Raymond Watts is known for many achievements during his music career. He can be called a citizen of the world. He lived and worked in UK, Germany and Japan. Since the 80s he’s been active with his project PIG and he’s also known for his involvement with KMFDM, Einsturzende Neubauten, Psychic TV, Foetus, Schaft and many more. But that’s not all that Raymond did by far. While taking a pause from PIG, he composed music for fashion shows, film soundtracks and exhibitions that took place in Metropolitan Museum in NY and Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2015 Raymond collaborated with Primitive Race and Marc Heal. These collaborations resulted in PIG v Primitive Race EP Long In The Tooth and the Compound Eye Sessions PIG v MC Lord of the Flies (aka Marc Heal of Cubanate) EP. PIG’s latest album The Gospel was released in September 2016 for Metropolis records. After American tour and Cold Waves Festival appearance, it was time for the UK tour which was a joined venture with Mortiis. We were fortunate to attend the last show in this series of gigs. Swine &Punishment remixes album is announced for May this year. After a well deserved rest, Raymond has kindly agreed to answer more than a couple of questions.
1. Hello Raymond, thanks for the interview opportunity. Let’s start with your latest album. The Gospel was released in September 2016 after a decade long pause. It got excellent feedback from both fans and media. Did you have any plans for PIG’s comeback with the USA tour and the album or things just happened very spontaneously? Do you feel that PIG fans have also come back?
Raymond: It was very much a happy (for some) accident. I received a request to play at Terminus in Calgary and so I called up Guenter and En Esch and much to my surprise they thought it was a great idea. Even more weirdly the suggestion was that if we did one show we might as well tour the whole US. Once Troy, our booking agent, had sorted out half the shows he asked what release we were promoting … to which I replied ‘errr …’ Unfortunately after all that we were unable to do Terminus but we’re off there this summer to make amends. It was great that there were so many people who came out to see us who knew much of the <PIG> canon.
2. You said that to you making an album by sending the files back and forth is not the most satisfying way of making music. How did you work on The Gospel? Can you compare the process with some previous PIG albums or your work with KMFDM?
Raymond: I’m quite happy to send files back and forth when remixing and some of my work on soundtracks has worked fine like that. However when working with musicians, I really like to be right there. It’s so much more brutal, raw, immediate and I find people are much more responsive when you can actually see what and how they’re playing then make suggestions. And working out parts is so much quicker and much more fun.
3. You chose “Diamond Sinners” and “Found in Filth” to be the singles with accompanying videos. I feel that the first song encapsulates the album’s idea and the second one has a strong r’n’r vibe. What made you choose those two tracks?
Raymond: I chose The Diamond Sinners for the very reason you suggest. Found In Filth is a slightly more fun and sleazy vibe which seemed to work. As you say, very rock n roll, but it suggested the feel of the album quite well.
4. Everyone asks you what took you so long to produce the next album. You were not idle. What did you do in the meantime? I am especially interested in your collaboration with Alexander McQueen. How did that happen?
Raymond: I was working for Psychic TV many years ago and I met John Gosling through them. We were also in a band called Zos-Kia and made a bunch of experimental and odd sounding records in the 80’s. We always kept in touch so when he found himself musical director at McQueen and needed a certain type of music for various shows, films, installations, retrospectives or whatever he called me up. It wasn’t just McQueen, I wrote for a few other fashion houses and shows, it was both fascinating and frustrating. Especially the Punk: Chaos to Couture show at the Met in New York. The only instruction that came back was ‘make it less musical!’
5. Speaking of fashion, you have a peculiar style. How much are you personally interested in fashion trends and what inspires you for your own visual appearance?
Raymond: I’m not really that interested in what is ‘à la mode’. If I suddenly want a kind of jacket I go and see my wonderful friend Debbie who has a label and I just say, ‘I’ve got this idea for a jacket …’
Although when I started working with McQueen I had no idea that Lee was just so far out there and quite an education. To my mind he was head and shoulders above his rivals in terms of vision. Not just the clothes but the whole shooting match, production, music, everything.
6. I read somewhere that you did The Gospel only when you felt that the time was right. Many bands feel driven to produce something every year or every other year. What do you think about producing art that way? Is it even possible to produce albums that would feel “right” if you are making them in such short intervals?
Raymond: Well, as I said earlier, it took a perfect storm of circumstances to create the right conditions to make the The Gospel. But once the process was underway it felt like the right time and the right people to be doing it with. In the last couple of years before I stopped doing <PIG> I do think it had become a bit of a routine. Also I had been at it for years and years in West Berlin, Japan, London and the US with quite a few different projects / bands. I don’t think the material had really become particularly awful, but I did find the process somewhat a little less alluring. It was around then that the furrow of excess I had been digging became so deep that it became a sewer in which I couldn’t breathe let alone swim. That was my way of changing the scenery in the studio.
7. There are so many styles you merged in your musical expression. I don’t think we have a unique term to describe your work. It’s distinctive, it definitely shows your character and we can recognize your own voice in all that. How did you manage to find your own niche? How much are you willing to compromise, if at all?
Raymond: I merge different musical styles because I have been influenced by so many people and there’s so much music I like. I also never tire of my own ideas! There are just too many of them but I am so disorganised its a real bind trying to amputate the ideas from myself.
As regards to ‘my own niche’, I really don’t know if I have one. The variety of styles encompassed within <PIG> has probably actively worked against increasing the profile of the band. It’s not ‘industrial’ enough for some (whatever that means), or electronic enough for others, or rock enough for others etc. I think these labels probably limit coverage in magazines because they each have their genre they rather devotedly stick to. I’m quite happy for <PIG> to occupy the rather strange perch it does, and happily bounce around in our own isolation wing rather than squeeze along the sidewalks of the uniformed.
8. You lived and worked in the UK, Germany and Japan. How did different cultures and people that you had collaborated with there influence your work?
Raymond: The short answer to that is ‘by working with them’. Working on various projects in different countries brings a totally unique flavour to the work you are doing. The reason I moved my recording studio to Hamburg in ’83 was precisely because all the people I was doing things with in Germany were as equally open and stimulated by what I brought to the table as I was by what they brought. The same thing applied to living and working in Berlin, Tokyo, New York, Seattle etc.
9. How did you and Mortiis come together for this tour? I know PIG and Mortiis have reworked one of each other’s songs for their new remix albums.
Raymond: Although we have remixed each others work, it was Frank, our UK booking agent who put us together (along with fabulous Seraph Sin). Mortiis are a truly great band and they are the kindest, most generous and easy going people you could ever wish to tour with.
10. Who’s in your current tour line up?
Raymond: En Esch and Guenter Schulz are old colleagues of mine. Esch and myself have been working together since ’84 I believe. Guenter and myself have been working and touring together since ’93 or ’94.
Z. Marr plays keyboards and worked with me and wrote material on The Gospel last year. We started working together about three years ago when he was in Combichrist along with Mark Thwaite who is a genius songwriter based in LA who also contributed lots of material for The Gospel.
Galen Waling is the drummer, who also plays with the likes of 16 Volt, Julien K and others.
11. The name of the tour was Swine & Punishment. The tour had your upcoming remix album title. What can we expect from that album and can you tell us who some of the remixers are?
Raymond: Swine & Punishment has remixes from; Oumi Kapila (Filter, Combichrist), Skold, Android Lust, Inertia, Indradevi, Mortiis, Marc Heal, Pull out Kings, London After Midnight, Kanga, tweaker (Chris Vrenna), Joe Haze and <PIG>! It also has the song ‘Violence’.
12. You performed at Cold Waves in Chicago. Artists who played there described the festival as a wonderful and inspiring experience. How was it for you?
Raymond: Chicago is always a bit of special place to play. I was on Wax Trax! with <PIG> and KMFDM so it always felt a bit like a home town gig. Coldwaves is also a ‘gathering of the clans’ so to speak and there are plenty of old faces that one hasn’t seen in ages.
13. You also had the USA tour around that time. Do you prefer playing solo shows or festivals?
Raymond: It’s great doing both but I do like doing the gigs where it’s just us. It’s a slightly more immersive experience although both are equally fun.
14. I read you used to throw some shocking shows that included pigs’ heads on stage. I saw a couple of similar acts, one of them very recently in Belgium. The crowd loved it, but later on I had some nasty comments regarding the pictures that I had taken of that show. Of course, there will always be someone who may not like it. Did you have any concerns about fans’ reactions or you just did what you felt went in line with your artistic expression?
Raymond: I’m sorry to hear you received negative comments for just taking pictures of what was happening on stage. Isn’t that rather like shooting the messenger?
Much as I love <PIG> fans with all my heart, I couldn’t give a flying fuck if they got ‘upset’. In fact it would take more than a dead pig’s head to upset them. I do feel the fear of causing ‘offence’ is so high on some agendas it’s rather punching above it’s weight. I think it’s probably quite a beneficial thing for us to be offended every now and then … keeps us on our toes to the true horrors.
15. Your recent London show can be described as the pure sound experience, excepting your very energetic physical performance. However, we saw pigs masks and you appeared quite dressed up, so not all theatricals have been left behind. How much do you think the visual aspect contributes to live performances in general?
Raymond: Obviously the visual aspect is important, as is the risk. It is ‘live’ after all, otherwise playing the CD would suffice. Being visually arresting carries as much weight as bum notes and deviations from the recorded version. I want the live performance of a song to be ‘more real’ and ‘more raw’ than it’s rather smart, uptown, recorded cousin. A little glitter in your gutter, as opposed to spreading a little of the gutter on your glitter …
16. You started the show with “Diamond Sinners” and “Found In Filth”, two The Gospel songs. The crowd was immediately overwhelmed. It showed that the audience was familiar with your new material. How does it make you feel to recognize their enthusiasm for your newest release?
Raymond: I am always genuinely amazed that anyone is aware of <PIG> let alone familiar with the songs. Needless to say it fills me with a mixture of horror and humility that people know the stuff when we play it live.
17. In a short conversation before the show, you told me you always felt more at home in USA when it came to touring and playing live. What is the difference between the USA and the UK audience? Why do you feel your music has been appreciated more in the US?
Raymond: It’s very simple really. I left the UK many years ago without the intention of singing in <PIG>, KMFDM, Schaft, Schwein and others. It just happened and I could do it, but my labels have predominantly been in Germany, Japan and the U.S. so they just feel more like home as I’ve done more shows there and lived there. It seems a bit silly but there it is.
18. How are you pleased with the UK tour? Has it been as you expected?
Raymond: It’s been wonderful touring with this lot, a real joy, and great fun to go to places I’ve never played like Newcastle and Bristol. And yes, it’s kind of been as I expected. However to have met so many people who have come from places like Oslo, Berlin, Gibraltar and even Australia to see us is equalling humbling and amazing.
19. Any plans for PIG after Swine & Punishment remix album in May?
Raymond: Well, we’re going to Calgary to headline Terminus to make up for last year, and after that … well, you’ll be the first to know.