Mark left the building – only 62 years old.
Listen to his albums felt like planning Guy Debord-inspired actions or looting computers for hacking or rioting blasted on skunk. His music is anti-repression – questioning the power structures and control and making supreme noise filled with new options and hope in the procces.
The original punk rock style – primitive rock maximized through dramatics and angry slogans – felt stale in the late 70s – but gave way to an empowering do-it-yourself ethos: steal a guitar, invent a look, get some inspiration outside the music world, be it politics, art, drugs, film, or previously “unknown” retro or underground music. A healthy quest for inventive adventures filtered by authentic emotions is the hallmark of the very diverse post-punk era, sparked by cheap means of production, tape recorders and studio gear, no longer exclusive tools for experts working for big controlling labels. The artist/producer/sonic auteur suddenly became a option for the suffering musician outside the business, and a new underground cottage industry churned out a wealth of original material.
A climate perfect for the very young and slightly paranoid situationist poet Mark Stewart, who assembled a tight outfit recording under the ironic “Pop Group” name, merging punk’s hysteric and chaotic energy and a more systemic analysis of power with raw stripped-down funk mixed in a style inherited from the early dub sound-systems of the Jamaican parts of Brixton. Pop Group addressed world politics and essential 80s angst best heard on the “Y” album and inspired everyone from Nick Cave to Bowie – Marks face was even apropriated by ultra hardcore anarco-punks Discharge for their logo. Mark went solo, made the classic “As the veneer of democracy starts to fade” recruiting a stellar cast, the Tackhead crew, the studio wizards behind the elite beats of New York electro and Grandmaster Flash’s “The message,” the track that broke sociopolitical rap mainstream worldwide.
To trash the resulting songs, he added mix wizard stoner and raggae fanatic Adrian Sherwood, inventing a new hallucinatory industrial electro dub style: noisy, arty, aggressive, brittle, but funky as hell, making the ultimate non-cheesy adult “hard-hop” DJ-tools for the EBM-dominated underground dance-floors of the mid-80s. The records where centerpieces in the bridge between EBM & electro and Detroit & acid.
The masterpiece is the Mark Stewart: Mark Stewart album, where dusty samples of Erik Satie, Billy Idol, Trouble Funk, and David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto are crushed by Sherwood’s towering delay orgies and molded into a backdrop for the muso band to drop their sinister but sexy hyper-grooves. In contrast to the apocalyptic death-dance, Mark’s vocals sound hurt, intimate, a too fragile crooner begging for sanity in the middle of a global and inner riot.
Mark refused to be a star, dropped out and drifted absorbing global influences and continued to release with Front 242, Lee Scratch Perry and myriad of lesser-known talent. Go investigate yourself.