By: Kristoffer Noheden
Wild years in Berlin
Anna Wildsmith started her artistic carreer in Germany in the eighties. She lived there with her boyfriend at the time, Raymond Watts, and wrote a couple of children's books. Since Watts was sound engineer for Einstürzende Neubauten, helped KMFDM get started and later joined the Foetus live band, she got in touch with a number of underground characters,
- What do you want to know? Anna snaps at me when I ask her if she can tell me something about her background.
Well, you used to live in Berlin, didn't you? I mumble nervously.
- Yeah, I lived there for five years. Didn't do much, really, mostly a lot of drinking and doing drugs.
Anna’s record debut was on a twelve inch under the name 2-Kut, a collage dance project Watts had with Einstürzende Neubauten producer Jon Caffery. She read a story in French over the music.
In 1989, Anna released her debut Sow record, the twelve inch "Manripe", where she stood for the lyrics and vocals and Watts for the music. But the fact that she ended up doing spoken word didn't have any deeper reasons.
- Because I can't sing, she says.
It's as simple as that?
- I'd like to do some singing on my next album, that would be an adventure. I was always thrown out of singing classes for being tone deaf. I could never dream of ever doing any kind of recording! So, sorry, I can't get into any artistic bullshit about why I've chosen spoken word.
Debut album with music by Raymond Watts
In 1994, Sow's debut album "Je M'aime" was released on Hyperium. In the meantime Watts had made Pig albums like "Praise the Lard" and "The Swining". Once again, material that didn't fit the Pig albums turned up as Sow.
On "Je M'aime", the songs take a somewhat softer shape than in Pig. They span tribal drumming, jazz and the twisted choirs in "Blood Sucking Bitch". But the mayhem is never far away. Moments of harmony are shred to pieces by orchestral samples harder than Metallica and Ministry together. Like in the album's best moment "Manripe", the song Anna did her debut with. Watts scratches the guitar strings until they whine, the drums make more noise than a marching army and Anna yells, whispers and spits out her disgust for slimy men.
- Now I don't really recognize myself in that song. I listen to it and wonder who that crazy woman is...
"Je M'aime" was reissued by Invisible during the spring of 1999, but then under the name Pig and Sow. When I ask Anna if the reason for releasing the album under that name was to sell more records, Anna starts to laugh hysterically.
- It wasn't my idea, I'll tell you that! Raymond called me up one day and said "'Je M'aime' is really good, I need money, let's sell it!".
Coincidental second album
The second, and latest, album "Sick" was made almost by coincidence. The Japanese label Blue Noise wanted to reissue "Je M'aime", but to avoid rights trouble, they simply asked Anna if she was interested in making a new album instead.
"Sick" is more electronic than the debut and probably easier to digest. There the music has more conventional song structures and is composed by a line of different musicians. But no matter how good the music is, the real treat is Anna's voice and lyrics. Most of the songs seem to be inspired by the ending of her almost fifteen year long relationship with Raymond Watts. Particularly songs like "Ssik" and "Wedge" feel like snapshots of those endless days that are consumed by the dull, meaningless void after someone you love. "The day went by like all the other days/Stale/Heavy/Moistened with grief", Anna says sadly in "Wedge".
- The person I write about in "Wedge" is an imaginary character, but all the lyrics are of course related to my own life. The feelings she goes through... I guess that to a certain extent you have to have experienced them to be able to write about them. But I dramatize everything, it makes the writing more fun.
From Japanese mayhem to jazzy dub
In the album track "K-Casino" hell breaks loose. Japanese record company director and musician Hoppy Kamiyama and his band Optical 8 makes eight minutes of mad noise. If it wasn't for Anna's passionate reading of an angry letter, it would probably be unlistenable. Now it’s nearly magnetic.
- It's not my favourite, but it's so fucking mad. I had contacted Hoppy and sent him a copy of "Je M'aime", and since he really liked it he wanted to do a song for "Sick". We agreed that it should be a piece for a string quartet, but I also asked him to send me three minutes of fucking mayhem madness guitar with his band. And he sent me both - the string quartet that cost a quarter of the record budget and eight minutes mayhem, and I choose to use the noise, 'cause it was just so fucking mad.
The rest of the album swings between Sascha Konietzko's techno pop in "Shrub", dub jazz by Euphonic in "Strip", and Martin King's hard techno beats in "Working for God". And just like on its predecessor Anna switches between English, French and Italian.
- I'm half French, so that's why I use French so much. The words come to me in what ever language they come in. Different languages bring different atmospheres - Italian is passionate and intense, French is more flourish and poetic I guess, in the classical meaning, and English is a bit harder. I still haven’t tried German, except for three words on "Je M'aime"...
Was that "ich bin sauber"?
- Yeah, "ich bin sau, ich bin sauber". I thought that was fitting, Anna laughs.
Plans for new album
For the time being, Anna Wildsmith lives in a small, primitive village in France; a place that Raymond Watts once described as "hardcore fucking poverty". She hasn't even got a TV. She spends her time reading magazines to keep some sort of touch with the outside world, and has worked on a novel. But it hasn't really worked out.
- I realized I wasn't ready to write an epic, tragic novel. But I've started to write some short stories instead. If any of these will be published she doesn't know, but among her plans is also a new record.
- I definitely want to make another album. I know that Raymond wants to do something for it, the Euphonic guys are interested, and I hope that Hoppy Kamiyama wants to do something too. But of course I have to find a label that's willing to release it first.
Pig The Pig Pen