Raymond Watts talks about the return of <PIG>
By Bob Gourley | Published on September 27, 2016
After an extended break from <PIG>, Raymond Watts brought the project back for “Long in the Tooth,” a 2015 collaboration with ‘industrial supergroup’ Primitive Race. Now he has unleashed a full new <PIG> album “The Gospel,” working with long-time KMFDM collaborators En Esch and Guenter Schulz, as well as Z. Marr (Combichrist) and Mark Thwaite. <PIG> continues to balance heaviness with a strong melodic sensibility, blending together a variety of musical styles. In a phone interview, Watts discussed the reasons for taking a hiatus from
It’s been a while since you’re released a <PIG> album, and you’ve been doing a lot of other musical projects. What made you return to
“It was a perfect storm of strange events. I stopped doing Pig just because I was doing this thing and that thing, and I just sort of fell out of it, really. I’d been doing music, but for completely different projects. I’d been asked to collaborate on a thing called Primitive Race, and one of the guys involved was Mark Thwaite. We wrote some stuff together by sending files. He introduced me to Z. Marr from Combichrist. This was about three years ago. We did some stuff that turned into the foundation of this album. But sending files didn’t sit well with me. It’s fine if you’re doing a remix; you just send them off to somebody and what they do is what they do. But for actual collaboration, it’s not the greatest thing for me. I prefer to sit next to people and sort out ideas that way.
“So that sat on the shelf, and then earlier this year Z. Marr reached out, and En Esch had been over a couple of times from Berlin, and it just sort of happened. Mark was able to re-record some guitars and things, and with the other people around, it just happened very quickly. Also, there was another strange ingredient, actually. A really nice guy named Chris who runs a festival in Calgary reached out to me. Now, I didn’t even have an official website at this point, and I got forwarded this email asking if I wanted to perform. I thought, Well, maybe; thanks for reaching out. I spoke to En Esch and spoke to Guntar, and they thought it was a good idea.
“And then we thought if we’re going to do a show it might as well be five, and then I talked to my booking agent and he said that if you’re going to tour, then you’ve got to have a record to sell. So I spoke to Metropolis, and they said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do something.’ This was happening sort of hand in hand with these recordings. So everything just conspired, and the album sort of made itself. We did it really quickly. We took these things that had been sitting on the shelf, and bam, it was done in like 10 days.”
So most of the songs evolved out of that material that had been sitting on the shelf?
“Yes. We’d sort of done most of it, and then Z. Marr, said, ‘Oh, I’ve got this thing here; listen to it,’ and it was this really wonderful groovy thumping, slow grinding bassline thing with a fabulous chorus, and I went away and put some words together and that turned into the digital single ‘The Diamond Sinners.’ There was a track called ‘Violence,’ a bonus track on the double vinyl edition, which again was just put together very quickly. There are a couple of other tracks and remixes on the tour-only album ‘Rise and Repent.’ I thought that we had to have something special to sell on tour.”
Did the work you’d been doing when <PIG> was inactive have any influence on your music returning to it?
“Well actually, you wouldn’t think so, but some of the textural stuff I did for some of the fashion houses and installations did. It didn’t influence the more song-structured nature of this album, but it did indirectly influence the way it’s a little bit more dark and light in shade, sort of that textural palette. It’s not all just bang, bang, bang. It’s a bit melodic here and there, and it’s a bit gospel and a bit electronic. So it has kind of influenced it, but not directly. That might have happened anyway, since it’s been over 10 years since I made a Pig album.”
Had you missed doing this type of music?
“No, that’s why I only came back and did it when I felt it was right. Honestly, I don’t really enjoy doing things if it’s just the same thing, the treadmill of album, tour, studio, album, tour. So I stopped doing it because I didn’t feel that I had anything worthwhile to contribute at that time. I just didn’t feel it myself. So, I only wanted to do it if it felt like it was worth doing.”
Since there had been a long gap, was there ever a question as to whether you’d release this as <PIG>, as opposed to starting a new project?
“It actually felt quite like Pig, lyrically and stuff. It was all under the Pig umbrella. Some people look at this and think it’s quite gospel-y and electronic-y as well as a bit rocky. But there were gospel elements back on ‘The Swining’ in 1991. It had a lot of choral stuff and layered vocals. It fits under the Pig umbrella, but it’s a fairly broad church, the old Church of the Pig. You can put kind of big band-ish, ambient, orchestral, metallic, rocky, bluesy things in there and it all comes out with that slight dashing of the pork-kind element on it.”
How much conscious thought goes into the blend of styles heard in the music of <PIG>? Have there been styles that you’ve tried to incorporate but that didn’t work?
“I don’t go, ‘I want this to sound like a middle of the road rock song.’ I really don’t do that. Sometimes the whole thing just appears fully formed in your head. Going back years and year, I remember the song ‘Find it Fuck it Forget it’ appeared fully formed in my head. And then some of them, particularly with the more collaborative nature of this record, it’s more like some of the parts feed the whole. It was great working with Mark; the things that he threw at me, like chord progressions and moods and textures, and then Z. Marr came in with the production-y elements and sounds and re-arranged things—stuff that I wouldn’t have even thought about. Sometimes my initial response would be, ‘Oh my god, that’s wrong,’ but then I would think, ‘Well hang on, let’s see where it goes.’ And then you end up with, ‘Oh, I see,’ and you go around this corner and say, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have thought of that.’ So, while older material might have been fully formed in my head, in this one it was fully formed around the corner. I couldn’t get a view of it until I walked to the edge of the corner and turned to see where we’d all gone.”
How did you approach putting together the set list for this tour?
“There’s going to be some stuff off the new album. We have a pretty enormous back catalog of shared material that we will be looking at. I was writing with Nick [En Esch] in like 1985. We were banging out stuff for ‘What Do You Know Deutschland’ and ‘Don’t Blow Your Top’ and all sorts of things. And I’ve worked a lot with Guntar. We did a lot together around the Nihil period, and he worked out Pig stuff in the 90s as well. So we will look at what we have in the back catalog and see what fits well with the new material. We’ll do some of the old classics as well.”
Do you see yourself actively continuing with Pig after you’re done promoting this album?
“Yes. I did a lot of runway shows and music for their video things and ads; it was great, I had all sorts of genres covered, all sorts of things. But now I kind of feel that I’ve done that. It was also good at the time because I could stay pretty much in one place and do stuff with my kids. Now they’re older, so I don’t really need to be around so much, and that factors in. Last summer in London they had a great Alexander McQueen retrospective, ‘Savage Beauty.’ It was a huge show, and all these amazing people I’d worked with put this homage and retrospective together of all his amazing work. It was actually at the Met a couple of years before, in New York. It wasn’t quite a full stop to my involvement in the fashion thing, but with this [Pig album], there have been great people involved with it and it feels like it has much more momentum to it. It’s much more collaborative than it’s been in the past. It’s like there are more people in the boat rowing in the same direction.”See all interviews →