Raymond Watts interviewed about “Pain is God,” the latest release from Pig

Photo by by Gabriel Edvy

Raymond Watts has been one of the more prolific forces in the electronic/industrial genre, having been an early (and recurring) member of KMFDM and part of many collaborations. But Pig represents his own creative vision. Watts initially started Pig in 1988 and ‘just sort of fell out of it’ at the start of the millennium, but has brought it back to active status in recent years. The latest Pig release, Pain Is God, came out in November 2020. In an email interview, Watts discussed the album and the current status of Pig.

In another interview, you mentioned that the pandemic (and resulting inability to tour) led you to spend more time on this album. Are there any specific ways that impacted the final result? (Particular songs changing? Songs added?)

One of the interesting things that happened with the extra time, for example, was with the song “Drugged Dangerous & Damned.” I originally started it as a little 20-second outro to The New Disorder, but the extra time I had allowed me to follow it where it wanted to go. So it starts in the same key and tempo as its ‘parent’ song and then outgrew it and became its own beast. Like the cuckoo king pushing the parent out of the nest.

I didn’t want to overwork the album as the rough edges are what give it character and a more interesting shape. I don’t use autotune, for example, and being able to endlessly fuck about with the digital side of things really bores the pants off me.

I prefer to spend time thinking about what I’m going to do than actually sitting in front of the speakers or holding a guitar … so I probably spent more time building the roaring beast in my head than playing or programming it into existence.

“Pain is God” again brings together many different musical styles. We’ve previously discussed that aspect of your work, but I’m wondering how it might affect your approach to putting together a final album. For example, to what degree might it affect the track/order flow?

I like the album to run like a fine death row dinner … all the courses you’d want in your final meal that are suitably complementary, fabulously filling, and good enough to take to the grave without regret or remorse.

So, in other words, I like to think of the album as a whole … a palace of pain with many rooms all furnished with unique and individual tools and threats of torture, treasure, and pleasure.
I know very few people listen to albums as one entity anymore, but that’s how I conceive the thing. It is, of course ‘just a collection of songs’ but to make it an album, they have to fit together. Some don’t make it. Pain is God is what would be known as a double album in the old language, so the rhythm and running order of how the songs sit next to each other each is really important. It has to feel right. In the same way, a painting is also ‘just a collection of colors,’ but they need to work together to create the complete image.

What made you decided to do a new version of “Kickin’ Ass”?

“Kickin Ass” is very much a PIG song, with the added Teutonic relentless of Sasha’s one-note bassline and En Esch’s virulently stock rock guitar. Back in ’85, when I wrote it, I used the chorus from the Pig song “Shit for Brains,” so it inhabits the space between the two bands. As PIG, we played it live on tour when En Esch and Guenter Schulz were with me as it’s part of our shared creative history, and you just can’t turn your back on that riff. Having Sasha Grey doing additional vocals brings an extra dimension and texture to the song as well.

“Seed of Evil” was released initially with Black Needle Noise, John Fryer’s current project. How do you come to be part of that, and do you have any comments about working with him?

Although John had lent his mixing skills to the Japanese based project Schaft that I was involved in ’94, we hadn’t actually met until a couple of years ago when I was doing a show in LA. He asked me to write something with him, and “Seed of Evil” was the result. I felt it could maybe be performed slightly differently from the BNN/PIG version, and he was more than supportive about me doing a different version for Pain is God. I completely started from scratch with this version and made it more guitar-driven.

You’ve been a part of many, many projects and collaborations over the years. Are there any in particular that you feel have had an impact or influence on your work with Pig?

Going right back to the very early 80’s I used to mess about in the studio with FM Einheit (Einstürzende Neubauten). His approach to the pure art of creating, devoid of song structure’s rules or what were standard recording techniques, really opened the floodgates to a way of working that is still with me today, noticeable especially in pieces like “Sex & Death” from the new album.

But I’m also as likely to be influenced by architecture, cheesy commercials, or street layouts as much as any band I’ve worked with … More people were probably more influenced by me than the other way around ; )

Has the pandemic led to any creative work that might not have come about in normal times?

Being unable to tour the album, I decided to approach my old friend Mark Griffiths, who’s a visual artist and designer, about doing a series of little mini videos. He’s made one for each track from the album (14 on the cd, 16 on the vinyl), and that only happened because of the pandemic. It’s been interesting to discuss each one with him and seeing how they develop, and I’m sure they’ll be a few other things coming down the pipe.

One thing I can tell you for certain I won’t be doing PIG shows from my kitchen!

For more info, visit pigindustries.com.