Friday, February 10, 2017

Raymond Watts interview

Interview with Raymond Watts of PIG
October 2016
by Evan South

Me:  Do you feel you have to do a lot more yourself these days as opposed to when you could just let the label/publicist do everything?

Raymond: I think yes you probably do, but it makes a much more direct relationship between you and the people who buy the stuff.  I mean what kind of asshole would say that’s not a good thing?  I really enjoy doing meet and greets and meeting people who say “I saw you then…” and you ask “How did you get into it?” The less shit there is between the people who do this stuff… Some people may not like it like that.  I like it.  The fact you do more stuff yourself.  I wish I could just do more of it.  On another side of that whole thing of being, not more humble, but just being in touch with the process.  Years ago when I used to come around the states we’d go around in a fuck all great tour bus, and I was miserable as fucking sin.  I never saw any of the states.  I was in the back lounge getting fucked out of my skull, unhappy as fuck, with a pretty weird, not very cohesive situation going on.  It was kind of nice going around in a big bus and it was the glory days you could say.  We’ve been traveling around in a van.  A couple of people I said to “what’s it like going around in a van”? A few people said it’s much nicer and I said how could that be? Well it’s really simple.  When you’re in a bus, the windows are always behind you and the blinds are down so you never see anything out of the window. When you’re in a van, the window is here or there, and so I’ve seen the countryside of New Jersey, I thought NJ looked like the credits of the Sopranos, just refineries, it’s actually quite beautiful.  I’ve seen all over Florida, and Georgia, and Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and even Nebraska.  And of course you don’t sleep in a bed that’s bumbling down the highway at 70 miles per hour.  It’s not like a fucking morgue where you have one bed there, another there, another there, etc.  We sleep in hotels and motels, you can take a shit in the fucking toilet, you can’t shit in the tour bus loo.  It’s just all this stuff you think is going to be… and it’s actually much better.  So what I’m saying is, it’s often quite nice not having a label do everything for you.

Me:  Back in May I interviewed Tim Skold, and he was touring in a van as well.

Raymond: I would much rather go in a van.  I prefer sleeping in a bed that’s not moving, I prefer taking a shower every morning, being able to spread my shit out on the floor, not getting changed in a fucking corridor, and sleeping in a bloody mortuary with a bunch of smelly musicians.
Me: I’m getting you at the tail end of your tour, how has the tour been so far?

Raymond: It’s been an absolute joy, and the first one I’ve really enjoyed, ever.  Like I alluded to before I was always really fucking unhappy on the other ones, and it’s nice to be with really nice people.  They’ve got to be people with a strong moral compass and really nice people, and its great to be working with Z. Marr, who was really instrumental in making this album, The Gospel, happen.  He co-produced it with me, wrote some of the stuff on it, and has a brilliantly kind of “can do” attitude. And that’s really great for me.  And it’s great to be working with my old cohort Nick/En Esch, we were writing stuff together in 1985.  It’s kind of quite weird. And Gunter, who I first worked with in 1994, and did lots of touring and recording with him as well.  So there’s one leg in that camp and then there’s Z. Marr, who I just started working with, although we did some work together 3 years ago but it never came to fruition.  It’s great working with him, and Galen, who is just completely kind of new to me.  It’s a really nice balance, makes the whole thing really enjoyable!

Me:  Do you find it odd after all this time that you and KMFDM have switched your live bands?

Raymond: I’m completely unaware of what goes on in the world.  I know the guys play with them…When I was speaking with Steve White earlier this year, I think we were talking about drummers actually, stuff, catching up… I was asking how are you doing, are you touring?  I don’t even know when they go on tour.  I have no idea what’s going on or what records are being released.  To tell you the truth, I’ve never been very aware of you might call this “scene”. I toured once with Ohgr, I never listened to a Skinny Puppy album in my life, or Front 242. I remember they (242) opened for Neubauten when I was doing sound for them.  I heard them then, that was probably 1986. So if the guys enjoy playing for them (KMFDM), I’m happy for them. I’ve been doing lots of other weird things.  And the reason I’m doing this now, is for 10 or 11 years I didn’t do any PIG because the time wasn’t right for it.  I was doing other things, dealing with other issues, looking after kids, looking after myself, doing music for fashion installations, the Met in New York for a couple of their huge shows they have there, doing all the audio design, lots of music for runway shows, fashion couture shows, little films, films of backstage at shows.  I was really fucking wrung out with the whole thing. I was bored with it.  What’s the point of doing it when your hearts not in it?  If the spirits not upon you, it’s not upon you. So I was done with the whole do a tour, make a record, go to Japan, do Schaft, do Schwein, tour Schaft, come back, record this, tour Schwein, record some KMFDM, do PIG, do a PIG for Metropolis, all these things… Wrung out!  So I stopped doing it.   And the dominoes start falling…And that’s how I’m here.  And there’s an enormous amount of chance in the way things happen.  It’s kind of good at the moment.

Me:  Along the lines of you mentioning about tiring of the routine.  How has PIG been affected since it is such an irregular project?  Maybe an album every 8 years, a tour every ten…

Raymond: Coming out here for the first time in God knows how many years, has been really extraordinary, that there are people who still remember us. They come out, and know all this old material.  The back catalog of PIG, for many, many years, was willfully obscure.  I wanted it to be obscure. So I had a really lovely relationship with my A+R guy and the various labels I worked with in Japan like Alpha, Victor, BMG and all these people.  It was great.  And the fact that stuff got licensed over here eventually… Sinsation, Wrecked… I was kind of pleased about, but pleased that it was licensed because, for example, when Nothing licensed Sinsation, Interscope did the day to day running of it, they didn’t know what the fuck it was, what to do with it, and they didn’t know how to deal with it.  So I was pleased it wasn’t pushed, it was very difficult to get a hold of, and that was fine.  Same with Wrecked when I went back to TVT, all the old Wax Trax stuff…  So when I come out here on this one, not having done anything recently, I find it stabbing that people even have these cd’s or even heard of us, or even know some of these songs!  I haven’t even got a lot of the stuff in the cd collections they bring to me to sign!  I go “Fuck, you’ve got a Japanese version of Wrecked”.

Me:  Talking about your older material, do you have plans to re-release it?

Raymond: My publisher came to see us in San Francisco last night and I think I might… People would like to get a hold of it, it’s that simple.

Me:  How was the Cold Waves concert experience?

Raymond:  It’s great to see some of the old gang, so to speak.  It’s nice to see Connelly, and people you haven’t seen for a while.  It’s a kind of a small community in that scene and people like to see each other and be supportive.  There’s a lot of goodwill there.  I like that.  It’s a nice vibe, nice support, goodwill. 

Me: And you don’t feel as old, because everyone around you is as old or older!

Raymond: Exactly!  I’ve never seen so many head to toe dressed in black.  That’s what turned me on to using a tambourine in my set.  They’ve never seen a tambourine, these people, it’s all synths.  

Me:  On the tambourine thing, people used to see you with guitar playing in KMFDM, and with PIG you did vocals only.  Why don’t we see you with guitar in PIG?

Raymond: Well, I’ll tell you very simply!  When you have Gunter Schultz with a guitar on one side, and En Esch with a guitar on the other side, who is the most fucking incredibly talented musician, I mean Nick really has the gift… He’s not like Gunter, Gunter has a different gift.  Gunter is pure German engineering; he’s absolutely the Audi engineering of guitar playing, whereas Nick is the Volkswagen with a little bit of Mozart on top.  So that’s why I don’t need to pick up a guitar with these 2 guys, because they’re really on point.  I might pick some guitar up in the future just to fuck them up a bit, I like that idea of German engineering with a bit of chaotic, anarchic thing.  Nick has the anarchic thing down.  German engineering and German anarchism, one on one side of the stage, one on the other side, and there in the middle they meet.  So if I feel it’s getting out of control I shuffle to Gunter’s side of the stage.  And if it’s getting too stiff and German I shuffle to the other side and get a bit of Nick’s anarchy. It’s a perfect balance!

Me: So a keyboard solo is out of the question?

Raymond: Well, for me certainly!  I’ve never been really great on the keyboard solo, but we have let Gunter off the leash with the guitar every now and then, because it’s such a gas, it’s such fun!

Me: Related to Cold Waves, another great character, Marc Heal (Cubanate, C-Tec)!

Raymond: Marc Heal, love him!  It was great seeing Marc in Chicago; we had such a laugh on the phone. When I spoke to him a few months ago, I was like “So I see you’re going to Chicago, so how do you feel about this?”  And Marc says “Well Raymond, I’ve got to tell you something.  I haven’t been on the stage this century!” We fell about laughing!  Even I’ve been on stage this century. I was like “It’s like riding a bike, you’ll never forget”.  We used to do shows with Cubanate back in 1991, 1992 back in Camden.  I didn’t get a chance to see him, I saw a bit of it, because they have really fast turn arounds there (Cold Waves).  On, off, on, off… By all accounts it was absolutely blinding.  I’m looking forward to hearing Marc’s new album.  I think Cold Waves is a gateway drug as well.  I think it will be the beginning of him slipping down the long dirty slide back to being on tour again. I think it is a gateway drug for all these bands who haven’t done anything... It’s like, just a taste, have a taste, first ones on me.  And the next thing it’s like “Fuck, let’s go on a 40 date tour of North America.”  I was asking Chris Connelly “Are you going back out?” and he says” No, no, no...”  We’ll see.

Me:  What are your plans coming off tour?

Raymond: First thing I’m going to do is get myself back to Europe.  I’m going to go do some personal shit and then I’m going to think about the next release.  The thing about doing this (tour) is, it’s been really interesting and really great, but in no way has it felt like “Oh he’s going to have one more whirl, you haven’t done it in a while”.  It very much feels like… Working with Z. Marr and hooking up with the guys again, there’s some stuff on the back burner that needs to be developed, plans made with labels and booking agents.  We’ve been offered 3 tours of the UK in the last week and a half, there are things afoot I should really… I’ve done lots of work for fashion; I did a music piece for Italian Vogue just in the week before I came out here. I did a little film for Jude Law, just a soundtrack thing, an old piece of music I put on. So I’ll maybe carry on doing that stuff, because it’s great and it’s fun.  I haven’t gone out on tour just to play old material; we play stuff off the new album.  Sometimes I think people want more of the old stuff, but we do new material, because new shit becomes old shit very quickly!  And there is more new shit I’d like to put in the set but that would be too much.  I don’t think there’s much point of getting in the pool and treading water.  It’s fucking boring for the people watching you, listening to you, and really boring for you.  And I think people really stagnate.  Once you tread water you have to tread water.  Treading water becomes the act of in itself becomes a means to an end.  “Oh, we’re doing another album, dial up our generic guitar sound, dial up our generic distorted vocals, dial up our bullshit we’ve been traipsing up for years.  I find that incredibly soul destroying.  It’s only interesting if you’re moving forward and you’re doing shit you haven’t done before. The new album, everyone says it sounds really different, I didn’t expect it to be like this.  Well that’s fine for me!  That’s great.  If they like it they like it, if they don’t they don’t, most people like it.  The ball has to keep moving.  If it’s a ball and it’s stationary, it doesn’t need to be a ball, it could be a 50 ton rock, but the ball is moving, and that’s the way this is going.

Me:  Do you feel re-invigorated; do you feel there will be more consistency with the project?

Raymond: I would say, yeah. I think so. I definitely have more stuff to do.  We’re not just going to release remix cd’s.  I mean we have one remix cd in the pipeline because loads of people have done remixes.

Me: Touching on what you said earlier about a stale routine of record, tour, record, tour, now that you’re motivated again, how do you prevent that staleness from happening?

Raymond:  That is a very, very good question!  One of the things that I did, which was a major thing that happened, is that I decided to stop drinking and drugging, which was an extraordinary experience in itself!  That had been going on for such a long, long time.  Nearly three decades of non-stop, multiple addictions.  I didn’t want to be sober.  I didn’t want to be with those boring sober fucks.  That must just be hell on earth. It’s not brilliant all the time but it’s certainly different.  I don’t know if I’d not get jaded doing album, tour, album, tour. I don’t want to do that. I want to tour, see my kids… I started going to the theatre again in the last year or so. Going out and re-engaging with people I haven’t seen in 20 years.  Before, it was just me sitting in my recording studio shoveling 8 balls of coke up my fucking nostrils, doing bags and bags of smack and every other thing you can possibly imagine, with copious amounts of alcohol.  That’s a pretty boring existence.  The only exciting thing for me back in the day was how would I take a bag of morphine on tour with me around the states for 2 and a half months and not lose it and keep it together or get left high and dry, or Japan, or wherever.  It was just really boring plowing along that long lonely miserable furrow.  So I just do other things nowadays.  Not being involved with stupid toxic co-dependent fucking idiotic relationships with really toxic people. And also toxic awful people I used to do music with, I just work with people I like.  I worked with Steve White in the studio but it was still very much me in my studio, locked in, for days and days, like “It’s my vision…”  I’m still doing it just as intensely, probably more so, but much more heads up, collaborating more.  Did some great work with Mark Thwaite writing this album, had some great input from Z. Marr on the production front, and Nick and Gunter!  It’s much more heads up and collaborative, which make it more enjoyable.  Maybe if it’s more enjoyable I might do it some more, which I’d like to do.  If people buy it, want to listen to it.  If they don’t, we won’t go out and do it, but I’ll go on doing the music.  I’ll keep writing it, don’t know if we’ll come out and play it but I’d like to.

Me:  Were you met with a lot of cynicism for this tour considering what happened with the “All Hamerican” tour back in 2006?

Raymond:  That was just kind of a perfect storm with some illness, bad organization, and some bad luck.  Shit happens to tours. I was talking with Andy Selway, my old drummer, and he said “Make sure you sort out your Visa.” I’ve had work visas to the USA since 1986 when I first came out on tour with Neubauten and all the way through no problems.  And he said so many bands, particularly from the UK, have not been able to tour because their visas got fucked up, got refused, from Homeland Security and all that. It’s a different climate.  He named all these people.  Things happen sometimes. Tours don’t work.  Sometimes things conspire against you.  Also, we didn’t have a new record. I wasn’t involved in organizing it; I just left it up to other people.  People have said we hope it works out this time.  And we have 4 more dates to do now and the whole thing will be over and I’ll think about something else.

Me:  What are your thoughts about being in the right place at the right time in this business?

Raymond:  I kind of see it more like I count my hits, not my misses.  I think it’s great that the people I’ve met have enabled me to do the things I’ve done.  I really appreciate the people who listen to our music.  I do appreciate the shit that I have.  I appreciate the stuff I’ve been able to do and the people who facilitated that.  I don’t begrudge the things that haven’t happened because I don’t know what would have happened!  Much worse things could have happened.  I think the good things that have happened have been genuinely fabulous.