Features I by I 26.08.14

“If I wanted an easy life it wouldn’t have been with music”: The Bug interviewed

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The Bug Interview angels and devils

All day on FACT, we’re celebrating The Bug! For more, check out Kuedo, Mala and more on their favourite Kevin Martin records, the full stream of his new album Angels & Devils, and The Bug on London Zoo back in 2008.

Kevin Martin is a master of what he calls “future shock reinventions”.

He’s been musically mutating since the ’90s, spending that decade in experimental groups God, Ice and Techno Animal, the last a duo with Justin Broadrick, before introducing the alias The Bug in 1997. Tapping the Conversation, an abrasive hybrid of dub and hip-hop made in collaboration with DJ Vadim, was the first full length under that name, and was followed by a series of The Bug vs Rootsman singles on Razor X a couple of years later. But it was Pressure, released on Rephlex in 2003, that brought the solo incarnation to wider attention, with vocal collaborations with Daddy Freddy and Roger Robinson that demonstrated beautifully Martin’s knack for incorporating different voices into his blueprint without surrendering his own.

Five years later, Martin released London Zoo on Ninja Tune. Perhaps unfairly, it was lumped in with the wider dubstep trend of the time, although its rhythms drew on grime, dancehall, dub and industrial. More focused on songs than Pressure, it featured vocalists on nearly every track – with two songs in particular that grew ubiquitous in the UK underground, reaching a near-mythical status: ‘Poison Dart’ with Warrior Queen and ‘Skeng’ featuring Flowdan and Killa P. In 2008 too, King Midas Sound, Martin’s group with vocalists Kiki Hitomi and Roger Robinson that fused dub, lovers’ rock and the more aggressive side of shoegaze, released a single on Hyperdub, and Waiting For You the following year.

That Martin is prolific is beyond doubt. But despite more new solo material in the interim between London Zoo and now a clutch of Acid Ragga 7-inches and the Filthy EP – Angels & Devils is the first Bug LP in nearly six years. It’s also Martin’s most ambitious to date, and not just because he moved from London to Berlin and widened his narrative scope to include not just the megalopolis, but also what lies above and below. Much like its title, the sequencing of Angels & Devils at first seems unusually conventional for Martin, with a softer ‘Angels’ half backed with a fearsome ‘Devils’ side. Yet Martin’s aim is not to distort the dualities of good and evil or ascension and decline that constitute much of the album’s thematic material, but, he says, to represent the place “where those polar opposites collide”.

His choice of collaborators, from Justin Broadrick and Miss Red to Grouper and Flowdan, mirrors that ambition. Few would attempt to make an album featuring Roll Deep’s Manga and Warrior Queen alongside Inga Copeland, Death Grips and Gonjasufi, and fewer still could make such an album cohere. But Angels & Devils, which opens with Grouper’s otherworldly vocals and closes with Flowdan’s tirade against politicans and fast food on ‘Dirty’, was written with vocalists in mind. That keen attention to the collaborators’ individual voices, along with a narrative arc that charts decline and decay, give it a solidity unexpected in a record so varied. Though Martin literally corrals the dual aspects of angels and devils onto the two sides of the record, there’s ambiguity at work, too. Tracks like ‘Fat Mac’ and ‘Dirty’, both of which feature Flowdan, may be the height of toughness on the ‘Devils’ side, but ‘Angels’ songs ‘Void’ and the towering ‘Ascension’ instrumental are sweet yet sick at heart – beautiful, but rotten with infection.

“I always feel like a bit of a lone wolf, I never feel happy in a herd mentality.”

After London Zoo and your work with King Midas Sound, what did you feel you wanted to do with The Bug?

I realised recently that there is a sort of overlap in some ways between King Midas Sound and The Bug and the work I’ve done for them both. I didn’t really go into this album thinking I wanted to sweeten up the sound of London Zoo, for instance. It was primarily that I wanted to stretch the parameters of London Zoo in both directions simultaneously. I wanted it to be more beautiful on one hand, and more ugly on the other, and I think it was a case of having to come to a decision whether I wanted to completely jettison my previous sound, or to continue and try and craft what I’d already done.

There was a bit of soul searching because every sentence seemed to be dubstep this or dubstep that for journalists or people I met, and while I have many friends in that area and it helped me, I just never felt comfortable with being perceived as a dubstep artist. So it was like, what do I do here? Do I just say “fuck it” and lose all the work I put into London Zoo? The more I thought about other artists that I liked, the more I realised that it always feels more successful and more honest when artists continue a direction they’ve begun with, rather than completely cancel out the sound they were synonymous with. I felt it would be a bit fraudulent and also just a bit reactionary on my own part to say, “Fuck it, I’m doing something totally different”.

It seems like the increased interest in dubstep at the time was a bit of a happy coincidence for London Zoo

I was really fortunate to have dropped that album at a time when there were some very, very talented producers suddenly coming into play, and for sure a lot of those producers became very good friends, and I had and have a lot of admiration for them. Any scene or any collection of producers that can include people as varied as Kode9, Burial, Shackleton, Mala, Coki, Jamie Vex’d — that’s crazy in itself. It’s just I always feel like a bit of a lone wolf, I never feel happy in a herd mentality. The artists I have the most respect for probably exist in their own void, too. They come to terms with their own sound, and I can spot the sound that that particular artist will make within seconds. That’s what I admire and what I attempt.

It just felt strange, partly because what dubstep became is pretty hideous anyway, and also because it doesn’t fit me, which anyone who listens to the records will realise. There was a lot of criticism among dubstep fans that there were too many vocals on London Zoo, or too many different tempos, or whatever. For me, that’s just ridiculous. I’m very vocal-oriented and I value freedom of thought and freedom to move.

I’d like to talk a bit about Justin Broadrick. He’s really the epitome of an artist who can move between different projects while retaining a sound that’s definitely his own. You’ve worked with him pretty much from the start. What impact would he say he’s had on your work over the years?

I wouldn’t be producing if it wasn’t for Justin. He was a massive influence on me at the very beginning of our friendship. I even asked him to produce my first band, because I was so impressed by the sound of the first two Godflesh albums. We also just got on like a house on fire, like brothers from another mother. There was a lot in our backgrounds that seemed to culminate in us both needing music as a therapy. If you spoke to him, I’m pretty sure he would say the same thing as me: we didn’t make music to make cash, we didn’t make music to become famous; we did it because we had no other choice. It was about our only escape route, and I think Justin is as free-willed as I am. In all the years I’ve worked with him, I can only remember us having one miniscule argument, which is ridiculous when working with someone for that long. But I think I recognise in him the same need for the shock of the new, the same need to reinvent yourself to keep yourself interested, and just that passionate urge to connect with sound, and to need sound as a catalyst to navigate this fucked up world.

Of course, there’s stuff we don’t agree on. It made me feel nauseous when he was enjoying bands like Oasis, or insisting on watching Headbangers Ball from beginning to end – after about fifteen minutes I would be begging him to turn it over to Yo! MTV Raps or whatever. When I started The Bug, I was just shitting myself, thinking, am I going to be able to do anything worthwhile outside of Justin’s shadow? I thought I really had to find my own voice, and craft my own image. So of course there are divergences, but our instincts, our philosophy and our aesthetic are definitely very similar.

You say music was necessary as a therapy for both you and Justin. Is that the philosophy you share?

Music is a catharsis for release, or a life force. Having faith in music is unfashionable in these days of giveaway, throwaway tracks. But I think we both thought that music was revolutionary in our lives, and we still want to have an impact. We still cherish a record. I’m still hooked on buying reggae 7-inches and I’m still every bit as excited about discovering some new producer who’s got a sound that makes me say “What the fuck?!” Fundamentally, music is still my life. I used to think it was a means to bury myself in the reality of everything, but increasingly I’ve realised it’s really a parallel universe for me that I’ve been constructing, because the real one is just too much.

There’s a real duality to it. In a lot of ways I felt music’s fulfilled all my dreams but it’s also led to lots of other problems along the way. If I wanted an easy life or to make money it wouldn’t have been with music, so there’s the positive and negative, and the collision of the two.

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Did that collision between positive and negative inspire the themes of Angels & Devils?

I remember making an almost throwaway comment to Ninja Tune, telling them that I want to bring in more angels and devils in connection to London Zoo. The more I thought about the title, having come from a throwaway idea, the more it made sense for so, so many reasons, even though it’s a very traditional title that goes back to classic literature and painting and so on.

How did the title make more sense as the album developed? 

It was never going to be an album sequenced with two opposing sides; that came much later in the making of the record. I think it’s an admission that we all have to struggle with the opposites in ourselves. I’ve been told I’m a classic Gemini, so maybe I’m even more at war with my own personality. The more I probed the idea of how far I could stretch what I’d done before, the more obvious it seemed that this record was about contrast, contradiction, and the points at which polar opposites meet, inasmuch as there are devils in angels, and angels in devils. One person’s heaven is another person’s hell. All those things became very interesting to me over the course of making this record.

Yes, there’s plenty of bleakness and horror in the “Angels” side of the record, too.

We all want to believe in black and white; we all hope that life is black and white because then it’s readily understandable or navigable. But primarily, it’s the kaleidoscopic mess of colour everywhere that fucks everyone up, and the sheer chaos that surrounds us all that makes it hard to determine where the angels are and where the devils are.

The decision to split the album down the middle seems almost counter to that idea.

Ninja weren’t too happy about that decision, they thought it might be the wrong move. But when it came to actually compiling the tracks, it’s always been a case of me trying to find a narrative as I go along, or trying to understand my own narrative ambitions throughout the making of a record. I think my enjoyment of music is totally polarised. I realise it’s the middle mass music that does nothing for me, and that sheer functionality or disposability is the enemy. I have two needs that I want to satisfy with music. On the one hand, I genuinely want music that I can use as sonic warfare, or to go to a club and have my head completely destroyed by an insane frequency assault. On the other hand, I want to listen to shit at home that transports me elsewhere without necessarily being antagonistic.

That goes back to what you were saying about there being a bit of overlap between The Bug and King Midas Sound. Do you see the projects informing one another?

Well, Roger’s forever trying to pinch Bug tunes for King Midas Sound! And King Midas Sound is really a very democratic group; we argue like fuck about everything. That’s the difference: as The Bug, I take collaborations with vocalists very seriously and hold them in the utmost respect, but it’s still very much my world. I still see it as my solo project, and I’m answerable to no one. King Midas Sound is based around songs and songwriting, and The Bug has become much more centred towards songs, but it’s still more deviant than that.

Was it working with King Midas Sound that re-oriented The Bug towards a stronger focus on songs, or something else? 

It’s really just been about learning from mistakes. And I’m just being fucking greedy! Just obsessed with wanting everything from music. Why should I limit myself to just freeform analogue noise, or a functional club track? Why can’t I have everything in a track, why can’t I be completely overwhelmed and knocked out, as the best music does to me? That’s the ambition — not to say in any way that I’ve achieved that, but I’d rather have that ambition than settle for something flat in the middle ground.

Given all that, it must have been on some level frustrating when people said your music was dubstep around the time of London Zoo.

To be honest, yeah. And I don’t know where it came from, but the whole “bass music” thing. What the fuck is that? The best music always had shitloads of bass – my first band had three bass players in it! But that’s not enough. I love the idea of bass and space, but I always want more.

That’s the thing; I always hold an album dear even though at the moment there’s a very valid argument for just concentrating on just one smash YouTube tune after another and never giving a fuck about albums. That’s an exhilarating approach as well, but for me personally as The Bug, I like the idea of a strong narrative flow to a record, and everything about the record being connected: the artwork, the thinking behind it, and the choice of who to work with vocally. The artwork was crucial; the choice of vocalists was crucial; song titles are very important. It’s a total package, not settling for some half-arsed, throwaway product, because God knows that’s the problem with the music industry by and large. It’s so easy to make music now, easier than it’s ever been, so how can you do something that has any resonance and justification for its existence. I punish myself by wondering about this shit all the time. I should lay off and chill the fuck out, though I guess if I could I’d be making other forms of music.

“Bass music”, probably. What shaped the narrative as you wrote the tracks and compiled the album? As the album progresses from the ‘Angels’ to the ‘Devils’ side, you get this sense of decay and decline.  

Once I decided to sequence in two halves, there was actually discussion of whether or not to start with the intense side and end on a positive note. God knows I’m always fighting my own impulses. I feel personally I’m a very positive person, though most people will listen to my shit and come across me as being very intense. I guess I’m seen as being difficult because I’m trying to be a perfectionist when it’s not fashionable to be so, and I think that I always seem to have alternated between great positivity and misanthropic, nihilistic, everything’s fucked mode. And this record is an acknowledgment of that. Throughout the course of this record, very key things happened. I became a father for the first time while finishing the record, and undoubtedly that had an impact on me psychologically.

And how did that affect what you were doing artistically? 

Again, it would be two opposite reactions. On the one hand I was shitting myself with the responsibility of having brought another person to this planet, but on the other hand just saying, wow, this is an incredible thing. Having spent my whole life running away from the idea of being a father to suddenly being in that position has obviously had a massive impact. It’s hard to say creatively how that’s worked, but it made me all the more certain that I wanted some sense of beauty in this record, and some sense of utopian longing.

So the warfare relates to very personal battles really, with yourself.  

Undoubtedly. I always think I’ve fucked it up, whichever record really. I remember after London Zoo I literally shed some tears when I got home from mastering and back to the studio where I was living at the time and thought, “Wow, who’s going to give a shit about this, it’s just a flat piece of nothingness.” And I really felt that.

With this record, after I’d done it, I realised that this really doesn’t fit in anywhere. It really doesn’t. Whenever I’m asked what my music sounds like, I’m like, how the fuck do I sum it up? I just know that I’m an enemy of my own lust for creating something as individual as I possibly can, and I know I always want to hear shit that I’ve never heard before. When something I’m doing becomes overly familiar, I’ll scrap it and try again. Many of the tracks on Angels & Devils are rewritten again and again. For instance, the tracks with Liz Grouper: the sketches she was sent are totally different from the tracks that ended up being produced. I had initial sketches which I wrote with her in mind, and when I got her voice back, it made me rethink my initial approach and want to try and better my part of the collaboration. That’s the thing. The people I chose to work with on Angels & Devils are incredible voices in their own right, and it does add to the pressure. I don’t want those people to be ashamed of having collaborated with me.


The collaboration with Liz is one of the most unexpected on the record. How did you decide you wanted to work with her? 

I was obsessed by her records, I thought they were incredible, the Alien Observer album in particular — it’s just mindblowingly good. She was realising an emotional area that I wanted to free up for this record. The reviews for the Filthy EP were really mixed. Some were saying that this is the same old Bug shit, basically, and for me that seems strange, because working with Danny Brown on a Bug track, or incorporating elements of corroded brass, seemed very different to me. But I was even more determined that I wanted to come with the fresh shit that people wouldn’t expect on this record.

I think Liz strives for a real spirituality. Her music and how her vocal carries tracks seems to radiate an alien spirituality. It’s elusive but warming at the same time, and she very much has her own voice. Nearly everyone I approached on this album to collaborate with, I felt we’re all fellow freaks. All seemingly following a path of finding and crafting their own artistic voice. And she just really fitted that bill. I wouldn’t know personally where she fits in the bigger scheme of things, but I just knew that emotionally there was something that attracted me to working with her and seeing an amazing potential for the sort of sonic environment I could construct around such an incredible voice.

There’s definitely an outsider quality that unites many of the artists you’ve chosen for the record – a pack of lone wolves, as it were. It’s interesting what you say about Grouper being very spiritual, because having her on the same record as Gonjasufi really brings out the parallels between them that perhaps aren’t obvious. 

There are similarities to them both that are very evident to me. I think that with both their voices, some people might find them very beautiful and other people might find them incredibly sad, but that was the attraction to working with voices with that duality. On the other hand, people like Manga and Flowdan are synonymous with grime, though I know Manga’s tried to break out from that, and Flowdan too in a strange way. Much as he continually talks about being a grime artist and grime being what he does, I think he’s already surpassed that in terms of his development as an artist. I feel like Mark [Flowdan] has broken out from the comfort of being in Roll Deep to becoming an incredible solo MC. So as much as I’m fine to be referred to as a freak, if the guests I invited to be on this record weren’t, I would say they’re highly individualistic.

It says a lot for your own sound that tracks featuring such a wide range of artists can all sit alongside one another and the album make sense as a whole. 

That’s the challenge; how can this be a Bug album and not be seen as a compilation? That was something in the back of my mind throughout the making of it. It still had to have a feel I felt was personal, even though it was dealing with strangers. It was a challenge I loved. The vocalists that I approached all agreed to be on here because they were supportive of previous records I’d done, which was an amazing thing for me, because these are people I have maximum respect for, and it was very humbling that they wanted to participate just because they trusted me from previous records.

The tracks interrelate lyrically, too: Inga talking about civilisations and relationships disintegrating on ‘Fall’, and then the realisation of that decline on ‘Fat Mac’ and ‘Dirty’.

When Ninja Tune was suggesting which tracks to run into the album, in terms of teasing or streaming, whenever I isolated tracks I thought they were cool, but somehow it made more sense to me inside the whole album. They’re all parts of a whole.

The design of the artwork and atwarwithtime.com seem to tie into the music strongly, too. How did you conceive of the whole visual aesthetic? 

It was really working with Simon Fowler that was key to this. He’s an illustrator who’s become a good friend. He’d previously worked with Earth and Sunn O))) and co-founded the Small But Hard label in Berlin. Kiki Hitomi introduced him to me at a Goblin show. He’s sort of sickening, really, because everything he turns his hand to is amazing. He speaks fluent Japanese; I’ve heard he’s an incredible sushi chef; he’s an amazing illustrator and an incredible printmaker. I think illustrators and designers find me hell to work with because of the perfectionism. I feel that the artwork has got to reflect what I feel I’m doing with the music, and once you start straying away from that… He could have said “fuck you”, but there was a vision we both wanted to pursue with this record. There were all sorts of benchmarks I threw at him, from Hieronymus Bosch to extreme Japanese illustrators to books on logos of terrorist organisations, and he managed to reel all that in and just do incredible work, not only on the sleeve itself but on the logo and font too. There are going to be other things following the album that will carry on the visuals.

Such as your collaboration with Dylan Carlson.

I’m madly excited by the collaboration with Dylan. Ninja Tune were the ones who said that the tracks stood really well in their own right, and they might get lost if they were on the album because some people don’t value instrumentals. And it’s a really exciting collaboration because I think it’s going to be ongoing. I think we’re going to do live stuff together, he invited me to do dub mixes of the early Earth recordings, and I’m a great admirer of his work. Weirdly enough, considering I have a sort of love-hate relationship with guitars, it’s fantastic to work with a guitarist I have so much respect for, and vice versa.

“To think that tracks that were made in a shitty hole in Bethnal Green would end up attracting the calibre of artists that have said yes to working with me still never ceases to amaze me.”

Why the love-hate relationship with guitars?

My mother used to have speakers in very room in the house, and she used to pipe Deep Purple, Rainbow, Santana, Led Zeppelin – just a whole host of musical war criminals – into my consciousness, and it meant that guitars for me were just horrible. It seemed like everything that I listened to for years was guitars, and I guess that’s why I gravitated towards post-punk as a kid. I just wanted space in music, because the exhibitionism of all the guitar music she used to play was just repulsive to me. It almost threw me off guitars for a long time. Then that whole explosive post-punk mindfuck – people like PiL, or The Birthday Party, or Joy Division, or Throbbing Gristle, or Crass, or 23 Skidoo, or Cabaret Voltaire – these were all the artists that inspired me to make music as a young kid, and they were sort of anti-rock’n’roll, I suppose.

Post-punk wasn’t just a musical thing. Because that was a difficult time for me in life, it just addressed my relationship to society, to family, to the world. I grew up in a pretty unfashionable town way away from the live circuit, and John Peel was my lifeline. For me, post-punk was as much about the people involved in it. They seemed to promote the idea of questioning everything, believing nothing, and using paranoia as a tool of dissemination of social constructs. To chase every dream you have, to trust no one along the way, and to see the industry as your enemy. Those are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head that I felt were ignited by some of the great thinkers of that scene. Most of them were very heavily inspired by dub and reggae, too.

Dub has been hugely important to all your projects, I think. Why did it initially appeal back in the days when you were listening to John Peel?

I think that my attraction to dub was that you could just open up a track as opposed to closing it with multi-track layers of mid-range guitar. Deep dub was sort of inescapable if I was into the sort of crazy shit I was into. I remember very vividly that a very good friend of mine who was considerably older than me took me to his lecturer from college to smoke weed, and they put on a Prince Far I track called ‘Foggy Road’, which isn’t a dub track, but it’s a deeply smoked-out track which just sounded like some alien transmission from another planet. I grew up in a seaside town that was like a miniature version of Brighton, which was whiter than white, and just to have this unfiltered, deeply psychedelic reggae track played to me had a big, big impact. I remember it very well to this day.

Discovering stuff like On-U Sound, King Tubby and Lee Perry at pretty much at the same time was just mind-warping. I was just, like, wow: tracks can be really turned inside out, upside down and back to front, and still lead you into a real unknowable unknown — a musical void, in the best sense. From then, really, it was just that love of reggae’s constant yearning to renew itself and have future shock reinventions. I became more and more fascinated by dub as a philosophy as much as a musical tool, or as much as a way of helping tracks avoid their sell-by date. I saw echoes of dub in the writings of William Burroughs or in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, with their crazy edits, or in lots of different areas of art, not just music. 

Dub is metaphorically a sickness, too.

It’s a means of infection. I did a compilation for Virgin called Macro Dub Infection, because I thought of the viral spread as it infected all different genres and areas, and infected people’s brains and imaginations in a great way — potentially.

Speaking of On-U Sound, wasn’t there going to be a Bug collaboration with Adrian Sherwood?

There was, and that happened during the course of not really knowing what I was going to follow London Zoo up with. My first instinct was to do dub versions of London Zoo, because I’d never done a proper, dedicated dub album, and I’d become very friendly with Adrian, who’d been very supportive of me down the years, so it felt like it would be a great thing to try. ‘Catch a Fire’ was the first track that was ready to be dubbed out by Adrian and me. In the mean time, I spoke to very close friends who I trusted to find out what they wanted to hear. Would they want to hear a follow-up to London Zoo, or would they want to hear London Zoo in dub, and it was just unanimous: people said, I want to hear a new album, not reinterpretations of an old one. I wish I could clone myself into a Dub Bug to just do dub mixes of my tracks all day. I’d love it.

Going back to collaborators on Angels & Devils, you’d obviously worked with Justin before, but how was it working with Warrior Queen and Flowdan again? Did you wonder where you could go with them after ‘Skeng’ and ‘Poison Dart’ had had such a massive impact?

‘Fuck You’ was actually an odd circumstance, because Warrior Queen had recorded that track at my studio for her solo album, and Kode9 had written a rhythm for it. But she and I had sort of fallen out after the making of London Zoo, and we hadn’t been in contact for a long time. She contacted me and said she really wanted to meet, and we just had this big hug and apology session. I said, it’s all cool, but I want to put ‘Fuck You’ on my album. And she very graciously let me work that vocal. It was always my favourite vocal by her. And it was one of the hardest tracks on this album for me to realise because there were so many versions. Kode9 had done a killer version, and I felt her vocal was so good that whatever I did musically was never going to really better what she had done.

With ‘Skeng’, when we were recording it Flowdan didn’t even want to do the track, he didn’t like it. It was Killa P that forced Mark to put some lyrics down on it. Mark did his normal thing and I asked if he could do it half speed style, and we were just laughing our heads off. As soon as Mark went half speed and I heard Killa’s intro it felt special to me, but like everything I ever work on I have no idea if it means anything to anyone else. I can vividly remember at the end of the session him calling Skepta up and playing it down the phone, and Roger Robinson and Spaceape were coming to my studio at various points during the making of London Zoo and just brukking out like madmen to ‘Skeng’ and ‘Poison Dart’. I thought, shit, maybe there’s something here. I wasn’t playing at the time, and gave ‘Poison Dart’ to Kode9 and ‘Skeng’ to Loefah for them to play. And I was getting crazy texts from Steve [Kode9] saying “10,000 people have just gone ballistic to ‘Poison Dart’.” When I make tracks I’m looking for emotional impact and for tools that I can play live, but I have no idea if it’s going to mean anything to anyone.

Death Grips, Grouper and Danny Brown all cited ‘Skeng’ as the reason they wanted to collaborate. When I approached Liz, I was amazed when she got back to me and said she’d been playing ‘Skeng’ to her mum in her car two weeks before, and Death Grips replied to my suggestion to collaborate with the lyrics to ‘Skeng’. Danny Brown was just a massive fan of ‘Skeng’, too. It was a shock to me that London Zoo had the impact it had. And to think that tracks that were made in a shitty hole in Bethnal Green would end up attracting the calibre of artists that have said yes to working with me still never ceases to amaze me.

The Spaceape’s vocal on ‘At War With Time’ didn’t make it onto the album. The instrumental is so spare and open, and its lyrics seems to sum up so many of the themes on Angels & Devils: the idea of “the apocalypse of the mind”, “hope in ugly emotion”, or “beauty in the least expected locations”. Why didn’t you include it?

To be honest, that came after the album and was never meant to be on it. I wrote the poem and wondered who could really verbalise it, and it was down to The Spaceape or Saul Williams. The way Spaceape recited it was just genius to me, and made the words come even more to life. In a way, I wish it was on the record and had been completed prior to the record being finished. But it was actually written after I heard The Spaceape’s voice, after he’d recited the poem. It would have been obvious to try a more rhythmic undertone, but I just wanted something that was deep and resonant.

I want to talk about the extremities of this record, but that’s not to caricature those ideas. If anything, Angels & Devils is about where those polar opposites collide – what happens with the friction of trying to create something both intensely ugly and intensely beautiful, and how to fuck with my own perceptions.

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