Musician and record producer Kevin Martin is best known for recording and performing as The Bug, however, has been and continues to be involved in a variety of other musical projects including: GOD, Techno Animal, Ice, Curse of the Golden Vampire and King Midas Sound.
Early musical groundings with bands like Joy Division, Sex Pistols, Captain Beefheart, Birthday Party, and Throbbing Gristle sparked his initial interest in music, as Martin describes, “It seemed like everything that I hated about English conservative monoculture was being burned and turned upside down through music…Post-punk music was tearing up rule books and asking questions of everything, particularly structure in terms of music, art, politics, you know, the law.”
Martin first began making music because he was attracted to the DIY punk aesthetic. He first worked with a four-track recorder and effects pedal. Moving in to the 90s London music scene, he began to sync his ears up to the genres of dub, jazzcore, ragga, industrial hip hop, dancehall, and dubstep. Equipped with his aversion to conservative musical structure he comments how discovering genres such as Dub “seemed to tear everything to shreds, burn it up, and rearrange the embers.” The punk-meets-dance music combination is one which continually elevates The Bug’s artistry in whatever musical endeavour he explores.
A previous collab with Dylan Carlson of American drone-metalists Earth titled The Bug vs Earth saw its live debut at Supersonic Festival 2015 and this year we bring you yet another Superspecial, Supersonic collab…this time with Justin Broadrick. In the mid 80s Broadrick was writing and recording guitar for Side One of the Napalm Death’s debut album, Scum which now celebrates it’s 30 years on this earth. Since then he has cemented himself as a pioneer in the Metal scene with Birmingham band Godflesh, who’s innovative music is widely regarded as a foundational influence on industrial metal and post-metal.
“Justin Broadrick has been, and continues to be, many things. Now based in his north Wales farm, the Birmingham native has thirty plus years of performing and recording under his belt, exploring the world of extreme music (a concept he has his own considered definition of) from feedback blur overload to the deepest of dub-inspired crushes to serene contemplation. Kaleidoscopic might be one way to describe his work, in how elements rearrange to create new, unexpected patterns. His latest efforts include a new live release under the guise of Final, his collaborative album as Jesu with Sun Kil Moon, and Rise Above, his latest album as JK Flesh.”
Justin Broadrick will be making his fourth appearance at the Supersonic Festival this year, unveiling his new solo project JK Flesh – a dense, atmospheric endeavour that feels like the culmination of all his previous projects combined. This seems like a fine time to glance back over Broadrick’s long and eclectic career, and celebrate one of Birmingham’s finest musicians in the process…
In 1982, a young Justin would take his first musical steps with his friend Andy Swan under the name Final. The endlessly prolific Broadrick would release no less than 50 Final cassettes within the next year and a half, and would later resurrect the project in order to continue his soundscape experiments.
Fall Of Because
Two years later, Broadrick would sew the seeds that Godflesh would eventually grow out of with Fall Of Because, alongside future Godflesh cohorts G. Christian Green and Paul Neville. The trio, taking their name from a Killing Joke song, recorded several songs that would go on to become known as Godflesh classics (including ‘Life is Easy’, ‘Devastator, and ‘Merciless’) before calling it a day a few years later, around the same time that Broadrick met fellow Brummie and sonic visionary, Nicholas Bullen…
After a chance meeting at a local flea market, Broadrick would join Bullen and wild eyed drummer Mick Harris in a fledgling anarcho-punk band by the name of Napalm Death. The three-piece refined their sound over the course of three demo tapes, before recording the A-side of seminal grindcore classic ‘Scum’ in 1987 and changing the face of extreme metal forever. Evidently life in the fast lane was not Broadrick’s cup of tea, and he and Bullen left the band before their debut album was completed, feeling that they had pushed this extreme sound as far as it could possibly go (‘You Suffer’ is still credited as being the shortest song in the world by the Guiness Book of Records!).
This lineup would reconvene in 1992 for Scorn’s debut album ‘Vae Solis’, an oft overlooked industrial classic that pits crushing Swans worship against tribal electronic beats – it’s sometimes hard to believe this was the work of the same three musicians responsible for blistering grind outbursts like ‘The Kill’ and ‘Siege of Power’!
Following his departure from Napalm Death (and after a brief stint drumming for industrial pioneers Head Of David), Broadrick reconvened with G.C. Green to form Godflesh. Using their old Fall of Because songs as a starting point, the pair would fuse the hard hitting gut punch of metal with the harsh, mechanical qualities of industrial music, creating another legendary band and redefining a genre in the process. Over the course of 7 full-lengths and numerous EPs, singles and remixes, Godflesh drastically reshaped what many people thought a metal band could sound like, and influenced a plethora of other artists from across the musical spectrum. At the height of their infamy, Broadrick politely turned down offers to join Faith No More and Danzig – one can’t help but wonder how different the musical landscape of the 90’s would have been if he’d accepted…
London based producer Kevin Martin had promoted Godflesh’s first show in the capital city, sparking a long lasting friendship between the pair. Justin eventually contributed to Kevin’s band God, and in 1991, they released their first record under the moniker Techno Animal, a startling concoction of industrial, hip-hop, dub and noise that still sounds fresh to this day. Broadrick and Martin would go on to collaborate many more times over the next few years, and even invited Atari Teenage Riot’s Alec Empire to help them out with the manic breakcore of their Curse of the Golden Vampire project.
Godflesh eventually imploded shortly after releasing their 2000 swansong ‘Hymns’ (featuring ex-Swans sticksman Ted Parsons in place of the drum machine that had provided the bleak, mechanical pulse for previous records), but out of their ashes rose Broadrick’s new project, Jesu. Over the course of four full-lengths and numerous EPs and splits, Justin would forge a more ethereal, optimistic sound that has more in common with the shoegaze movement than it does the harsh industrial feel of his earlier works.
Broadrick crossed paths with Aaron Turner when Jesu toured with Isis, and the two joined forces with occasional Jesu cohort Diarmuid Dalton and ex-Head of David bassist David Cochrane to create Greymachine, a stark, rhythmic juggernaut amidst wastelands of barren noise that almost sounded like Godflesh being re-imagined by Whitehouse. Greymachine would only release a single eponymous album, but the record still stands as one of the heaviest and most uncompromising monoliths in both Broadrick and Turner’s back catalogues.
‘Posthuman’ is Justin’s first official solo album, and it feels like a comprehensive combination of all the different sounds and styles he’s previously worked with, fusing together to form one imposing industrial behemoth that doesn’t really sound like anything else being produced in 2012. The cathartic blend of dubstep, industrial, metal and noise could be seen in some ways as a spiritual successor to the Greymachine album, but the project casts quite a distinct shadow over Broadrick’s extensive back catalogue.Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess…
Of course, this is only the most basic overview of Justin’s long and storied career; there are many of his projects we’ve left out here, such as the harsh power electronics of White Static Demon, the twisted breakcore of Krackhead and the vast, Throbbing Gristle-meets-King Tubby soundscapes of Council Estate Electronics. And this is all before we’ve even mentioned his recent venture into the great unknown as Valley Of Fear (alongside Skullflower’s Matthew Bower and Samantha Davies), and of course, the feverishly rumoured and much anticipated Godflesh comeback record…
With all these projects on the go simultaneously, it’s a wonder Justin finds the time to play live at all, making it all the more special when he does. It’s a real pleasure to have this visionary artist bringing his latest project to Supersonic this year, and promises to be an experience that no self-respecting Broadrick fan is going to want to miss.
JK Flesh will perform at Supersonic Festival on Friday 19th October.
There are several exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime collaborative performances taking place at this year’s Supersonic, ranging from Lash Frenzy’s all-star noise ensemble to KK Null’s performance with local tuba-drone pioneers ORE, and of course, the pairing of several string, woodwind and brass musicians with Eugene S. Robinson and Niko Wenner for the much anticipated Oxbow Orchestra. There must be something about the adventurous atmosphere of Supersonic, as the festival has a long history of inspiring musicians to step out of their comfort zones and join forces with one another to contribute something truly special to the festival. Indeed, these one-off spectacles and collaborations are part of what makes the festival so unique, and have provided avid concert goers with a veritable smörgåsbord of cherished memories over the years. Here are just a few of the highlights – which one was your favourite?
2011 – Fire! & Oren Ambarchi
Last year’s edition of the festival saw Swedish avant-jazz trio Fire! team up with Australia’s finest purveyor of drones (and frequent Sunn O))) collaborator) Oren Ambarchi, for an enthralling set that touched on noise, jazz, and musique concrète with the kind of subtle elegance and deft textural sensibility we’ve come to expand from these fine musicians. Evidently these guys enjoyed the performance as much as the audience did, as Fire! recruited Ambarchi once again for their third album, ‘In The Mouth – A Hand’, which was released last year.
2010 – Lash Frenzy VS KK Null
When these two noise titans clashed together two years ago, the results were akin to a nuclear bomb detonation, obliterating all in its path (it’s rumoured that there are still children being born in Digbeth with tinnitus to this very day). Holding the honour of being one of Supersonic’s loudest ever performances (and, as those who have attended the festival before will attest, this is certainly no small feat!), the Library was packed to the rafters for this one-off show, with a lengthy queue of dedicated noise addicts stretching around the block. Be sure to get there early for this year’s special performances to avoid listening from outside!
Providing some respite from the ear-bleeding antics of the aforementioned duo, 2010 also found Iraqi Oud virtuoso Khyam Allami teaming up with mysterious psych-rock collective Master Musicians of Bukkake for this exclusive performance. Named after the Bosphorus Strait that divides East and West, Europe and Asia, this was an extremely diverse set that sought to bridge musical schisms, joining Allami’s meditative Eastern melodies with the Master Musicians’ penchant for acid fried jams, taking the audience on an aural pilgrimage to the furthest regions of their collective psyche and sounding rather fantastic in the process.
2008 –Kikuri, feat. Merzbow & Keiji Haino
The pairing of two of Japan’s most extreme musical exports was never going to make for easy listening, but nothing could have prepared us for the deafening onslaught produced by these masters of their respective crafts. Masami Akita’s torrential outbursts of static and rich, layered walls of feedback provided the perfect counterpoint to Haino’s chilling, ethereal wail and guitar mangling histrionics, resulting in an eclectic and vibrant set that’s often spoken of in hushed tones by Supersonic veterans.
2007 – Oxbow Duo Presents: Love’s Holiday Orchestra
When Oxbow’s Eugene & Niko performed at the festival 5 years ago, they brought along an all-star ensemble (featuring Godflesh/Jesu mastermind Justin Broadrick, Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley and ex-Head Of David bassist David Cochrane) for an unforgettable and thrillingly intimate set, never to be repeated again (but fear not – Oxbow will be returning this year with a small orchestra in tow, and Justin Broadrick will also be putting in an appearance with his new JK Flesh project).
The performance was captured on tape and released on wax as part of Capsule’s limited edition vinyl series. Unfortunately all 1000 copies are long sold out, but there are still a number of great releases available, chronicling Supersonic sets from the likes of Harvey Milk, Tweak Bird and Iron Lung – the perfect way to relive those Supersonic memories and keep your excitement under control during the wait for this year’s edition!
A statement by Justin Broadrick about their difficult performance at Hellfest, we can assure you that every care will be taken at Supersonic to make sure that Godflesh are properly sound checked and have the correct equipment.
We can’t wait!
GODFLESH @ Hellfest. Okay, if you were in attendance for this then I am sure you are aware of how disappointed we were with what transpired, and we are sure you are / were most likely disappointed too.
I am afraid that it was all utterly beyond our control, we salvaged a performance out of what was a fairly ridiculous set of events. The power generator blowing during the set from The Young Gods, on just prior to us, was the catalyst for the ensuing chaos. At one point, performing at all was even in doubt. We had an hour allocated for both soundcheck and stage set up, since there is no soundcheck prior to the start of the festival, unfortunately, something that we really did need, but we were having to put our trust in the one hour allocated before performance, this one hour then became 20 short and extremely stressful minutes, with the stage management proclaiming that we must start immediately without any check of the sound, disastrous for us – additionally, the backline they hired in for us was not entirely correct or had faults with it, Ben’s bass rig specifically, my guitar amp was not right either, the monitors were awful without the time for us to correct them sufficiently, resulting in not hearing virtually any of the Machine in the monitors for nearly all of our opener ‘Like Rats’, the DVD machine for our films was also somewhat faulty. In short, this was an absolute frustrating catalogue of disasters, presenting the band in, for us, one of the worst ways imaginable. We do though consider that we somewhat forged a performance out of a significantly bad situation.
We played 40 of our intended 60 minutes ; quite literally onstage I managed to turn 30 minutes into 40 due to ongoing arguments, during our set, with the stage management.
We’re really sorry to everyone concerned that all this happened and hopefully this will all be rectified at the forthcoming GODFLESH performance at the Supersonic Festival, details below, for those who can make it, of course.
By Justin Broadrick