INTERVIEW WITH RAYMOND WATTS BY ANABEL DFLUX
PHOTOGRAPHS BY E GABRIEL EDVY
From the suave to the sultry, from the dark to the even creepier, <PIG> is back at it with a new twist on songs you may never expect to hear. With pop music always wrapped in a colorful, innocent little package, <PIG>’s Raymond Watts has unearthed the more sinister side within the lyrics. Both the audible and visual extravaganza that is Candy is right around the corner from fully hitting the ears of fans, and we had the lovely opportunity to catch up with Raymond right in the nick of time.
What inspired you to go the route of releasing an album full of reinvented versions of known songs by other artists?
I’ve always liked doing covers. I’ve done a few in my time, but as <PIG>, I was asked to do ones for—they call them tributes or homages—Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, and I think that there was even a KMFDM once, so I sort of even covered one of my own songs with them. On Candy, I generally go down a sort of lounge jazz route, which puts a different spin on them. I enjoyed doing those cover versions. I did this album with Eden Martin, who’s an old partner in crime from way back. He did a lot of orchestration and production on this album, Candy, and instead of going down the route of this American songbook type direction, I wanted to do some of the more cheesy pop songs, like Kylie Minogue for example, and put a different spin on it. Or the Olivia Newton-John song “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” those seemingly bubblegum cheesy pop songs. I think sometimes lyrically there’s a completely different sort of narrative that they could be. They’re not just about broken hearts and longing for the lover that just burned you. They are equally about complete obsession, addiction, and it’s a much darker interpretation than the one we’re familiar with, so it’s kind of fun doing that. That’s why I did it. That’s why we chose those songs.
Do you think your version of these classic tunes will definitely change the image that they convey to fans?
Oh yeah, well, certainly to me. I don’t know how people will listen to them, and they will make of them what they will. But for me, yes, it was about turning it inside out a little bit, dragging it out.
“WE’VE ALL HAD THAT THING WHERE WE CAN’T GET SOMETHING OR SOMEONE OUT OF OUR HEAD, WHETHER IT’S LONGING FOR SOMETHING TO ARRIVE IN THE POST OR A BAG OF CRACK OR A BAG OF HEROIN”
Do you have a personal tie to any of the songs chosen to be on Candy?
No more than I relate to them. All of them, I just relate to in some way, whether it’s the song “Wand’rin’ Star” made famous by Lee Marvin or the Kylie song. They are songs that I can relate to. I think we’ve all had that thing where we can’t get something or someone out of our head, whether it’s longing for something to arrive in the post or a bag of crack or a bag of heroin or someone that you’re missing—that nature of pure obsession.
Is there a favorite song in particular that you covered on the record?
I really like the “If You Go Away” one and I do like “Love Is in the Air.” We did it torturously slow and dragged out, but there’s something to it. I find it’s quite delicate, but it’s sort of rough at the same time. So, I particularly liked that one.
How did the recording process for Candy differ from past records?
This one is much more of a collaboration. I passed the production duties over to Eden. I suggested a lot of songs, he suggested some, and then he would bust them into shape. A couple of them I got going, but he really did the orchestrating and arranging. He was in Australia at the time, but he’s in London now. He’d send me works in progress, and I’d make a few suggestions. I would then record vocals and make suggestions for backing vocals. We’d talk a little bit, but it was so different because I wasn’t there when it was being mixed as well. He would send me things, and I’d say, “Oh, I think we should do that.” It was much more of a ping-pong collaborative thing.
“ONCE, I FELT THAT YOU REALLY HAD TO SUFFER AND GO INTO THE GUTTER TO GET SOMETHING OF IMPORT. SO, THIS WAS A LOT MORE FUN AND EASY”
How did the reinvention process go? Did you guys just strip the songs completely down and start over?
It was actually done really quickly. For example, he’d say, “Let’s try this,” and I’d go, “I can’t go for that,” or, you know, that Hall & Oates song or whatever, and I’d go, “Oh yeah, it’s got a bass line like this.” It happens very quickly if it’s not going to fly. You know it’s not going to fly, and then you just say, “Let’s move on to something else.” It was fun as well, which I think is really nice. That’s one of the differences about doing things nowadays compared to how I used to do things. Once, I felt that you really had to suffer and go into the gutter to get something of import. So, this was a lot more fun and easy and different because it was much more of a collaboration.
What’s your personal metaphor for using Candy as the album title?
Often we allude to pop music as being a bit frothy and like candy or bubblegum pop. These are pop songs, really. So, it was an allusion to that, but there was also something to me, something slightly sinister about the word “candy.” It’s much more heavily in use in the States. Obviously, we all use the word “candy” here, but we have “sweets” here, which are like chocolate bars and things like that. You call shit like that candy in the States. Candy to me sounds a little bit more sinister. There’s something a bit nasty and creepy about the word, even though it alludes to sweet sugary things and fun. It’s that kind of edge that I liked about it.
“CANDY TO ME SOUNDS A LITTLE BIT MORE SINISTER. THERE’S SOMETHING A BIT NASTY AND CREEPY ABOUT THE WORD”
Candy is being released in several different versions, from a deluxe CD to different vinyl—four of which are limited editions. What made you decide to do this?
Well, I didn’t do this record with Metropolis. I did it with Armalyte, who I have a really good relationship with here in London. Metropolis, bless their cotton socks, I love working with them on some releases, but this one I wanted to make…Candy is just more. It’s more than just the sound that comes out, so to speak. Just like we were talking about with the meaning of the title and the fact that you’re taking something that’s known, you’ve got to bring something extra to the party. It had to be packaged up like candy is packaged. Candy represents more than the essence of biting. The wrapping is so important with it. For the vinyl, there’s a top of the range one that has fur in it. With the fur ones, it’s made so that the logo comes through in fur on the cover of the vinyl. But then there were different colors, and we made sure we got different ones so you don’t know which one you’ll get. You don’t know whether you are going to get pink on the red, or a black, a striped one, to a spotted one, a yellow one, or whatever. They’re all unique and really limited. And then the next one has candy stripes on the cover. Again, I think there are five different colors. They’re all signed, and the other ones have rubber stamps and all sorts of weird shit going on inside. Then the next one is sandpaper, and there’s a red sandpaper and a black sandpaper, so it’s kind of like you don’t know what you’re going to get. Then there’s the standard one, which is just red. You get different track lists than if you buy the CD. I just wanted it to be more of an experience and make it more fun. This is why I had a bit of a head fuck actually getting it all together.
How did you even figure out what songs were going where?
Oh, just sitting down and sort of writing lists and checking it out. I mean, that all happens quite quickly as well. But then you go, “Oh god, put it on that one or more on that one.” And then we’ve got a couple that was only on the CD, then on the vinyl, but they’re on the vinyl download. Anyway, we got there in the end. So, it’s a bit of a head fuck getting it all together, but it was great. It worked out in the end.
How was the music video for “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” conceptualized?
Well, we wanted it to be quite cold. Sasha [Grey] was in LA and I was in London, and we talked about how to shoot this stuff and how it would work together but not together. She shot some stuff that was edited and then was projected on a bloody great big screen in a freezing cold warehouse in London. So, it was sort of she was there but she wasn’t there, like this sort of presence that worked quite well with the coldness and the distance that is the essence of the song.
What was your favorite memory from making that music video?
It was fucking cold. It was freezing. It was absolutely sodding freezing. I cannot tell you how cold it was. It was so cold some bloody lights didn’t work or something weird happened. It was a nightmare in some hellhole place down in the East End.
“I HAD TO TELL MYSELF NOT TO BE QUITE SO CONTROLLING AND TRUST THAT PEOPLE WOULD BRING SOMETHING, AND THAT’S PROVEN TO BE THE CASE.”
How did you find all the people you worked with on Candy?
I think one of the things is I was much, much more controlling, particularly in the 80s and the 90s, and through that was when I sort of burnt out about 2003. I was much more controlling and much less trusting of people. And then I started doing stuff again. I started working with Z_Marr for years. I didn’t really know him at all, and we just talked. He just jumped on a flight, and it worked out right. That was when we did the album The Gospel three years ago. Since then there have been some other releases, of course, but that was the first one for ages, and it kind of made me realize there are people who have got loads to offer and they can bring loads to the table. So, I had to tell myself not to be quite so controlling and trust that people would bring something, and that’s proven to be the case. Obviously, not everything works out and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
How are the live shows going to differ with the release of Candy and the original lineup of <PIG>?
There is quite a rich musical history there. So, we will not be doing just new stuff, but we’ll be doing some old stuff and some new stuff and some weird stuff.