The Bug: ‘I’m always more interested in the future than the past’
It’s been five years since The Bug released his last album London Zoo, an LP brimming with venom and post-apocalyptic atmospherics. It was loved by fans and critics alike, and truly showcased Kevin Martin’s ability to create basslines that rumbled deep enough to disturb the dead.
“I seem to take a long time making albums that I want to hear. It would be a very easy option to make a very fast follow up to London Zoo but that’s not how I work,” he says. “I went through some miniature crises wondering about whether or not I even wanted to make a record that in any way resembled London Zoo or if I wanted to wipe the slate clean.”
While he decided what path to take, he concentrated on his other project, King Midas Sound, a three-piece act that explores the eerier end of dub. “When I started King Midas Sound it was partly out of frustration – how do I say this – there seems to be an industry prerogative to reduce artists to one dimensional beings and caricatures of themselves. Basically that can be frustrating on many levels, and also personally. The King Midas Sound album was basically made out of an emotional necessity, I needed to get that shit out of my system,” he laughs.
I point out that it must be interesting for him as an artist to be working on opposing ends of the musical spectrum. “It’s a very melancholy album, and The Bug’s previous album London Zoo wasn’t that at all, it was very intense and had a very different mood to it,” he says. “For me, I began making music out of an emotional need, not because I wanted to get rich or famous, which anyone listening to any music I make would obviously attest to.”
Thankfully for fans, Kevin reached a place where he was ready to revisit The Bug, and he found a plethora of new vocalists who wanted to be a part of a new LP. “In the last year or two, Bug-wise I’ve felt a lot more inspired and really happy with where it’s gone, and instead of just dumping the sound I made my own with London Zoo I’ve decided that what I want with artists is to hear them continue their craft and develop what I love about them instead of doing something totally different.
“The new album, Angels and Devils, will stretch the parameters of London Zoo. It’s going to be much more hateful on one side, much more zoned out on the other, and it’s an incredible array of vocalists that I’ve collaborated with on this one. Gonjasufi, Death Grips, Grouper, Warrior Queen, Daddy Freddy, Flowdan, Danny Brown.
“It’s really exciting,” he says, adding, “if I finish it in a way that it feels like I am going to finish it then just to be content with it will be a major result in itself.” The album was slated for release in 2012, but a release by the end of this year seems more likely. There will be a chance to hear some new material when he supports Squarepusher at his Ufabulum show in London at the end of March.
While there is a definite overlap in both artists’ fanbases, their approaches to performance – particularly at this show – couldn’t be more different. While part of the appeal of watching Tom Jenkins unleash some IDM mayhem is to see the new Squarepusher AV format, Kevin prefers a more oppressive atmosphere when playing live.
“As far as I’m concerned, the ideal Bug show would be in an undersized venue with an oversized system with so much smoke in the room that you find it impossible to see who’s standing next to you and strobes that will drive you insane,” he says. “I prefer reducing the sensory impact to just sonic overload. For me, I think that it will be difficult for me in the Roundhouse by the nature and size of the venue, I’m sure the fact that we are supporting Squarepusher will also go against us in that sense, but primarily, Bug-wise, it’s all about the sound and the artists that I work with energizing the audience.”
For the performance, he’s bringing long-term collaborators Daddy Freddy and Flowdan, who add an extra menacing air to The Bug’s already impenetrable compositions, as well as new vocalist Miss Red.
“There will be a lot of stuff that will be released on the new album, hopefully in the spring or if not, the autumn, and Daddy Freddy has been an essential part of the new material. I started a new 7” label within Ninja Tune called Acid Ragga and Daddy Freddy has been on two of the three releases so far.”
The third release, Diss Mi Army, featured Israeli vocalist Miss Red, who will also be joining Kevin, Daddy Freddy and Flowdan at the London show. He met her by chance when he played at an impromptu party the day after performing at a large event in Israel.
“I was at tiny venue in a tiny bar in an Arabic town outside of Tel Aviv. It was an amazing party, people were dancing on the bar, and on tables and chairs, I managed to smash a window with the bass, the bar owners loved it,” he says. “At the end of my set, Miss Red and her crew of graf writers, illustrators, singers and DJs who are obsessed by Eighties dancehall, arrived. When she grabbed the mic at the party, I was just stunned. When I heard her voice at the party I started playing the new Acid Ragga rythmns and she fitted on there so snugly, it seemed like a gift from the heavens, really.”
They agreed to meet at a studio the next day before Martin’s 3pm flight, and it was here that they laid down Diss Mi Army, the second Acid Ragga release. “She really smashed it. And she did the video all on her own, that’s her and her crew in Haifa. She’s madly energised and enthusiastic and loving it all.”
He speaks so enthusiastically about the latest addition to The Bug family, it’s no surprise when he says, “Bug-wise, I’m always more interested in the future than the past.
“I feel very lucky to be able to work with Daddy Freddy on one hand who is a legend for all the right reasons – and some wrong reasons, and Flowdan who is totally on top of his game at the moment and is striking out on his own when a lot of people went quiet, and now with Miss Red, I feel a sort of generation ladder of incredibly talented vocalists that make my show, hopefully, something people won’t forget in a hurry.”
Ahead of the London show, Kevin, Flowdan, Miss Red and Daddy Freddy are off to play a few shows in America. “We’re going there to do South By South West,” he says. “I’m normally suspicious of those types of events. I like parties where people are there for the music, not to schmooze.”
The intimate performances to a hoarde of Instagramming hipsters will be vastly different to a previous time where he showed off his ragga dubs to a US crowd. After being asked repeatedly by Trent Reznor to support the Nine Inch Nails on tour, Kevin agreed to join the industrial metal band for the final handful of shows.
“I thought about it, I talked to friends about it, and just thought, ‘you know what, I’ll never do a stadium tour in my life,’ so I did the last two weeks of the tour. It was insane, we were playing to 15,000 people every night and most of them didn’t have a clue where we came from or what we were doing, they must have seen us as aliens from another planet. Ironically we played down the Midwest which is just bible-belt, redneck Hicksville so you get these alternative hick goths coming to the shows who would have been gobsmacked, and then we ended up in Vegas. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.”
The Bug ft. Flowdan, Daddy Freddy and Miss Red support Squarepusher at his Ufabulum Live’ AV show, The Roundhouse, London March 30th and tickets are available now
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