One of the more surprising – and great – returns last year was the return of Raymond Watts’ long-running project <PIG>. After a US tour last year, that I caught at Cold Waves in Chicago, the first <PIG> UK dates in years were announced recently. So I thought it the right time to catch up with Raymond Watts to talk all things porcine.
(All photos courtesy of <PIG>)
amodelofcontrol.com: The Gospel has been out for a few months, now. It looked to get a positive reaction, and a lot of coverage – what’s your thoughts on it now you’ve got a bit of distance from writing and creating it?
Raymond Watts: Well, it was a bit of a miracle that it came together the way it did. Mark Thwaite, Z.Marr and myself had written a lot of the material a couple of years before but it was having bit of a breech birth due to the whole file sharing thing. So it went on the back-burner. Z.Marr then left Combichrist, jumped on a plane to London and nine days later it was pretty much done. He was a catalyst, and I needed a kick up the ass.
The Gospel was a much more collaborative effort than previous <PIG> albums and I enjoyed the process. It’s still challenging and tricky but not such a gut wrenching and excoriating experience. The whole “I’ve suffered for my art and now it’s your turn” approach was thankfully only noticeable by its absence.
amodelofcontrol.com: A lot of your work – including the recent album of course – has nods to gospel music and religious imagery. What does this stem from?
Raymond Watts: I think it’s possible to like the architecture of a building but not its’s inhabitants, and I mean that literally and figuratively. I genuinely like gospel, churches, ceremony, sermons and such but the delivery rather than the content. In the same way I can appreciate Mahler but not his politics.
amodelofcontrol.com: You’ve been recording music for a long time now. What were your formative influences, and how did you end up working with KMFDM back in the eighties – weren’t they in Hamburg then?
Raymond Watts: I had a recording studio in London in 1982 and started working with some of the Some Bizarre bands and a bunch of Germans amongst others. I joined Abwärts to fill in for a couple of the Neubauten guys who had also been members. One thing led to another and I moved the studio over to Hamburg and did a lot of the underground / experimental bands who were part of the Neue Deutsche Welle. Marc Chung (Neubauten) introduced me to En Esch and Sascha Konietzko who wanted to record so we started writing a bunch of stuff that became the first KMFDM album. There was a lot of interesting stuff going on at the time and the first <PIG> recordings were also made then, and rather like The Gospel they were very collaborative as well (unlike the later recordings). There were people from all sorts of bands popping in and doing strange things in those days! By then I’d moved to West Berlin so nothing seemed remotely strange of course – it was both the party at the end of the world and on the front line simultaneously.
amodelofcontrol.com: As well as working with various bands (including Neubauten in the eighties?), you did musical work for Alexander McQueen’s later fashion shows. I’m really curious about this, as it seems at face value as a pretty unusual pairing. Did McQueen have an interest in your musical work beforehand?
Raymond Watts: I worked on McQueen with John Gosling who I met when I was recording Psychic TV. He invited me to join another band he was in called Zos-Kia. We always stayed in touch and I’ve helped write things and sing on his Mekon project. He started putting music together for McQueen from the very beginning and then I began writing things for films, installations and runway shows with him. The final and fantastic show before he died was Plato’s Atlantis that was based around the instrumental <PIG> track Inside which McQueen liked. Working with him we built up a soundtrack for the entire show. Something purpose built and not just ‘playing records’ to accompany the show but making the whole thing a lot more unified.
For the Savage Beauty retrospective at The Met in N.Y and the V & A in London we wrote and re-worked things that would work in the different galleries of the exhibition, and that was an incredible thing to be involved with.
Through McQueen I’ve ended up writing music for shorts with the likes of Rhianna, Jude Law and all sorts of weird things.
I also worked with John on The Met’s show Punk: Chaos to Couture which was great fun and a chance to trawl through old cassette’s from The Vortex and The Roxy for a bit of ambience and atmosphere, and record a lot zips and spits.
amodelofcontrol.com: Talking of style, your work with <PIG> has always struck me as having a striking visual style, both on-stage and on your releases and merchandise. Was this by design?
Raymond Watts: Well, I would say it’s not by design. There is no ‘master plan’. I just have an idea and it might be a song, sound, a lyric, a tee shirt slogan or whatever. And if I can get it made or just give birth to the damn thing I’m happy about it.
amodelofcontrol.com: Last year saw you perform a lengthy US tour, including an appearance at Cold Waves in Chicago last September. How did that tour go? The Cold Waves show at least seemed to be a whole lot of old friends in the bands all getting together again that night…
Raymond Watts: It was the first tour in a long time and it kind of came about by accident. I had no expectations whatsoever but it was an absolute thrill and a surprise that there were so many people and such goodwill from people who came out to see us across the US.
Being at Cold Waves was of course priceless. Seeing the old gang, the likes of Connelly, Barker, Heal, Vrenna and co., but also meeting KANGA and such was fabulous. It does seem to be a ‘gathering of the clans’ (certainly the black clad tee shirt brigade anyway…).
amodelofcontrol.com: You’ve got a UK tour coming up next month – the first in a good many years, as well as a remix album coming. Is it good to be touring the world again?
Raymond Watts: Well it’ll certainly be interesting playing in the UK with Mortiis. The US has always felt more like the natural Parish of Pork but we’re all very much looking forward to it. The remix CD Swine & Punishment shares its name with the tour, but won’t be out ’til early May, though we will have some rare CDs on sale on the tour.
amodelofcontrol.com: What are your plans once this tour is over?
Raymond Watts: There’s something coming at you, and when it does, you’ll be the first to hear about it.