The Lord of Lard himself, Raymond Watts speaks with ReGen about the creation of his latest salacious symphony, touching on a wide range of topics from religion to social media and the hellacious ride ahead.
An InterView with Raymond Watts of <PIG>
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Throughout human history, one of man’s most consistent advances has been to find newer, more brutal ways of inflicting pain on one another. With the world in a seemingly constant state of conflict, whether motivated by the greed of governments and the rancor of religion, even our sources of entertainment are driven by the suffering of others in some form or another… in fact, one could even say that Pain Is God. Such is the title of the latest album from the Mighty Swine himself, the Prophet of Pork, the Priest of Perversion, the Lord of Lard himself – Raymond Watts, better known to the musical world as <PIG>. Since the late ’80s, he’s been honing his particular brand of industrialized rock, as suited to a licentious cabaret as it is to a deranged mosh pit. With Pain Is God, Watts and his pigsty of musical miscreants and misdemeanors present an album that takes a sardonic and saccharine look at the state of the world with some of the band’s most aggressive and most accomplished songs yet. Taking the time to speak with ReGen Magazine, Mr. Watts lets us in on the creative process behind the new album, discussing both the music and the visual art, reconnecting with fellow harbinger hogs Steve White and John Fryer, and adjusting to life during a global crisis.
First of all, let us know how you’re doing? With so many artists and bands having had to cancel tour plans and facing financial difficulties due to the global pandemic, how have you been holding up?
<PIG> has maintained a fairly prolific pace over the past five years – albums, remixes, a few collaborations, several tour-only and specialty EPs that have led up to the new album, Pain Is God. What keeps you energized and in such a state of constant creativity?
Having a style that is very much your own, what would you say are the major difficulties you face when composing for a <PIG> album?
Obviously, the Christian (and especially Catholic) visuals and iconography have played a significant role in your particular brand of satire and smarm, and the new album title of Pain Is God also seems to evoke this… not to get preachy (an ironic term), but could you tell us a bit about your relationship with religion – Christianity in particular – that it plays so heavily into your music?
As well, the imagery and lyrics of the new album draw the parallels of violence in religion – i.e. bullets, bombs, blood, etc. – and there are certainly correlations between religion, zealotry, violence. Not to say that <PIG> isn’t serious, but there’s always that whimsical side to how you approach even serious topics, so is there a specific message that you’re hoping to convey with this new album?
Watts: Even a hand grenade can come in a chocolate box… I don’t know if there’s a ‘message,’ and if there is one, it’s for you to find, (though the clue is on the cover). A lot of this stuff just comes out of me in quite an ‘automatic’ and unconscious way; I don’t really want to get anyway near paralysis through analysis of it. My muse, my unconscious, wherever it comes from is best left well alone I’ve realized; otherwise, I might frighten it away. Yes, I bash the words into shape, but I’m often deciphering it just as much as you are.
Considering how prolific John Fryer has been in his own right, it’s amazing to think that the only time you two had worked together prior to the Black Needle Noise ‘Seed of Evil’ single was a track on the SCHAFT album. Would you tell us about the experience of working with him on this track, and is there an impetus to work together again – especially as there’s your own porked up version of the song on the new album?
Also on the new album is your own new rendition of ‘Kickin’ Ass,’ the opening track on the first KMFDM album, and you were performing the song live on the last <PIG> tour. What was it about this particular song that you decided to create a new rendition for the tour and album?
Watts: Well, I’ve always thought the song perfectly inhabits the intersection between <PIG> and my work with KMFDM. The album that’s it from, What Do You Know, Deutschland? is that weird hybrid as it has two <PIG> songs on it, both the title track and ‘The Unrestrained Use of Excessive Force.’ And on ‘Kickin’ Ass,’ I used the chorus from the <PIG> song ‘Shit For Brains,’ so it all kind of blends into one creative soup. When <PIG> toured in 2016 with Günter Schulz and EN ESCH, we played it live as it is part of my shared creative history with EN ESCH. It’s also got Sascha’s thumping bass line that you just can’t argue with.
As well, the last tour and the new album mark the return of Steve White into the <PIG> sty; as it’s been some years since you last worked with him (if I’m not mistaken, the last time was the Pigmartyr/Pigmata album in ’04/’05), what was it like working with him again? In what ways do you feel the working dynamic between you two has changed or grown since then?
Watts: I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fabulous guitarists on various <PIG> releases, but Steve is the delicate destroyer when it comes to the guitar. He doesn’t just point himself in the general direction and turn on the tap; he has a much more intuitive and subtle approach than that (despite what you might think!). Also, the bottom line for me is working with good people and Steve fits that suit perfectly.
The cover image is very evocative and classic <PIG>, recalling the imagery of albums like Sinsation and The Swining/Red Raw & Sore compilation. With Vlad McNeally working on the artwork for some of your recent releases, as well as E Gabriel Edvy contributing photography and video, how involved are you in the visual presentation? Do you leave it to the artists, or do they create based on any direction from you?
We do live in an age of nostalgia now, and there are bands bringing back old sounds of synthwave and post-punk revivalism, along with numerous older bands reforming and becoming active again. What are your thoughts on how these trends are being received by newer audiences? Does it inspire or enable a deeper dig into the past, or is it just a fad?
Watts: I can honestly say I don’t have any thoughts on it.
Live music is in a great deal of turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What possibilities do you foresee for live music to survive or evolve in the wake of the current situation?
On the other hand, a livestream obviously doesn’t hold the same power as a live show, but as it’s become part of the status quo, what sort of possibilities do you see for <PIG> and other bands to use new and online technologies to keep music alive and maintain the excitement of audiences?
Pain Is God was released on November 20… what’s next for <PIG>?
Watts: <PIG> will be taking the road less travelled. It’ll be a bruising and bumpy ride, but certainly an interesting journey. I just hope we all arrive in one piece and you’ll be there with us.
Photography by E. Gabriel Edvy – courtesy of Blackswitch Labs