Posts Tagged ‘KMFDM’

Metropolis Records – 16th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their initial (slight) return with the EP produced in collaboration with Cubanate’s Marc Heal on his guise as MC Lord of the Flies in the spring of 2015, PIG have been on a real (sausage) roll.

Hot on the heels of the remix album Swine and Punishment lands the Prey & Obey EP, which features three new tracks spawned from the same swirling cesspit of sleaze which gave birth to The Gospel, the first PIG album in a decade. Bringing extra meat to the lineup for this outing is Sisters of Mercy guitarist Ben Christo, who also receives co-writing credit for ‘The Revelation’. Meanwhile, the eternal PIG / KMFDM overlap is maintained courtesy of the En Esch, who contributes a remix version of the lead (prime) cut.

‘Prey & Obey’ positively explodes with heavy-duty guitar-led grunt and chug. It’s vintage PIG, drawing all of the elements that define the band’s sound from the span of their career: Watts spits and snarls over overdriven guitars melded to a thumping industrial disco beat while a swirl of strings whip up the layers of drama. It’s all delivered with a knowing bombast and, and as such, sits up there with anything in the substantial PIG oeuvre.

‘The Revelation’ references PIG classic ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ in the sinewy lead guitar part, while Watts, snarling menacingly, juxtaposes bodily fluids and biblical references like only he can (and get away with). The third of the new tracks, ‘The Cult of Chaos’ is also of premium PIG standard; slower, grinding, it twists a goth-tinged lead guitar over a throbbing groove that’s equal parts guitar and electronic, while a brooding piano strolls around in the background

Of the remixes, the Leæther Strip remix of ‘Prey & Obey’ fits the predicable technoindustrial groove version requirement, while the aforementioned En Esch reworking is darker, murkier, grimier, and more atmospheric. Collectively, they make for a rounded representation of what PIG are about. There’s snout wrong with that, and Prey & Obey is not only a rip-snorting effort, but up there with the best PIG releases.

 

PIG - Prey & Obey

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Christopher Nosnibor

They say you should never meet your heroes, but having interviewed – if not necessarily met – a fair few of mine, I’ve either been extremely fortunate, or have chosen my heroes wisely. I’ve been a fan of Raymond Watts’ work as PIG since I first clapped eyes and ears on the band supporting Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour in 1994, and I’ve spent the intervening years hunting down as much PIG material as possible.

I tell him this by way of an ice-breaker, as much as anything to get the fanboy shit out of the way early and to shake off some of the anxiety.

He looks – and sounds – genuinely surprised, with an astonished ‘no! You are kidding?’ when I tell him I’ve been a fan for many years, and a ‘wow!’ when I tell him how I came to be aware of his work. ‘That was the last time we played in this country! Shouldn’t we have grown out of this shit by now?’ he laughs. Never! It’s all about showing the kids how it’s done, I tell him.

We’re in York, and we’re seated on a big, plush, red leather-upholstered sofa in a corner of a ‘gentleman’s club’, which is situated above the Fibbers venue. It isn’t yet open, so the place is empty and the only noise is the throb of the soundcheck going on downstairs. The lighting is low, and red in hue. There’s nothing subtle about its reproduction vintage sleaze.

Raymond Watts is a tall man. A very tall man. I am not a tall man. Yet despite his towering presence which is more than purely physical, he has a most charming, disarming nature, which sets me at ease immediately. Even so: in getting down to business with the recording rolling, I look at my printed A4 sheet of questions. They seemed far wittier when I compiled them than they do now as I squint in the half-light. But hey, go for the Q&A, and see where it goes, I think.

I start with a gentle opener, asking what it’s like playing to a ‘home’ crowd, as someone who can genuinely say they’re big in Japan?

“Well, I can – was – maybe. I haven’t been there for a long time, but that’s where the natural constituency used to be. And then of course it became America, because my label, Wax Trax! was in Chicago. But there seemed to be more purchase in Japan, and I was also more interested in Japan. I liked it. It felt weirder. It was so fucking weird: it was like Blade Runner – why is there a train disappearing into the middle of that building? But how does it feel to be playing in the UK? Very weird. I was initially quite trepidatious about doing it. I never worked it so hard here, I lived in Berlin… And then you stop being so up yourself and someone asks you to come and do something. It’s fairly modest, but it’s great fun.”

PIG - Gospel Cover

It’s immediately clear that when he forewarned me there’d be a lot of editing required in my transcription, he wasn’t kidding. But then again, the digressions make for far more interesting interview matter than anything a direct answer might provide. I ask how this double-header tour with Mortiis came about.

“The reason why PIG is doing stuff again isn’t because I’ve been striving away at the coal-face for years and years. It’s been on the shelf for over a decade, as I was doing other stuff, for McQueen and all sorts of fashion houses”, he says. This explains the big furry Cossack hat he’s thrown onto the table and the audacious black faux-fur jacket he will later walk on stage wearing: Watts is a stylish man with an obvious sense of theatre. “…and looking after my kids, and doing other things, and having a full-on fucking ramped-up drug problem, the whole thing was a full-time job not doing music of the PIG variety. This weird series of events collided, which ended up with me being invited to do a little festival in Canada last year.”

One show became five, and thanks to his booking agent, five became twenty, at which point the need for some product to promote became an issue. Following a few phone calls between his label, Metropolis records, and various musicians, lo, ten days later, The Gospel was created. One thing led to another, and, ultimately a tour where the two artists could bear the responsibility and burden on a jaunt around the less obvious venues of the UK. As such, the latest burst of activity, as represented by a brace of EPs, The Gospel, a tour-only collection of offcuts and remixes and an upcoming remix EP is only partially reflective of the actuality. This brings me to the question of the PIG back-catalogue, which is diffuse and widely-dispersed, and almost impossible to track down in its entirety. How much of an impact did touring as the support for Nine Inch Nails in ‘94 have in terms of the band reaching a wider audience?

“It’s very difficult to find our stuff”, he acknowledges. “We’re almost the most wilfully obscure band you could possibly fucking come across. I’m always amazed when people come up and say ‘I’ve got all your things,’ and I say ‘how the fuck did you find your way to that?’ I mean, I haven’t even got all my shit! I haven’t got an American version of fucking Wrecked, for example, ‘cause there was one version in Japan and they have different tracks and I always made things incredibly complicated: ‘I’m going to release that song over here and that one over there…’ Talk about underground. We are genuinely under the fucking ground, it’s very difficult to get our shit.”

He has a habit of leaning close and extending his hands as if to guide his words directly into his interlocutor’s mind, but it’s by no means an aggressive manner or a delivery which suggests a desire to dominate. And while he swears prodigiously, and clearly has a penchant for ‘shit’ as a substitutive noun, he’s effusive and extremely well-spoken and articulate.

I’m wondering if he has a 12” promo for ‘Fountain of Miracles’, which features the amusingly puntastic ‘anal-log’ and ‘anal-hog’ mixes, like the one lurking in my collection, but instead ask about his having been a touring member of Foetus back in the late 80s. JG Thirlwell was involved with a couple of early PIG releases, and I’m curious to know just how much of an influence the mighty master of disaster has been on Watt’s work and his approach to composition.

“Yeah, that was a great band,” he enthuses. “He’s influenced me massively. I mean, if you’re going to be influenced by shit, be influenced by the best shit. He obviously carries an enormous stylistic truckload of things… that whole train wreck of musical styles: he’s got a whole great thing going on, and always has done. I met him when I was doing sound for Neubauten, ‘cause I used to knock around with those guys a lot. I met him in New York, and before I knew it, I was in his band with some of those guys from Swans… It was very fertile territory, working with him on some of the Steroid Maximus stuff. I’d already done PIG and KMFDM. It was good influence.”

I try to read out my next question as naturally as I can, and find myself compelled to suppress an inner wince: Wordplay – particularly alliteration and punning – is a prominent feature of all things Pig. It seems a uniquely English thing, and it never grows tired. What is it about the audacious porcine puns that you enjoy so much?

It raises a chuckle, and I’m relieved. “I like that fact that, honestly, it sounds good.,” he says. “Very simple. But also, it punctures pomposity, without meaning to alliterate again.” It seems he can’t help himself. “I didn’t plan that honestly,” he laughs. “I think when you say it’s quite English, you’re right, I hadn’t thought about that before, but it is quite an English trait. I can’t imagine it coming from an American, ‘cause it’s got low self-esteem and grandiosity rolled into one. It’s daft: it’s pompous, but it’s daft. So it’s got that duality. And it just sounds good. You can say a lot with ‘find it, fuck it, forget it’, ‘red, raw and sore’, ‘prayer, praise, profit’, or ‘vitriol, vice, and virtue’… I’ve always been attracted to slogans. Advertising. Red-tops. The Sun, The Mirror. Imagine being a headline writer: what a fucking job!

Is it fair to say that despite the dark subject matter, there’s a certain element not only of humour, but of parody to your work and its delivery? It’s something that runs a thread through all of your work under the PIG moniker, but the video to ‘Found in Filth’ seems to really revel in the absurdity and excess of rock clichés.

“Yeah, there’s a tremendous attraction in, say, the kind of fluff and nonsense of glam rock: we’re attracted to it. Like the foot on the monitor thing, were attracted to it, but t’s completely daft.

But you have to do it, because you’ve got the chance to do it…

“Exactly!” he ejaculates. “But don’t believe it too much. We’re all too old for that. Do it, but you have your tongue in your cheek. Dark subject matter is incredibly rich and fabulous, but it can get fucking tedious if you’re completely obsessed with it, and you have to puncture your own obsession every now and again.”

He’s one of the only men I’ve ever met who can say ‘fabulous’ and not sound like a cock. It isn’t campness, but there’s a certain flamboyance which radiates from Raymond that has hints of David Bowie it’s accompanied by a glint in the eye which betrays a wry humour and self-awareness.

“Also, it becomes incredibly preachy if you’re just obsessed with pointing the finger or droning on about yourself without any sense of puncturing your pomposity.”

I ask if it would it be fair to describe The Gospel as a concept album, or more as a themed work. On this, he’s unequivocal and concise: “No.”

“A lot of these things are quite happy accidents,” he explains. “It wasn’t all formed, like (adopts butch, brawling cockney tone) ‘right, I’ve got this idea!’ It was much more organic, and I changed things right up to the last minute.” It transpires that ‘Diamond Sinners’ arrived at the eleventh hour, and this was pivotal in the shaping of the album, providing not only the opening track but an idea for how the album should look. “It seems to look like a fully formed concept, but it wasn’t,” he concludes, honestly.

After he explains the very different approaches to album-making in comparing Praise the Lard and The Gospel, it seems appropriate to comment on the evolution of PIG sound and I ask if there a particular period or album he’s especially proud of.

“Like a ‘golden era’?” he asks, amused. “A lot of people say Wrecked was the definitive PIG album of the orchestral industrial metal hybrid thing that was done at that time, that was the most fertile period of this genre or whatever. To me, it’s no different, no better, or worse, than the other ones. I think I took my eye of the ball a little bit at the height of my substance abuse round about 2003, when I did Pigmartyr [issued initially as a Watts solo album, then re-released, rematered as PIG album Pigmata] , which was a bit of a fuck-up, and I didn’t even care it wasn’t the best mastered album in the world, but I was going through some of the words the other day and I was thinking ‘I should rerecord these!’”

I don’t push for the details of his substance abuse: it’s part of the backdrop, the context, but it’s not the headline here. It’s history, and speaking to Watts, who it alert and in good shape, I’m reminded of William Burroughs’ (quite baseless) claims for the regenerative powers of cyclical addiction and withdrawal. But more importantly, Watts doesn’t lend himself to a narrative of a man who faced hell and retuned from the abyss to re-emerge as a glorious renaissance man.

“I’ve become much more word-orientated than I used to be. I think the word is king.”

We continueriffing a good ten minutes after I’ve stopped recording and the interviewis over. After the show, which was ace, he hands me a PIG-branded condom, and I realise I’d omitted my question about this unusual line in merch. Still, I leave happy, and with the enduring impression that Raymond Watts is one of the most thoroughly decent chaps I’ve ever interviewed.

Christopher Nosnibor

Forget the ‘failed musician’ angle: any serious music writer (journalist might be stretching it, certainly where my own work is concerned) is likely to be a music fanatic first and foremost. PIG is a band who’ve inspired a degree of fanaticism on my part for a long time: since I first discovered them as the support for Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in 1994. The nature of their scattered catalogue makes tracking down even a reasonable chunk of their discography extremely difficult, and they hold the perhaps dubious honour (through no fault of the their own) of being the band who I’ve paid the most for an album by, with the (then) Japanese-only Genuine American Monster skinning me for some £50 over eBay back in 2000.

It really has been 23 years since they last toured the UK, and it’s fair to say that York on a Monday night struck me as an odd choice. Suffice it to say the 400-capacity venue wasn’t exactly rammed, but the double-header tour did manage to attract a devoted bunch of oddballs.

Glasgow trio Seraph Sin made a decent fist of opening. With smeared makeup and lank locks, there’s a black metal element to the presentation of their grindy, metal-edged industrial rock riffage. Delivering some full-tilt noise, they play the ‘menacing’ card nicely. While there are some clear and quite accessible choruses to be found in songs which are perhaps a shade, dare I say, obvious, they boast a gritty, earthy guitar sound which really cuts through, especially when heard from a position close to the front, where the full force of the back-line has maximum effect. And their drummer sounds like a machine, which is admirable.

Seraph Sin

Seraph Sin

Also admirable are Mortiis. It transpires that shunning the band on account of the eponymous front man’s prosthetics – something I considered to be rather cheesy – has been my loss all these years. Still, the advent of Era 0 and the latest album, The Great Deceiver, has marked a shift of both style and sound, marked by an absence of prosthetics and an abrasive technoindustrial sound reminiscent of Ministry.

They’re still big on the theatrics, though, from the big, moody intro of drums and grinding guitar before the entrance of the man himself, to the smeared corpse paint. Håvard Ellefsen strolls on, barefoot and resembling a decayed suicide, and proceeds to stomp around the stage radiating petulant energy. Despite the absence of a live bass, the threesome forge a throbbing sonic intensity with a dense and murky sound counterpointed by a bright, ear-shredding top-end. The set is drawn predominantly from the latest album, which both makes sense both promotionally and in terms of rendering a cohesive performance, and it’s a performance which is powerful and intense. Yes, there are clear elements of rock posturing in evidence, but it’s played knowingly, and manifests as an aggressive channelling of a deep fury, making for an uplifting catharsis.

Mortiis

Mortiis

For a man spitting fury and venomous rage, Ellefsen smiles a lot. Granted, with the makeup, his grin takes the form of a maniacal, murderous leer, but it’s clear that this a man who’s having a pretty good time channelling his demons into his art and releasing it all on stage. It’s not hard to determine the reasons: as his skeletal guitarist, who has highly vascular arms, peels of sheets of blistering noise it’s all coming together perfectly out front, and Mortiis are a band on top form.

PIG crank up the rock posturing to the power of ten: Raymond Watts is a man who not only gets irony, but breathes it and chews on it slowly, savouring the flavour, as he throws his shapes around the stage amidst a musical tumult and a whole kitchen sink melange of electronica and grinding guitars on full thrust. He enters the stage in a preposterous fur number and gives it the full works on the posing front for the set’s slow-burning opener ‘Diamond Sinners’.

PIG 1

PIG

I’m immediately transported back to 1994: supporting Nine Inch Nails at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, where they audaciously opened with ‘Red, Raw and Sore’ over any of their throat-grabbing, up-front crowd-pleasers. But then, the appeal of PIG has always been their perversity and their stubborn refusal to do anything obvious. Having supported Nine Inch Nails, they could have been propelled, if not to a stratospheric level, then perhaps the upper strata of the troposphere. But, as I subsequently discovered, their material was almost impossible to locate, especially in a pre-internet age, and it’s a situation which hasn’t really changed over the last two and a bit decades.

As with Mortiis’ set, there’s a heavy leaning toward the latest release: the accessible industrial pop chop of ‘Found in Filth’ is dropped in early, but then there’s a reasonable plundering of the back catalogue, too: ‘Everything’ lands as the third song on the set list, and the atmospheric spoken word work ‘Ojo Por Ojo’ prefaces a pounding rendition of ‘Wrecked’ (which more than compensates the fact it doesn’t lead in to ‘Blades’ as it features on The Swining by virtue of its throbbing intensity). Really, it’s absolutely fucking blistering. The same is true of ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ from 1995’s Sinsation.

PIG 2

PIG

The fact that the current line-up features both En Esch and Gunter Schultz not only makes this incarnation of PIG something of a supergroup, but also illustrates the expansive nature of the musical family centred around KMFDM to which Watts belongs. And while there’s also a shared territory in musical terms, PIG have always sounded unique, and continue to do so. Watts’ showmanship is something else, and while there isn’t a weak element in the band’s performance, he’s indisputably the focal point, radiating a charisma that elevates the band to a different level. He’s a tall, limby guy, and he uses this to fill the stage and to dominate the space around him.

It’s a triumphant, and above all, thoroughly enjoyable show. Here’s just hoping it’s not another 23 years before they return.

AnalogueTrash – 17th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

First impressions matter. The opening seconds of ‘Beware of the Gods’, the first track on The Last Punks on Earth remind me of ‘Corrosion’ by Ministry. As such, my attention is well and truly grabbed, even before the album breaks. And when it does break, it’s a shouty, snotty, snarling drum-machine driven punk racket reminiscent of early Revolting Cocks that comes hammering from the speakers. Combining gritty, overdriven guitars and pounding, insistent mechanised beats with aggressive vocals and surging electronic noise and grinding synths, it’s not pretty.

‘We Are Freaks in the Sky’ has that classic Wax Trax! sound all over it, while ‘Sarah’s Song’ is an exemplar of the full-tilt industrialised Eurodisco of the late 80s and early 90s. KMFDM is a fair reference point for the driving, danceable technoindustrial nihilism that defines The Last Punks on Earth.

There’s little to no respite over the course of the album’s ten tracks, which offer up a savage and bleak postapocalyptic cultural worldview. Ok, so the name might evoke the blank postmodern irony of Nathan Barley, as might the band’s image and sound, but their brutal genre-clashing noise is exactly the music that these fucked-up times demand. The darkest dystopian fictions have become our reality, and on The Last Punks on Earth Syd.31 capture the zeitgeist with a violence, venom and vitality that’s pure and compelling.

Syd.31

PIG mark the release of new album ‘The Gospel’ with a UK tour, for which the Lord of Lard Raymond Watts has enlisted former KMFDM colleagues En Esch and Günter Schulz, Greg Steward aka Z.Marr (formerly of Combichrist) and Galen Waling (Left Spine Down/16 Volt).

The ‘Swine & Punishment’ tour is jointly headlined with Mortiis. Dates are as follows :

10.03.17  NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms

11.03.17  GLASGOW Ivory Blacks

12.03.17  NEWCASTLE Think Tank

13.03.17  YORK Fibbers

14.03.17  SHEFFIELD Plug

15.03.17  MANCHESTER Ruby Lounge

16.03.17  BRISTOL The Fleece

17.03.17  NORWICH Epic Studios

18.03.17  LONDON The Garage

Tickets can be purchased here.

PIG and Mortiis have recently reworked one of each other’s songs for new remix records. PIG’s is entitled Swine & Punishment and will be released in May. It also features remixes by the likes of Chris Vrenna (as Tweaker), Kanga, Skold and Marc Heal of Cubanate (as MC Lord Of The Flies).

Meanwhile, you can watch the video for ‘The Diamond Sinners’ here:

Metropolis Records – 9th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Halleluja! Praise the Lard! The god of gammon himself, Raymond Watts, returns with another PIG album after what feels like far too long away. In fact, the last PIG album was Pigmata, a remastered and expanded version of the Watts album Pigmartyr (2004) in 2005. That’s over a decade ago. Apart from a couple of EPs, including the Long in the Tooth one-off with Primitive Race, Watts has been suspiciously quiet. But The Gospel shows that no, he’s not run out of ideas, he’s just a bit of a perfectionist. Armed with a plethora of porcine puns – as is standard – and an abundance of grating industrial guitars, he’s on fine form, and if anything, the time away has refreshed his creative impetus.

Accompanied this time around by ‘partners in swine’, En Esch, Z. Marr, Guenter Schulz & Mark Thwaite (Primitive Race), Watts has assembled a collective with a crack(l)ing pedigree, and the resultant album delivers all the hallmarks of classic PIG in the form of gnarly industrial grooves with panache with a whiff of postmodern parody.

Single cut ‘The Diamond Sinners’ gets the album off to a fairly sedate start, but its mid-tempo simmer still packs plenty of grunt ‘n’ grind, before ‘Found in Filth’ slams down a gloriously trashy and quintessentially PIG industrial thrashabout, only it’s altogether poppier than the majority of previous material, with ‘woo-ooh!’ backing vocals seemingly lifted from The Dandy Warhols’ ‘Bohemian Like You’. Such unexpected twists and apparent incongruities are precisely what makes PIG such an exciting proposition, and why Watts remains one of the most interesting figures to have emerged from the whole late 80s technoindustrial scene as represented by Wax Trax! and the KMFDM collective (of whom Watts was a one-time member, as well as being part of the Foetus live lineup on the extensive tour of Thaw, which yielded the official live album Male and the unofficial but in some respects superior Rife album).

‘Toleration of Truth’ slows it down and goes for epic territory, although you’d be hard-pressed to call it an anthem, despite its climactic guitar solo or lighter-waving tone but ‘Missing the Mainline’ has real lighter-waving potential and offers up one of Watts’ most emotionally heavy – and overtly commercial – vocal deliveries to date. That isn’t to say that with The Gospel PIG have sold out: they’ve always been an act given to exploration and their extensive back-catalogue isn’t short on killer hooks or emotional resonance, as tracks like ‘Save Me’ from Wrecked evidence. 

‘Drugzilla’, previously featured on the Compound Eye Sessions EP, emerged as a collaboration between Watts and Marc Heal (Ashtrayhead, Cubanate) as MC Lord of the Flies but as this – the first official PIG release in a decade – was only given a physical run of 500 it’s fair to say it’s inclusion here is welcome., not least of all because it’s a stonking track. ‘Found in Filth’, which appeared on the aforementioned ‘Diamond Sinners’ release as remixed by Marc Heal also appears in its ‘original’ form. The gritty Americana ‘The Fly On The Pin’ is uncharacteristically delicate, but with its flamenco guitars contrasting with the snarling bassline, it’s another example of Watts expanding his sonic palette to good effect. ‘I’m So Wrong’ has hefty hints of Bowie as Watts bursts into a soaring chorus, providing the most pop moment of PIG’s career to date. But this is no sell-out: it’s merely a progression, and even early tracks like ‘Shit For Brains’ were ultimately hooky and accessible.

If The Gospel lacks the immediacy or soaring orchestration of Sinsation or Wrecked, and fails to replicate the innovation or eclecticism of Red Raw & Sore or The Swining, it’s still by no means lacklustre. It’s a more considered work than some of the later albums, and lyrically, Watts is on fine form. While still pulling together and corrupting clichés and popular phrases in a postmodern parody of lyricism, and demonstrating that he learned a fair amount from JG Thirlwell, he’s expanding his spheres of reference and demonstrates some neat flourishes here.

Everything that’s classic PIG is in place here: churning guitars, insistent bats, grating synths and snarling vocals delivered with a blend of heavy postmodern irony and emotional sincerity. Put simply, The Gospel has all of the defining aspects of PIG and no shortage of killer tunes. Let pundemoneum reign.

 

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