The Ninja Tune ambassador Kevin Martin, better known as The Bug, is about to put the pressure on us. On Thursday, November 17, he will launch his regular night at Gretchen called, don’t be surprised, “Pressure”! Also on board for the first one he invited the Japanese Goth-Trad, reggae singer Miss Red from Israel and Terror Danjah, Flowdan and Lady Chann from the UK. Bringing his own sound system to Gretchen will guarantee a bass that will move you automatically. This night is definitely something for the sound nerds. We thought it was about time to sit down and talk.
Jamie: So you have moved from the UK to Berlin and brought your monstrous sound system with you, which we can’t deny we are very happy about. What made you choose Berlin as your new residence?
The Bug: I had always loved getting lost in Berlin’s atmosphere. It had always been first and foremost a music city, offering 24 hour convenience, artistic dissidence and political awareness. So it was a no brainer. London is now only affordable to the rich and, like Manhattan or Tokyo, it has become a playground for the rich, and it’s artistic heart and soul has been ripped out.
Jamie: You have had countless projects, collabs and groups that you have formed with many other great acts and artists. During the last years one of them seemed to stand out of the rest, your King Midas Sound project with poet Roger Robinson and singer Kiki Hitomi. Where have you met and what made you want to work with them?
The Bug: I had known Roger for maybe 20 years. We were introduced by a mutual friend (A-Cydes), and at that time, I had only recently discovered Roger’s incredible Poetry, voice, tone and delivery via his work with Chocolate Art Project, so it was a sweet coincidence to meet him at that time. We clicked instantly and I invited him to guest with Techno Animal on a 12” and for some live shows with techno Animal. To be honest, I could listen to Roger recite the alphabet and still be captivated by his incredible presence. I had first heard Kiki and my now soundman Goh’s own band Dokebbi Q by chance on a visit to Tokyo and then again coincidently they played at Plastic People (my second London home…LOL) the day I returned from that japanese trip. So I went to check their show and was impressed by Kiki’s mutant approach and versatile vocals. So I guess the question is, is coincidence really coincidence or that fate you make?
Jamie: The sound of KMS reminds me of the sound of the 90’s, the great trip hop era, but in the same time updated to today’s productions with much heavier baselines and clearer beats. Do you produce the beats yourself alone and then show them to Roger and Kiki, or do you guys work on the music together?
The Bug: Nah, I’m a musical dictator when it comes to King Midas Sound…Hahaha! Luckily they trust me and we share the same taste for musical pioneers, compositional freshness and surprise. And you know, when Trip Hop first emerged I thought it was kinda boring. It seemed like watered down Hip Hop, without the innovation and edge that had attracted me to Hip Hop. There was far more psychedelic Hip Hop that was far trippier than the Trip Hop herd. Although gotta say Tricky’s first album was a classic!
Jamie: Back to The Bug, what was it like to live in London back in the 90’s, when this city was a melting pot for music and definitely the place to be for any musician from all over Europe?
The Bug: I was always broke, living in poor areas, trying to survive, psychologically, physically, naturally and financially. But music was, and has always been, my obsession, therapy, medication and salvation. And maybe periodically curse. LOL! So it was London’s continual musical evolutions, sonic revolutions and multi-culti explorations which made the city seem so vibrant and vital to me and my trajectory. Intinsic in fact. Continually having Jamaicans, Pakistanis, Turks, Africans, Sri Lankans e.t.c. as my neighbours ensured I fell in love with London’s melting pot tapestry and I was further smitten by its unenglishness. London inspired me to cherish the crucial importance of inter cultural interaction, social collisions, artistic friction and the fire of life generally. I loved and hated the rush of energy, freeform electricity and general madness that is at the core of the city. I was lucky enough to witness Jungle music’s explosion and Dubsteps birth first hand. And to generally have so many live musical experiences which would shape my own output.
Jamie: After a career of approximately 25 years what keeps you hungry and motivated?
The Bug: Music is in my blood, always has been and always will be. It literally changed my life and offered me a parallel universe to the fucked up world we all struggle to survive in. Music is a world only limited by imagination, so therefore, for me no limitation, as my imagination is as free as it is possible to be. Whilst so many governments are now attempting to limit movement, philosophy and cultural integration, my musical imagination remains as open as it’s possible to be. Life in all its goodness and badness provides constant fuel. Music is my way of translating my surroundings and attempting to understand myself and my relationship to life. It’s a war out there and music is my refuge and weapon.
Jamie: Being a well respected producer yourself, who are you looking up to and who has sparked your interest lately? And why?
The Bug: I always think other people’s music is better than mine and always suffer producer envy! And I’m addicted to seeking out new music, producers, vocalists and bands. Recently I thought Equknoxx album was pretty mind blowing, as it offered a seriously warped new format for dancehall. I always loved an Australian band called The Necks, who continue to explore how out you can take improvisation, Jazz and classical composition. Goth Trad’s new album and JK Flesh’s new album find a new compelling route for 4/4. Young Echo guys are constantly coming up with great new ideas. Terror Danjah is on fire right now. The British Jamaican MC’s like Jamakabi, Trigga, Lady Chann, Flowdan, Killa P e.t.c. are on fire right now. Working with poets Anthony Anaxagorou, Nick Makoh, Rider Shafique e.t.c. recently re-instilled my passion for Wordsoundpower. Mark Ernestus and his African collaborations keep getting better and better e.t.c., e.t.c., e.t.c..You get the picture? I am a music addict. Always learning, always consuming, always radar on!
Jamie: Let’s say you have a date and you end up at your flat and she says something like “Can you put on some romantic music?”, what would you play?
The Bug: Swans!…Hahaha…Nah I’m joking. Horace Andy, Al Green, William Basinski, Velvet Underground’s third album, My Bloody Valentine, Gas, Sigur Ros… Basically music that never fails to make me and hopefully my date swoon…
Jamie: What’s next on the list besides playing live? New projects or solo releases?
The Bug: New King Midas Sound album, new Bug vs Earth album, new EP’s for the floor, new Acid Ragga. New collabs I’m not allowed to mention. I’m very excited!!!
Jamie: Thank you for taking the time. Any message for all the Berliners who are looking forward to the Pressure opening night at Gretchen?
The Bug: Come get down and dirty, no wallflowers, please pure hip juice. Leave your cynicism at home. Come and celebrate the power of music to start fires. Let’s party hard with a superheavyweight shell down session.