“This record has become a fucking… motherfucker!”
As promotions for your forthcoming album go, this isn’t necessarily the kind of pithy soundbite a label is gunning for from one of their recent signings. But then The Bug (AKA Kevin Martin) doesn’t seem the kind of bloke who places much currency in conformity. “I’ve not even named the LP yet,” he continues with PR shredding accuracy. “Ninja Tune are cussing me. It’s getting really close to the bone now, I was meant to have it finished in February…” Pass me the mozzie spray; I’m going in.
An aural Exocet that seems intent on disorientation when encountered unprepared, Kevin Martin’s output as The Bug is a permeable fusing of dub, ragga, dancehall, bashment and digital epoxy which ignites in unison to quite staggering effect. Having emerged from the depths of the thrash-noise scene via a soundsystem epiphany, Martin’s first solo outing as The Bug was for the Aphex-affiliated Rephlex records – with ‘Pressure’ searing an indelible mark on a roster that until then had been a synonym for LED-blanched electronica.
“Well I don’t really feel that there’s anywhere I fit in easily,” Martin sighs as we discuss his perception buckling tenure on first Rephlex and now Ninja Tune. “For me, everything I’ve aspired to musically is to be original and independent: trying to create a sound that no else is doing. When Rephlex approached me I didn’t know much about electronica and thought it would be a bit square and dull – full of chin strokers. The same applies to Ninja Tune; I didn’t think they’d want something as intense as I do… But the fact they were both into my music is so cool.”
Passionate about his subject in a way which is criminally infectious, Martin has suitably broad tastes – albeit with one caveat… a hardcore stance. “Basically I’m interested in that 5% of every genre that is hardcore – music that hasn’t sold its ass for cash, where artists are devoted to a sound and the development of their own voice. I don’t really give a fuck what the genre’s called, as long as I can find 5% doing it for the right reason.”
The cerebrum behind pseudonyms such as King Midas Touch, Ladybug and Techno Animal, Kevin Martin’s releases as The Bug represent just one shade in his sonic spectrum - yet even narrowing it down to the relatively confined palate he has set aside for this project has proved more difficult than anticipated. “I really have felt the pressure of ‘Pressure’,” he laughs. “When I did that it was my first solo record and I was quite fucked off with the music industry in general. So when people reacted favourably to it I was surprised… The trouble with that is I feel more responsible to follow it up well.” So how long have you been recording for? “Two and a half years now. When I started out it was just going to be me, Warrior Queen and Ras B on vocals, a tight clique. But somehow it moved away from that and became more adventurous. I got lost in the album and now have too much material. By the end I hope it will be what I want.”
Sent up as a lavishly packaged flare warning of the oncoming storm, ‘Jah War’ was the first single to be taken from the forthcoming album and featured a porous vocal contribution from Roll Deep’s Flowdan atop the ruffneck tsunami whipped up by The Bug below. A bona fide needle wrecker, ‘Jah War’ also boasted a Loefah marshalled remix on the back, which made startlingly explicit the dubstep lineage that marbles Martin’s work. “It was Kode 9 who initially pointed me in the direction of the genre and with hindsight I guess that ‘Pressure’ was pre-dubstep dubstep. It certainly has shared influences. In fact, the next King Midas Touch album is going to be coming out on Hyperdub (Kode 9’s imprint). I really respect the label and everything people like Burial are doing. I think it’s a really interesting time for music in general.”
I don’t really feel that there’s anywhere I fit in easily.
Connections with the dubstep cabal don’t end there, with the revelation that one of the scene’s most formidable and recognisable MCs is lending his glottal-burnt delivery to the new album. “Spaceape is on the record and fucking incredible,” Martin reveals. “Some MCs can be idiosyncratic and quite difficult, but not him. Everything we did worked so well it’s actually spawned a whole new project that we’re going to develop together.” So who else can we expect to hear on the still unnamed Bug missive? “Killer P, Ricky Rankin, Flowdan, Warrior Queen…” Is there anyone who you’d still love to bag for a collaboration? “Dizzee Rascal, Thom Yorke… I’ll tell you who has continuously thwarted me; Roots Manuva. As an MC he is astonishing.”
Closing with a discussion about how ragga seems to have breached the mainstream levies since The Bug first surfaced as an entity (“back then the only person I could talk to it about was DJ Scud - now it’s become almost common place”), Martin concisely pinpoints the driving force behind all artists who have a lasting impact. “Music isn’t just a disposable trend. Look at punk, hip-hop, reggae… There’s a politic there, a message, an intensity. People like Kode 9 and Vex’d are ensuring it doesn’t just become another kind of club music. They’re keeping it interesting.”
Late, loud and pragmatically combative, The Bug is the kind of artist who takes his music seriously – creating an infallible aural firebrand that will attract discerning moths the world over. Prepare to bug out!
Big Chill Festival 2010