Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs | Interview | New Album, ‘Land of Sleeper’
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs have just released ‘Ultimate Hammer,’ the second single from their upcoming album ‘Land of Sleeper,’ out February 17th via Rocket Recordings.
“’Ultimate Hammer’ is the by-product of being trapped in the house and listening to too much ZZ Top, if there is such a thing.” Adam Sykes
Though, Pigs’ other guitarist and producer Sam Grant says: “If there were a quintessential Pigs track, this would probably be it, so it was an obvious move to make this one the album opener.”
And vocalist Matt Baty says “Everything at the moment feels like it’s moving at one hell of a speed. Momentous events pass by in the blink of an eye while we try to keep our heads steady on a planet spinning roughly 1,000 miles per hour. Maybe it’s always been this way but it sure is hard not to feel dizzy. What a time to be alive.”
Whether dwelling in the realm of dreams or nightmares, the primordial drive of the Newcastle-based band is more powerful than ever. ‘Land Of Sleeper,’ their fourth record in a decade of riot and rancour, is testimony to this: the sound of a band not so much reinvigorated as channelling a furious energy, which only appears to gather momentum as the band’s surroundings spin on their axis.
The band have added loads more USA, European and UK dates to their list of 2023 shows. ‘Land Of Sleeper’ comes housed in an amazing “Callum Rooney” sleeve art with obi strip and “Oz” style lyrics poster. The CD and several different vinyl variants are available in these variants:
You can pick-up the ltd “Rocket Exclusive” (Orange/Yellow Cloud) vinyl via the bands official website link below (not Bandcamp), where you can also pick up ltd edition t-shirts and tickets for their tour.
Pre-order Ltd LP/CD ‘Land of Sleeper’ by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs here!
“Each of the songs on ‘Land of Sleeper’ has a different sound and vibe to it”
It’s really nice to have you. What will be some of the main differences in comparison to your previous album, ‘Viscerals’?
Sam Grant: There are fairly big differences across the board I think with this record compared to the last one. Where ‘Viscerals’ was at times very immediate and direct – both in production and in the arrangements – this album is oftentimes more layered and nuanced in its sound and approach. It feels more like a headphone album, where ‘Viscerals’ was maybe one to blast out of the hifi.
We also had Ewan [Mackenzie] back on the drums with this record. His style is quite distinct with more rolling, with busier drumming across the record. That definitely will have had an influence on the direction of things during the writing process, especially given that as a band we often lean on the rhythm and accents of guitar and bass riffs.
Another difference is that I was really focussed on bringing ideas on the heavier side of things for this record. Where ‘Viscerals’ leant in one direction it felt like this one could be a little darker and more uncompromising.
Adam Sykes: Personally I found it a comparatively easy process when it came to writing ‘Land of Sleeper’. Having a lot of spare time over 2020 and 2021, I had more ideas in my “demo folder” than ever before. With a bigger pool of ideas to pull from, it led to a less intense period of writing which I think leads to a different sound.
‘Land Of Sleeper’ will be out February 17th and you will also hit the road the same day, are you excited to play new numbers to the audience?
Ewan Mackenzie: Absolutely! We can’t wait to hit the road and share these songs. So far we have only played one song from the album live (‘Terror’s Pillow’), and that felt great. Each of the songs on ‘Land of Sleeper’ has a different sound and vibe to it though, so it’ll be really interesting to explore these new twists and turns in a live performance.
Matt Baty: Very excited. I feel like new songs don’t fully come to life until they’re played live in front of people.
Adam Sykes: 100%. It’s often the most exciting part of being in a band
Can you share some further details on how your latest album was recorded?
Ewan Mackenzie: Our Sam is a wizard with recording and engineering (recently having recorded and co-produced Richard Dawson’s ‘The Ruby Cord’). Not only that, he literally (along with his collaborators) built his own studio. So, given that we know we are in safe hands, it made sense for us to record with him at Blank Studios. We were lucky enough to have the skills of John Martindale on engineering duties too. Personally, it was great to record drums in such a wonderful sounding live room which allowed for them to sound huge! We tracked the album over a few weeks, before inviting guest musicians Richard Dawson, Kate Smith, Cath Tyler, and Sally Pilkington in too. We were lucky enough to pay a visit to Christian Wright at Abbey Road for mastering. Sam was getting well excited about the No.1 Studer J37 tape machine we passed by when we were down there!
Sam Grant: I was really keen with this album to give it a bit more depth and texture than the previous albums. ‘Viscerals’ was always going to be true to its name, and be an immediate punchy record, so this one could afford to be more layered and have a little more nuance in its production. As with the previous releases, we did it all at Blank Studios in Newcastle again, but this time I was much more conscious of overlaying elements – particularly piano and synth. Stretching octaves on the lowest octave of the piano throughout the album, reinforcing melody lines, and using the synth wherever possible to subtly develop the harmonic content were all key components of this album’s production.
We went into the studio having already written and demoed the tracks, so we recorded it all via a process of building the tracks through layering. We started off with tracking drums, with bass and rhythm guitar as guide tracks. We then replaced those with proper takes, and progressively built the tracks up, adding parts until we had a final thing on which to put Matt’s vocals.
How did you approach music making this time around?
Ewan Mackenzie: We spent some dedicated time away writing at Giant Wafer studios in Wales. This was a really important thing for us to do because it provided a real focus: a time and place without distraction and where every day was about writing music. Sam Grant, Matt Baty, Adam Sykes and Johnny Hedley had been gathering rough ideas during the pandemic. So when we got together in Wales, we worked collectively to modify and expand the ideas and then turn them into songs. It was quite interesting, and at times surprising, how quickly we connected and worked together towards the album. We played fairly intensely for a while afterwards before planning the recording.
How pleased were you with the sound of the album?
Ewan Mackenzie: I think this album has different “sounds” in it, yet with an overall cohesion that makes it something of a journey. As a band we discuss sounds and instrumentation regularly, and on this album we got the chance to explore a few different ideas, both in terms of creating a bit of space, and in terms of making things very immediate and direct. Again, Sam is an ace on the production side, and we are very lucky to have him.
Adam Sykes: Incredibly pleased, it’s always a nice surprise at the end of the process for most of us. With the writing sessions it’s very much a collaborative process but when it comes to production, for the large part, we leave it in Sam’s hands. He always has an idea of how he wants each album to sound production wise and we minimise our input on that side of things as we can always trust we’ll be happy with the outcome.
Sam Grant: It’s difficult to know in the first instance, as your ears start to familiarise with the music and the sound. But we’ve had a good bit of distance now from the recording and mixing process, and listening now I’m really pleased with it. At least insofar as I think it does what I/we set out for it to do.
There’s the small things in amongst it all that catch my ear now, but they’re just things that I think I might approach differently if there’s a next time round.
You are all coming from different backgrounds, what led you to the formation of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs? And do tell us about the name [laughs]. I would love to hear about the instruments and gear you are currently using? Don’t forget the effects and pedals too.
Ewan Mackenzie: I’m coming around to using Gretsch drums, which I think sound fantastic. I was lucky enough to get a hold of a 24” Brooklyn bass drum recently, which I worship on a regular basis!
Sam Grant: From the guitar perspective we’re pretty much using a similar set up in the studio as to live. I have an Orange or120 (90s reissue) head, paired with an Orange Custom Shop 50 head. The latter for a more clipped mid tone, while the former (with all its headroom) shifting air and giving a lot more clean highs and lows. Pedal wise the pedals of note for me are an Earthquaker Devices Hoof, Avalanche Run, and Plumes. I also used a great pedal throughout the last record from BG Harding called the S:P. Another favourite, though not one I use too much, is the Strymon El Capistan.
For recording I tend to reamp all the guitar through a 1×12 orange cab, instead of the 4x12s, so I can set the mics back a bit and get more of a whole sound without having any phase issues from multiple speakers. Same with the bass, I reamped that through a 1×15.
In the studio the amps are all valve heads. They’re basically the heads we use onstage, but I also use a Vox ac30 hand wired head. I almost always use it for pigs reamping, on both mine and Adam’s guitars. It’s an amazing amp when you crank it.
Adam Sykes: I’ve been using a Matamp GT1 through a couple Orange 4x12s. It’s a setup that hasn’t changed for me for some time.
Pedals wise, I change it up a little for each album. For ‘Land of Sleeper’ I used a Minotaur Effects Swamp Lord for my main fuzz tone. It’s an incredible pedal, very versatile and marries very well with my Matamp. The mainstays on my board are the Earthquaker Devices Palisades. Jam pedals Retrovibe, Death by Audio Fuzz War and the others I change fairly frequently. I’ve just started with the new Boss RE-202 which seems to be working really well.
Guitar wise I’m swapping between my Gibson 61’ Reissue and a Fender Jazzmaster.
You are known for energetic live shows, what would be the craziest story that happened while on the road?
Ewan Mackenzie: I once put my foot (hoof) through a bass drum head at a gig in Preston, and the gig was stopped dead. I’m sure the other band members can come up with some better stories than that though!
Sam Grant: We’re not really that much of a “crazy” band I don’t think. We just love to gig! We do probably have quite a few fairly moderate “rock n roll” stories, but I don’t think we’re about to get a tour diaries book deal out of them…
Matt Baty: Yeah, we’re not Mötley Crüe and don’t aspire to be. I think the days of rock music tour bravado should be resigned to the past. We leave all our energy onstage, after that it’s bedtime.
Adam Sykes: I once ate 3 share size packets of Haribo Starmix after a show.
Are any of you involved in any other bands or do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?
Ewan Mackenzie: Yes, Sam does another project called Rubber Oh (also on Rocket Recordings), which Johnny has played on. I also do a project called Dextro (previous releases on Border Community, Gronland Records, 16k Records). Adam Sykes and I also have another band on the go with our friend Simon Hubbard, but we haven’t been able to find much time for that lately. Matt of course runs a great label called Box Records, on which he has continually put out awesome releases.
Sam Grant: Yeah, I’m busy putting together my next Rubber Oh album. Hopefully, by the time this comes out I’ll be nearly finished with the mixing… And I run Blank Studios, a studio in Newcastle, which keeps me busy when Pigs aren’t out gigging.
Adam Sykes: I was invited to join Smote for a special show at Roadburn this summer which was great. I love Dan’s music and playing live with those guys was a lot of fun.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Ewan Mackenzie: Yes, some current favourites of mine are:
Dalek – ‘Precipice’
Jessica Moss – ‘Galaxy Heart’
Anna von Hausswolff – ‘All Thoughts Fly’
Thraa – ‘Moving Among Them’
Escuella Grind – ‘Memory Theatre’
Weyes Blood – ‘And In The Darkness Hearts Aglow’
OFF! – ‘Free LSD’
End It – ‘Unpleasant Living’
Billy Woods – ‘Aethiopes’
Meryl Streek – ‘796’
Katie Kim – ‘Hour Of The Ox’
Wiegedood – ‘There’s Always Blood At The End of The Road’
Katie Kim – ‘Hour Of the Ox’
Oren Ambarchi – ‘Shebang’
One Leg One Eye – ‘….And Take The Black Worm With Me’
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
Headline photo: Ania Shrimpton