Dec 2020 10

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?

Watts: Apart from a certain melancholy that overcomes me after finishing an album, I’m okay. It’s an interesting time just after a record is released, like the low and hollow feeling after a funeral. I went through tumultuous labor with the songs, nurtured them, and sometimes beat and bent them to my will, but now they’re sealed up and sold. Rather like cutting out little parts of me, screwing them into jars, then sending them off to market to be chewed up, spat on, or shat on. It also reminds me of taking my kids to their first day at school – a mixture of trepidation, dread, and pride.

<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?

Watts: Interesting question. I’m not too sure what keeps me ‘energized.’ It used to be copious amounts of cocaine. I suppose I’ve always been a bit extreme. When I drank and drugged, I did it a lot. When I eat, I eat a lot. When I lie around doing fuck all, I do absolutely fuck all with complete dedication. I also like to be creative with that slight edge of chaos and ‘where’s this thing going?’ with a sense of healthy and questioning unease about it.
In answer to the second part of your question, I don’t really know what the ‘major difficulties’ are writing a new album… a journey of a thousand miles starts with a simple step, so I just start with one note. Then another. Before you know it, there’s a palace of pain with many rooms, all filled with the fruit of desperation and despair (hopefully with a great riff).



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?

Watts: Well, on the one hand, I absolutely love the tricks, treats, and ceremony that organized religion has to offer – the beautiful architecture (whatever the faith), the devotional music, the art and the artifice. This is us. These are the themes and the dreams of humanity. Beauty and bullshit, all in one place. But on the other hand, I still love the tawdry tastelessness of televangelism, the horror and humor in one show; a bit like a Wes Craven film without suspense and the good visuals. And it’s interesting and terrifying to see how the right always reaches for the hand of Christian fundamentalism with its guns, bibles, flags, denial of science, and its weird overdose on xenophobia in these modern day dark ages. It’s repugnant, but you can’t not look.

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?

Watts: Working on the first version of ‘Seed of Evil’ with John was a great honor; as soon as he asked to collaborate, I jumped at the chance. The Black Needle Noise / <PIG> version was a file sharing exercise, so we both got on with our bits independently. I made one suggestion about the mix (you’ll be surprised to hear it was turning the vocal up!) and it was done. It seemed to work really well. He creates such a deep and textured sound. John was immediately supportive of me doing a completely different version of the song on Pain Is God, which was a challenge – building up another version from scratch that hopefully stands up in its own right. I hope we’ll be able to work together again in the future.

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?

Watts: I am so lucky to be working with all the people doing <PIG> visuals: Gabriel Edvy, Jarred Everson, Mark Griffiths, Vlad McNeally, and Luke Dangler. The process is pretty much the same whatever we’re doing – there’ll be a rough idea, then we brainstorm a bit, kick a few ideas around, and then I leave them to it. They don’t want me leaning over their shoulder every five minutes. When the thing’s nearing the end, I’ll have a look and maybe make a suggestion, but that’s it. Simple but effective.

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?

Watts: I don’t think anything will change until we have a vaccine, and let’s hope that isn’t too far away. However, I fear that touring for small bands like <PIG> (from outside the U.S.) will be very difficult in a post COVID world. The collateral damage of COVID will be huge. A lot of clubs may not be in business. Trump made getting visas more expensive and much harder to get; maybe these things will be reversed. I just hope people have the jobs and money to support themselves and their families first, and maybe live music down the track.
I can tell you with certainty I won’t be broadcasting any <PIG> shows from my kitchen. You might have seen Mark Griffiths has made a series of little video teasers, snippets of each song, to introduce people to Pain Is God and take them on a little tour through it. That has been the <PIG> tour this fall, a little glimpse from the <PIG> screen directly to yours. Maybe that’s where our future lies.



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.


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Photography by E. Gabriel Edvy – courtesy of Blackswitch Labs


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