Sonic Envelope 10/20/95
Friday, October 20, 1995
Sporting a small white towel, Raymond Watts joined me after a
post-concert shower for a most
enjoyable interview. The total-rock-star-material Raymond was
effervescent with his cool British
panache teamed with a boyish charm. His performance that night
with KMFDM was infused with a
mature, hard-driven energy, but the big kid in him isn't as
apparent on stage as it is off.
Before we parted, he gave me a copy of Sinsation, the album he
just finished recording in Japan,
which will not be released in the States until he signs with a
label here. After hearing it, I
am sure he won't have any problem in that regard.
Every now and then an album appears with a surprising amount of
creativity meshed with pop
sensibility that it sparkles with a platinum glow. What gives
Sinsation its edge? Songs like
"Volcano" and "The Sick"; songs that you want to hear over and
over again, because they evolve
with pop hooks that are integrated so organically that they move
and breathe within a higher
aesthetic. It's all a clear reflection of Raymond Watts himself,
his lack of vanity coupled with
a healthy ego exuding charisma with an even more genuine appeal.
He doesn't need to tweak this
or that to create the rock'n'roll miracle - Sinsation rings with
Watt's personality - cocksure
intelligence steeped in animal magnetism. It's hard NOT to like
him or his music. Not that you
would want to try.
Sonic Envelope: Where in England did you grow up and what was
your childhood like?
Raymond Watts: Mr. Suburbia, I was. Came from suburban hell just
outside London, you know. Nowhere zone. The
kind of zone where you grow up as a kid and as soon as you get
to age 16, punk rock starts
happening and it's 1977 and you see Bill Grundy, who was
an "establishment" TV figure, being
told he was a "dirty old fucker" by all the boys in gangs and
the Sex Pistols, and you're 16 and
you go, "Fuck, that's cool - that's what I want to do!" So, I
gravitated towards London, lived
in squats, etc., played in dodgy old bands, blah, blah, blah,
ended up living in Japan in '81
working for crappy kind of corporate pop-whore outfit, came back
to London, thought that sucked,
stopped doing music, fell in with some cunts who were from
Berlin, it's 1982, Some Bizarre
(label) is happening, Psychic TV, Einstürzende Neubauten, all
that shit, London sucks, gravitate
to fucking Hamburg, meet these guys (Sascha Konietzko and En
Esch of KMFDM), start KMFDM, go to
Berlin, do something a bit more extreme, they fuck off to
fucking America, I do some interesting
stuff with other people, that's the story. Concise.
SE: So how did you become an engineer for Einstürzende Neubauten?
RW: I had this friend, Jon Caffery, who worked with them and he
couldn't do one tour or something
like that, and I'd met them through Genesis P-Orridge (ex-
Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV) and all
that dodgy old lot, that kind of early industrial 80's shit. He
couldn't do one tour, so I said,
"Alright." And then Mufti (F.M. Einheit) and Mark (Chung)
said, "If you can't do it, we can't do
it." So I went and did it... it was good fun. I did their first
album and some stuff for KMFDM
and then moved off more into doing live stuff for Neubauten
because it was just more extreme at
the time. I mean what we were doing was quite bizarre, but the
Neubauten stuff was quite
exciting to do, it was a live thing, 'cause like I said it was
just this big out-of-control
monster. I think they were quite interesting in those days,
actually, seriously, sort of fairly
seminal and a bit of a cornerstone. Although their stuff isn't
incredibly listenable nowadays, I
think its had a lot of influence on the way people approach
music and it was quite interesting
to somehow have to go out there and deal with this shambolic
mess, and it was all coming through
a mixing desk and a lot of power and it was kind of
like, "Vroom, vroom, vroom," - you know
what I mean? You didn't know what was going to happen, which was
SE: I spoke to Mufti (F.M. Einheit - Neubauten's "toolman"
percussionist) last week.
RW: Is he wandering around here with Caspar (Brötzmann) and the
SE: Yes. they're on tour.
RW: I was in a record store the other day where we were doing a
signing and I wandered into the jazz
bin and there was Caspar and Mufti's stuff, so I don't know what
that was all about...
SE: So tell me how you came to be involved in Foetus' Rife album
back in '89?
RW: Met Jim (Thirlwell, a.k.a. Foetus) backstage at a Neubauten
gig somewhere at one of those large
venues in New York. We had a chat and I think that his stuff had
been fairly instrumental in me
returning to music - I told you, I sort of really lost faith in
music and left Britain and was
only interested in sort of odd foreign people bashing assorted
bits of plastic and metal
together - and then I got introduced to his (Jim Thirlwell's)
stuff and I found it quite
inspiring - I mean continually inspiring - actually maybe worth
picking up a reel of tape and
putting on a machine or even a microphone or guitar because I
think that what he did back then
was fucking great - really exciting - and certainly got my vital
hormones flowing again, so I
was impressed with him. He produced a Pig single for me, I
played in his band, we rehearsed in
New York for a month, went on tour for a month, did some work in
Berlin together, and I went
back and did this funny thing called Steroid Maximus with him. I
think I did six tracks with him
on that and then we did some stuff with some other
SE: Yeah, I saw him several weeks ago.
RW: With his band?
SE: No. Backstage at the (Nine Inch) Nails/Bowie Concert.
RW: And here everybody who just ever mentions his name says he's
just completely fucking wrecked all
SE: Usually. Actually, I went to a barbecue with him during the
summer and he was not drunk when it
RW: What time did it start? Like 8:00 in the morning?
SE: It was about noontime. Of course he did get trashed
RW: How's he doing?
SE: His recent album Gash is wonderful; some parts of it are
RW: Yeah... someone played me a bit off that record.
SE: What are your plans for Pig?
RW: I've done quite a few Pig records, actually. I think the
first one, which I don't like at all,
is fucking pretty uninteresting, but it was released here (in
the states). None of the others
have been released here. I've worked with some independent
labels in Germany, London and Japan,
and recently moved onto a major label in Japan, because there
was this sort of split - I was
doing different things from the KMFDM people - I was producing
pop bands in Japan and doing
fairly obscure left-field things there as well, and one of the
things that happened was I ended
up working with a Japanese label and they did a couple of
albums. They weren't really capable of
getting stuff licensed over here, and although there were a few
takers, it didn't really happen,
but I was quite happy just sort of doing that over there and
stumbled into the hands of this
label and I've done one album with them and one interview with
them this year which I did
immediately after the Nihil (KMFDM) recording which we did in
Seattle... I'm trying to make this
concise - I hope you understand...
SE: I'm with you...
RW: But there are a few things ... basically there's a license
in the offing at the moment and there
are a couple of labels who want to do it here and I sincerely
hope that it will happen here,
because there seem to be a few people who'd be vaguely
interested in it. It's not as kind of
commercially straight forward as the KMFDM stuff - I feel it has
a very particular kind of
handle on it, do you know what I mean, in terms of
marketability, we're not talking
left-field/commercial/independent/underground, I mean it's just
got a severe handle on it, and
maybe the Pig stuff plows slightly deeper... a deeper furrow
that kind of scrapes up seed from a
slightly more obscure gutter which it will then use - what I'm
talking about is using source
material and making it more obscure and difficult and so I don't
think it would be quite as
easily acceptable as KMFDM is. I'm not saying that we're a sort
of straight out-and-out pop band
but the stuff I do I think is quite...
SE: Quite what?
RW: Well, it's fairly kind of straight forward, I feel, and
digestible. The Pig stuff will never be
as easily digested for some of the people I see coming to our
gigs. Does that make sense? I'm
just saying that I hope the Pig stuff comes out- it's supposed
to be licensed, but it's always
going to be slightly more difficult to swallow. Is that true? I
SE: I wouldn't know.
RW: You don't know. You've got to listen to it. I'll give you a
CD of Sinsation; I've got a copy of
Sinsation with me, and it's the last album I did this
SE: What did you grow up listening to?
RW: Um... I think the first full-length album I bought was one
by T-Rex. And I liked Gary Glitter
and all that sort of stuff...
SE: (laughs) So many people reference "Gary Glitter"...
RW: He was absolutely "it" when I was 13 years old, him on
Thursday night Top of the Pops doing
"Rock'n'Roll Part II", or whatever it was called - it was
fucking seminal. And then things got a
bit more exciting - like I said, it wasn't even the music of the
Sex Pistols that excited me -
it was them going on live TV and telling the interviewer
to "Fuck off - you filthy old fucking
bastard!" which was more like, "Wow - I don't even know if I
like the music, but I really like
their fucking attitudes! I want to BE one of those people!" So
that was what I moved
SE: How do you like being a combination frontman/sideman for
KMFDM? I mean, a lot of people in the
audience, who don't know the "structure" of the band think you
are KMFDM... along with the
others, of course...
RW: No! They don't!
SE: At KMFDM concerts, I've walked around and asked people in
the crowd, randomly, "Who is KMFDM?"
and many point at you, because you're so "visible"...
RW: KMFDM is Sascha and En Esch...
SE: Yes, I know...
RW: They write the music and say, "Will you write some words and
sing the melody?" So what happens
is, Sascha goes, "Will you come and work with us again?", so I
travelled to the studio in
Seattle and walked in there and they were very comprehensively
almost finished - backing tracks,
music tracks, and it's kind of liberating, because you don't
have to take control of the whole
fucking thing. You know, with Pig, it's my own little fucking
car, and I've got both hands on
the steering wheel, foot on the accelerator - it's the whole car
I'm driving. With KMFDM,
there's specific roles, and although they sometimes overlap,
there's actually specific defined
parameters to what you have to do, which is, in fact, actually
quite liberating. I'll go,
"Yeah... I could do something with this ... what about this: 'Be
mine, Sister Salvation, Juke
Joint Jezebel...' and they go, "Wow - that's great... Yeah,
let's do that!" And so, there's just
this bit, and you throw in an idea, and if it's deemed
acceptable, then it's deemed acceptable,
but that's all you have to do.
SE: So they listen to your ideas?
RW: Well, I'll listen to them as well. There are times where
I'll go, "I don't have a fucking clue
what to do with this!" and then Nick (En Esch) will go, "Well,
I'll do this," and then I'll say,
"That sucks," or "That's great." It's kind of broken down in a
way - because Sascha is KMFDM,
there is more responsibility riding on his shoulders for the
whole thing, whereas, for someone
like me, it's quite liberating, just to walk in and go, "Cut the
bass drums out, Sascha...", but
it doesn't matter.
SE: Because it's not YOU.
RW: Yeah...exactly. But I still very much enjoy sticking my horn
in and going, "Okay, let's
reprogram the bass and the drums and let's change the guitar
part." And sometimes that's
acceptable. If it's not acceptable, I'm not going to sort
of 'cry all the way home'. It's kind
of liberating and limiting - it's not such a fucking severe
responsibility. Do you know what I'm
SE: Of course. It doesn't rest on your shoulders.
RW: Exactly. So I kind of enjoy it. What was the show like, by
SE: It was great!
SE: Definitely. How much of the stage persona that you present
for KMFDM is "you" and does that
transfer over into Pig or do you have a different kind of
RW: To be frightfully honest, I mean, I think if I contrived it,
then it would really suck. I mean,
in a way, there are contrived elements, but only in as much as -
I mean, I wear pretty much the
same clothes and stuff. Maybe there are contrived elements. I
just can't go on and do what I do
and say, "Hang on - I'm singing for KMFDM now - I'll have to be
different." In another aspect,
you can't go on and say, "I'm being paid $200 for this gig, I'm
going to be different from how
I'd be if I were being paid $2000 for this gig. You can't do
that. It's like, if you're writing
an article, whether you're paid $200 or $2000, you're going to
do what's "you"; you're going to
do your kind of thing and you're going to do the best you can
do - do you know what I mean? Once
you've put yourself in the starting blocks, that's it.
SE: Well, I wasn't thinking really in terms of monetary reward,
RW: But, I'm just saying - for example. We (KMFDM and crew) were
talking about that earlier - bands
who make more of an effort when they're getting paid more and
less of an effort when they're
getting paid less, and I'm kind of applying it to this
situation, in as much as I go on and
scream and shout and get sweaty and most of the words I sing are
my words that I write,
therefore they still come from within this particular vas of
excuses, so why should I be
SE: I never really thought you should. I just wondered if you
felt like you were the same, or if
you felt you were presenting a different stage persona.
RW: I mean, sometimes I have to be a bit careful, because I
don't want to tread on other people's
toes on stage. There's Sascha there (on one side) and there's
Nick (En Esch) there (on the
other) and it's basically their baby and they've asked me to
come and be involved and do
SE: It's just that they've put you in such a prominent
RW: And the thing is, sometimes I have to say, "Look - you want
me - you get me - lock, stock and
barrel." You can't just have me here and you can't edit these
bits off my stage persona,
personality, whatever it may be, egotism, you know, self-
obsession, whatever. 'Cause I think
sometimes, some of the things that I do, sometimes get out-of-
hand a little bit. But I'll say,
"Well look - you know what you're fucking getting, mate, and if
I throw tequila on your fucking
drum riser and into your drum module and fucking break your
guitar strap, it's not my fault and
that's what's going to happen," you know. Do you know what I'm
saying? Does that make
SE: So you can be some trouble...
RW: Really, I don't mean to be trouble, but sometimes I have
been known to break a few things of
theirs (KMFDM's) on stage. But not on purpose.
SE: Of course not.
RW: Right. If you've got me, they you've got me, you know what I
mean? Tell me to go home if you
don't like fucking tequila on your drum riser. I mean, I don't
like to come across in any sort
of egomaniacal, threatening way - it's just the way it
SE: Obviously, they wouldn't keep inviting you back if they
didn't want you completely - along with
tequila on the drum riser.
RW: Tequila and all. Like me, like my dog, like my hog...