I kept having to add questions to this interview because Raymond and Giles/Armalyte Records have both been so prolific since PIG’s tour with Killing Joke this past fall. It speaks somewhat to my tendency to agonize over what to say to people I admire so much, but more so to PIG’s relentless productivity since the launch of Risen this past June. Sure enough, now we’ve got some new offerings from the Lord of Lard in the form of sterling silver “hog tags” with an engraved download code for the upcoming single, “The Wages Of Sin.” (See the link at the bottom of this interview to pre-order yours!) We also saw the recent release of the Stripped & Whipped remix album, a hefty slice of pork weighing in at seventeen tracks off Risen, carved up by various artists including Armalyte rivet-punx Der Prosector, PIG alumni collaborators Tweaker and Black Asteroid, GoFight, Armalyte newcomers i!, and angry robots Cyanotic, among others. In this interview, the Lord Of Lard talks about PIG’s latest tour, the creative process and changing landscape of the music business, and we also get to hear from Giles Moorhouse of Armalyte Records…the guy who makes it all happen.
Raymond: Well that was my idea, here they are…
(Raymond is wearing BOTH hog tags and they look amazing, of course)
(we all ooh and ahh for a minute)
Raymond: I mentioned it to Giles and a friend of mine who works in silver, and Giles sort of facilitated putting the whole thing into process. And I also thought they should come out in the Year Of The Pig, you know.
Giles: And that it should be called a hog tag, cause who can resist a good pun? Or a bad pun?
Raymond: Well I’d been working on that with Eden Martin, we go back a long time…he worked on Pigmata, and had been doing these PIG Orchestra things, kinda under that umbrella. I mean, the songs sort of chose themselves…it was something that was a PIG vehicle, but [also] to generate money for a good fucking cause, you know, instead of all the bloody, you know, rampant commercialism. We thought it’d be nice to do something, to generate some money…doesn’t matter how much….and for downloads, we did really well. We had great input from people who made videos…Grete [Laus-Evestus] did one of them, Luke Dangler who played guitar for me and played on tour with me a couple of years ago in the states, he did one of the videos and Gabriel [Edvy] did another one. So we had three videos and loads of people just did it because it was a good thing to do. For the love of the Lard! (Laughs) And also, IRC are a really cool charity, cause I wanted to do something for the displaced people. Cause the whole Christmas story’s about how there was no room at the inn, you know…
(We segue off into the upcoming release of Stripped & Whipped and I have the exquisite privilege of seeing a physical copy for myself. We all ooh and ahh for a minute again.)
Raymond: It’s got all the tracks off Risen, this Polaroid signed by yours truly…just literally, [Giles] brought this over an hour ago.
Raymond: It was all good, they’re lovely guys…they asked me to go on the tour and you know, twelve shows is kind of a difficult number to do with most of the people coming from the UK. So I changed up the band this time, I took Ben [on guitar] and Vinny playing drums…and it was challenging because there was a lot of distance between the shows and we only did twelve in the US and then we did another, I think, twenty-one. They’re really nice guys…you know, Youth did this remix with Sasha [“That’s The Way I Like It”] …
(We veer off briefly into discussing the vinyl sales and Giles discusses the logistics of juggling multiple releases. I reassure him that we will always give Armalyte Records our money. If his cryptic, slightly evasive answers are any indication, there’s a lot of cool new shit coming up for the label…)
Adrian: I guess that leads to my next question, more for Giles…with the label (Armalyte)…how the fuck do you do it? (Laughs)
Giles: It’s not easy. I’ve got a family, a day job…
(Raymond interjects: “Having a baby…”)
Giles: Yeah! Having a baby soon…in about ten days…I get hmmm…three or four hours of sleep a night…a lot of juggling. A lot of it’s very “what has to be done right now and what can wait?”, so a lot of it is done very dynamically. Right now, we’re about to drop the brand new Children On Stun EP. The Khaidian guys are getting some great reviews for their ‘Penumbra’ debut. Seething Akira are lining up a Summer of festival shows, so that’s all very exciting. i! have put out a brilliantly eclectic and imaginative album called ‘End Of Transmission, which is available from Armalyte’s Bandcamp site FOR FREE, because we’re awesome like that. We’ve just announced the new Drownd single, which comes out on the 12th of April, and, ummmm, there’s a new Word Made Flesh album called ‘Everything and Nothing’, which features Phil Barry from Cubanate, which comes out in a couple of weeks…oh, it’s out the same day my baby’s due!
Adrian: Oh man…(we all laugh)
Giles: So yeah, I don’t know where I find the time…Raymond works us really hard, all the other bands on the label keep us very busy…but it’s fun. We do it because it’s fun. It feels like the label is finally where it was always intended to be.
Raymond: I mean, I’ve known [Giles] for ages, since the mid-90s when I had my studio in Central London. And then I knew about the label, how long have they been…ten years…
Giles: (laughs) Nineteen years!
(we all marvel at this)
Raymond: I mean I avoided labels like the plague, but because of the nature of the business changing, since I started doing this again, it’s quite a good fit because Giles…I mean, I obviously still have a relationship with Metropolis…but Giles started doing the boutique vinyl, limited production, made with a lot of tender loving care. And that sort of fit with what we like…we put a lot of care into the quality of the manufacturing. He mentioned Jules, his partner at Armalyte who does all the digital post-production stuff…well I’ll do the mixes, and then Jules fucks around with them and there’s a lot of back and forth, meanwhile I’ll be talking to Giles about the production value and my ideas, like this one (points to hog tags) or whatever else is down the track. And then Giles is sort of into my ideas like “Oh that’s good or that’s weird and a little fun.” It’s about a really nice delivery system for the music, the whole package. And Giles is into that idea of making it something you’ll really treasure. Not just having a jewel case. But having a signed photo, or a download card, you know, made with real love.
Giles: We want to see people put this stuff on their walls.
Raymond: Yeah exactly. Or like the hog tags.
(We segue off into brainstorming weird and twisted new <PIG> marketing tactics)
Raymond: I literally just go, “Oh, I want a jacket with a fucking fringe on it” and I go to Debbie [at Spank Clothing – www.spankonline.co.uk], and she makes the clothes…like “Hey Debbie can you make a red fluffy jacket or a silver one with fur”…just like with the releases, if I’ve got an idea, we just make it work, or maybe it doesn’t work…if you want something, you can do it yourself, but sometimes you need to work with people. I mean one thing about doing the <PIG> thing…when I started doing it twenty years ago, it was usually much more me in the trenches, plowing away, working with labels in Japan and Nothing, and even Wax Trax. But you wouldn’t really work with them as closely. Now it’s much more, as we say in England, cottage industry…Debbie making jackets or Gabriel [Edvy] or Vlad [McNeally] doing art or Giles coming up with an idea for packaging or this or that or the other. You know, the people involved…there’s quite a lot of people in the PIG camp now, actually. And they’re all very integral.
Giles: It helps that everyone has developed a common understanding of the whole <PIG> aesthetic, it makes everything run more efficiently.
Adrian: Yeah, it’s like you’re all on the same page. And I think that’s kinda the biggest shift I’ve noticed with your work, I guess starting with maybe The Gospel…just more collaboration and branching out, working with more people. Which leads me into talking about Stripped & Whipped a little more…I was saying before, there are some familiar names on the credits, but there are also some new people who I didn’t recognize who I’m kinda curious about…DevilDriver, a couple of metal bands….who are the newcomers to the fold?
Raymond: Loads of people were suggested by Giles. It’s just as simple as that, you just go “oh, they might be good” and other people will say “well I’ve got time.” I mean, there’s less to do with a remix, it’s not rocket science, right? Whereas when you have people actually in the studio in the trenches, like En [Esch] on guitar…one sort of has to find whether you like each other, whether you get on. And the one difference about doing stuff now versus doing stuff in the past…the bottom line now is that I generally only work with people who I actually like. If they can play great guitar or do shit like that, then that’s a bonus.
Adrian: The Wax Trax documentary that’s been making the rounds…the soundtrack’s coming out soon and I know you guys both saw the film. What did you think of it?
Giles: Armalyte was conceived with the notion of Wax Trax as a kind of goal….
Raymond: Going bankrupt?
(We all laugh; that got dark real quick)
Adrian: Maybe not that part…
Giles: Well Wax Trax was primarily known as an industrial label, that kind of Chicago sound…but it also had that kinda wacky shit like Divine…you could be any band on Wax Trax. And to me, that had always been the stuff of legend…so I thought it was a great opportunity to see behind the music. I always had this sort of romanticized notion of what it was all about, and obviously working with Chris [Connelly] and Marc [Heal] and Cubanate, I’ve heard many, many tales. But I thought it was illuminating, it was fascinating…my only disappointment is, I wish it was like five hours longer.
Raymond: I thought that film was great, actually, I thought Julia [Nash] and her crew did a brilliant job…it had a brilliant rhythm, cutting and editing was really on point, it had a narrative, it was very moving, it was very funny…it had a brilliant thread that went through it. And it did weave these different strands, this tapestry of all the people who made up Wax Trax. I thought it was really well put together, it wasn’t too long or short.
Giles: Well the DVD and Blu-Ray has an hour’s extra footage so that might sate me…we shall see!
Adrian: Maybe! (Laugh)
(We all stare misty-eyed into the distance as we fondly recall Wax Trax)
Adrian: Does Marc Heal play saxophone? I’ve already convinced myself that he does, but…
Raymond: Of course he fucking does!
(I giggle and turn the same color red as the PIG logo)
Raymond: He’s a very accomplished jazz musician! You think I’m joking…
Adrian: So you guys are gonna come out with a jazz album next?
(We discuss Marc Heal’s musical prowess; the upcoming jazz album remains a mystery)
Adrian: Next question is for Raymond and this is kinda deeper, a little more existential…
Raymond: I don’t do existential or deep! This shallow veneer, this is all I’ve got.
(Giles: “Is he joking or is he not? Always a mystery…”)
Adrian: Well ok! I guess that kinda answers my question….but seriously, you’ve kinda got all these different moods with your music and the newer stuff to me, is…happier? I mean not happier, but there’s this catharsis and joy to it…? It’s just a different vibe than if you think of like, Wrecked, for example. But it still sounds like you. So as an artist, how do you kinda figure out which persona you’re speaking from?
(I am struggling to describe the plight of the creative and I think Raymond gets the gist of it)
Raymond: Yeah, I get what you’re saying. Well, I don’t “figure out” really, or think “I’m gonna be that…” I mean, it all sounds like me because it IS me. But the only difference between that me and this me, is that, you know, for fucking decades I was completely strung out on smack and benzos and booze. It was a full time job for me, being fucked out of my face. And it was non-stop through the 80s and 90s, I was working with Schaft and Schwein in Japan and then KMFDM in America…and you know, eventually, it ended up with me really out of my gourd in the early 2000’s. That’s the difference between doing that then, and this now. I don’t think it’s happier, it’s just different. I think I was pretty happy back then…it felt like it to me, I dunno. I don’t do this persona or that persona, it’s just me. I think, like all people, we’re made up of lots of different parts…the bit of us that’s maybe a little optimistic, and the self-loathing part, and the grandiosity part, and the eggshell-thin sort of ego….and all that kind of stuff. We have a lot of composites inside that make up the whole, and maybe that’s what you get. Self-deprecation…misery…and that sort of thing. It’s all in that one sort of basket, do you see what I mean?
(I nod and pause to ponder the depths of one’s existence because this is a really good answer and I’m pretty sure this is why I love PIG so much)
Raymond: And obviously, we all change as we grow older. I mean, I can’t stay in one place. Some of the stuff I do might reference shit I did 20 years ago.
Adrian: Yeah….well I can relate, as a creative person it’s like, you don’t want to overthink it…it just happens.
Giles: Well I think it’ll be interesting to hear Wages Of Sin…I don’t know what people are gonna expect from it. I’ve just heard it for the first time today.
Raymond: And look what it’s done to him! He’s still here!
Giles: I didn’t jump out the window!
Raymond: I threw him out!
(We all laugh, poor Giles)
Giles: I think there’s a weight to expectation…which, I don’t think Raymond feels, but I feel somewhat beholden to people that buy the music. So I’m always thinking “What are they gonna think?” But I heard Wages Of Sin today. and I heard the b-side a couple weeks ago…I’m not inclined to comment on it because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone… but it’s a special release.
Raymond: He thinks it’s fucking fabulous!
Adrian: Well of course it is.
(We laugh and marvel at Raymond’s fabulousness)
Raymond: I think you can’t worry about whether people are gonna like something or not. You can’t get ahead of yourself, you just have to do what you do. If people like it, that’s great. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it…but you’re doing it for the wrong reasons if you’re trying to satisfy people’s expectations. And that fucks me up, I can’t do that. That used to happen in the past, with <PIG> stuff, like back in the 90s, cause it was so much going on, I was doing this and that and KMFDM…and the jazz thing, and the big band thing, and the musique concrete thing…and I’m always thinking how do I top that, and it’s always the same thing of trying to please people. I think one of the things about doing <PIG> again is that I’ve taken it back to much simpler times. Literally, it’s like…playing. Which is how I started doing it when I was really, really young, you know? Literally playing around, making stupid noises when I was really young and recording them into a cassette recorder or making noises and pretending it’s a drum machine. It’s just…keeping a playfulness to being creative, because once you start thinking “Oh my god, I’ve got to release this!” It’s a fucking terrible burden. You’ve just gotta do what you do. And it just goes off…and if people like it, fine. If they don’t, fine.
Giles: I think it does hark back to a couple of classic <PIG> moments…
Raymond: Oh yeah, yeah…
Giles: It feels like going down a Prime Evil, Symphony For The Devil type route.
(I apparently get a look on my face that is equal parts skepticism and curiosity)
Giles: But that could be smoke and mirrors. But it might not be! So…yeah…
(We all laugh)
Adrian: Well…one of my next questions was, ahem, “Would you ever put out a full-length <PIG> remix album” and I literally wrote that a few days before Stripped & Whipped was announced, so uh… (laughs)
Raymond: Well yeah, and that was Giles’ idea, having the whole album in the same order as the songs on Risen. And just like the title, it’s stripped down and whipped…stripped down, rebuilt…and that’s the result. And we love it!
Adrian: Well yeah, it’s really cool. I love how it crosses over into different genres, like I think I mentioned to you before how “Hangman’s Wooing” has almost a dancehall vibe and then you’ve got the jazz thing…it’s what I appreciate most about PIG…how you move within all these other genres and you don’t stick to a formula.
Raymond: Well it’s also, it makes it a bit more difficult from a selling point, and I’ve always felt that for years and years going back to the 90s. I mean, working for Nothing and even Wax Trax, they always had sort of a broad artistic spectrum. But it can be quite difficult to sell it when you’re going, “Well it’s a bit ambient here and then it’s a bit rocky and then jazzy.” I mean, that doesn’t really affect me at all now…
Giles: I think that gift of being contrary, in a way it encouraged people to like it…it was that element of “anything could happen.” that makes it exciting. It’s Raymond…it’s <PIG>…expect the unexpected!
A big congratulations to Giles on the birth of his son River…get that kid a PIG onesie!
For the first time in over twenty five years, <PIG> & CUBANATE will share a stage once more, each playing a full headline set. Support comes from the Sheffield powerhouse that is Randolph & Mortimer, and DJ GillyWoo.
Raymond Watts pics by Gabriel Edvy, Giles & Raymond pics by Isabella Moorhouse