Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Master Blaster: Kevin Richard Martin’s Baker’s Dozen

The artist also known as The Bug talks to Jennifer Lucy Allan about the records that changed his life, from anxious encounters with African Head Charge in Weymouth to being blasted by Swans at the ICA

Photo by Caroline Lessire

tQ favourite Kevin Richard Martin specialises in ego-exploding sonics, whether plumbing the depths of aural melancholia or blasting out cathartic riddims for colossal sound systems. His is a music that deals in extremes, from dubwise blasters as The Bug to intimate, ambient productions under his own name. Martin now has over 30 years of music making under his belt, having released primarily under his own name and as The Bug, along with projects including King Midas Sound (with Kiki Hitomi, Roger Robinson and others) and in groups God, ICE, Techno Animal and its successor Zonal (the latter three all with Justin Broadrick), among others such as The Curse Of The Golden Vampire. As The Bug he collaborates with MCs which to date has included Tikiman, Miss Red, Flowdan, Daddy Freddy, Warrior Queen and many more, and he has worked with artists and bands such as Death Grips, Inga Copeland, Grouper, and Dylan Carlson. Over the years Martin has also put on his own nights, designed his own artwork (as The Pathological Puppy), and run his own labels (including Pathological Records and Intercranial Records, to name just two).

His forthcoming album Fire is the third in the "urban trilogy" that began with London Zoo in 2008, continued with Angels & Devils in 2014. A political thread runs through this trilogy, from Tippa Irie’s opening lines in London Zoo’s ‘Angry’, to Roger Robinson’s dystopian evocations on ‘Fire’. However, where London Zoo was a cathartic commentary on the state of the world and our place in it, Fire exists within a dystopian end times. I ask Martin how he sees the world has changed from London Zoo, through Angels & Devils, to Fire. "It feels like the world is out of control even more so now," he says, "because of climatic change as well as social change and environmental change. I think Fire is about my connection with the outside world, as well as everyone’s connection to an outside world, which just feels completely run by lunatics. The New York Times ran a story saying that this isn’t just a crisis in terms of climate or pandemic, this is literally the end times. London Zoo didn’t feel like that. Fire is a protest at feeling so powerless in the face of such adversity. It’s made to end all parties… I wanted to make a Bug record that addressed the madness of the world. How you can do that within a club? For me, the answer is to find a form of release through energy, excitement, electricity, volume, and physicality, with MCs hyping the crowd even further."

Balancing this fury is his recent soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Return To Solaris, released in June. Thematically and texturally existing in a lineage with 2019’s Sirens, its themes swirl around family, loss and mortality. The latter confronted the fear and tenderness he experienced around the difficult birth of his first child, when his wife and son both underwent life-threatening procedures, whereas Solaris deals with the confusion and hauntings of that loss directly. "Becoming a father and putting my trust in a partner makes you question life all the more, and your position on the planet and time. [Solaris] is all about those big questions. Since I’ve had kids, it’s changed me entirely. Since my first child struggled to survive, I’m not the same person I was before. Having a child and welcoming love in my life, being the son of an abusive father – he could have won, and I could have always just been angry, pissed off, and I’m not."

Martin grew up in Weymouth and has spoken openly about his unhappy childhood with a violent father. Music became an outlet, an escape forged through an obsessive hunt for extreme forms of music which he paid for in his early years in Weymouth with a job at a bakery. "I was saving all my pennies up for records, which was my passion because it was my escape from the hell that I was living," he says. His mother played music in every room of the house, but also generated in him a deep contempt for guitars. "She had speakers wired to the lounge, the kitchen, playing terrible heavy rock all the time. It probably brought me to punk music, because it was a raging inferno next to Santana and Deep Purple."

Now living in Belgium, Martin’s Baker’s Dozen traces life-changing experiences with music, from his first meeting with Justin Broadrick, to hanging out with My Bloody Valentine and bolting from a flat the first time he heard African Head Charge. "These albums are all a gateway to a whole new world – somewhere else to get lost sonically," he says. "When I was choosing them, it held up some big mirrors to myself. I’m not joking when I say I found it really tough to choose, because it ended up being a deep soul search for me – my whole life is so intrinsically linked to music."

To begin reading Kevin Richard Martin’s Baker’s Dozen, click the image of him below

First Record

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today