The Lord of Lard returns after a long absence to preach The Gospel to the perverted masses, taking the time to invite ReGen into his salacious sonic sty.
An InterView with Raymond Watts of PIG
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
He is known by many monikers, but Raymond Watts will perhaps always be known as the musical mastermind behind PIG – one of the most salaciously sick and powerfully perverted entities in modern music. Since PIG’s 1988 A Poke in the Eye… With a Sharp Stick debut, Watts has cultivated a loyal following for his uniquely blasphemous and engaging style of industrial/rock, incorporating elements of orchestral bombast, sleazy lounge, all topped off by Watts’ inimitable alliterative lyrical punches and his menacing baritone snarl. He’s been a has regularly collaborated with KMFDM, J.G. Thirlwell of Foetus, and spoken word artist SOW, and has lent his production and remixing skills to numerous artists around the world, achieving a truly international presence that saw PIG’s music based primarily in Japan throughout the ’90s at the height of his popularity. However, despite mutterings of new studio material on the horizon after the 2005 release of Pigmata and the subsequent All Hamerican Pig Show tour in 2006, PIG entered into a hiatus that would last for nearly a decade. The long silence was broken in 2015 with the release of two collaborative albums – the Long in the Tooth EP with Primitive Race and the Compound Eye Sessions with Cubanate’s Marc Heal (under the moniker of M.C. Lord of the Flies), as well as a guest vocal on guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite’s Volumes solo album, and the resurfacing of material from UK band Judda, featuring production and remixes by Watts. Also during this time, he composed music for several Alexander McQueen fashion exhibits that took place in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, composed music for the video game MDK2 in 2000. Now in 2016, PIG has returned with The Gospel scheduled for release on Metropolis Records on September 9, preceded by The Diamond Sinners single, featuring remixes by Tweaker, SKOLD, and M.C. Lord of the Flies. With a North American tour now scheduled, including an appearance at this year’s Chicago ColdWaves event, Raymond Watts resumes his reign as the Lord of Lard, inviting ReGen to share in the sleazy spoils. All hail the Mighty Swine!
While the tour in 2006 was the last time we’ve heard from PIG you’ve certainly been busy since then – you’ve worked with Anna Wildsmith on her SOW record, you’ve done some soundtrack work, and then you finally resurfaced with the splits with Marc Heal and Primitive Race. The obvious question is why so long between PIG albums?
Watts: Good question. I think it was time to sort of do some other things; one of those things, and quite an important part, was getting away from music entirely for a bit and doing things like the school run with my kids, taking them to rugby matches and going to watch them play soccer and just sort of hanging out with them, which was fucking great! That was a real blast. I’ve got two boys, and when they were born in ’99 and 2001, respectively, I think it was 12 days after the first one was born that I had to fuck off and do 30-something dates in the States, and a bit of rehearsal beforehand, so I was gone for like two-and-a-half months. Similarly, when the second one was born, I had to sort of disappear and then I’d come back and basically be in the studio that whole time. I wasn’t able to keep it a 9-5 job, being in the studio. That was one thing, and it was really nice to do that, and then obviously, they’d go onto big school as we call it. And then, as you mentioned, I would start doing some interesting stuff like runway shows for McQueen and the like, installations, and some other labels as well and all sorts of weird productions like that. Doing music for runway shows is really exacting! It makes rock & roll shows look positively chaotic in comparison – they’re down to the nanosecond! The amount of man hours that go into those fucking things, and there are only 300 people there, is fucking ridiculous! Doing that was fun, and doing the stuff for the McQueen retrospective that was here last year, which was like a massive fucking retrospective of all his work and it was fundamentally bits of music that had been put together for shows that had been modified, and they’re kind of like musique concrete stuff, and they were really fun to work on – using all these bits of recordings of his teachers or his mom reading out reports, him talking about himself and positioning these little cutups with some noise behind it; some of it was more musical. That was at the Met a couple of years ago, and I think the one here – Savage Beauty it was called – was the most successful show in the history of the Victoria and Albert Museum and I think the second most successful at the Met a couple of years earlier. So, I then hooked up with Mark Thwaite, because I’d been asked to do some stuff with Primitive Race. Then Z.Marr came in from Combichrist, and we sort of did some stuff before the wheels kind of fell off of the wagon and then later, he’d come over again and we picked up the pieces. Nine days later, we had an album!
You sang vocals on Mark Thwaite’s Volumes album, on the track ‘Coming Clean.’ Was that a track originally intended to be for PIG or Primitive Race? Tell us about your collaborative process with him.
Watts: Well, I don’t know if that’s actually… I think he just asked, ‘Well, can we put this on?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely, of course.’ I didn’t think that it wasn’t going to make it on the PIG album; I think Mark just said, ‘Can we use it,’ as far as I remember it. I think it’s great! I really like his album, and in fact, there’s quite a bit of material on there that he got some other singers on that originally we were working on three years ago, and then he thought it wasn’t going anywhere, so he got some other people to sing on them. I think it’s really interesting what he’s doing with these other singers and how they are taking those things in their directions. I suppose you’ve not heard some of those things as they’d have sounded in their various incarnations as PIG.
I think he did send me one mix of ‘Found in Filth’ that he might have wanted for his album, but you kept it for the PIG album.
Watts: Right! Yes, and I did suggest to him that he put ‘Found in Filth’ on his album, but he said that he didn’t have the space. So, fine… and he’s done really well with it, hasn’t he? He seems to be around a lot and you see him online.
Well, as have you lately, having also done the Long in the Tooth EP with Primitive Race, the Compound Eye Sessions with Marc Heal, and in fact, the song ‘Drugzilla,’ which was on the latter record, is appearing on The Gospel. I’m assuming that’s going to be a different version, right?
Watts: Oh yes! It’s very different, and Mark’s written a lot of the music that is on The Gospel, and we then took it away and sort of bashed it about a bit. Mark writes this stuff, and I think you’ll find this from a lot of people who sang on his solo record, that kicks off a kind of… it’s a catalyst; I think when you listen to one of his bare bones tracks, it’s really inspiring. That’s not all the time, like all things, but a lot of the time, it’s like, ‘Oh fuck, I can do something with that!’ It’s like fanning a flame near oxygen, and he does create this… (Laughter) I was going to say it’s like a flame near a fart! (Laughter)
That’s an appropriate image too.
Watts: (Laughter) But he’s great, and he really just loves the process of doing stuff, and it’s the same great thing working with Z.Marr. He’s fucking great! He’s got such a ‘can-do’ attitude, and he brings this whole other side being more of a keyboard dude, and it’s great working with people… and En Esch, who has been over here recording and doing stuff, and Günter Schulz… and before, I’d worked quite a lot with Steve White in the studio, but it was very much just me with this lonely furrow that I was plowing diligently with my head looking down, throwing seed into the soil and squirting it with any kind of nutrients or fertilizer and as much water or lubricant I could find to sort of bring some life out of it. It was quite tough, but now, it seems more… it’s just as intense, but it’s nice to have this slightly broader kind of church with the people kneeling and worshipping in this direction, and that includes me; they’re not kneeling to me.
So, that does bring up the question of what the experience of making this album was versus some of your past releases, because Pigmartyr was something of a debacle that the Pigmata release was salvaging. What was different this time about working on PIG in the studio after being so long away from it?
Watts: Honestly, when I was working with Mark and Z.Marr the first time three years ago and we were sending each other a lot of files, I was then living in a little cottage down in the country, fucking miles from anywhere… down a track, and you couldn’t see another house anywhere. It was really weird; I was just on my own, but I had this dish outside and I had a whole lot of dogs, and I could fire files backwards and forwards, and I think that sending files is great if you’re sending files for someone to do a remix or for the odd kind of specific task – you know, like, ‘Oh, program this and this.’ But for collaborating, I think it’s very difficult and I think a lot gets lost in translation. So what was different about this was that when I did that, I was working with the guys, but it was kind of long distance, and it doesn’t matter how well intentioned you are; for me, I need people to be there. When En Esch came over, we sat shoulder to shoulder, and I shoved a microphone in front of him and he picked up a guitar, and I said, ‘No, play it like this,’ or ‘sustain that chord,’ or whatever. When you have to write that in an e-mail, it’s kind of like, ‘What’re you talking about?!’ You need to be next to the person for that kind of collaboration, so this was different particularly from three years ago. This time around, Z.Marr got on a plane, En Esch got on a plane, they came here and we did it like that.
And now the touring lineup includes En Esch and Günter Schulz, Z.Marr, and drummer Galen Waling.
Watts: Yeah, Galen is playing drums; right now he’s out with Julien-K, and he seems to play with a lot of people.
You’ve worked with En Esch and Günter for many years, and you clearly have a lasting friendship and a good working relationship, but how do you feel that has developed and strengthened over the years?
Watts: Honestly, there is absolutely no difference working with those guys now than when I first sat down next to fucking En Esch when he had loads of hair and was skinny as a little rake, and it was in Hamburg in the mid ’80s, and they were doing this weird stuff, and I was going, ‘Hey man, let’s do this!’ It’s no different now. He’ll still say, (imitating En Esch) ‘No, this is shit!’ and I’m going, ‘Don’t be fucking stupid!’ (Laughter) It’s just the same. He’s great! He’ll just sit there and say, ‘No, man. You’ve got to it like this!’ and I’ll say, ‘What the fuck are you talking about, you stupid kraut?!’ (Laughter) I just love him! He’s absolutely fucking priceless, that guy, and he’s a really lovely, gentle guy. He’s got some seriously amazing things that he brings to the table. Sometimes, when he puts the shit on the table, you’re going, ‘What the fuck?!’ And that’s the great thing about this collaboration! First you’re saying, ‘What the fuck, I can’t do anything with that!’ and then you sift through it a bit, and then you say, ‘Oh, I see! I never would’ve thought of that.’ It’s great!
Regarding the tour, from what I can tell, PIG was booked for ColdWaves first, and then the tour was built around that?
Watts: It’s really weird how these things start. First of all, this lovely guy advised us to do this show up in Calgary, and immediately afterwards, we were invited to do the one at ColdWaves, and it was like, ‘Fucking wow!’ So then, En Esch said, ‘Hey man, if you’re going to do one show, you might as well do five!’ (Laughter) Five shows turned into seven, and then seven shows turned into 14, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘What the fuck have I gotten myself into?!’ It’s great! So, that is the case, and you can blame it all on the thing in Calgary, but it’s got some kind of industrial/goth thing. I can’t remember what it’s called, but he’s a really lovely bloke, and we just couldn’t do it because we were tied into this other shit. We’ll have to go back and do that another time.
Well, we couldn’t be happier to see you back! The Gospel is your first album actually signed to Metropolis – your past records on Metropolis were originally already released and then licensed by Metropolis, is that correct?
Watts: To be perfectly honest, I’d have to go back and look. I’ve got a really fucking awful memory. Metropolis did one called Genuine American Monster, which I believe… was that a license?
I believe that album was originally released first in Japan in 1999, but we didn’t get it in the States until 2002 on Metropolis.
Watts: Right, that rings a bell!
And then after that was the Pigmartyr/Pigmata debacle.
Watts: Well, sometimes these things happen – you get a kind of perfect storm of events that just conspire to make things go off slightly half-cocked. It was really great material, and then we found ourselves in a different studio, the sound wasn’t great, and people were moving here and there and everything was really up in the air. We tried working with this label, and nothing was really happening with it, and I kind of took my eye off the ball and got involved in other things and drifted off. It got remastered and was sent off to Metropolis. These things happen; it’s fine, and maybe we’ll go back and revisit it sometime. I seem to remember at the time that I had this great relationship with Eden, who did this great work with me producing it. Somehow then, he had to move to the other side of the world and things got a little bit fucking weird. It wasn’t the right time, which is a shame because there was so much great stuff with that. You put these parts together, and sometimes you fire down the middle of the highway at fucking full speed, and sometimes you veer off like a fucking drag star, and you’ve got a one-way appointment with the wall. It wasn’t that we hit the wall; it wasn’t a crippling blow. Things just happened.
So this is your first record actually going directly to the label…
Watts: I believe you’re right! Literally, I called up Dave (Heckman) and said, ‘Hey, Dave, are you interested in doing this thing,’ and he was like, ‘Right! Bang!’ It’s been great, and this album, The Gospel is coming out on the ninth of September, but I think our first show of the tour is a couple of days before up in Toronto, and we will have some of the stuff to sell there at the actual place. I think there are 11 tracks on the CD version of The Gospel; 12 on the double-vinyl version of the album, with the extra track and the download code. There’s also the digital single, which is the single for the lead track on the album, ‘The Diamond Sinners,’ with also a music video that Erie Loch’s done. He’s locked up a really great video, and there’s another one in the pipeline from him. And then there’s a remix CD that’s coming out further down the track – probably around January of next year now, and that’s going to have all of these remixes from Kanga and, I believe, Praga Khan, and me and Vrenna and all these people… there’s a whole fucking plethora of these people doing these remixes, and that should be interesting. There’s this other release, which is going to be a vinyl-only thing – done with the blessing of Metropolis, but it will not actually be on Metropolis – and that will only be available on the tour. That’s a piece of vinyl with some unreleased tracks, some remixes that haven’t been heard elsewhere, and some really quite different versions of a couple of tracks from the album. It started out as two tracks, and now, it’s like fucking nine or something; I kid you not. I’m not fucking joking that it was originally just two tracks, a little thing, and then we said, ‘Well, what about this?’ ‘Oh yeah!’ ‘But, if we’ve got this, then we have to put this on.’ And this literally has been the most virulent fucking fungus that I’ve ever had grown in my fucking hard drive. Two weeks ago, it was two fucking songs; now, it’s a fucking album, but that’s my voice saying, ‘Well, it’s vinyl, and it’s only got two tracks – it doesn’t cost any more to put another track on… or another one… and another one.’ (Laughter) But, Z.Marr’s been doing some fantastic work with that shit, and I’ve been knocking back a couple of odd tracks. There’s a bunch of shit coming out soon, which is interesting. It’s fun! It’s good times!
There has been a tendency for you to reuse songs and ideas and elements all over the place – for instance, the track ‘Filth Healer’ is the same instrumental as ‘Yellow Pig’ from Atsushi Sakurai’s album, and the track ‘God Rod’ had the same lyrics as a Schwein track.
Watts: Yes, I see what you’re saying, and this body of work… there are things I’ve got sitting around that is just stuff that I’ve developed on my own. In fact, I think on this album, there’s really only one track like that. But The Gospel is much more collaborative; Mark and I have produced a bunch of shit, and Z.Marr and I have worked on a lot of shit, and he’s added a whole lot of bells and whistles and he’s also stripped a lot of shit away. I don’t want to get ahead of anybody’s opinion, but it is what it is, and some people I can imagine will go, ‘Well, it doesn’t sound like PIG without the big, thunderous orchestras,’ and that sort of thing. The devil in me likes to say that I hope that they are a little pissed off. It’s probably better to be in a slightly less safe area. I love all that shit, and there is a bit of jazzy stuff – particularly on the vinyl-only thing, and it may have some aspects of The Gospel on it. It’s been a long time, I’ve done a lot of other things, so I wanted to do something that sounds a bit different, and it probably does. I mean, obviously, it’s not going to sound massively different because it’s mainly my voice and my words with my handle on things. It doesn’t matter whether I’m writing words for Schwein, Schaft, KMFDM, PIG, or whatever… I think you can tell with a song like ‘Juke Joint Jezebel,’ for example, that I wrote the words to that, just like you can with ‘Prayer, Praise, and Profit’ or ‘Find It, Fuck It, Forget It,’ and you can say, ‘Well, that’s his thing.’ That side of things is definitely me, so it doesn’t really matter what’s going on behind, whether it’s got crashing orchestras or double bass and muted trumpet with a more lounge jazz vibe. The music has been written by other people and then molded by me, or it’ll be the other way around where it’s written by me and molded by other people – it’s a collaborative thing. But Mark’s written a whole lot of stuff, so it’s probably a bit more tuneful, you could say. You’ll have to wait and see, and you’ll probably hate it and tear your hair out and fucking toss it in the bin, but the process has been great and I want to already move onto the next one!
You mentioned Schaft – were you aware that Schaft came out with a new album earlier this year?
Watts: Yes, because they reissued this fucking box set and redid the video we did, and I think even their new live thing has a few tracks that I wrote with Imai and Fujii.
Oh, I didn’t even know about the box set!
Watts: Oh, yeah, man! I got this fucking fancy box – three of these fucking fancy boxes from my manager dude in Japan, so I was holding it in my arms thinking, ‘Jesus, what’s in here?!’ I open it, and there’s the old CD that we did, the video we did with these loads of cameras, and there’s this whole new album, and this thing with all these remixes and shit! It’s unbelievable, and I said, ‘Fucking hell! How much is this fucking thing?’ They said, ‘Oh, like $80.’ ‘Oh, is that gone?’ ‘Yeah, it’s sold out!’ Fuck me!
What is the possibility that you might want to work with Schaft again?
Watts: Honestly, it was fucking great doing that thing with them, and I really enjoyed the shit I wrote for them, because they were basically just PIG songs – I don’t think they even really played anything on them; it was just stuff I was working on, and there were only a couple of tracks, but they were just PIG tracks. It was great fun, but they’ve got some new bunch of people that they’re working with and they’re doing their thing, so it would seem a bit silly to try to go back to the way that it was. I’m doing this, and they have their shit going on, so it’s probably not very likely to happen. But I wish them well; they’re great, those guys, and I wish them all the best in what they do and I’m sure they’ll do really well with it.
Another thing that Armalyte industries released this past year that you were involved in was the Judda album, which you produced and did some remixes for. What can you tell us about your memories working on that?
Watts: When Giles (Moorhouse) told me that he was putting that out, I thought, ‘Fucking hell, he’s really cool! He’s actually got the fucking balls to really grasp at the nettle!’ I wish I’d done the whole fucking thing, actually. This was really going back into the mists of time into the swampy shithole that was Camden at the time, where Judda was kind of hanging around and doing their thing. And Marc Heal was there too, because we’d all sort of occasionally rub shoulders at these variously grimy events that we’d all end up on the same bill as. But when they asked me to go into the studio, I was going, ‘Wow, this is really fucking good!’ It wasn’t like they could talk it, but not walk it; it was the whole package and they had some really fucking great music going on! I loved what Andy, the keyboard player did; Pedro with his brilliant lyrics and brilliant vocal delivery, and the whole fucking thing was just great! I was going, ‘Come on, guys! Let’s reprogram that,’ and they’d say, ‘Knock yourself out, Raymond! Do it!’ They were really flexible, and we had this really funny little studio in King’s Cross, which I don’t know if you know that part of London, but now, it’s really gentrified. At the time, it was literally fucking crack central with hookers on every corner; really sleazy! It was a fantastic studio in this courtyard and an old stable – it actually had a stable door – and we were in there with a very crude setup of a couple of analog synths and some samplers, and we just banged the shit out, I remixed it, and it just sat on the shelf while the band drifted off into the ether as a band. I think it sounds wonderful; it’s withstood the test of time brilliantly!
So, you’ve got this album and the single, the vinyl-only release and the tour; is there anything else you want to let people know about?
Watts: The only thing really is that while The Gospel and the digital single is all signed, sealed, and delivered, and I’m really looking forward to that coming out, I’m really looking forward to this vinyl; it’s only going to be available at the merch booth on the tour. It’s called Rise and Repent, and it suddenly turned into this thing that I thought, ‘Wow, this is fucking great!’ There’s all this shit happening that if you blink, you might miss it. That’s all I can say; it’s fucking great and it’s an absolute pleasure!
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