before.’ Much more fun. It’s way more fucking fun. So, if they’re all doing it because it’s fun, then I think maybe that’s the reason. Hopefully, they’re not doing it even though they fucking hate it. I actually really have a fucking blast doing this shit nowadays; way more fun than I did before. I only work with people that I really like and that I get on with, and that’s my fucking bottom line. It’s an absolute gas! I like them and they’re all really good people in the PIG camp. Everything is much smaller and much more modest and enjoyable. If I want to post a picture, I can. If I want to work on ideas or work on merch like T-shirts or make videos, I’ve got people who are really into it and we have a blast doing it. It’s all much more immediate. I think I’m just really lucky. In the old days, even when I was working on the Schwein thing, which was good, but we were all really fucking hassled. ‘Well, what about the set list?’ It’d be a big fucking conference! ‘What about the logo for the band?’ I’d say, ‘I want this,’ and the label – I think it was BMG, but I can’t fucking remember – would go away and do something else and fuck it up. (Laughter) Now, things are much more modest and not be as serious as a fucking hand grenade. So, going back to your question, if they’re getting back together to do anything, whoever it is, the best reason to do it is because they really enjoy it; I hope they do.

You also released the remix companion to The Gospel, Swine & Punishment, which along with familiar names like London After Midnight, Android Lust, Tweaker, and Inertia, also had newer names like KANGA and Oumi Kapila. As well, you played ColdWaves, which champions on-the-rise acts, and toured with Ghostfeeder and Julien-K. From all of this, what are your observations on the newer crop of underground electronic and industrial artists?

Watts: It’s great! I’ve just had a whole bunch of remixes come in, which will come out in a bit, in a few months, and there are fucking tons of them. Some of them are people who’ve been around for ages, like myself, and others are from people I’ve never heard of but that other people have suggested. What Giles has been doing at Armalyte has been saying, ‘Well, why don’t we go get them?’ And I say, ‘Why not?’ Some of them have been absolutely jaw-droppingly great; so much so that it’s been quite frighteningly good to say, ‘Holy shit, I have all of these fucking remixes for Risen,’ and it’s almost like… I think some of them may even be better than the album. It’s great to hear. There are some really good people that we’ve all heard of, and there are some on this album that I’m sure you’ve heard of but that I haven’t heard of. I mean, I live under a rock with a big rock on top of it; I don’t know who half of these people are, but they’re fucking great. I think all of this new stuff is fabulous; especially the KANGA remix, man… great!

When you do listen to music outside of working on PIG, what is your preference?

Watts: Oh, you want to talk about legacy acts, man? I listen to Wagner! (Laughter) Yeah, I mean, he’s a legacy act, right? But no, I listen to easy listening like Andy Williams and The Carpenters. Also, I listen to John Tavener… I still listen to Eno’s stuff and Daniel Lanois’ stuff. I listen to the really heavy acid rock from the ’60s and early ’70s like Mountain. I like indie pop. I like ABBA. I like MINISTRY. I like Joni Mitchell, and Johnny Cash, and…

So, a little of everything.

Watts: Well, you know, if I hear something on the TV like a commercial for fucking ice cream, I go, ‘That’s great,’ if it’s good. But the thing is it is really great. Unless it’s bullshit, but even then, I’ll probably think it’s great.

You’d mentioned Schwein a moment ago, and I’d mentioned that you’d taken part in H3llb3nt for the one track on Hardcore Vanilla. Are there any other projects other than PIG that you have in the works right now?

Watts: There is another thing that I’ve done, but the thing is there is so much shit happening at the moment; there are so many bullets in the barrel that I’m going to get blocked if I let it all off in one big go. So, I have to just say, ‘Right, let’s do this,’ and then we’ll get that done, and then I can move onto the next one. There’s a lot of other shit coming down the pipeline.

PIG was never particularly political, although you’d been involved in more politically minded projects like KMFDM. What are your thoughts on the current state of affairs in the world?

Watts: Well, I kind of feel that I should… my personal politics is don’t fucking piss people off because there seems to be a fundamental… I don’t really know what to say. Everything seems to have going really fucking mental recently; I mean, really insanely insane. It’s really frightening times now, isn’t it?

 

 

I’ve always said that the golden rule of life is to not be a dick, and it seems that everyone goes out of their way to be a dick. And there is a degree of belligerent humor to PIG’s lyrics, although I’ve rarely ever heard of it being perceived as offensive.

Watts: Yeah, I really just try not to get involved in that shit. While I do feel that we all love to shit on other people, we’re all incredibly sensitive as well. Yeah, we sort of muck about the line a little, but with PIG, we have our tongues planted very firmly in our cheeks. The lyrics that I write – whatever I’m doing, whether it was in PIG or was with KMFDM or Schaft or Schwein or Neubauten – is really just me. You know? I don’t write a different way depending on who I’m with. The lyrics are rife with my style. If I was writing with En Esch and Günter in PIG or with Sascha on a song like ‘Yo-Ho-Ho’ or whatever the fuck else I was writing, it was no more irreverent or reverent or revolutionary or full of bullshit, bile, and bigotry with any one project as it was with another. It’s my fucking barrel and I’ll share it, hopefully, in a way that will be of interest to people who might enjoy it. I really try not to worry about it. I do try to push a few buttons, of course, but I try not to push the one that says ‘explode.’

The music world has endured a great number of tragedies in recent years, and one of them hit particularly close to you with the passing of Anna Wildsmith. Are there any words about her that you’d like to share?

Watts: Anna and I were together for a long time, and then we became really, really good friends after that. I would hang out with her, and we’d bought house in France, and she carried on living there and I would go down and see her. When I started doing the PIG thing again before she died, she was really fucking pleased and really supportive. Anna had always been my sounding board for everything; not just with lyrics, but with merch – like coming up with the slogans and stuff, all sorts of shit. Right up until I went on that tour in 2016, she died at the end of the last day of September of 2016, when I was getting ready to tour. Before that, when I was doing the album, I’d run by her the mixes, I’d ask her, ‘What about this title or that title,’ and she was laying in her fucking hospital bed. She’d taken the time to say, ‘No, this works better,’ or ‘that works better,’ or ‘what about this logo’ or whatever; she always had an opinion, and she was really pleased that I was doing it again. That was great and it meant a lot. Just before she died, she said, ‘Go out and play ‘Find It, Fuck It, Forget It,” and I was just about to play San Francisco that night; she’d told me that the day before, so I played the song, and that day, she died. I was able to get back home for her funeral. Not having her around, I really miss having that sounding board. But now, there are lots of other people I can bounce ideas off of, and I think she’d be really happy about that. She is very sorely missed.

Is there anything you’d like to share now that the album is out and PIG is about to go on tour?

Watts: The only thing I can say is that we’re doing a few headlining shows in the middle of the run with Killing Joke and a whole bunch more at the end that are being finalized, and we will be announcing those soon. So, come out and see us!
 

 

PIG
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Metropolis Records
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Armalyte Industries
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube

 

Photography by E. Gabriel Edvy, courtesy of Blackswitch Labs

 

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