Raymond Watts of Interview – by Mark Williams for MK ULTRA Magazine

Raymond Watts (also known by his former stage names Nainz, Nainz Watts and Ray Scaballero) is an English musician, the founding and sole member of the post-industrial music project PIG, sometimes written as <PIG>.

Watts was an early member and periodic collaborator of KMFDM, and has been a visible part of the industrial music scene since the early 1980s. He has toured with KMFDM, Nine Inch NailsSchaftSchwein, and Einstürzende Neubauten.

Q1 – Reading through your biography I’ve noticed that you have a strong background in audio engineering from touring as a sound engineer with Einstürzende Neubauten to composition and production to video games and fashion shows. How does your engineering and production experience influence the way that you work on other artists materials and projects and what do you take from those experiences to your own material?

In the 80’s I used to work a lot with others bands, who would mainly be described as left field or experimental artists, and this was definitely in the analogue era. The main difference was the sheer amount of intense labour that went into all that! Cutting tape loops, editing quarter inch tape a with a razor blade for hours and hours. Oh the backache!! What I brought away from that is that having less studio stuff at the flick of your finger meant pushing the envelope much further with what you did have. So I try and keep an approach where I’ll push the boundaries with the sounds I have and keep the imperfections.

Engineering and production is also a craft that one gets more accomplished at the more you do. The downside to that is that you can start taking out too much dirt and the rough edges where the interesting stuff is. For example autotune is something I never use on vocals and I still let myself play guitar to keep things really rough! When I have Steve White or Guenter Schulz, who are such brilliant guitarists on a track, I need to put some of my disheveled guitars on just to broaden the sonic palette.

In short, when working with other people I keep an overview and that’s what I try do with my stuff and not get lost in the detail.

Q2 – You’ve made releases specifically for other countries, Japan as an example. How do you approach preparing a release for a specific country as opposed to a global release? Does making an album for a specific country change or influence your writing or production style?

The fact that I’ve had specific releases for Japan, The U.S. and Europe is more to do with contractual stuff and I often just add different songs to track listings just to keep it interesting. PIG has always been an almost willfully obscure project and having different versions of albums isn’t because I think ‘oh this song will suit American tastes’ but because I have a lot of songs to put out and it makes the catalogue a bit more interesting (and infuriating for some!)

Q3 – Listening to your new album Pain is God, which is amazing and the production is extremely tight and well balanced, I can hear the influence that you’ve had on other groups that you’ve worked with. Did you handle all engineering and writing on Pain Is God yourself?

Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you like it. I produced it and mixed it, and wrote all the words and most of the songs with a couple of co-writes with Eden who did Pigmata with me and the covers album Candy (which he produced and mixed beautifully). Seed of Evil is a co-write with the wonderful John Fryer.

I’m lucky enough to work with really talented musicians who bring textures that open doors to whole new places in the songs. So even although I’ve written most of the material, the performances from the musicians (Esch, Eden, White, Schulz, Grey, Martinez, Heal and Tomasso) bring a language that articulate the songs in a way I can’t.

Q4 – Can you tell us about the writing and production process for the album? How did the pandemic change your approach or process for writing and recording the album?

I’d just finished a UK tour with 3 Teeth in early February and was back in the studio going into serious labour with the album when the pandemic really took hold. Outwardly things didn’t change much with regard to my work because it was just me holed up in a little studio making a filthy noise. The people I was working with are all over the planet anyway, En Esch’s in Berlin, Steve White’s in Seattle, Michelle’s in Australia and Sasha Grey’s in L.A. so we were sending files anyway. I had talked to Lex from 3 Teeth about possibly doing a fall tour in the U.S. meaning a September release, but when it very quickly became apparent no one would be touring I slowed the production process down to go for a November release giving me a bit more time to try different things.

The album isn’t about the pandemic, despite some of the lyrical themes. It has however seeped into its skin and bones, and certainly the cover art, but that’s also a metaphor for the religious zeal with which we worship and feed our self destructive nature.

Q5 – The cover for Pain Is God has a look similar to a confessional. What were your thoughts on designing the cover or was that left in the hands of the cover artist?

The design is the work of Vlad McNeally, I love his work as much as I love working with him. For this one, I talked to him about referencing the cover of the PIG album Wrecked and my ideas for my beaten up appearance. Vlad brought the confessional element to it, and that itself references the second PIG 12” called Sick City which featured art of a fucked up priest sucking up the sins and others for his own self gratification. Anyway, we brainstorm a bit but then it’s all up to him. Obviously there’s a little bit of me interfering but generally that relationship is fairly typical of how I work with everyone in the PIG camp. There are lots of people all bringing different skill sets into the trenches of PIG. Gabriel Edvy who directs and edits so many videos, visuals and photos. Jarred Everson who does three dimensional art and animations, Luke Dangler who’s also played guitar live with PIG does miraculous manipulations and recently one of my oldest friends Mark Griffiths (who I made a cassette magazine with in 1982!) has been doing a whole series of video snippets of the songs on Pain is God. There are a lot of great people who put their own individual boot into, and on, the many legged beast that is PIG … My approach nowadays is to discuss the themes I’m exploring, then stand well back and see where they go with them!

Q6 – I can see from the variety of mixes you have on this album (Mobocracy, Seed of Evil, Hell to Pay, Sex_& Death) that there could be alternate mixes to these songs. Do you plan to release other mixes as a group or individually per song/single release? I was always a big fan of the 12” mix with multiple versions/mixes (or Maxi Single). Would you ever consider something like that again or do you see that as a thing of the past?

Several of the songs on Pain is God were available in a less developed form on strictly limited CD’s that are part of the PIG VIP package when I’ve been on tour. A couple have been available already as remixes on the Sex & Death 12” vinyl (remixed by Front Line Assembly and KMFDM), so yes I am again a believer that good remixes are worth releasing. However towards the end of the 90’s I completely lost interest in the remix as an art form as most of them sounded like a dead horse being flogged.

Recently though I’ve had fabulous remixes and reinterpretations done which has reanimated my interest in the form. So much so that we did two versions of the remix CD for the Risen album, Stripped & Whipped and Stripped & Ripped.

I already have some sublime remixes delivered of the Pain is God material for a forthcoming release.

Q7 – We’ve all seen a wide range of online performances from drunken housewives on their porch with acoustic guitars to full blown theatrical stage performances in empty clubs the last 6 months. What’s your perspective or thought on live performance for Pain is God?

Pain is God needs a brutally bitchin’ bad ass band and a fucking big PA to be heard live. I won’t be performing from home. As I mentioned earlier we’ve been making video teasers for each song from Pain is God, 14 for the CD and 16 for the vinyl. All collected together it makes for a little mini tour around the album and a visual treat for the eyes. They’re all the on the PIG band official channel on youtube. Endure and enjoy.

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About Alex Zander

Alex Zander resides in Chicago, IL and is the founder and publisher of MK ULTRA Magazine, established 1995. He can also be heard on the MKULTRASOUND PodCast www.soundcloud.com/mkultrasoundpodcast

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