By Dimitri NasrallahThough he's been the ceaseless ambassador for some of the most extreme music to see the light of day since the mid-'80s, Justin K. Broadrick's range and tastes as a musician are so wide that few fans have an easy time wrapping their heads around all this legendary UK artist has accomplished over dozens of albums. To fans of punk and metal, he's the man behind Napalm Death's legendary grindcore beginnings. To fans of industrial music, he's the founder of long running industrial-rock pioneers Godflesh. To followers of electronic music and experimental hip-hop, he was the frequent collaborator of the Bug's Kevin Martin in shadowy '90s projects such as Techno Animal, Ice, and Curse of the Golden Vampire. To legions of today's indie-rock fans, he's the mastermind behind Jesu. All in all, Justin K. Broadrick's life and catalogue are a testament to an independent spirit that is rare to find in music these days.
1969 to 1981 Justin K. Broadrick is born on August 15, 1969, in Birmingham. "I was born in a pretty unpleasant part of Birmingham, which in the UK is renowned for being like the Detroit of England," he elaborates. "A really poor city, very depressed and mostly born from the industrial revolution. When I was growing up in the '70s, it was just a wasteland of factories and high-rise council flats. I was born on a particularly horrible, really oppressive council estate - council estates are just like the projects in the U.S. So I was born into a poor sort of family, but as much as anything, both my mum and my stepfather who brought me up came from the end-of-the-'60s hippie movement. They were from proper working-class roots. For the first four years of my life I was brought up in an actual hippie commune, and then we moved into a really shitty apartment above some really depressing shopping centre." Through his parents, he latches onto music early on. "What kept me above most of that environment throughout my childhood was the fact that both my parents had a huge obsession with music," he says. "And because they come from the whole hippie thing of the late '60s, they had a pretty wide range of music around. My stepfather was a guitarist in a local band. They were really influenced by Hendrix and stuff like that. My real father was actually a bass player too, but I didn't see him for the first 15 years of my life. He was a heroin addict." By the time the mid-'70s come around and Justin is old enough to be aware of the music around him, the early punk scene was beginning to pick up steam in the UK, and his parents bring the new music into the apartment. "They were the type of parents who, around '75, were getting into Lou Reed. They'd buy the national music papers, so they kind of had their fingers on the pulse, even though they were dead working class. When the Clash and the Sex Pistols started coming around in '76 and '77, they were into that. I was about eight at the time, and I got into it as well. By about the time I was ten years old, I was a full-fledged punk rocker." But by the end of the '70s, Broadrick is already developing his own tastes, and the fusion of punk and early industrial that was emerging in small pockets of the UK scene is what catches his ear. "The first thing I probably heard out of the house, when I was about 11 years old, was Crass," he says. "The band Crass had nothing to do with my parents whatsoever. They hated it. Even though they were into the early punk like the Clash, that stuff is arguably pop music. But Crass sounded fairly amusical comparatively. And because my drug taking, ex-hippie parents weren't into it, by the age of 12 I fell into early industrial music, stuff like Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse. When I played that stuff in my bedroom at 12, that did warrant them coming into my bedroom and telling me to turn that shit off." At that age, he begins to play guitar for the first time, picking up some of his stepfather's instruments that are around the apartment. "My stepfather had a small amount of really budget gear. We listened to such a wide range of music so early on that watching my stepfather play guitar was an inspiration. Oddly enough, he'd gotten into the krautrock band Can, and he was also a big Roxy Music fan, which led him and some of his best friends to Brian Eno. As a result, I heard Ambient 1:Music for Airports right when it first came out. And so when I began to play guitar, I mastered one bar chord and realized that I could any Crass song I wanted. That was pretty satisfying in itself. Music was like a dirty word when I went to school in 1978. Everyone was just into football hooliganism. But at home, I was absolutely inspired at a very young age to act in my environment, both in the form of music and to some extent against the oppressive environment I was in."