Interview

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs let us explore their lair for our My Place feature

It's actually quite a nice house in Newcastle

Like a lot of scary-sounding heavy musicians, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs frontman Matt Baty is completely unassuming in real life, and much less intimidating. His Lemmy-esque bellow is softened, his stage grimace eased into a goofy smile. He’s also got his top on. 

Another thing he shares with many of his fellow metalheads is a fascination with the esoteric, and enough of a collector’s impulse to give this interest an impressive physical form. His Newcastle home is bursting with stuff – artwork (much of which was made by his partner), wrestling memorabilia, records, DVDs, weird furniture – the latter of which is about to come in handy. 

“Fucking hell!” Two minutes into our conversation, he lurches sideways without warning. “Ah man, my chair’s broken.” He produces another from somewhere. “Sorry about that.”

For over a decade now, Baty has been at the heart of a fertile DIY scene in Newcastle, as a musician himself and as the head honcho of his label Box Records. He’s best known as the lungs behind the aforementioned Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, the behemothic doom band who’ve spent the past few years slowly but surely becoming cult heroes to audiences way beyond dedicated metal circles through being one of the most viscerally fun live acts in the country. Baty has also served as experimental folk singer Richard Dawson’s live drummer – something he describes as “a real honour, he’s one of my favourite musicians in the world” – and, through Box, was an early champion of artists like Thank, Gnod, Italia 90 and Lower Slaughter. When we speak, Baty is in the middle of a break between tour stretches with Pigs – he’ll be heading over to the Netherlands in a couple of days. 

“It’s looking really exciting,” he says. “We’re kind of getting the ball rolling with gigging again this year. Last year it was so stressful. We were just totally freaked out about live stuff, because if one of us caught Covid that’d be like ten days’ worth of tour just gone. and we’d waited so fucking long. So we had the constant stress of trying not to get too close to people, walking through service stations like this [he leans back and raises his hands cautiously, as if pressing up against a wall].” They nearly got away with it – but not quite. “One of us tested positive for it in Southampton. We couldn’t have been further away from Newcastle.” 

That was months ago now though, and Pigs are gearing up to go full steam ahead now the restrictions are lifted. It’s good to catch Baty at home while he’s still got the time to show us around. 

Photography by Liza Stockport

The Adventures of Mark Twain DVD

I had this on VHS when I was a kid, and nobody in my family knows who bought it. It’s really, really weird – especially for a kids’ film. It’s a stop-motion clay animation – the quality of it is mind-blowing. The animation is just superb. It came out in 1985, the year I was born, and I was watching it nestled amongst like Disney films at home. I watched it a lot.

The premise of the film is that Mark Twain is on this blimp-slash-spaceship, and he’s chasing Halley’s Comet, because he thinks that he has some sort of destiny with it. and the whole thing. It’s got this thread of human mortality to it. These three kids sneak on board the blimp, and explore these fantasy worlds where they start to incorporate some of the Mark Twain stories. 

There are two Mark Twains on it – one that’s a bit more approachable, and another who looks exactly the same but dressed all in black, symbolising the shadow side of his personality or something, he’s more morose. And there are some really, really intense scenes in there – there’s one in particular where they step out into space basically, and on a small planet. And there’s this being on there that describes itself as an angel, and it says its name is Satan. Then it creates this little medieval town on the planet, and they’re observing the little townspeople, trading with each other, having ceremonies, and then the Angel starts shooting thunder and lightning at them, causes an earthquake, they’re all perishing, and all the kids watching are just beside themselves. And there’s a line where he says, “I can do no wrong, for I do not know what it is.”

I was watching this at like five years old. It’s rated as a U, anyone can watch it, but I would argue that point. It sticks with you. At some point I’ll address it in a therapy session or something.

Kaftan

This was our bass player Johnny’s dad’s. His mum made it for his dad in the ’70s. During early Pigs gigs, I would wear a kaftan, but it was just like a really cheaply made one, in this kind of plasticky material, and then Johnny’s mum produced this when we were rehearsing. I wore it for a good while, maybe a year, through the first Pigs gigs, but I stopped wearing it for a couple of reasons. There was a defining moment we were playing in Glasgow, and I got the mic lead completely tangled up in the hood. It tangled in a way that left my arms suspended in the air, and I couldn’t untangle the lead from behind, and I remember thinking, “Oh my god, I’m completely stuck like this.” So it got retired. It’s really thick material as well, so it’s really hot. It’s a beautiful garment though.

Boxing gloves

I’ve been going to kickboxing classes for a year and a half. The place is really close to my house. I was really unfit before the pandemic – I hardly did any exercise whatsoever – but I used the lockdown time to work out, go on runs, do loads of yoga at home, stuff like that. It kept my sanity levels in check, I suppose. And I walked past this place, and it caught my eye, and I thought, “I’ll give it a go.”

I’ve never done martial arts, I’ve never been in a fight in my life, I don’t class myself as an aggressive person at all. But I’ve absolutely loved it from the very first class, and I’ve got a bit obsessed with it. It’s a really nice environment – if I’d walked in there, and it was a really competitive, macho place, that would have put me off straight away, but it’s much the opposite. 

It’s been really good for me to have something outside of music to kind of get obsessed about. Because it wasn’t until like the pandemic that I realised that music was absolutely everything; not that I don’t put everything into it now, but with that gone it left such a huge, huge gap in my life. With kickboxing, it’s been nice to have something else to focus on – music is incredible, and I’m in an incredibly fortunate spot with it, but it can also be quite stressful and tiring as well. Having something else to kind of divert my attention in times like that is invaluable.

Laverbread

This is a Welsh delicacy. It’s a delicacy in the sense that I think only a small percentage of people will actually enjoy it. Most people with normal tastebuds will just think it’s horrific. It’s seaweed, that they boil down for ages. Most people would probably describe it as having a very slimy texture, whereas I prefer to say it’s silky. I’m vegetarian now but I used to love seafood, and it does taste very much like something that’s just been dredged up off the seabed.

Painting by Roberta Louisa Green

My partner did this. I see her as an outsider artist – she’s got no really ambition to exhibit her work, but I think it’s brilliant. She uses it as a way to process traumas she’s been through in her life, so quite often the pictures are kind of macabre – she’s big into mythology, so she’ll draw characters that are like deities but they’re of her own creation, giving her own meanings to them, and it’s all part of this healing process. Our house is full of paintings and drawings, but that one’s a particular favourite. They’ll often be a juxtaposition between the macabre atmosphere and the colour palette she uses – lots of pinks and yellows, so at a glance it’s quite a fun thing to look at, but when you start to unpick there’s more serious things going on there. 

Gary Numan mirror

This has pride of place in the living room. It’s pleasant looking at a mirror and seeing Gary Numan staring back at you. We’ve got this tradition where at Christmas we take him down and put him in a cupboard, because we reckon Gary Numan doesn’t like Christmas. We put him away for the whole of December, and put up a really tacky, tinselly Santa in his place. 

The Magic Bridge by Richard Dawson

Richard is one of my favourite musicians in the world. It just so happens that he lives in Newcastle.

I was fortunate enough to see him early on as well. The first time I saw him play was about 12 years ago, if not a little bit more, in a Spanish restaurant that’s right next to St. James’ Park in the middle of the city. The first Sunday of every month they would use the first floor as a little venue space, and it would run an open mic night. It was kind of leftfield – me and Sam from Pigs used to go and do improvised ambient drone stuff. At one of these shows was Richard, and he came on and played a really long song, like nearly ten minutes, about the cats that he’d had growing up. It was basically a song about mortality, and it made me cry. Yeah, I remember sitting at one of these tables and I was crying.

Since that moment, I’ve been completely besotted by his music. This record, The Magic Bridge, is the Box Records pressing. I’d only ever done one release then – a seven-inch vinyl by Gnod and a band from Newcastle called Bong, which is a crazy format to put a Gnod track on because they do super long songs. But I didn’t know what I was doing. There were no releases for about two years after that because I thought, “Releasing records is really difficult. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming.” And at the time I was on the dole.

But then I moved back to Newcastle. I’d seen Richard a bunch of times and he put out The Magic Bridge, just on CD. And I remember him saying it wasn’t on vinyl, and I just thought that was a big shame. I didn’t know him all that well at the time, but I got in touch and arranged to put it on record and slowly, slowly managed to finagle my way into his life.

We’re still friends. We’re making it a bit of a tradition of having Richard on each Pigs album. He was on [2018’s] King of Cowards. And he was on the last one [2020’s Viscerals]. He played one cowbell hit on the last album, and the next album has also got one very, very important cowbell hit from him.

Wrestling annuals

I’m a bit of a closet wrestling fan – I still watch it – but these have survived since I was a kid. And they’re just one of those things that elicit that weirdly wonderful nostalgic feeling. You get in your brain when you look at something from a childhood that was fun. When I think about it, like I know it’s a really daft universe, the whole wrestling thing, but it’s possibly the earliest form of entertainment that elicited real emotion from me as an art form, if you want to call it that. 

I remember quite vividly hiding behind the couch in tears, as this guy called Crush was beating ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. It was the first time I’d ever seen like any of the wrestlers draw blood – he had a cut on his forehead, so it all seemed very real and serious. And I was crying behind the couch because I had so much concern over the welfare of the Macho Man. The same goes for if one of your favourite wrestlers wins a title or gets one over on the bad guy or whatever – it’s real joy, real emotion.

I have a bunch of old retro wrestling figures too, from between 1992 and 1996 or something. Oddly enough, the only one worth any more than like £10 was this Barber Beefcake one. I was telling my partner, “This one’s worth like £50, with the little shears as accessories,” and then I put him on the table, sat down to watch TV or something, and then I heard like a clunk on the floor. He’d taken a dive off the table, and the shears were broken. I took it as some sort of sign that there’s no way I should even think about profiteering from these sacred things.

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