Last week, Soul Jazz announced details of a new compilation, curated by label owner Stuart Baker and Kevin Martin, a.k.a. The Bug.
Titled Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds in 3-D, the two-disc package combines modern fare from Roots Manuva, The Bug, Harmonic 313 and more with music from the most radical figures from Jamaica’s digital revolution, in an attempt to display the debt these modern artists owe digital reggae and dancehall. It comes packaged with a limited-edition graphic novel by Italy’s Paolo Parisi.
Both Soul Jazz and Kevin Martin as individuals have been behind some of the most celebrated compilations of our times; as such, we thought it appropriate to ask them some questions and dig deeper into this project.
How did Invasion come about?
Stuart Baker: “From Soul Jazz’s point of view – I wanted to make an album of dancehall digital B-sides which to me always sound like a mix of experimental digital music from the present (even though some are 20 years old). I wanted people to hear them alongisde current sounds and realise the connection. To relate the music to science-fiction (as opposed to, say, reggae) by making a cartoon seemed a way of being seen in a different way. When Kevin asked if he could help it made a lot of sense to me and he was instrumental in bringing the new artists into the release which made the idea very strong to me.”
Kevin Martin: “I’ve been a long term bashment junkie and Jamaican 7″ addict, ever since being stung by Capleton’s ‘Final Assassin’ on the ‘Streetsweeper’ rhythm, I fell for the abstract bionics and future shock intensity of so much ragga. And as a regular vinyl buyer at Sounds of the Universe, one of the few quality record stores left in London, it was a dream to get a tip off from one of the Soul Jazz crew that Stuart was putting together a bashy versions comp. Since beginning The Bug, I’ve always felt evangelical about pushing ragga to the unaware, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. So I volunteered my services, and flatteringly Stuart let me loose on a disc.”
It’s far from your first foray into compilations Kevin – were you itching to get back at it?
KM: “You know, when I put the compilations together for Virgin, I felt it was part of a propaganda war [laughs] a way to turn people onto music that’s maverick, rare, neglected or shunned. Primarily it’s about helping people discover sounds/styles that may seem alien at first, and hopefully they will discover the same sense of revelation that I did… At the moment there is so much music out there, and so much choice, if I can help in a curatorial sense, to popularise dancehall, fantastic.”
What were you trying to get achieve exactly with the comp – who’s your target audience with it, for instance, and what links these tracks for you/what criteria is there for a track being included? Did the it fall into place easily, or was it more arduous?
SB: “From Soul Jazz Records point of view, the audience is hopefully open minded and curious young (in mind) music fans. People who are into Kevin’s music, Kode9, Digital Mystikz etc. as well as crossing into electronic experimental music and similarly open-minded reggae fans. No experts!”
KM: “As far as i’m concerned, i’ve heard so many extraordinarily experimental productions from Jamaica, and in particular the post-‘Sleng Teng’ releases that have emerged since the eighties. Every slew of new rhythms would offer mad, musical surprises and seemed to aim for the next thing instead of regurgitating the last thing, tirelessly cutting edge without being anti-populist. And as a fan of electronic music, dance music, dissonance and intensity, I would hope that people who have previously ignored bashment reggae can hear the major originality on these tracks. I really cant understand why anyone who digs dubstep, d&b, electronica or any form of club music, couldn’t recognise the freshness of these cybernetic gyrations. This isnt a comp for nerds or trainspotters, it’s a passionate introduction for people who wanna discover the joys of dancehall. But most importantly for me, it’s about science fiction on the dancefloor, and wanted to include contempory mutations which show how other electronic producers have also been indelibly stung by Jamaican innovations. Raggamuffin music is always progressing, and it was crucial to keep the path open on this selection, and not just release a posthumous time capsule.”
What’s the title a reference to?
SB: “I just wanted to make something sort of science fiction, bit funny and obviously a reference to old dub records but also video games as well. 3D came into my head at the end which I thought was quite funny when I realised it could stand for digital dancehall dub.”
The Scientist Launches Dubstep compilation, Kode9’s new album and now this comp all have this graphic novel aspect to them. Tell us about the visual side of Invasion.
SB: “Well I didnt actually know anyone else was doing a magazine at the time – I suppose it must be a reference to the times we are in. My original idea was to do it as a audio play where someone talks over the music. But it got too complicated! Now I really like the graphic novel.”
Kevin – you’ve got a fair bit of other stuff on the go right now: Black Chow, the King Midas Sound remix album and various Bug remixes, as well as the obvious live gigs. How’s the balancing act going, and what Kevin Martin material can we expect to see materialise this year?
KM: “Yeah, to be honest, life is crazy at the moment. But totally exiting… I feel stretched, but in the best possible sense! The battle has been to clarify my own view of each identity, and find a vision for the future of each project. Happily that seems to have happened now, and new Bug material is rolling faster than I have ever worked, and King Mias Sound is moving from strengh to strength too. Whilst Black Chow continues to be a non-pressure, non-stress side world for Hitomi and I to get lost in, at our leisure. This year will see new King Midas singles, videos and a revoiced/reversioned album. Whilst Bug material is gonna hit hard too, very soon, and I will be going to Jamaica finally to put the final pieces of the new Bug puzzle in place, as I am trying out a fresh direction for Bug, working very closely with Daddy Freddy and Flowdan.”
Has King Midas Sound’s evolution from a side project of sorts to a full-on entity with a regular live schedule and albums affected the way you work as the Bug? There’s always been various sides to your work, but King Midas is arguably the most developed the more serene extreme of your work has got – has that made the solo Bug material even heavier, in contrast?
KM: “Ironically King Midas Sound live has gone into full headfuck mode, where Lovers rock has turned into apocalypse… [laughs]. The metamorphosis of KMS has been a joy, it’s a real band which is continually evolving in a really exiting way, and is now light years away from Waiting For You. The emphasis is now on psychedelia, intensity and overwhelming volume, as opposed to insular melancholy. By contrast it was definitely a bit difficult in the last year to get my Bughead on again [laughs]…but in the last few months i’ve made major breakthroughs discovering a fresh concept and sound for The Bug which is mad exciting, and seems to be echo the energy and explorations of this comp, and beyond – hopefully. I felt i had some unfinished business with Ragga, and the new Bug material is addressing that, albeit with the aid of my new modular synth fixation and an arsenal of analog drum machines/synths.”
You’ve just done an official remix for ‘Badman Forward Badman Pullup’, which must have been pretty exciting/daunting.
KM: “I’m a huge fan of that track, and it was in fact an ex-Soul Jazz label called Kris Jones (who now label manages Deep Medi), who invited me to work with Greensleeves, which was a dream come true, as I’ve spent so so many years worshipping at the alter of Greensleeves… But basically all remixes are daunting, yet I actually had fun with this one, as I had the idea of getting Flowdan on it, and decided to just up the aggro and exitement… [laughs]”
I’ve noticed you talking about quite a bit of American outsider pop recently, on Twitter, and in your end of year chart for FACT last year – Games, Dylan Ettinger, Balam Acab and acts like that. Is that something that you’re finding particularly interesting or inspiring right now?
KM: “Well I guess you know me well enough to know that I am constantly on the look out for new, original sounds regardless of genre, and more often than not, the acts i like most, exist outside of genre confines. This is a compulsion for me, as I find it helps me as an artist to feel energized by innovation and healthy competition. The artists you mention all seem really different and unique to me, but are all releasing high quality music. But yeah, “outsider” art of all forms is always of maximum interest to me, as it’s done for honest reasons more often than not, and exists outside of industry trends.”