There are many ways to describe the genius that is Raymond Watts. He's a bold musician, touching on personal drama through an obscure art. He's a dedicated father, even if he feels when he is away on tour or in the studio in Japan, that he is the complete opposite. Pig has not toured since 1997, partially because after having children in 1999, Mr. Watts felt the need to take a while off to spend with his family. The last we saw of him, he was touring with KMFDM in 2003. Fans have waited 7 years to see Pig again, and just two days ago the announcement was made that the rest of the All Hamerican Pig show had been cancelled. Luckily, I was able to sit down with Raymond before his second to last show on this tour.
Heathen Harvest: Everyone seems to love to ask you questions about your experiences in Japan, so tell us about some of the bizarre or fun times you had there.
Raymond Watts: When you're first there, its like totally weird and bizarrely fu(c)king fabulous! When you're first there, you absolutely adore it. You're like, "Jesus christ man, I'm on the fu(c)king set of Blade Runner!," do you know what I mean? It's like when I was a kid and I'm watching movies where Manhattan is the backdrop, and the first time I roll into Manhattan from the JFK and come out into the subway, it's like "My god, it's just like the movies." Well, Japan is like a full on fu(c)king techno fix, and everything is completely...every minute of your day is planned out. It really suck. It's like, "Hotel Pickup, 9:05: Arrive at Record Company, 9:18: Interview, 9:20 - 9:47: Sandwich break.," and then everything goes like this, from right at 4:00 in the fu(c)king morning when you're staggering into your bloody hotel room completely pissed, and by pissed I mean drunk, because you spent 6-8 hours drinking at bars and shit. Yeah, weird experiences, even when you're, you know, on a kind of artsy obscure level, you get people following you around, checking into the same hotels as you, following you around and stuff, which is really bizarre actually. And being in Earthquakes is pretty weird. I'm running around, and people are laughing and I'm saying "Guys let's get the fu(c)k out of here!," and they're saying "That's the worst thing to do." and I'm going "Why?" and they're like "all the fu(c)king glass is going to come down." So they say "Get in a fu(c)king doorway, Raymond, don't just stand there shivering," and they're all fu(c)king laughing their pants off. It's a cool place, but I did get off to like 25 trips and spending 3 months there at a time. You pay a pretty high emotional price, like I have a couple young kids and stuff like that when I'm spending a lot of time there. I've got a 5 year old and a 6 year old running around and it's like 7 days off from when Oscar was born, and 11 days off from when Luke was born, I had to leave both times for like at least 2-3 months. It's fu(c)king horribly painful. It's hideous.
HH: Do you have any explanation for why most forms of any kind of extreme art is greatly accepted in japan? Everything from Grindcore to Hentai is huge there and I've always wondered why.
RW: Or jazz and stuff as well. I don't know, it is weird though actually. It's really weird. Like I would stop and ask myself when I was working with JVC and BMG, I had this one A&R guy who was with Alpha. They were pretty cool, but they weren't huge. They had stuff like Depeche Mode, and then he moved to Victim and I went with him there, then he moved to BMG and I moved with him there, and it was really cool and their economy was really good there for a while as well. I was thinking "Why?" I couldn't get my head around it. I went over there a few times there, and they had like pop bands in England, and they were like "Oh, you're the guy who does that Pig thing, we'd really like you to make a record for us." And i'm going "Well..okay," and they go "Here's a check," and I'm just going "Ooo, this is a little different." And I did ask myself "Why?" several times. They had these domestic artists who were shoveling out loads of money, maybe I was a big tax write off for them. Maybe they just thought "Well we might as well support something we actually like." I really fu(c)king don't know. It's quite the mystery to me, because there for a while they wrote really big checks, and they just go: A hand shake, you sit and have a glass of champagne, here's half the advance, we'll come to London in 4 months, and we'll pick up your album. We'll have a meal together, we'll take the masters back to Tokyo, and that was fine.
HH: Then the economy went downhill.
Well, it was fine and dandy, and I always had a really good situation. Basically, I'm referring back to what I said earlier when I said you pay a high emotional price for being over there for so long, and I'm working my bollocks off. I did kind of decide after I did this side-project with a couple of japanese guys called Schwein
HH: The album was called Schweinstein, right?
RW: Yes, then there was the remix album, The Son of Schweinstein, where myself and couple people did remixes of the album. But there was a different management team involved in that one, and that one didn't fly quite so smoothly. That also coincided with me thinking that I could really do with some time away from this whole fu(c)king merry-go-round, rather than spending my whole life doing studio albums.
HH: How have you noticed your American fans differ from your European fans? Are any tours more enjoyable than others?
RW: They're all different man. Even like, this is like small venues, local PA, very word of mouth, its a whole different thing out here. You kind of enjoy different things. This, you get to meet different people, you can spend different time with them, etc.
HH: Is it weird going from KMFDM, going from huge crowd going to, not necessarily smaller crowds with Pig, but...
RW: No, I understand. Obviously its different because although I started with them when we did the first album with Sascha and stuff, I wrote some of the music, and a few bits, and sang some shit, and I remember one of the songs was called "Disgust", I don't know. I wanted to do other things. There were lots of interesting things happening at that time. Like this one guy, J. Thirlwell, I was supposed to go play in his band, and that was interesting. I was the bass guy.
HH: He's from Foetus?
RW: That's right, that was a real gas doing that. It was really fun doing that stuff, and I was still very much involved with that whole Berlin thing, and working with all those people, so I didn't want to come out and just do that KMFDM thing. I understood what they were doing, but they came into the studio, and I would be like "Hey guys, you're playing that kind of music, but have you ever heard of this? Look, this is the first type of software that you can buy with like, a million zillion squid." And so I kind of got involved with them, but really my own thing was to do something more eclectic, like fu(c)k with dance beats and big band samples. This is Pig and its what it is, then I would go out with them and I would do what that was. I don't know, do you have a day job?
HH: Yeah, obviously.. (Laughs)
RW: You put on a different hat when you do that right? But you don't deliberately not work harder because its not what you want to do. Once you decide to do something, you do it. When I was out with them, I'd do it to the best of my abilities and try to have fun. But when I do this, its a different fu(c)king performance. Its dynamic, and I try to work with it. Shitty PA in this venue, alright, I can work with it.
HH: The idea behind your Genuine American Monster album was all the different monsters that you can find in the American culture. Do you think America is one of the most frightening nations in the world? What is here that you can't find in Europe?
It is fu(c)king scary. I'm used to Europe. It's like, I can get in a car and drive for eight hours and I can go through 5 different countries, and one of those countries produces 260 types of cheese, the other one produces 50, the other one produces 900 types of beer, and they all speak fu(c)king different languages, and one of those countries has 3 national languages, the other one has 4, the other one has just French, the other one has just German. You've got German, Italian, Dutch, French, Belgian, and it all happens in this space. I can ask a fan "Hey, where did you come from?" and they will say "Oh I only drove 5 hours to get here." Its like "fu(c)k man, that's half way to bloody Sweden for me, I might as well think about swimming across the fu(c)king channel to France." That's just the scale of it! Everything is so like...I don't know, you get this kind of like... That's the weird thing. I write about my own personal drama. I'm not really into pointing the finger because I have my own problems, have to keep my own house in order, sort of literally. But I can understand how people live here, and they're all the time pointing their finger, especially when they're being ignored because when you go abroad the world is completely different outside of this place. And when you do go outside of it, which you really just stay in it because you can't really see the wood from the trees, do you know what I mean? You kind of learn the Bill Hicks
kind of attitude when you live here, which is right on the fu(c)king buck, you know "They are all fu(c)king murderers and liars and blah blah blah, and everyone's being fu(c)king fooled but they don't care because as long as we feed them, and give them fu(c)king cheap gas, and build highways for them, and wave fu(c)king stupid little flags," and I can understand why people get worked up about it. If I lived here, I probably would get all worked up about it, and all this patriotic bullshit going on here. These stupid fu(c)king wars, and your idiotic presidents, and there's no opposition, there's no articulation, there's no politicization, and all this kind of shit. But that only kind of gets me when I'm here because its very inward looking. Do you know what I mean?
HH: Yeah, that actually leads me to my next question. What are your thoughts on George Bush, Tony Blair, and the new ID card the is being implemented on the citizens of the UK?
RW: I don't really like to get into this whole political thing because it is just a fu(c)king idiot sex pit. And why we are just riding on your coattails into a fu(c)king second Vietnam is completely beyond me, Man.
HH: Hey, its not everyone here's choice either.
RW: No, no, and yet, its so fu(c)king dumb man. fu(c)king, every two out of three houses here has your fu(c)king stupid little flag fu(c)king waving outside, its like screaming "Hey, we're fu(c)king idiots who live here!," no disrespect. It's kind of like, fu(c)king hell man. I just can't believe that... Did you see that Fahrenheit 9/11, man? When he's sitting there in the Kindergarten, and the guy comes and is like "Hey, the country's under attack," and his eyes are like pissholes in the snow! It's like there's nobody's home! There's no one fu(c)king home! And then our fu(c)king asshole Tony fu(c)king goes "Yeah, George, anything you say man, fu(c)k me up the ass too." So we fu(c)king have a bunch of people who are getting onto the busses in London thinking they're going to fu(c)k 72 virgins for the rest of their lives in paradise. Oh jesus christ, don't even get me started, its just insanity. Its just an overload of insanity bred by an overload of ignorance.
HH: Alright, Alright. Let's get you away from that before you knock down this wall or something. You obviously have a lot of Jazz and orchestral influence in your music. When did you first start getting into these genres, and what artists were you listening to then?
RW: I don't know, its just like that kind of thing where you are growing up, and certain types of music mean a lot to you at certain points in your life, and you go back and listen to them and its like a scrapbook. It kind of takes you back to that time. It acts like a trigger, and I remember as a kid sort of being into the 60's TV shows, with anything with like a Mansini type of soundtrack, or anything with those types of certain genres that were there. Whether it was a cop show, or a soundtracky type of thing that was a bit sleazy. So when I would hear certain types of samples, or was listening to a record, I would go "Wow, that kind of riff-dance thingy there is so kind of tacky and sleazy, I just want to take that and put that together with this over here" and get everything on tape. I was really interested in working with bands on the sonic front, like bands like Einstürzende Neubauten because we they were using two guitarists, bass, and drums. It was like a different pallette of different ingredients. So I was highly interested into those kind of sounds because I could take this and put it with this, then would get this, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. You know that label Cleopatra? I did a few different covers and stuff and one of them was Head like a Hole, so we're doing this kind of tribute thing that goes on this compilation. And you're kind of thinking to yourself "You can't out-NIN NIN," so you turn it around and make it kind of Jazzy. You take it somewhere else.
HH: Do you ever see yourself releasing a Jazz album, or perhaps even doing a Soundtrack?
RW: Absolutely. I've actually been thinking about doing something like that. Actually, as soon as this is finished i'm going to go back to France. I've been a bit bored with London recently. I bought a house ages and ages ago with my then-girlfriend whose like my best friend. It's in the middle of nowhere, you can't even get fu(c)king mobile phone reception, its just miles away from anywhere. Its just North of the Pyranese.
HH: I didn't know places like that still existed in Europe.
RW: Oh man, its like back in the woods through France. Like I said, its North of the Pyranese and in this tiny little village and when it snows its fabulous because you can blast like fu(c)k all. I've been hanging out there a bit more recently, and then I'm going to go to Berlin and talk to some of my old friends because I haven't seen them for ages and I took off from Berlin when it became one country again. So I'm going to go back there and just see what's going on, and maybe that will influence what I do, but I have been thinking about doing maybe some covers.
HH: Have you ever been a part of more obscure music projects that not a lot of your fans know about?
Well, do I want them to know about them? That's the question. (Laughs)
HH: Fair enough. What is your opinion on extreme metal, and the more underground styles such as death industrial, neo-folk, dark ambient, etc...
RW: I really don't know. I mean, like dark metal, what is it? I mean really, what is it? Like what you call "Ambient" music. I like the original kind of Eno kind of ambient stuff. Trance music, I like that whole KLF thing, but it was kind of a one-off. A lot of it I find king of a bit frustrating because its not very mobile. It doesn't progress, but that's my personal take. I prefer the stuff that's kind of more chill. I prefer musicians that are deemed more "classical," thats kind of smooth and slow with beautiful chord progressions.
HH: Relgiously, what do you consider yourself? Is it an important part in the writing process for you?
RW: Well.. (Pause) It doesn't cross my mind quite as often. I don't know, I feel... There's this kind of weird perverse thing about me. I despise organized religion. I think its as stupid as nationalism and patriotism and all this type of shit. I mean, I'd like to requote Bill Hicks, "The last time I checked the world was round, it wasn't the shape of the American Flag." But at the same time, I laugh at casting spells and kind of rituals and that kind of stuff. I mean, I have no religion. I wasn't brought up in anything. The Spanish part of my family were extremely heavy Catholics. I didn't know this until quite recently, but I've always been kind of drawn and interested in the whole Catholic kind of thing. People often say to me that my stuff is very Catholic, and I don't know why. Maybe its because there's a lot of stuff about saviors and stuff about redemption and therefore they brand it like that, so maybe that's the whole connection with the Catholic church.
HH: How has having children changed your life, besides the obvious? Has it had a major impact on your writing process?
RW: Well, it made me kind of stop for quite a while because I wanted to take a break. I paid a heavy fu(c)king price because I was always away when they were really little, but I have a really good relationship with my ex-wife and she only lives a couple hours away from me. Now they're kind of like little boys and stuff, and they can talk and run around and talk to me about football, soccer as you call it, and things like that. We have a very kind of cool relationship. I used to wake up in the morning and the first thing I would think about is what I was going to do in the studio that day, and the last thing I would think about at night was what I was going to do in the studio the next morning. Now I kind of think about them, but when I'm out here I can't. It's kind of like this door that's so horrible, I mean that was so horrible when they were babies and I would have to go away for months It was so emotionally hideous to look at the list of dates that I had to do, or the amount of time that I'd have to spend in the studio in Japan. If I thought about my kids, or telephoned or looked at photos of them, it would send me into this fu(c)king whirling pit of morbid depression and self-loathing for what I did and what a bastard I was to be on the other side of the world and all this kind of shit. I actually realized that I couldn't even open that door. It was like, if I open this photo and look at this photo of my kids, that I would fu(c)king hate myself for the rest of the day so badly that I actually had to not look at the photo and almost kind of cut myself off from that whole thing. So I would shut that door, and if I did open it, I would just have to kill myself without physically killing myself because I had to work the next day. So I was just like this zombie that was out of control emotionally and so I was having to numb my emotions with anything that I could get ahold of until 2003 when I realized I had to get my shit together. I wouldn't go out and do anything until I could spend some time with my kids.
HH: You've obviously been through a lot of labels, and because of that several factors are ruled out because of legalities (such as releasing a Pig DVD with your various videos). Do you think at some point you will just say "fu(c)k the labels" and try to release something self-financed?
RW: I really just don't have any sort of organizational capabilities. The thing about having a label that would finance me and actually promote me, they would just leave me alone during the recording process. No one would check in. That's why I was really surprised when I got involved with TVT. They started asking me all these questions like "How much are you spending on your engineer, your studio, this and that?" I was going "Hang on, woah man, what are you talking about? I need a budget, I decide how much I pay people, how much I spend on this, how many days I spend on that." They were just asking me all these questions, and I was just like "This isn't how it works. You give me the money, leave me alone, I give you some music." So apparently thats they worked with most musicians. I've just never been able to deal with the business side of things. The idea of setting up my own this or my own that, I mean if someone was willing to do it for me, fine. Its like someone came up to me and said "There's this thing called Myspace, do you want me to set one up for you?" And I said "Okay, what do I do"? "Don't worry, I'll set it up for you." "How do I reply to a letter?" "Click here, click there, write this word in, then I can look at it and do it." Well I don't know how this thing works.
HH: You'll be turning 45 in September, do you see yourself continuing with your music for long?
RW: I never considered doing it in the first place. This is all just a happy accident. This is just the way the dominoes have fallen. They may stop falling, they may do loads of things, I really don't know.
HH: I have read in several other interviews that some time ago you had gotten quite depressed. Can you tell us why? And have you gotten away from it, or is it still a burden for you?
RW: Because I felt so awful about the situation of having children and being away from them and like I said, I couldn't open that door. It was too painful. So I started getting into the situation that wasn't healthy. I just was really surprised that i'd been delusional. Depression is like, woah man, what is this? What's going on mate? Music has never been a job to me. It's just this thing that I kind of liked doing. And suddenly, it became really hard to get into the studio, and I couldn't do anything unless I was doing something else to make it happen, and so I said "Hang on, this isn't right, there's something wrong here." So I stopped, and I had a look at myself, and I found myself not being able to do anything. I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't do fu(c)k all. So I went to see some doctors and stuff, and one of them said "Well these are obviously classic signs of depression." So one of them suggested that I take one of these SSRI's which is the prozac family, and I took one for ONE day. They say "You won't feel anything for the first few weeks, but you'll feel a bit shitty for the first five days." I took one. One, man, and my body went all to hell. My mouth turned into the Sahara desert, my skin went completely red, I felt like I'd fallen ill or something. The wall was moving, and I was like "What the fu(c)k is that shit, man?" They said "Don't worry, it'll get worse for the next five days and then after a few weeks you will feel better." I went "That's it, no, I took one, I'm not taking any more." "But you have to take them." And I was just going "No way man." So I just rode it out. I went and talked to people, and cut myself off from some people completely, and just rode through. I made decisions like I'm not going to go away to America or Japan until I know I can handle it.
HH: What are your plans musically for the near future?
RW: I kind of announced that earlier, I said I was going to go to France and Berlin and hook up with some friends that I used to make music with ages ago. Do some kind of different things and just see what they're doing. I feel like I need to stop and see what my friends are doing. I'm kind of leaving it as an open book, but I've got a vague plan of how to turn the page.