Raymond Watts tends to stand out in a crowd. It's somehow difficult to miss the tall British man in the cowboy hat and sunglasses, especially on the streets of Baltimore, where Rock Star Journalism caught up with Pig's lead swine.
Raymond's Stateside appearance actually comes as a bit of a surprise, given that he's all but disappeared for the past few years, having last toured in 2003 as part of KMFDM. Since that time, he's released an album titled "Pigmartyr" under the Watts heading (and later re-released a re-mastered version titled "Pigmata" as Pig) but has been relatively quiet otherwise. This year, however, Raymond's back -- taking on the critics and taking back the stage as he headlines the All Hamerican Pig Show.
Rock Star Journalism: After not having toured for quite awhile, what made you want to go out on the road with Pig again?
Raymond Watts: I got bored with sitting around being depressed. [Previously], I'd been on this treadmill -- basically just zooming around, spending months and months in Tokyo, then months and months in bloody America and London, and it's like I got a bit freaked out. Then I had a couple kids, and it was really kind of horrible cause my first son, seven days after he was born I had to go on tour for two months. And eleven days after Luke was born, I had to go on tour for god knows how long. You get into this thing where it's so painful to think about, you actually have to not think about it. You can't think about how much you love somebody and miss them cause it's so agonizing that you'll spend half the time just weeping when you're not onstage and getting obliterated. So, I just had to slam the door on jumping on airplanes and being on tour buses and get my own house in order. I just wanted to spend some time with my kids; then I decided to come on out here once all that was in order.
RSJ: How did the line-up for this tour come together?
RW: I'd worked with Guenter [Schulz] before; he worked on an album of mine called "Wrecked" awhile ago. And then I thought I'll get some people in the States, and so I talked to people I knew, and it kind of tumbled together. With Angel and Jason it was quite virtual in a way because I talked to them on the phone and listened to what they'd done, and I'd send them stuff and say, can you do this? It was kind of a gamble because however much you talk to somebody over the phone -- I'm not an internet kind of person -- there's that thing of are they really going to have the chops; can they do it? Luckily they could, so it's quite good. It's fun, breaking in new people.
RSJ: What happened with [former collaborator] Martin Eden?
RW: Martin fell in love with a woman who lived in Australia. He basically followed his heart, so good for him. What can I do? Fine, good for you mate, well done.
RSJ: How do you feel about the shows you've done so far on this tour?
RW: I don't know. It's how [the audience] feels about them that actually matters. I enjoy doing my thing; I do enjoy this actually.
RSJ: Of your two major touring experiences, which do you enjoy more -- going out with Pig or going out with KMFDM?
RW: This, cause this is Pig. I started this on my own, so you know how it is -- it's my baby. I worked with [KMFDM], and it was fine, and I enjoyed it. But when that was all going on, there was all this other stuff happening in my life as well, so sometimes...let's just say I had pretty huge phone bills.
RSJ: Do you think that you would like to tour or record with KMFDM in the future?
RW: I don't know. I don't know what they're doing really. I'd sort of got the guys who I'd worked with in Pig into that thing, and they're very happy together, so I'm really happy for them. But I don't think it's really in my horizon to work with them.
RSJ: Do you have plans for the next Pig album yet?
RW: It's [in my head]; I kind of build it all in here first. Then I just sit down with a load of sounds and chip everything away that doesn't sound like it does in [my mind]. I don't noodle and go, well, that's a nice riff. I have to give birth to it in my head and then just somehow vomit it out onto a piece of tape.
RSJ: You've obviously done a lot of work with Japanese musicians. What part of that music scene did you first become interested in?
RW: I first went out a long time ago when I was very young and spent a lot of time there. I started messing around with sound things and tape loops and sampling. And then this guy hooked me up with this A&R guy who had really eclectic music taste and surprisingly he wanted to know if he could license Pig. So, anyway, this guy basically asked if I would come [back to Japan], and it was great. You arrive and it's like, wow, I'm in "Blade Runner," and they like this weird music and you meet these musicians. But when you've been there 25 times it gets a bit [old]. And I hate earthquakes and they have them all the time. Really fucking scary. And when there's a big one, you immediately turn on the TV and it pops up in the corner what the Richter scale is. I start yelling and running around when things start wobbling, and they all laugh at me, but when they stop laughing I know it's serious cause they're expecting a big one. And you know that when the roof comes down nobody's going to come get you...I don't know what that has to do with your question (laughs). It's a very strange place -- quite inspiring, but quite frightening at the same time. Not quite as frightening as America.
RSJ: Have you thought about working with that scene again, especially now that several Japanese bands have been signed to American labels and are doing wide touring?
RW: The last few years I've been dealing with trying to get my house in order and haven't been that concerned with what's going on or keeping in touch with things. If anything, I've actually shut more doors. I don't want to get into a state where I've got too many things going on. I'd rather just concentrate on this, do this, and not be going, okay, I'm doing that for you, and this Japanese project, and I've gotta produce these people.
RSJ: Do you have any thoughts on the current British music scene, since that's where you're based?
RW: Well, actually, I'm [in England] physically, but spiritually I'm not. I've been hanging out with this girl I was with for ages, Anna, in France, and I think I'm gonna spend more time there. The scene in London does not hold any interest for me at all. I don't even know what a music scene is; it's something I'd like to avoid if at all possible. If I ever find myself in anything like a "scene," I want to immediately get out of it.
RSJ: Are you interested in making any more videos for your current album?
RW: Yeah, I suppose I'm interested in it. The guy I always work with, Philip Richardson, [we have] this weird kind of symbiotic thing. I just talk to him, and he gets it and then says, "okay, this is what we're going to do -- you turn up, do this," and I let him get on with it. So, I would be interested in seeing how he could interpret something visually, but there's a practical side to all this stuff, which is money. Here, there's this label called Metropolis who released the Pig stuff, and they're not exactly the largest bank in the world. So, it comes down to a financial aspect, and if they decided to throw us some money, then [I would shoot a video].
RSJ: How do you finance your projects in general?
RW: Make phone calls. There was a time when I was doing things in London and a lot of the money was coming from Japan. I'd just call up and say I want to do a record, and they'd go, "fine, here's some money, send us a master in three months." But the economy was going really well then. The [current record] -- there was a different management team, and one of the cogs wasn't working very well. And I kind of got my fingers caught in that one, so I backed off from that a bit. So, I called up Metropolis and said, hey, finance this. And they said, "okay, we'll give you this much."
RSJ: I know you're not much for the internet in general, but do you ever check in on [Pig-related message board] The Sick City anymore?
RW: I did. Those people are so fucking weird. People jump on this thing and they're like, "he hasn't released a record since so-and-so and what a fucking waste of time" and blah blah blah. Like, "we demand a record." Oh yeah? Well, where were you in fucking 1988 when I churned this one out, that one out, wrote this and that for KMFDM, wrote this, wrote Schwein -- spat them out like a whore without contraception. And then I decide to slow down and take a bit of a check, and then there are these fucking people whining about "we demand." Fuck you, man. Go demand with somebody else. I really can't bother looking at that kind of crap. Bryan Black, he came to me and said, I'll run a website for you. And I said yeah, but websites dedicated to bands are boring, so why don't you just do an umbrella one and you put your music on there as well? Then you can include some other good projects and it'll be like a community type thing. I looked at it once or twice and that's fine. I suppose if you set something like this up, then you've gotta have a thick skin and sometimes you're gonna have to take it. So, whatever. I'll tell you what -- I remember I did actually write a message on it once, and they were like, "that can't be Raymond Watts." This one person said, "I've worked out the time difference, and it's 5:00 in the morning in London, and he wouldn't be awake then. So, that's proof it can't be Raymond Watts." And I'm going, no, it's me, and it's all "fuck off, you're a fake, you're not really Raymond." Actually, I'm usually just about thinking at 5:00 in the morning.
RSJ: There is a lot of interest in live footage and Pig videos that aren't commercially available. There was an incident last year where someone distributing bootlegs of this material got into some trouble for this. What are your feelings about people distributing bootleg Pig material?
RW: I don't have a problem with it. If I have something lying around unreleased it's better that people can listen to it than it just sits on the shelf gathering dust. Now, people printing t-shirts and selling them, yeah, that's kind of a bit naughty. But, generally, I've found that people who like the music download it because they can't buy it in the fucking shops, and it's hard to get hold of. Most people say, "well, I'd like to buy it, but I can't, so perhaps I'll do this until I can buy it." That's okay.
RSJ: You mentioned being up and awake at 5:00 in the morning -- tell me what an average day is like for you.
RW: Sometimes I try to make it as short as possible. Sometimes I try to make it as long as possible, if it's a nice day. I got really down and depressed awhile ago and wanted to sleep all the time because I had to just sort everything out in my head. It really does vary. When my kids were living in Cornwall and I'd go and see them, I actually would conk out quite early.
RSJ: Going back to your older projects for a moment, do you ever still keep in contact with Jim Thirlwell?
RW: No, it's been years and years actually. I'm very bad at keeping in touch with people. But I hear he's doing very well.
RSJ: Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician?
RW: No, absolutely not. I come from this horrible suburban nowheresville place just outside London, and all you want to do is escape when you're like 15. And that's what you do, just run away to get away from this thing. It just so happened that I ended up in this furrow that was music, and so I plowed that. But I thought music in London was really shitty and boring so I went to Germany and started doing other things that were a bit more interesting. And I was more behind the mixing desk, but I'd end up with white knuckles going what's wrong with these people? So, I thought I've gotta do something myself cause being the midwife for their emotional horror stories got a bit tedious after awhile. I thought, god, my horror stories are far worse than yours. You think that's fucking nasty -- listen to this.
RSJ: What's the most frustrating thing about being an artist in the current music community?
RW: The most frustrating thing at the moment is putting this number of people [on the tour bus]. It's kind of like a mobile prison. You have to make the best of it, but your own personal space is [quite small]. That's the most frustrating thing. I don't think about the whole music scene; I think about whether I can get through without too many injuries. I don't think about "oh, the problem with the music scene is..." and "the reason we're not pulling this many people..." and promotion and all this stuff; I'm just going, am I gonna get a place to shower, am I gonna get some food, when can I shave? I don't go and pontificate about the problems in the music scene today. Of course there are problems -- nobody fucking leaves here apart from when they die. It's like a fucking fish pond, and all the time new fish are being pulled into it as new bands come in, and very few fish flop out, so you've got more and more fish with less and less water. I'm just concerned about whether I can make some music, whether people buy it to be able to take it out and do shows and that's it. And then I go, oh shit, there's a fucking war on. Jesus, why I am I figuring out problems in the music scene?
RSJ: If you could have your fantasy career situation, what would it be?
RW: Being here talking to you.
RSJ: Well, I think that's the best answer to that question we're ever going to get.
RW: Good (laughs).