Brvtalist readers probably don't need much of a Justin K. Broadrick introduction. The ground he's covered over the course of a three decade career is unprecedented. From his rise through grindcore in the late 80's, to pioneering a whole new sound with Godflesh soon after, the decades that followed saw even more experimentation and genre hopping. Broadrick would go on to pursue dub, jungle, techno and more in what has become a truly prolific body of work. In the early 2010s fans saw the emergence of a new project that instantly felt like it combined his vast sonic library into something that was very fresh and forward-thinking. JK Flesh has since released a handful of singles and EPs and three stellar albums, including a huge split with Prurient and 2016's monster, Rise Above.
When the organizers of Berlin Atonal released the lineup for this year's festival and on it appeared a live collaboration between JK Flesh and legendary techno duo, Orphx, a lot of eyes surely widened. With the festival coming up next week, and the live premiere happening on the Main Stage on Friday, we thought it would be a great time to talk to Broadrick about JK Flesh, some personal background and what we can expect from the performance. Please find our Q&A below.
The Brvtalist: I would love to hear about the inception of JK Flesh. You've always experimented with different aliases and monikers - from Godflesh of course, to Techno-Animal and Jesu. What did you want to do with JK Flesh and how do you see it fitting in with the rest of your body of work?
Justin K. Broadrick: I essentially began producing solo electronica that embodied all corners of beat oriented electronic music (techno, hip hop, drum and bass, etc.) in the early 90's, if not even the 80's! Nearly everything usually got absorbed into collaborative projects, but some didn't, and often this material just sat gathering dust whilst I constantly put my energies into the collaborative projects. I felt in the late 2000's that I finally wished to pursue this solo, and the JK Flesh pseudonym seemed most fitting since this was my pseudonym in the projects Kevin Martin and I shared: Techno-Animal, The Sidewinder, etc. and was somewhat non aligned. It feels free for me to explore the heavier side of what I love about techno, grime/garage, drum and bass, etc.
Of course, prior to all this I had released drum and bass solo on a number of UK jungle labels, as Tech-Level 2 and Youpho in the late 90's/early 2000's. I also had a short lived minimal techno label in the mid nineties, Lo Fibre, which had 4 x 12" single releases, one being an EP from The Sidewinder.
TB: Your love of industrial and even power electronics is well documented. I'm curious as to how far back your interest in techno goes? Were you into the Birmingham scene in the 90's?
JKB: Absolutely a dedicated follower of techno! We were at early raves in the 90's in London, seeing Jeff Mills and Plastikman when they first appeared in the UK. I remember seeing Aphex Twin supporting Orbital. Also, Karl O'connor / Regis / Downwards, was a good friend from back in Birmingham. He came to the first Godflesh shows. Unfortunately though, I left Birmingham before the scene really took off, but I was always there in spirit!
TB: Let's switch gears to Berlin Atonal. This year's festival hosts the world premiere of JK Flesh + Orphx, an incredible collaboration of legendary artists. How did this pairing come about and what can we expect from the live show?
JKB: We must thank Harry at Atonal for the amazing suggestion that we collaborate. As admirers of each others works, both Orphx and I could not be more thrilled for this opportunity! Somehow I had missed out on Orphx, but always heard them referenced in reverence. Then, coincidentally, heard them for the first time this year and loved their work immediately! Besides the unexpected ;) expect a real meeting of our sound concepts.
TB: Talk about the difference performing with more guitar driven material vs. pure electronics. What do you like or dislike about each?
JKB: I love both for many different reasons. As a kid, the guitar was the first instrument I gravitated to, but at the same time played with anything electronic I could get my hands near. Fortunately, my step father taught me the basics of guitar, but he also was very fond of electronics, and he owned some basic equipment. Never a synth though!
My task with performing electronically is to translate the same energy I experience or attempt to convey with a guitar through the electronics. Kevin and I, with Techno-Animal, achieved this via the manipulation of fx/mixing desks. Of course that was mostly the 90's. Now this energy needs to be translated through connection and manipulation of the technology at hand. At performances I need to feel connected to become personally disconnected, arguably easier with a guitar and a wall of sound/volume, Godflesh, for example. With that though, there's very much 'songs' being played and adhered to. I love the random factor with electronics. Even when there's the track and its stems in front of me - manipulation is still available for me to lose myself in, to achieve some sense of transcendence.
TB: What's next for JK Flesh and while I've got you, what's next for Godflesh too?!
JKB: I'm very happy that the JK Flesh project is being recognized. It's something I've been wishing to focus on for many years! Considering I've been constantly accumulating material for this project since the early 90's, and still am more than ever, there's a lot to come and this is now a mainstay project for me.
Godflesh has been very busy since the reformation, and we toured extensively, by our own standards, for the last album, A World Lit Only By Fire. I think I needed a break from it, but have been slowly building material for a new album. However, it's not something I wish to rush, and don't wish to feel rushed. It has to be natural and pure.
We would like to thank Justin K. Broadrick for taking the time to speak with The Brvtalist. It is truly an honor. JK Flesh remains one of our favorite projects in electronics and we are thrilled to hear there is much more on the way. If you're lucky enough to be in Berlin next week, do not miss the live premiere of Orphx + JK Flesh on the Main Stage at Atonal happening Friday, August 26th. For more, please visit Facebook.