A Stampede of Swine: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
To put my cards on the table, when I first saw the name Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs I was truly horrified. I’ve never felt comfortable with the animal, following a horrendous incident as an infant in which I was trampled half to death after climbing into a pig pen. The pigs in question were a feature on a nearby neighbour’s farm, which I drunkenly discovered after toddling away from my parent’s homestead. Thinking the animals to be a fun and friendly group, I scaled the side of the pen and went in for a hug. The hogs, taking this as a sign of aggression, immediately fomented themselves into a furious frenzy, quickly overpowering and knocking me down into the mud. Being such a formative age, the memory exists as more of a blurry vignette than a distinctive scene. I remember the squealing snouts as I writhed in the hideous quagmire of swill. I remember blood, panic, terror. I was lucky to escape with my life. Interestingly, my companion Deirdre attributes my love of pork products to this encounter, seeing the appetite as a subconscious form of revenge.
Thusly, upon discovering Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs on the Rocket roster, my initial reaction was one of shock and revulsion. My mind quickly flashed back to that one Monmouthshire morning and the terrible thundering of trotters. Taking it upon myself to conquer this initial prejudice though, I gave the album a spin. King of Cowards, as it turned out, was one of the absolute best records I had heard in years.
From the opening bassline, the stampede of swine was cast instantly from my mind, as I lost myself in an epic voyage of tremendous, potent power. With a gorgeous and gargantuan sound, King of Cowards has brought heavy metal back into the public ear, offering a swirling odyssey of titanic tunes. The Newcastle quintet are making a name for themselves as one of the most vital and energetic rock bands in the UK at the moment, offering up heavy psych jams packed full of resounding riffs and rousing refrains. More than their sonic surroundings, however, it appears the band really have something to say. Opening track ‘GNT’ offers a narrative that takes in the current global political shitshow, whilst throughout the album there’s a reassuring note of optimism and a seeming message of self-care. ‘You deserve love in your life.’ Matt Baty howls in ‘Cake of Light’. Whilst in colossal closer Gloamer he suggests to ‘Think with an open mind. Feel like you are loved.’ This idea of self-care isn’t a common message in the genre, and it well and truly sets the band apart from their forebears and peers.
Further defeating my pig-based hang-ups, I decided to reach out to the band for a chat.
BL: From metal bands like Satan and Raven to a long, strong history of folk music, the North East has a rich musical heritage. How have your sonic surroundings influenced you?
Px7: One thing I can say about the North East is that there is a very healthy scene of leftfield and experimental music up here. It’s been this way for as long as I’ve lived here. I moved to Newcastle some 14 years ago and started attending and subsequently performing at a “open mic” night in a Spanish restaurant. The nights were called ‘Musical Restaurant’ and it was at those I got to see the likes of Richard Dawson, Bong, Basic House (who was then under a different moniker) and Wrest perform. It was certainly an eye and mind opener and I do think those nights have had a big influence on me personally. It’s certainly shaped my definitions of what music is and should be. It’s always been less about aptitude and more about expression up here, for sure.
In the dialogue about British music, the North East often gets overlooked. Why do you think this is?
Because we didn’t invent Trip Hop? To be honest, I’m unsure if it does get overlooked any more than most cities outside of London and Manchester. I made the Trip Hop comment in jest but maybe there is some truth in there. Maybe Newcastle has never really had that defining scene or genre movement associated with it like cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol etc. might have. I do know New Monkey was a huge scene in the North East, maybe that gets overlooked.
There is a lyrical tradition within metal and psych to weave elements of fantasy into the songwriting. Whilst you employ some of this language, the voice seems much more grounded and relevant. Is this a conscious choice you make whilst writing?
I think it’s partly conscious, yes. I definitely wanted to shy away from lyrics about smoking weed and drinking, I hate that shit. I give only Sleep a pass on that front. I don’t really consider myself to be a particularly good lyricist but I do see value for me being more direct with my words. It seems a wholesome thing for me anyway.
I recently tried to sing along to GNT and it resulted in my nearly coughing up something vital. My voice has been somewhat withered since, and I’m wondering how on earth you manage it night after night. What toll does touring take on your vocal chords?
It took me a long time to realise that hangovers are really bad for my voice. I think it’s dehydration. So yeah, super boring answer is I drink loads of water and attempt to get a good night’s sleep after every show. If we’re doing a one off show I can let my hair down a bit more somewhat. After doing a few shows with less booze in my system I started to realise I was enjoying them more too. For a while I thought being drunk was conducive or even necessary for a good performance but that’s bollocks and was probably an aspect of my self-esteem I was letting dictate my behavior. Shows are far more lucid now, which is great. It’s important to create and retain memories. It’s much better than waking up the next morning and having some vague, hazy memory of a good time.
Gloamer seems the stand-out track for me, with the vocals become just coherent enough for your accent to come through. This has an immediate, calming effect, humanising you in the process, bringing down the wall between musician and audience. Given the song’s subject matter, how much of a considered choice was this?
Johnny, our bass player, busted Gloamer out in a practice one night and it was exciting developing that song. It’s the first song we’ve ever written that’s a bit more downtempo and has a very atmospheric quality to it. It gave me the opportunity to try something different with my vocal delivery too. I thought it lent itself nicely to rounding up the more direct approach to my vocals and lyrics I was keen to explore in the album.
There is a lot of theological talk in the album. What do words like ‘God’ and ‘religion’ mean to you?
I use those words a lot, don’t I? All the pseudo religious aspects in my lyrics are about reclaiming those words and concepts. That said, I don’t think it’s silly for anyone to believe in a divine creator or life giver nor do I believe it’s silly for anyone to not believe in anything spiritual either. I do worry about folks who blindly follow institutions though, I don’t see that as being a particularly healthy approach. For me, it’s more about creating your own definitions. Everyone has the power and free will to do that, to make sense of the world around them, that’s in part both the blessing and curse of being a human. Maybe you’re a God. Maybe we all are.
To me, your music feels rousing, powerful and ferocious - the perfect soundtrack to a battle. If you could battle anyone, who would it be?
The bad guys.
Dare I ask - who is the King of Cowards?
The bad guys.
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Interview by Jethro Jeffries