Continuing the quality of acts that Glasgow reggae impressarios Mungos Hifi are bringing to the Artschool, the 12th saw London-based avant-garde soundsmith The Bug. Known among electronica cirlces for being originally signed to Rephlex Records, the label of Glitch-messiah Richard D. James aka Aphex Twin, The Bug has been on the British experimental scene for more than a decade. Consistently an artist pushing the boundaries of sound, and known for his varied musical directions, including ventures in jazzcore, hip-hop and a dubstep-style project titled ‘Pressure’ which pre-dated the term itself, The Bug provides a fascinating and edgy contribution to the current UK soundscape.
As for his performance, this was definitely not a night for the faint-hearted, as at times The Bug was seriously at risk of blowing holes in the monster that is Mungos’ Soundsystem, and in the ears of the skanking faithfull. Touring on the back of his latest album, “London Zoo”, released on Ninja Tune, The Bug was absolutely ruthless in showcasing his super-heavyweight ragga-informed industrial noise. Even the sturdy contstruction of the Art-school dancefloor was creaking worryingly under the unrelentless volume-assault.
However to those not afraid of a few decibels it was a night to remember, with massively gut-spilling basslines and crucial lyrics from featured MC, Flowdan, from the Rolldeep crew. As one of Grime’s best and most genuine performers, famous for his cynical style, Flowdan fitted in perfectly with the uncompromising sound of The Bug’s new material. Revealing themselves to be acute, informed and surprisingly congenial, both The Bug and Flowdan took some time to speak to The Glasgow Guardian in the back passages of the Art School
How would you compare your live sound to your records?
The Bug: “More intense, more aggressive, more funked up.” (I’m sure anyone living within a 5-mile radius of the Artschool would agree.)
In the cultural saturation of the present day, do you think there is still room for genuinely original music?
Flowdan: “Yeah always, obviously the most original music comes from the most creative people, and creative people are everywhere, so I definitely think there’s always space for original music. Formula gets in the way, people just want to do what they guarantee is gonna get a result, but people also get surprised that that don’t always work, so you are forced to try new things.
The new album sounds quite Dubsteppy, how is the growing popularity of Dubstep affecting you?
Flowdan: “Thats just affecting the money that you make (laughs). I’ve seen it before with Grime, it comes from one point and it goes to another point, via the media, but I don’t think Dubstep is gonna get the same fight that Grime got, because the people that come to the parties, they’re not young people, and they’re not black, so the media’s not going to fight it.
At the same time the Dubstep people remind me of the Drum n Bass people, where they take control of their scene, and they don’t allow the media to push it a certain direction, like to this day Drum n Bass is still worldwide, but underground. It’s hard to be both, but that’s when the people that spearhead the scene take control. I feel that Dubstep is gonna go in the Drum n Bass direction, so you won’t see Dubstep all over your TV, and people prancing about, but it will still become like a UK worldwide sound.
The Bug: “Dubstep has helped me, I mean I totally recount the suggestion that what I do is Dubstep, but I feel that Dubstep artists share similar musical aesthetics. I prefer a broader spectrum of sound, I prefer a more intense range of emotion, and I like lyrics and voices. But at the same time since Dubstep’s become popular, it’s helped people tune to my music.
Who would you cite as your major influences?
The Bug: “I’ve got stupidly eclectic taste. Post-punk made me want to make music in the first place, people like Public Image, Joy DIvision, Killing Joke, Birthday Party. From that just listening to Reggae, Hip-hop, Free-Jazz, music that had fire in it’s belly, music that had a politic, a style, was driven on intensity and that had a reason to exist. I was never a raver, I never liked the idea of music as a background. So for me the most important thing with music is anyone who’s found their own voice, and it’s an original voice, and they’re doing it because they have to, not to be famous or to make money.
Would you say there is a political or social message in your music?
The Bug: “ Yeh of course, if you listen to the album it’s very clear I think, in the lyrics and musically. I wrote for the MCs, so writing for them and working with them lyrically, it was an attempt to reflect the atmosphere of living in London and living in Britain, and living in the West.
I think Britain and America are paying the price for the greed of capitalism, and capitalism’s on its knees at the moment. For me so little music says anything politically at the moment, its almost like in fear of saying anything politically, so for me it’s crucial that I’ve made a record that said something, it wasn’t just faceless, it wasn’t just an accessory to a lifestyle.
One word for Hugo Chavez?
The Bug: “Haha, no, forget it, haha, that’s what I’d say – ‘forget it”.
You’ve done some Journalism yourself, is there any problem with being on both sides of the fence, as performer and critic?
The Bug: “I only started writing because I had no way to pay my rent, my girlfriend was paying the rent. It was all I could do to generate money at that point, but it was always secondary to music. I think it was a really good thing to do, to write about music. I think it’s almost a clash of mediums, it almost kills sound to define it.
It’s an incredible art-form as well to write about music, there’s a lot of writers I admire a great deal, but I think it’s a very very difficult thing to do. For me I used it primarily as a propaganda tool, for music that I felt wasn’t being represented, for people who weren’t getting enough publicity.
Your latest album is out on Ninja tune, but in the past you were signed to Rephlex (Aphex Twin’s label) among others. Why is it you’ve changed label and what do you look for from a record label?
The Bug: “I’m probably the King of being critically acclaimed and selling jackshit, so very few labels took me on for a second album because they were worried about sales. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if it’s a major or an independant, you’re dealing with the same human instincts and falibilities. What I look for? I left Rephlex because the distribution was poor and the promotion was even worse, so that’s why I went to Ninja Tune.
People seem to have very polarised reactions to your live shows, either thinking it’s amazing, or just too harsh, too grimy?
The Bug: “I’m totally happy with that, I’d rather have that than somebody saying it’s ‘ok’. I like passionate responses, I don’t care if someone hates it or loves it, but those are the ones I prefer, rather than someone saying ‘yeh it was alright.’