Ink 19 Interview 1997

A Pig is a Pig: Getting Down and Dirty with Raymond Watts

The setting: New Orleans. It is the last night of Pig's American tour with KMFDM, and -- like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz -- Raymond Watts just wants to go home. "It's such a fucking ordeal, doing this," he moans, "but it's all ending tonight. One more and then we can fuck off and leave our poor tour manager suffering with 18 East Germans marching up and down his back. I'm sure their tequila and vodka bill will fall accordingly." A week or so earlier, Pig's opening set at New York City's Roseland Ballroom proved to be the jewel in the crown of what rated as the top live show of the year 1997. Watts claims that a brief conversation we shared at the KMFDM after-show party is one of the few things he remembers, out of a "hideous black hole" of an evening, though perhaps he is just trying to flatter me. The 36- year-old founding member of KMFDM (Watts penned the massive dance hit "Juke Joint Jezebel") who has collaborated with just about everyone of the Industrial fringe, from Einsturzende Neubauten to Jim Thirwell's Foetus, has a reputation for being difficult. That he is headstrong is a given; that he is opinionated and single-minded is obvious from the moment he opens his mouth. That he is a creative genius is evident. And, in person, he is strikingly handsome, standing 6'3" tall, with long, dark hair that falls in soft waves to his shoulders. Add to the visual picture a resonant, Byronesque British accent and you find yourself forgiving Raymond Watts' self-centered eccentricities, as you fall under the spell of a man who calls himself Pig.

Gail Worley: The Pig show at Roseland was the best show I've seen all year, and I see a lot of shows.

Raymond Watts: Oh, that's really sweet of you. That's really kind of you, that you actually said you enjoyed it, that's all we hope for. We're just a lonely furrow on the extreme end of music. Music is a little bit of a stretch of the definition of what we do, I think. Actually, it seems like some kind of national service that we drag ourselves subconsciously into.

I have to be a little bit brief, so do you want to kick off? Ask me what four times four is?

GW: Yeah. Sure. I'll try to get through as much as possible. First off, how did you decide to call yourself Pig?

RW: The thing is, the Pig thing is not a great sort of master plan. It's had a very sort of winding, twisting past, and it's not the kind of thing that's a great vehicle that has any destination written on the front of the bus. It's kind of got a question mark there. So, the whole Pig thing is just basically a reaction against some of the shit I was doing when the band started. The kind of recording... I did these songs which were collected from an album entitled A Poke in the Eye, which Wax Trax did, I think, in about 1988. When they said "Oh, we really like this, we want to put this out," I had to think of a word [to call the band] because I don't have a very great, huge, long kind of... I don't know, I just thought Pig was short. Pig, it's simple, it's three letters and then if people want to dig a little bit deeper than the lowest common denominator, there is probably something you can get a handle on... the misrepresentation of the poor beast or whatever. 'Cause it's always used in the negative connotations. You know, you could say, "Cops are pigs," "Male Chauvinists are Pigs," "People stink like pigs" -- and, in fact, the pig is definitely a misrepresentation of a pig -- but that is not the reason why [I chose the name]. I just liked the word. It's short.

GW: How did you get involved with Trent Reznor and why are you no longer affiliated with his Nothing label?

RW: Well, when I first met Trent, apparently he told me that he'd been aware of the first, earliest Pig releases. We did a little show in a club in London and he just came down and said "Hi." Then, a couple of years later, [Nine Inch Nails] went on tour in Europe and we opened up for them, even though we didn't even have records released at that time or anything. Then I bumped into him again here in New Orleans, and he was aware of the album, Sinsation, and he said, "Well, I've got a record label. Do you want to stick it out?" And they put the record out. I suppose that was our first toenail into the door which is the great chasm of hideousness that is America. But there, again, that's why we're here. So, I really appreciate the fact that he did that and I think it was very sweet.

GW: Why was Wrecked released on Wax Trax?

RW: I don't think [Nothing] really liked it. Also, Nothing is a tiny label and they've got these big, enormous stratospheres of proper full-on rock stars. And I just kind of flounder around on the edge.

GW: See, I would never think that. I thought you fit in perfectly.

RW: Well, they're pretty busy, you know. They did one record and we just went "Fine." You know, we just wanted to get on and do this tour. I think we would have been a bit of an irritant on their skin. They gave us a little pat on the bottom and sent us off. That got us going.

GW: Well, it's their loss.

RW: It was totally amicable and I think they're really cool. We just wanted to come out on this tour and it meant getting some money. Wax Trax just went Bam! They put some money on the table to get us on tour and we thought it'd be good, so we came to do it. [Nothing]'s still a great label.

GW: So how was the KMFDM tour in retrospect? You put on such a great show and put so much energy into your performance.

RW: Not tonight darling, I'm fucked. I think I've just about run out of petrol and I'm kind of bored with it now. But the tour has been very good and they're all pals of ours, you know. I've known Sascha for years. So it's a nice little thing to do. There haven't been too many fuck-ups. We all sort of get on well, I think it's a good bill. I've heard sometimes people can get into a sort of rivalry thing when they go on these tours but, however good we happen to be, there's no way in a hundred years we could even fucking tread on the coat tails of the epicness of KMFDM. I mean, I'm a fan, you know.

GW: Well, you were a member of KMFDM at one time. Don't you feel like you're still a part of that in a way?

RW: No, I don't believe in bands really. I've never believed in that kind of formal structure...that whole kind of agenda doesn't appeal to me. I just like the idea of people swirling in different orbits and sometimes they come in and swirl about each other and then it gives off [sic], you know what I mean? You know, "bands" and three and a half minute songs and musical instruments don't really have anything to do with me.

(At this point, Watts asks me to hold while he disappears for three minutes).

RW: Sorry, I'm with you again.

GW: What's this predilection you have for being photographed naked?

RW: I don't have that at all. I mean, things just are the way they are. There's nothing really contrived, obviously. I've hardly had any photos of myself without my clothes on.

GW: Well, on the cover art of both Sinsation and Wrecked, you're pretty naked.

RW: Oh, those are other people's bodies as well as my own, sort of shelved together. We just sort of grabbed people... actually, there is one album called Swining, which you probably wouldn't have heard of, where I think I was naked on the front [Note: Raymond Watts is definitely naked on the inside sleeve of Wrecked] There's probably a few little pearls amongst the shit that you might enjoy. It's very difficult to get most of the Japanese stuff but there are a few things that can be found.

GW: I'll check it out. I was wondering what inspires you to be so outrageous in your performance?

RW: We have quite a toned-down performance. We used to have 16 pigs' heads on stage, swinging on chains and on stakes. But they kind of smell after a while. I don't know, I mean I don't even think about it, actually. I just don't even think about it. One thing that I do find, because I've done most of the recording on my own in the studio with sequencers, which means we have to bring the digital eight track with us, which means we're tied to something which has a finite beginning and finite end. Which means you can't digress. Luckily, I'm with musicians who seem to know how to keep in time and all this sort of stuff and [who] can kind of remember things that people might call chord structures or whatever. Which doesn't really enter my sphere of what the whole thing's about. I mean, I'm one who can't remember my words and all this kind of shit, and actually hope for things to go wrong. Because if I knew all the words for the songs when I went on, and we're with a tape, people know the shit, it's boring to me. I just kind of deliberately don't know the words and have to improv and do shit like that, 'cause otherwise I'd get even more bored than I am. I don't even know... it probably looks completely daft. I think there's a certain kind of auto-pilot that takes over after awhile, do you know what I'm saying?

GW: Yeah.

RW: And I'd rather do that, because then you don't really know what [will happen next]... it's like taking your hands off the steering wheel when you're going down a fucking, great big volcano and you don't exactly know which way the track is going to turn. That's more exciting than going down the highway.

GW: Have you ever considered doing music for films, film scores?

RW: Well, people tell me that, especially if you go back to the old stuff like Praise the Lard, people who heard that, particularly, say that there would be some application [of music for films]. But I don't have the kind of wherewithal or the ability. You know, if somebody comes up and puts something on the table, I'd look at it, but it's not exactly a bit that will fit between these teeth.

GW: It's not something that you're looking to do as a project?

RW: No, not at all. But people do tell me that there is a certain kind of "filmic" quality to my shit.

GW: I think so, very much. Good horror movie stuff. Are you a fan of horror films at all?

RW: [Laughing] No. I mean, I've watched my fare share of crap. But I'd probably rather watch the fucking shopping channel, actually or some kind of Televangelist shit. Because that's more fun...in a way.

GW: Can you tell me where you got the dialogue samples used in "Serial Killer Thriller" and "Painac"?

RW: There was a documentary on TV about genuine necrophiliacs, and there was this one woman who kidnapped a body. And she's the woman who's going on about "Nothing touches me." You know, she was a genuine necrophiliac. And then in "Serial Killer Thriller," I actually can't remember. I think it's somebody doing an auction... I really can't remember where all this shit comes from. I mean, I just put on the antennae and it seems like which ever way you point, there's some dark rubbish that has some kind of resonance. In all the bad shit, there's something good there.

GW: Have you ever been asked to collaborate on one of Martin Atkins' Pigface projects?

RW: No, I don't really know anything about them at all. I understand there's about 500 members to the band. I'm not really that interested in stuff like that. Are we just about done? Cause I've got to go and scoot out to the bus now and get my crew together.

GW: I think I've got enough.

RW: You've covered the major rubbish, then?

GW: I think so.

RW: Cool. Well, it's been a pleasure talking to you and I hope you'll make some sense out of this. I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say.

by Gail Worley

Ink 19