ReGen Magazine is thrilled to once again have the opportunity to speak with Raymond Watts of <PIG>, as the artist is let loose from the sty and ready to once again prey upon the masses with his inimitable brand of industrial/rock on the Divine Descent Tour.
An InterView with Raymond Watts of <PIG>
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
There’s simply no way to keep a good swine down, as Raymond Watts – the man behing <PIG> – has been riding on a seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of productivity since his return four years ago. Already in 2019, he has released the Stripped & Whipped remix companion to last year’s Risen, along with the Candy album in which he presents his perverted renditions of classic love songs, his seething, sultry, slithery style revealing the wretched undercurrents of melancholy that lurked beneath the saccharine surface. Oh, but that’s not all, for he also presented by way of a special hog tag digital EP The Wages of Sin, containing three brand new tracks of the artist’s signature brand of industrial/rock, but if that weren’t enough, he’s been showcasing his collaborative chops as he’s lent his vocals to the likes of REVillusion and Black Needle Noise… but perhaps the most hotly anticipated and long awaited release in that bunch is his appearance on PARADISE, the upcoming new album from KMFDM, Watts’ first with the band since 2003’s WWIII. Now about to embark on the Divine Descent Tour with Cyanotic and A Primitive Evolution, Watts took the time to speak with ReGen about his outlook on the current state of world affairs, history and the passage of time, his numerous musical partnerships, along with his relationship with two of the industrial scene’s most eminent imprints – Metropolis Records and Armalyte Industries.
Your most recent <PIG> release, Candy stems off from the cover of ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’ you did with Sasha Grey, in which you covered a variety of ‘love’ songs. First of all, can you tell us about what motivated this concept?
Have you always felt that these songs had a more sinister lyrical undertone? How much of that do you feel was part of the intent of the original songs?
Watts: I actually started doing covers back in the ’90s with friends from other bands as a sort of vacation from the intense writing and performing work that was going on with <PIG> at the time. We’d throw ideas around in the studio and just press ‘record.’ I was in the trenches of addiction and I wasn’t fighting a drug war… I was a drug war. Taking classic pop songs centered around the obsession with ‘love’ was a short step to interpreting them in terms of slavish devotion to the bleakness of my own demise… and the feeding of the very creature killing me.
Since I began releasing <PIG> stuff again in recent years, doing covers has definitely been an area that I wanted to revisit with a bit more clarity. I was in a different place mentally and physically when I did the songs on Candy, and I did them in a technically different way from 20 years ago. But the sentiment of obsession and devotion in the interpretation was the same.
Eden Martin was your primary musical collaborator on Candy, and you’ve worked with him quite a bit, perhaps most notably on Pigmartyr/Pigmata. Would you tell us about your working relationship with him; how do you feel it’s endured and strengthened over the years?
Watts: We’ve known each other for a long time, and it was great to get back to working together again. I love working with Eden because there is trust and the feeling of being able to try things out – sometimes, it can go horribly wrong and it doesn’t matter. He is a brilliant orchestrator as well, so immediately after Candy, he worked on parts for the song ‘Confession,’ which I released on The Wages of Sin EP. I had En Esch, Marc Heal, and Günter Schulz strutting their not inconsiderable stuff on the same EP.
We’d talked previously about your personal politics and not pushing the button that says ‘explode.’ When you released ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’ and the Black Mass EP around Christmas, you’d made some allusions to the current social and political climate as being a motivating factor behind them. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Watts: We all know things are becoming very dystopian, but the anxiety and edge brought by this instability and political self-harm we are in the midst of is quite a catalyst for me personally – similar to, but not the same as, when I started <PIG> in the era of Reagan and Thatcher. It was the ’80s and I moved to West Berlin to be as close as possible to the front line of the Cold War… there was a constant threat of nuclear holocaust and the leader of the free world was seen as being very unstable and provocative. So, certain parallels can be drawn with the situation today, and it creates a sense of urgency in me now just as it did then… to create.
You mentioned the Christmas EP Black Mass that we did as charity release for refugees and displaced people. I did it because people need help, and those refugees are described as invaders, criminals, and worse by people who call themselves devout Christians, but are distinctly lacking in Christian values or any sort of moral compass. The hypocrisy is buttock-clenchingly and stomach-wrenchingly vile. The poisonous seeding of division is feeding and nurturing the worst aspects of human nature. Now the lunatics and reality stars really are running the asylum… and they’re running it over cliff.
There was also The Wages of Sin hog tag EP, and that song (along with ‘Confession’ and the ‘Saved by Hell’ instrumental) is epic, classic <PIG>. Like the Prey & Obey EP before Risen, are the three songs on this EP perhaps a taste of the next <PIG> album?
Watts: I would think so! I’m glad you liked them. They might sound a bit more ‘classic <PIG>’ as I didn’t co-write with anyone on these songs so it’s a kind of return to the sound of me in my lonely garret struggling. I do love collaborating, but I felt like getting right back into the center of the sty with these ones. I’ve even been letting myself loose on the guitar again recently on ‘The Wages of Sin’ and ‘Confession,’ which is always as risky as it is rewarding! And the songs may well appear in some shape or form on the next album.
You’ve been swinging by the string between Armalyte Industries and Metropolis Records on your most recent releases, and you’ve had long associations with both of them. Can you tell us about your working relationship with them?
Watts: I have great relationships with Metropolis and Armalyte. Obviously, Metropolis is based in the U.S. and we go back quite a way; there’s no bullshit and they are flexible about me doing other more bespoke projects with Armalyte that need an enormous amount of oversight and a lot of TLC. Giles Moorhouse at Armalyte really goes above and beyond with his support and attention to detail, which is exactly how I work on <PIG>.
For example, when I describe to Giles I want a cover for Candy that has a sandpaper <PIG> logo on the front cover or a 3D lenticular image for Risen, he doesn’t moan about the hassle but embraces the idea, picks up the baton, and runs off with it. None of my ideas are too ridiculous or far-fetched, as I want <PIG> releases to be a little piece of art and heaven to hold in your hand. So, along with the supersonic overview of Jules Seifert, we can create some very bespoke releases that will hopefully be treasured.
I think Armalyte is having bit of a purple patch at the moment with the artists they’re attracting and the stuff being released.
<PIG> is about to go on tour with Cyanotic and A Primitive Evolution; the touring lineup now includes En Esch, Galen Waling, and now Steve White is back in the fold; would you tell us about how he came to be part of this tour?
What’s Ben Christo’s status in <PIG>? I personally thought he was a great addition to your sound on Risen and the tour. Same for Gregory Steward (Z.Marr)?
Watts: I’ve been blessed to have many great guitarists on the <PIG> albums, including Alex Hacke of Neubauten (A Poke in the Eye…), Karl Hyde of Underworld (The Swining), Mark Gemini Thwaite (The Gospel), Günter Schulz (Genuine American Monster) and myself on Praise the Lard… but I had to fire myself when I heard Steve White because that was when the soundtrack to the industrial wars was born.
Steve was in the trenches with me for many years, so when we hooked up in Seattle on the last few <PIG> tours, it was as easy as falling off a log working together again. It was a no-brainer asking him out on the Divine Descent Tour (this September/October).
Putting him with the Teutonic titan that is En Esch brings together two of my longest collaborators. En Esch brings the beauty from my many years with KMFDM and Steve brings the brutality from the underbelly of the boar. I had to lure Galen away from his many commitments. He has the pedigree of pork after serving with distinction on two U.S. and one U.K. tour with <PIG> .
Z.Marr continues to work on writing with me, but he has other commitments, and Ben, who brought a bit of rock swagger, is doing his thing with his band at the moment.
Besides several <PIG> releases, you’ve also been involved in some notable collaborations recently, and you and I have spoken at length about how much you enjoy working in the studio along with file-sharing. So, let’s start with REVillusion, how did you come to be involved in his song ‘Pure Pollution?’ It sounds very ‘<PIG>’ – how involved were you in the creation of the song, musically and/or lyrically?
Watts: Brian Carter of REVillusion sent me the music for the song. I wrote the words and recorded them and that was it. It was very straightforward. It turned out well, I think. I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention this, but there might well be another version of the song out that’s been put in the mangler and given the full <PIG> treatment, just waiting to be unleashed upon you.
The most recent collaboration that I’ve seen is your work with John Fryer’s Black Needle Noise, and it seemed almost impossible to think that you two haven’t worked together before (you were both involved in the Switchblade album by Schaft 25 years ago, but not on the same track together). How did you two finally connect on this track? Again, how much did you contribute musically/lyrically to the song?
Watts: John sent the music over and I had a listen. I slightly rearranged the song and felt it really suited the ‘Seed of Evil’ lyric I’d been working on for a bit. I bashed the words into shape, sung them, and John mixed it.
I’d forgotten he was involved in the Schaft project back in ’94, but I only met him for the first time last year when he came to our L.A. show. He is definitely the Dark Lord of Knobs and I have no idea how he summons such brutally beautiful sounds through those delicate little fingers of his.
You’ve worked extensively with Marc Heal and Phil Barry over the years, collaborating and remixing each other, and this year performed at Electrowerkz in London for a momentous co-headlining show, the first time <PIG> and Cubanate have done so in 25 years. For those who weren’t fortunate enough to see it, how was the show? What did you find to be the most rewarding (or perhaps revolting) part of that experience?
Watts: The most revolting part of that experience was definitely the behavior of the ‘security’ there. I must admit I get really pissed off with people who love using little excessive force when ejecting people from a venue. Sometimes it’s not actually necessary to have five people throw one person down a flight of stairs to get them out. Sometimes a few words are more successful and less painful.
Despite that, it’s always lovely catching up with Marc and Phil and seeing them do their thing live. <PIG> and Cubanate on the same bill is quite an event, and I hope one to be repeated in the U.S. at some time.
And finally, the ‘big’ one that many have been waiting for… you’re onthe new KMFDM album, PARADISE. Without getting too personal (unless you’d like to), how did this come about after 16 years?
You’re still credited as the one who abbreviated the band’s name to KMFDM and many consider your contributions to KMFDM to be among that band’s best material (I wouldn’t argue – NIHIL and the song ‘Ultra’ were my entries into KMFDM as a teenager), and it does seem like your tenure in the band goes through waves followed by years of absence; in what ways do you feel that working with Sascha on ‘Binge Boil & Blow’ compares to how you’d worked together in the past?
Watts: Sasha and I have an enormous amount of shared history going back to the earliest parts of KMFDM. Some of it was fantastic and some of it was not. But if you let the bad bits define a relationship, you’re just smearing shit over the whole thing. I was difficult to have around at times and made life impossible for others… and a lot of bad shit went down and was said. I was always aware that a lot of unstemmed poison was still running.
All relationships get bumpy, but throw creative stuff and money into the mix and it turns into a roller coaster of a ride… that can crash. Add drugs, alcohol, travel, hideous hotels, studios, no sleep, not enough drugs, jet lag, family separation, shit backstage rooms, no showers, then bad drugs, exhaustion, withdrawals, and the loneliness of constant company into the mix and it can become a fucking horror story. So, what started out as an absolute blast with your little 8-track machine and one synthesizer can become brutal beyond belief. For a lot of the ’80s, ’90s, and up to about 2004, I was doing this with four or five bands! Despite all that, we made some good records, did some great shows, and had a strong bond. I am not trying to excuse my behavior, but this was the environment I lived in.
However, we can’t go through life judging ourselves on how fabulous we think we are, but by looking at things that aren’t our proudest moments, realizing we fucked up, owning that shit, apologizing, and just trying to be a good human being with a moral compass pointing in the right direction. So put the blindfold of glory across your eyes at your peril. It’s where you end up that’s important; not staying in a state of anger and reliving fallings out. The only person who really gets hurt by bitterness and resentment is oneself.
Sasha and I have a lot of history and more that binds us together than divides us. I didn’t want a toxic odor hanging over the music we’d created and our relationship. Real friendship is also about forgiveness. The first chapter in The Book of Hog actually starts: ‘Find It, Feel It, Forgive It.’
So, I called him up, faced up and fessed up to my fuckups, and we cleared the air. I said it would be great to work on something together and immediately he said he had one song without vocals on the new album he was just finishing, and would I sing on it? He sent it over five minutes later, I wrote and recorded the words, and thus ‘Binge Boil & Blow’ was born the next day. That was that. 15 years of bullshit healed in 15 minutes.
This might be a strange question, but as I do these InterViews and listen to the music, it does seem like the passage of time moves at a different pace for musicians – 16 years since you last worked with KMFDM, 25 years since the Schaft album you were part of, 19 years since Schwein, etc. I’m sure it has much to do with being prolific and productive, but what are your thoughts on this? Not to bring up age, but you’re not a young man anymore, yet you look great and are as vibrant onstage as you were all those years ago – is it something that you’re conscious of or think about?
Watts: I did stop doing <PIG> for a several years, for many reasons, but mainly I was just ‘done’ with it. I didn’t want to write, record and tour anymore. But now I do, and I love it. I don’t do it for the money, because I can assure you, money is only noticeable by its absence.
Touring is great because it gets me out of the house, and I need that; also, the chance to meet people who are interested and interesting.
You’ve got the Divine Descent Tour, which includes appearing at ColdWaves again; in what ways would you say that ColdWaves is different from other festival events that you’ve performed at?
Watts: It’s unique, not just because it’s for a good cause or the interesting lineups, but because it’s a kind of spiritual home for a lot of us former Wax Traxers.
Anything else you’ve got planned in the pork pipeline that you can tell us about?
Watts: I’ve seen you ask other musicians the same question and the stock answer always seems to be: ‘Yes, but it’s so fantastic I can’t tell you anything about it’. Well, I can’t give you that bullshit. But I can say I hope to be doing things over the next year that might be worth a listen, and you will be the first to know.
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