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The Bug

By Phil Freeman
Published March 13, 2007

Kevin Martin is not a guy most people would expect to be working with Cutty Ranks. A white punk from England’s southern coast, he first achieved cult stardom screaming and blowing sax for the noise-jazz tentet God, then collaborating (as Techno Animal, Ice and the Sidewinder) with God and Godflesh guitarist Justin Broadrick on close to a dozen CDs.

Now, under the name The Bug, he’s producing some of the harshest dancehall around for deejays like Ranks, Daddy Freddy and Warrior Queen, among others. “For a long time I was wary of dancehall, because there didn’t seem much space in there,” he told a U.K. journalist in March. “It was all flat, and then a Capleton version of Steely and Clevie’s ‘Street Cleaner’ rhythm called ‘Final Assassin’ got me interested, and from that point I had to find out more about this music. Disorientation through sound elements thrown in, apparently randomly. It’s like it’s striving to break its own rules, consistently.”

Martin’s own mixes are industrial-strength, radical even by dancehall standards. Drums sound like concrete slabs thrown from rooftops, sirens wail, synth basslines squelch and feedback shrieks. He’s put out a full-length CD (2003’s Pressure), the Aktion Pak EP and the “Gun Disease” single with Cutty Ranks, all on Rephlex. His latest release, credited to Razor X Productions, is Killing Sound, a two-CD set of extreme noise terror that’ll mash down the place for sure.

The first disc is all vocal cuts, the second all dub versions. Martin doesn’t seem worried about pleasing anyone but himself: not the hardcore dancehall audience, not the industrial rockers and metalheads who loved God, Ice and Techno Animal, not even the vocalists on his tracks, some of whom have reportedly expressed consternation at what they heard on playback.

But through refrigerator-sized club speakers, which is clearly how he means his music to be heard, it’s gotta be awe-inspiring indeed. “A lot of people who get into reggae want to keep it at 1970-1975, but the culture that begat reggae and dub is always moving on,” he’s said. “With Razor X it’s the friction, the clash of cultures that I enjoy.”