For starters I would like to go some years back… When “The Bug” project started you were already involved in other music projects as well (Ice and Techno Animal if I didn’t left something out). What made you start The Bug project?
Probably a lot of different reasons. One, we have reached as far as we could with techno animal, I felt, without a case of repeating ourselves, Justin had got really busy, I had some big personal changes baring in my life and I was looking for a solo project.
I ‘ve walked out of a deal with a major label with a soundsystem, a dub soundsystem and I wanted to make music, that reflected my passion for Jamaican music. Everything I ‘ve ever done had been really inspired by Jamaican music. No matter how noisy…once I’ve discovered dub, it really affected everything I have ever produced…
I was just looking for something fresh, I was looking to try to do something that no one else was doing…I ‘ve become addicted to 7 inch singles from Jamaica, that they call pre-releases and I was living in a very heavy Jamaican area of London where I was just being bombarded by dancehall and I used to be a sort of dub asshole and think that anything that wasn’t 70’s roots dub was crap.
And it took my a while to get over my own prejudice about ragga and dancehall, and I was hearing a riddim called Street Sweeper by Steely & Clevie.. I was just so blown away, I had to learn more about this and the more I learned the more I loved the extremity of the lyrics, I loved the extremity in music, I like the fact that it seems basically to fuck with your mind and your body and it was violent and sexy…
For all these reason I got interested in dancehall and started The Bug.
Why “The Bug” as a name?
It was loads of different reasons. I’ve started The Bug as a concept album for WordSound before I knew what was really meant to be. It was a concept based on a movie by Coppola, The Conversation with Gene Hackman. I tried to get hold of the soundtrack for many years and hadn’t be able to get a hold of it and basically.. WordSound had been chasing me for a long time to start to record for them and I was a big fan of the label and at the same time I had just got this advance from a major label I mentioned earlier and I just bought myself equipment because I was meant to produce an Ice album. I didn’t really have much experience producing on my own.
I was always working with Justin or a couple of other producers, primarily with Justin, Justin Broadrick. So I was really nervous about…this is on a major label… and I meant to be mixing the album down for them. So it seemed as the perfect opportunity to learn the equipment, chase down this crazy concept I had, reinterpreting the movie and doing it both in the same moment…
The bug is a slang term for a wiretap, it is like a microphone that you use to tape people’s conversations with, it is a bug. But for me the more I thought “the bug” as a name I loved all the different meanings, you know, the bug was a very famous dancehall riddim in Jamaica, also like “buggin out” the hiphop term, I was a huge hiphop fan, A Tribe Called Quest did a track called “buggin out”, to bug someone is another slang term in Britain, to piss someone off. So for me I couldn’t think of a bad reason, I could only think that all are good reasons to name myself The Bug.
When I came up with that name, that was for a concept and it was a few years later when I started as The Bug properly and I decided basically to make this music that was inspired from Jamaican music…It took me a while from that initial project to become The Bug and start my solo career.
Reading the release dates of “The Bug” project and of all the others it’s hard to calculate if there was a time when you were fully dedicated to one single project. Was there? Would you say “multitasking” is a trait of Kevin Martyn’s personality?
Yeah, music is not a choice for me. It’s in my blood. My father and grandfather were musicians, for me, music changed my life. I discovered music through punk when I was eight years old. I just liked the rebellious nature of it, I liked the fact that punk addressed a lot of social issues, it begun to make sense to me. And for me, music has always surrounded me.
I saw a quote recently by some classical composer, saying that, unless you get up thinking you want to listen to music straight away, in everything you do, you are not made to be a musician. Actually all I think about is music. You know, 24/7. I work, much to the disappointment of my girlfriends, I work, in the studio non stop. It is my obsession. It’s a compulsion, it’s not a choice.
Now more about the music…Although every project sounds different, there is common ground between all of them. Personally I think this common ground is “noise”? Would you agree? What does noise mean for you?
For me is not just about noise. My musical career was never only about noise, if you listen in many tracks on “Pressure” it is much about space as it is noise. I see noise as a positive term, noise is like a wake up call, it is like being alert. It is in sonic like a siren in your brain.
For me what I hate in modern life, it is the conspiracy to make us bored and lazy and greedy. For me noise is agitation, it’s like fire. For me noise in your ears is like fire in your belly.
And that’s why I’m drown to music, it’s eternal. Because, for me it… is not stopped, it is confrontational.
Specifically for “The Bug” project, apart from the “noise” element, there is also an industrial feeling along with a Dancehall approach. How did these influences come together?
You see, for me when you come with terms like that, as I got older, I just have less and less patience with those terms… You’re talking about advertising terms, I don’t give a shit what dancehall or industrial.. those terms, particularly when you start mixing things up, like the way I do, they begin to mean nothing, you know.. For me it is bug music, take it or leave it. For me it has nothing to do with industrial.. Industrial became really boring, very quickly, you know.. For me industrial became a cartoon..
Yes, I’m talking about industrial as a feeling, not much as a music genre…
For me is more punk.
If you wanna say anything is just punk and energy. It has nothing to do with industrial. Industrial is a fashion. It’s a sales term, it’s a gimmick. Apart from the very early originators people like Throbbing Gristle, SPK, 23 Skidoo, Neubauten, those people were interesting, they didn’t know what they where doing. It is journalists who decided to label it and shops that decided to market it. Those for me become parasites of music.
For me music is about your heart and your soul, the best music is heart and soul. Doesn’t have to be noisy. Erykah Badu is as punk as I think.. Roll Deep are. For me doesn’t have to be noisy, to mean something. Far from it, you know. I like extremes in sound and in life. Because if you settle in the middle branch, you are like living dead basically.
It’s kind of hard to pin down your music as The Bug or any other project in a specific genre. I think your music is always somewhere “in between” genres, attracting fans with varied musical tastes. Lately though, your music is closely affiliated to dubstep. Did The Bug finally find a genre to belong? Are you a dubstep artist?
You gonna probably predict what I ‘m gonna say because of what I just told you in the last five minutes. You ‘re just coming with terms, media terms or sales terms. I don’t care about those things. I was doing The Bug before dubstep, I was already involved in Bass Music, heavily, and frequency warfare, you know…For me. I was involved in energy and authenticity and electricity and static and politics. The politics of protest, of fire, you know…Those are the interesting things for me. I don’t give a shit about dubstep or industrial or whatever you wanna call it. I just make my route and path.
I understand why you ask me, of course. Dubstep as a genre was helpful to me, you know. Without that, I probably wouldn’t be playing here in Greece. I’m very aware that it helped me. There is amazing producers who work within dubstep. They feel that are dubstep producers, they grew up together in Croydon, or around Croydon, mostly. I wasn’t part of that clique. I met them all very early, I was very lucky to meet producers when dubstep was fifteen people in FRW who were all producers playing to each other. Before it became this crazy phenomena.
For me, I was very interested to be in the middle of that but still I feel disconnected. And generally in life I feel disconnected with appeared mentality. You know, for me, the battle in this life, is to keep your sanity as an individual. Against all the pressures of conformity and just suppression. Wide part of why I like Jamaican music so much, is the talk of babylonian politcks, politricks. For me is a very suitable view of this world.
Your latest projects, King Midas Sound and Black Chow are more mellow than a usual The Bug production. Does this mean you are cooling out?
You will hear it tonight if you think I’m cooling out. What really happens is this. I was pissed off with people in the music industry who they were trying to do what you are saying. Why you wanna deal with one dimensional representations of people? If actually go back and listen to Techno Animal, if you go back and listen to the first Bug album, there are actually a lot of deep tracks, is not all just noisy fucked up shit. For me King Midas Sound is amplifying those elements of what I have already been doing and that taste of extremity, why I like extremely quiet and extremely intense music and extremely loud. I like those polar opposites.
I was getting pissed of people going to say “The Bug is just a noisy bastard” which was never the case if you go and listen to the records. And for me King Midas Sound was also about addressing song writing, as I’ve already done with London Zoo into extend.
For many years I wasn’t interested in melody, wasn’t interested in song structure. Those were like enemies to me. I was antagonistic towards conventional music because I was looking for alternatives to pop shit. I was kind of angry and fucked off with being forced this manufactured rubbish and for many years I did what I could to fuck with that formula. Then I realize if you take that opposites stands to its limit, is just as predictable and boring. The quest for me is to find a balance and do something sick sonically that fuck the formula as well. And use melody and songs.
So it’s like the song structure in King Midas Sound are pretty conventional but it’s the sound that makes it different from everything else.
Yeah, the same thing with London Zoo, you know, it was trying to find some new path. And it’s always about trying to find something I don’t hear anywhere else. My ideas come from trying to find something in my head, I can’t hear out and what I’m not hearing generally. And with bashment, when I got so interested in bashment, there were things in it that used to piss me of, so I tried to twist it into something that was reflected to where I came from.
So…are you still angry?
How can you not? If you actually look at this world. When you look how humans interact with each other, how can you not feel frustrated?
You see the same circles repeated, century after century. The outfit and the surroundings change, but I don’t think people’s motives do. I was watching a program in BBC news about Nirobi and Kenya where there are million people living in a ghetto which is a mile by a mile wide and in total poverty? How you cannot be fucking angry about that? Compared to that I feel I actually live a luxury life, and for me,of course if you care about people, which I do, of course you ‘re gonna be angry.
But that’s not the one and only driving force. Like anyone, I am a multi- dimensional person, for me is not just about being angry. If limit yourself on just being angry and don’t know where to channel that anger, you are in danger of just becoming a fool. So how can you channel that anger…
It’s like it’s a creativity anger , it makes you creative, like creative energy.
Yeah, it has kept me sane, making music has kept me sane. Because I will go mad if I really try to analyze the world that we live in. For me is almost like making parallel worlds within sound. Music is like… an exorcism!
Is there any optimism, any positive hope?
I think if you spot the problems and care about them, of course is positive. If you don’t give a shit and just wanna make money and just make shit music or have a shit job then I have to question your existence.
For me it is a very positive thing if people realize the role of music and what music can be and how soulful music can be…Music has been a consistence since the dawn of time, the need for music in people’s lives and that’s gonna continue because it strikes emotional chords…
What’s next for The Bug and what’s next for Kevin Martyn?
Working in a new record, working on perfecting the tour, working on continuing relationships with the MC’s I ‘ve got. I’m working with Flow Dan, working with Daddy Freddy and it’s exciting. It is exciting to see how can we develop.. Flow Dan, myself, Freddy, we are trying to find new vocabularies and new ways to work with each other and new language for what we do as well. We are contempt to just stop at a certain point. You have to push yourself and better yourself to learn about yourself. And that’s why I’ve kept changing…
So The Bug next album may sound like anything we have heard before?
No, I don’t think is vague like that. I like the fact that Bug has a thread and theme. If I wanted it to be something totally different, I would have released the King Midas Sound as The Bug…
It’s like a work in progress, as I grew older I realized is a craft, you have to be better at your craft and find a better way to communicate. It’s a learning process. When you go into a studio and press record, it’s so open, half the time you wonder where did that idea came from but you more you think and you try to meditate on why you do what you do, the clearer the connection between you and the music you create becomes.