Remembering Mark Stewart

All of us at On-U Sound are devastated to learn of the passing of Mark Stewart. His importance and influence in the story of the label cannot be over-stated: he appeared on the first album we put out (the debut New Age Steppers LP in 1981), he appeared on one of the most recent records we released (Pay It All Back Volume 8), and he headlined the 40th anniversary show at the Forum in London last year.

Adrian Sherwood recalls: “I met Mark in the Revolver record shop in Bristol around 1975 or 76. I was 17 or 18 and he would have been 14 or 15 - a giant spotty schoolboy music fanatic. He would wait there for what he and his mates called the "van from Zion" which was what they called my reggae delivery vehicle carrying the new tunes every week.”

Whilst Adrian got involved with releasing records via the pre-On-U Sound imprints Carib Gems, Hit Run and 4D Rhythms; Mark made a name for himself fronting the funk-driven agit prop blitzkrieg of The Pop Group. Their friendship endured over the years, with the two collaborating closely on Stewart’s solo work, and Mark openly acknowledged as a strong influence on Adrian’s aesthetic. On Mark's debut solo album Learning To Cope With Cowardice they tried to replicate the sound of blown out cassette tapes that Mark would bring to the studio of Jah Shaka and other sound system dances. The Maffia were a shifting collective, initially featuring members of Creation Rebel, but later to include the famous US trio of Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith LeBlanc, known variously as The Sugarhill Gang, Fats Comet and Tackhead.

Adrian adds: "Working with Mark was something of a sound re-education. You spent a lot of studio time unlearning, experimenting and ignoring rules about levels to tape and studio dos and don'ts. You discovered how much fun could be had in the land of overload."

He will be hugely missed.