The Bug - Louder Than You

Straight outta Paisley (sort of), Kevin Martin has made more albums than you've bought shoes. What have you been doing with your life? Enter the world of The Bug

Feature by James Blake | 07 Jul 2008
  • The Bug

The Bug is a leviathan of sonic assault. A love for extremity has propelled him from the world of metal to the world of reggae, with heavy as his watchword and sound as his guide. Kevin Martin has always been obsessed with sound and high volume, seeking to assault ears with intelligent brutality since he was playing sax with jazz-noise outfit God. His albums of industrial hip-hop are closer than God to this incarnation, but Martin himself says it all feels like part of the same journey.

"With God, everything was amplified and noisy as hell. It was just a huge emotional outlet; a way of me screaming my head off through my voice and my sax. Through that I met Justin from Godflesh. We got on really well, and we both felt inhibited by the areas we were working in, and so we started Techno Animal. From that, I got more and more into working in studios and more involved with idea of dub as a process, as a way of thinking and a process, and that was where The Bug started."

"Everything I've done owes a debt to dub, to be honest. I remember mixing down the first God album in the states. John Zorn [the famous multi-instrumentalist] had set [the studio] up and he did most of the production work. It was his idea to dub out one of the tracks. There was so much information that it was flattened by the amount of players. Laswell's people are used to doing all of that anyway, and I just sat next to them, thinking 'this is sounding so ill'. It brought me closer to the conclusion that I just wanted to work with studios rather than bands. When I started The Bug, I wanted to make what I felt was my first solo thing, but also I wanted to show clearly to everyone just how much of a debt I owe to Jamaican music."

As in Lee Perry, playing effects like instruments?

"Yeah, exactly. That was the beauty of finally getting to grips with studios - being able to manipulate the studio as an instrument. You can go much further than with a conventional instrument. You can actually match your imagination! There's no limitation beyond imagination. Also songs - the idea that songs are finite. Dub mixes are infinite and open ended. It just makes sense for so many different reasons."

Video: The Bug feat. Warrior Queen - Poison Dart

His new album, London Zoo, is an uncomfortable fit in the dubstep slot so many people seem to want to place him in. For one, the dubstep sound rose to prominence after Martin was already twenty-odd albums in to his career.

"Yeah, I've got a very strange relationship with dubstep. Basically, Kode9 interviewed me for a magazine when Pressure came out, and he told me about this scene he thought I might like. We got on - chatting, taking the piss out of the English - just having a laugh. So I went to FWD>>, and I was really impressed with what they were trying to do. Thing is, I just saw it as more of the stuff I'd been working with with Bug and Techno Animal. They were trying to do something similar, but they were coming from different backgrounds, and that really interested me."

"It's brilliant and frustrating at the same time because already there's a formula that's kicked in, and already the audience has changed. I played with Rosco and N-Type a couple of weeks ago, and it was all 17 year old white, male pill-heads, and that wasn't how it was. That's a pity."

Even if the crowd changes, Martin's love for the dancehall will not. Dubstep's popularity may have rammed clubs with drug-happy beat chasers, but he'll still be here long after they've moved on. "I've always maintained that I didn't want to limit the audience. I want the maximum amount of people, I've never been happy making music for the 'underground'. People shouldn't have to read about it to like it, they should just have a totally instinctive reaction."

And it works. It seems Bug's demographic is 'people who like this sort of shit' rather than any social set. "Exactly! Exactly. I enjoy the fact that The Bug is a bit more open to varied audiences. It reflects my life more accurately."

London Zoo is out on the 7th of July. The Bug will be bringing his brand of bang to Scotland, when he headlines Dubpressure in Edinburgh on the 24th, flanked by Warrior Queen and Flowdan, and supported by Unlikely. Dogdaze will be in the other room with Glasgow's Electric Eliminators. Keep an eye out for more info!