“In honour of this original, fearless, sensitive, artistic and funny man, think for yourself and question everything!”
With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to the revolutionary artist, political activist, and advocate, Mark Stewart. A founding member and vocalist of The Pop Group, Mark was an innovative pioneer of post-punk and industrial hip-hop, who has left an indelible mark on the music world.
The devastating news was announced by the longstanding label, Mute Records, who paid tribute to the legend on their website and Twitter. As of now the cause of death is unknown. During this difficult time, Mark’s loved ones and family request privacy to mourn their loss.
In a flood of social media posts, colleagues and admirers are paying their respects and sharing fond memories of Mark’s life and legacy.
Daniel Miller, in particular, shared his own experiences with the artist, saying, “I have so many wonderful memories of him – some bizarre, some outrageous, but always inspiring and somehow for a reason. His musical influence has been much greater than is often acknowledged. He was always encouraging young artists, especially those local to him in Bristol – many have gone on to become global stars. His warmth and kindness as a friend has always been something very important to me. We had so many laughs together, and he had so much creative energy.”
“Mark was the most amazing mind of my generation,” added Gareth Sager.
As a teenager in 1977, Mark Stewart embarked on his music career as a founding member of The Pop Group. The band’s innovative sound, political conviction, and eagerness to collaborate laid the groundwork for his later endeavors. Nick Cave himself recognized the impact of Stewart’s anarchic pioneering, declaring that his contributions “changed everything.”
Inspired by dub and reggae, The Pop Group released their debut album, Y, the same year, which went on to become one of the definitive albums of the post-punk era.
After The Pop Group disbanded in 1981, Stewart went on to team up with On-U Sound as a member of the New Age Steppers. On-U Sound became a hub for a diverse range of networks, including punks, reggae players from the UK and Jamaica, and free-jazzers. Stewart’s collaborations with On-U Sound continued to showcase his sonic experimentation and political activism, cementing his place as a trailblazer in the post-punk and industrial hip-hop genres.
Stewart’s activism extended beyond music, as he worked with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and became inspired by the emerging hip hop scene in New York. In collaboration with dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood, they created the powerful and politically charged album, Learning to Cope With Cowardice, in 1983. The album’s radical message still resonates today.
Stewart’s solo career continued with the release of As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade in 1985 and continued through the following decades with releases up to 2012’s The Politics of Envy.
“I thought I was making funk music, but a track on Veneer of Democracy supposedly inspired all the American industrialists, like Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy, while another track supposedly inspired the Bristol kids,” Stewart once mused. “It happens all the time. I’ve got this nonchalance that nothing is sacred so I’ll crash a Slayer guitar line with Rotterdam gabba beats. For me, it’s like colours. I grew up doing montages; like I did this collage of Ronald Reagan’s head on this gay porno cowboy. In fact, I’ve never really grown up at all. I’m still trying to put round things into square holes.”
In 2010, The Pop Group reformed, fueled by a renewed sense of political urgency, for a series of explosive live performances and two new studio albums. Their final performance with Stewart was at the invitation of Terry Hall for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. Stewart’s impact on the music world and his tireless activism will continue to inspire generations to come.
He went on to release several solo albums and collaborate with a diverse range of artists, including Trent Reznor, Tricky, Massive Attack, Chicks on Speed, ADULT, and Primal Scream. In 2005, he curated a collection of his best work, entitled Kiss the Future, released on Soul Jazz Records. Additionally, Stewart was a prolific and conceptual artist.
Sadly, Mark Stewart passed away on Friday, April 21st, 2023, at the age of 62. His untimely passing is a great loss to the music world, but his legacy and spirit will undoubtedly continue to inspire and influence future generations of musicians and activists.
“As Sufis say; there is no such thing as death, no one is going to die, but since death is so valuable, it has been hidden in the safe of fears.” – Mute Records
— Mute (@MuteUK) April 21, 2023