Great news for a piece of music history.

Mark Stewart was one of the first wizards of Bristol's music scene and definitely a key personality in my research for my book on Bristol's music and art scene!

Book should be out in February 2019.

In the meantime, listen to the music:




Press release: 

Learning To Cope With Cowardice, the groundbreaking debut solo album by visionary post-punk iconoclast Mark Stewart, is to be given a definitive reissue alongside The Lost Tapes, a newly discovered cache of unreleased material.

Learning To Cope With Cowardice will be released on Mute on double vinyl, double CD and as a limited edition double clear vinyl (with a percentage of the vinyl sales going to the Mercy Ships charity) on 25 January 2019.

Listen to ‘Paranoia’, the first taste of what to expect from The Lost Tapes, a 10-track collection of newly discovered material – smarturl.it/mark-stewart

Mark Stewart himself perceives The Lost Tapes as a document that now possesses a storied significance: “It was a real adventure discovering this forbidden history, a twisted tale of Muswell hillbillies, French pirates and a Dutch schizophrenic doctor doing psychic archaeology.” Whilst Adrian Sherwood describes these works as characteristic of a distinct primitivism: “[The Lost Tapes represent] the early childhood of the songs before Mark and me conducted frenzied, scorched earth, slash-and-burn, twenty hour mental, manic editing sessions at Crass’ studios that led to birthing the finished album.”

Ahead of release, Mark Stewart will take over, in true pirate style, the 
BAD PUNKshow with 'Learning To Cope With Radio'on Resonance FMat 10pm BST on Friday 5 October.

After disbanding The Pop Group in the wake of a final performance at a momentous CND rally in 1980, Stewart had grown disillusioned with the UK’s music industry. Besides working for CND Stewart had embarked on a prolonged visit to New York the same year, where he encountered a nascent hip hop scene anchored by Kiss FM’s Kool DJ Red Alert. Together with the sounds of inner-city construction sites, in particular the heavyweight impact of pile drivers, his exposure to the pioneering cut-and-paste of early hip hop represented an epiphany that catalysed Stewart’s daring next project. 

For this vision, Stewart and emergent dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood, assembled a core crew of reggae players including legendary horn player and alumni of the fabled Alpha Boys school ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett as well as the ringleader of African Head Charge Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah. Alongside them Stewart added Charlie ‘Eskimo’ Fox, a drummer he had heard backing Ranking Dread, and Evar Wellington of classic British reggae band Merger, a bassist both The Pop Group and Public Image Ltd had previously shared a bill with. Other miscreants and affiliates added studio contributions to this central faction, including George Oban, Crucial Tony, Desmond ‘Fatfingers’ Coke and John ‘Waddy’ Waddington (The Pop Group) With this group convened and christened ‘The Maffia’ Mark Stewart, in his first ever collaboration with soon-to-be regular production partner Adrian Sherwood, forged a record that has to be heard to be believed.

Just as the broadcasts of Red Alert were interjected by the sound and fury of construction work during Stewart’s New York trip, on Learning To Cope With Cowardice the mammoth dimensions and ruthless rhythms of dub are ravaged by interference by way of industrial noise and plundered transmissions. Above the constructed chaos Stewart remains a commanding and mercurial presence, sitting at extreme boundaries within the mix and wrestling with themes of alienation, doubt, power, and political resistance. From the thunderous distortions of the eponymous introduction through the mixing desk sabotage and visions of urban blight on ‘Liberty City’ to the sublime subversion of ‘Jerusalem’ (an unforgettable rendition of William Blake’s poem) Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a blast of volatile soundsystem music for modern dystopias, the ones we knew back then and the ones we know now.

The backdrop in which Stewart and Sherwood produced the record was one of pressure and unrest, an atmosphere driven by severe social deprivation and unemployment, Cold War disquiet and fears of nuclear conflict. Exemplifying its pertinence to the temper of the time, the recordings that comprise Learning To Cope With Cowardice were shaped by sessions that Stewart and Sherwood conducted at the studio HQ of anarcho-punk outfit Crass, wildly creative stints that coincided with the riots that erupted in Bristol, London and across other areas of the UK in 1980 / 81.

In the severe dislocation and exiled exhilaration of Learning To Cope With Cowardice Stewart and Sherwood epitomize these turbulences, creating a disfigured and cataclysmic music that, as outlined by the theorist Mark Fisher, “captures the spirit of the times perfectly”.Preserving an astonishing sense of prescience – a trait identified in Stewart’s work by Mute’s own Daniel Miller - Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a record of radical devastation that still resonates.

Alongside this faithful reissue of the original comes The Lost Tapes, a collection that represents the outcome of a painstaking search and arrangement of previously unheard material. Brought together into a sequence of embryonic prototypes, frenzied dub versions and new archive discoveries, The Lost Tapes chronicles the early ideas and unknown stories that defined the outset of Stewart and Sherwood’s vastly influential work together.

With the seething assault of ‘Intro’ the collection provides a glimpse into a project Stewart originally intended for William Burroughs whilst ‘May I’ presents a never-before-heard spectacle of raw dubwise disorder recently discovered on an unmarked tape in an archive in France. Elsewhere there are significant coups in the form of ‘Paranoia’, a pristine yet tough alternate version to ‘The Power of Paranoia’, and in ‘The Weight’, another previously unreleased track that, in its forthright lyricism, reveals the vigour with which Stewart has, for many years, been committed to the Campaign Against The Arms Trade. Other revelatory inclusions include ‘Conspiracy’ the first ever collaboration between Stewart and Sherwood and ‘Jerusalem [prototype]’, a historic first version of Stewart’s defining anthem, originally aired at the fateful CND rally in Trafalgar Square that signalled an end to Stewart’s days in The Pop Group and initiated his solo career.

Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a vital chapter in the legacy of Mark Stewart & The Maffia, a project that would prove to be a revolutionary benchmark for many, from the innovators of the ‘Bristol Sound’ (The Wild Bunch, Smith & Mighty, Tricky, Massive Attack) through to the likes of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. Collected together this set realizes an expansive restoration of one of Stewart’s most audacious statements. As it was in the early 1980s so it is now, Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a masterwork of mutant design and a rude awakening of extraordinary bite.

LP 1 / Disc 1
1.         Learning To Cope With Cowardice
2.         Liberty City
3.         Blessed Are Those Who Struggle
4.         None Dare Call It Conspiracy
5.         Don’t You Ever Lay Down Your Arms
6.         The Paranoia of Power
7.         To Have The Vision
8.         Jerusalem

LP 2 / Disc 2
1.         Intro
2.         May I
3.         Conspiracy
4.         Jerusalem [prototype]
5.         Paranoia
6.         Liberty Dub
7.         Vision
8.         Cowardice Dub
9.         High Ideals & Crazy Dub
10.       The Weight

Pre-order Learning To Cope With Cowardicesmarturl.it/mark-stewart


Listen to 'Paranoia' on YouTube: https://youtu.be/VYI-ATbIGqE


Tune in to ‘Learning To Cope With Radio’ on 5 October - https://www.resonancefm.com/


'The River' - PJ Harvey

Very busy week here in London... Lots of fantastic nights of music. Working too much though.
Emotional rollercoaster too.
Soon this should all be over!
Transition times...

Sound of this evening:

'The River' - PJ Harvey (Is This Desire)

'The River'

And they came to the river
And they came from the road
And he wanted the sun
Just to call his own
And they walked on the dirt
And they walked from the road
'Til they came to the river
'Til they came up close

Throw your pain in the river
Throw your pain in the river
Leave your pain in the river
To be washed away slow

And we walked without words
And we walked with our lives
Two silent birds circled by

Like a pain in the river
And the pain in the river
And the white sun scattered
Washed away this slow

And we followed the river
And we followed the road
And we walked through this land
And we called it a home
But he wanted the sun
And I wanted the whole
And the white light scatters
And the sun sets low

Like a pain in the river
Like a pain in the river
Like a white light scatters
To be washed away slow

Like a pain in the river
Like a pain in the river
Like the way life scattered
To be washed away slow


For A People's Vote!!!

People's Vote!!!

March this Saturday in London.

We were there!! We'll get there. We love Britain, we love Europe.

#NoToBrexit #EUnited



Brexit seen by...

A few word on Brexit from British fashion photographer Nick Knight:

Nick Knight


  • This Saturday ( tomorrow ) at 12 join the march in central London to protest about Brexit and demand a new chance to vote .
    Nobody voted to be poorer and nobody knew what leaving the EU would really mean .
    I have been in parliament and talked to the Brexit committee and there are no benefits in leaving Europe.
    I have confronted the prime minister about the absolutely devastating effect Brexit will have on the creative industries and her response was to say trust the chequers agreement.
    I don’t , and there will almost certainly be no Chequers agreement so the future of the UK’s 3 biggest industry is now in total peril .
    How could these politicians be so reckless with the future of som many millions of people ? Ego, self interest and profiteering are what have really bought us to this dreadful cliff edge .
    We were all lied to .
    The poorest people in our society will be the hurt the most. Our society is polarised and racism and nationalism are on the rise .
    Of course not all the people who voted for Brexit are racist but you can be sure all the racists did.
    Don’t believe there is nothing you can do to stop this dreadful Brexit.
    Make you voice heard in whatever way to can .
    Brexit must not happen .


Brexit by Banksy:


Mezzanine your spraycan

Mezzanine. Remastered in DNA. 1 million copies per can!


Someone has already been using it....


Reportage : L'art africain s'expose à Londres

Dans le magazine "Vu d'Allemagne" de la Deutsche Welle cette semaine, mon reportage sur 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair - dernières partie de l'émission : 

L'art africain s'expose à Londres
L'artiste sud-africain Nu Barreto et son drapeau revisité
L'artiste bissau-guinéen Nu Barreto et son drapeau revisité

Pour écouter : 

Tandis que le Salon du Livre de Francfort ouvrait ses portes, celles de la foire 1:54 refermait les siennes à Londres. La sixième édition de la foire d'art contemporain africain a été exceptionnelle, selon les organisateurs... Partie avec quinze galeries en 2013, elle en a présenté 43 cette année aux quelque 18.000 visiteurs. 130 artistes étaient également invités.
Parmi les stars présentes, l’artiste égyptien Ibrahim El-Salahi, le photographe sud-africain Pieter Hugo, le dessinateur Kenyan Evans Mbugua, ou encore le plasticien sud-africain Athi-Patra Ruga.
La foire s'est tenue du 4 au 7 octobre pendant la Frieze Art Fair
La foire s'est tenue du 4 au 7 octobre pendant la Frieze Art Fair
1:54 s’étend désormais sur trois grandes villes: Marrakech, New York et Londres.
Le choix de Londres comme base s’est imposé rapidement à la fondatrice, Touria El Glaoui, pour son statut de capitale internationale, multiculturelle, ouverte sur le monde et pour sa situation géographique au carrefour de plusieurs continents.
Rencontre sur place avec ce reportage de Mélissa Chemam qui a également suivi quelques artistes. 

Pour écouter : 

'Out Of The Comfort Zone': Bristol's story, from Massive Attack to Banksy, Abbey Road Studios and Glastonbury...

Hello people, I'm now fully based in England again, still working as a freelance journalist for the international radio Deutsche Welle and the BBC World Service, also writing about art and politics for different magazines and websites...

I am working the last edits of my book on Massive Attack and the Bristol scene, adding a few updates to the story. More soon! 


Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone 

The Story of a Sound, a City, and a group of revolutionary artists

Over the past four years, as a freelance journalist, I have been travelling between Bangui (Central African Republic), Paris, Istanbul, Calais, Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan), the South of France and Ventimiglia in Italy, London and… Bristol. I have mostly been covering post-conflict issues and the refugee crisis for different European radio stations and magazines. So I went to Bristol to write about a brighter, engaging and inspirational story. To explore the culture of England’s West Country, retrace the history of my favourite music, a fascinating journey through an artistic and social explosion.

I decided to write about the band Massive Attack when I read they were travelling to Lebanon, in July 2014. They were about to perform at the Byblos International Festival and to visit Palestinian youth they help, in a refugee camp in Burj El Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. I contacted a friend who is a writer and music journalist to convince him I could write a book about them…

I had always loved their music and I know all of their albums by heart. Their engagement suddenly seemed very authentic to me; it completely stands out in the current music business. I started to think of a way to find out what nourished  their writing process and social involvement. After months of preparation, I packed my bag for Bristol in February 2015.

I contacted a snowballing list of Bristolians: some of MA’s co-workers including sound-engineer and co-writer Neil Davidge, talented instrumentalists, rappers and vocalists like Mike Crawford, Sean Cook, Andy ‘Spaceland’ Jenks, Krissy Kriss, Mark Stewart of the legendary Pop Group... And, six months later, Adrian Utley, Portishead’s guitarist. 

I also spent a lot of time in venues and art galleries, in Bristol – spending a day with Inkie or listening to Roni Size at the Hamilton House. 

I went to London, where I digger into Banksy's trails, to Paris – where I interviewed Tricky and met Nick Walker, then to Dublin, Nice and further, to see Massive Attack on stage.

All these meetings and events helped me recreating the key moments that made possible The Wild Bunch then Massive Attack and the scene that followed, from Smith & Mighty to Alpha, The Insects to Young Echo and Idles.

My book therefore retells the story of a rare group of unconventional and politically aware musicians and artists. 

The story starts with Massive Attack’s first album, the remarkable and inimitable Blue Lines, then goes back to their first influences. The Beatles, reggae, punk, soul music, hip-hop, Jean-Michel Basquiat and the graffiti stars of the film Wild Style. These include their very own hometown’s history, from the slave trade to recent riots… 

Then the book evolves until Massive Attack’s homecoming show in September 2016 and their coming projects.

Massive Attack and Portishead in Bristol in Feb. 2005


En dehors de la zone de confort
(Out Of The Comfort Zone) 
by Melissa Chemam 
Out in French in October 2016

English release: March 2019

March on October 20: People's Vote

So much has happened in one week...

I'm now based in London, even if I was here very regularly, and I'll be back soon at the BBC World Service, where I worked from 2009 to 2012.

Here people are facing an important moment for the future of their democracy, because of all the challenges linked to the referendum on the European Union in June 2016.

Let's hope it will help reassess and improve both the democratic values, the political system and society.

Here is an important event. Message from the organisers:

People's Vote
Dear Melissa,
When I helped launch the People’s Vote campaign in April this year, I never dreamed we’d come so far in such a short space of time. In just six months, we have shifted the entire national conversation around Brexit. A People’s Vote is becoming more and more likely and leaving the EU is no longer an inevitably. That’s all thanks to your efforts.
But we cannot get complacent. It’s time to press home our case that a People’s Vote is the only way to resolve the Brexit mess.
That’s why, on Saturday 20th October (midday), we will be gathering at Park Lane in London for the biggest Brexit march this country has ever seen. In June, over 100,000 people from across the UK marched through the streets of London to demand our politicians listen to us. We need this march to be even bigger.
This is about the future – the future of our country for ourselves, for our families and for the next generation. They will be the ones who are forced to pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences of the Brexit mess if we continue down this path. We must act now. The eyes of history are watching us.
Back in April, few thought any of this would be possible. But we have started to turn the tide, together. Now it’s time for one last push, to make sure the dream of a People’s Vote becomes a reality.
Together, we can make it so.
Sir Patrick Stewart
Actor and leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign


Musicians against Brexit

I had dreamt of this open letter. Here it is below. More quotes from this article published in the Observer today.

‘Cultural jail’: Brexit could bring booming industry to its knees

Top UK musicians tell PM in open letter why Europe is so important to their industry
Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof penned the open letter. Photograph: Lorne Thomson/Redferns
Last year, the British music industry posted record-breaking sales not seen since the commercially bloated days of Britpop. Revenues rose by 10.6%, the £92bn creative sector grew at twice the rate of the national economy, and the former rough-sleeping, street busker Ed Sheeran became the world’s biggest-selling pop star.

And yet the industry is gripped by the fear that Brexit will shatter that success and cause irreparable damage to the UK’s cultural influence and output. In an open letter to the prime minister on Sunday, organised by Bob Geldof and backed by dozens of pop, rock and classical heavyweights including Sheeran, Rita OraDamon AlbarnJarvis CockerSimon Rattle, and Brian Eno, the sector makes an urgent call for a rethink on Brexit.

“We are about to make a very serious mistake regarding our giant industry and the vast pool of yet undiscovered genius that lives on this little island,” the letter warns. It predicts that the “vast voice” and reach of British music will be silenced in a “self-built cultural jail”.

One of the signatories, the broadcaster and award-winning composer of choral music Howard Goodall, said he believed the time had come to put diplomatic reserve to one side.

“Bob’s letter is passionate and very emotional and that is one of the things missing from the wider debate,” he told the Observer this weekend. “A lot of musicians will have believed that there would be some sort of musicians’ passport arrangement. That’s what makes this letter so timely. People are going to lose their jobs if there’s no deal, and even if there is a Chequers-style deal, there will be no provision for this kind of professional travel. Everything is going to change.”

On Wednesday, the prime minister pledged to abolish article 45 of the EU charter of fundamental rights, which grants freedom of movement to EU citizens, and “bring in a new immigration system that ends freedom of movement once and for all”. The letter describes this as “a serious madness”.

Geldof said that everyone he had asked to add their support to the campaign said yes. “I am completely committed to having a democratic public vote to prevent the whole Brexit thing screwing us for the future,” he said.

The fallout for the industry and its stars, from its major touring pop behemoths to culture-innovating club promoters, is stark – and expensive. 
Last month, Lily Allen joked that had she won the Mercury music prize, the £25,000 prize money would have been spent on “visa applications after Brexit”.

Alex Sushon, a producer and DJ better known as Bok Bok, told the Observer: “I am definitely living in fear of having to secure weekly visas to European destinations in order to keep working. It is a daunting prospect.” Sushon, who runs Night Slugs – one of the UK’s most influential music labels and clubnights – said that curbs to freedom of movement within Europe would be “pretty devastating” for him, and for many more DJs and producers: “Probably 50% of my income depends on it.”

For Massive Attack, who have sold more than 11m albums worldwide, Brexit poses more than a financial problem. “I will never complain about paying taxes or extra costs,” said band member Robert del Naja this weekend. “But I find it morally repugnant that Britain expects the rules should be different for us.” Del Naja predicts that many more festivals will close and promoters and new artists “will suffer greatly”.

While Massive Attack remain local to Bristol, Del Naja is clear that “without Europe, we would not be the band we are now. When we played in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the audience there defined what we became. We would never have succeeded or carried on without the privilege of playing those places – that feedback creates your future.”

Speaking to the Observer, Al Doyle, a member of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem, felt that there was little chance of his bands having the same success if they were starting out now. “With Hot Chip, we didn’t wait to get big in the UK and then match that in Europe – we were always going out there and the margins of touring are so slim that even if you added a tiny element of bureaucratic cost – in visas, touring carnets for gear etc – it wouldn’t be feasible. It is completely plain and unarguable that British music will suffer – it just depends on how much you care about that.”

For small venue owners and record labels, the problems are manifold. Stephen Bass, co-owner of Moshi Moshi Records, the independent that first signed Bloc Party, Kate Nash and Florence + the Machine, predicted that “any change to travel rules” would have “a dramatic effect on the fortunes of the [bands] I look after and the crew of people involved in live shows”.

“Countries like America make it increasingly difficult to tour, and effectively cut themselves off from being a territory in which Moshi Moshi acts can perform and generate income. To have our near neighbours isolating us in a similar way would be a disaster for us and even worse for bands starting out in their careers,” he said.

Auro Foxtrot, who owns London gig and club venues Village Underground and Evolutionary Arts Hackney, said difficulties had been building since the referendum. “The exchange rate is a massive issue and when the pound crashed, artist fees went through the roof and lots of shows got cancelled [across the UK].” To him, the bottom line can’t be Brexit-proofed, but the impact on thriving club culture is immense. “Those things develop through exposure of new ideas, different ways of viewing the world, other takes on society. If you close it and slim it down, you cut off collaboration, understanding and tolerance.”


The open letter

To Theresa May:

Imagine Britain without its music. If it’s hard for us, then it’s impossible for the rest of the world. In this one area, if nowhere else, Britain does still rule the waves. The airwaves. The cyberwaves. The soundwaves. It is of us. It is our culture.
We dominate the market and our bands, singers, musicians, writers, producers and engineers work all over Europe and the world. In turn, Europe and the world come to us. Why? Because we are brilliant at it. No one quite knows why this should be but everyone understands it to be so. The sound and the words seem universal. It reaches out, all inclusive, and embraces anyone and everyone. And that truly is what Britain IS! That is proper Global Britain.
But Brexit threatens, as it does so much else, this vast voice. This huge global cultural influencer. We are about to make a very serious mistake regarding our giant industry and the vast pool of yet undiscovered genius that lives on this little island.
Why are we closing down these possibilities for ourselves and for those as yet unknown to us? Brexit will impact every aspect of the music industry. From touring, sales, copyright legislation, to royalty collation. Indeed it already has. As a result of the referendum vote, the fall in the pound has meant hugely increased equipment costs, studio hire, and touring costs all now materially higher than before – and not forgetting that squeezed household incomes means less money to go to clubs and buy tracks, T-shirts, gigs and generate the vast income necessary to keep the up and comers on the road and musically viable.
A massive 60% of all royalty revenue paid to the UK comes from within the EU. And at home, ANY increase in import duty will mean that ANYTHING that comes to us from outside will cost significantly more. We have decided to put ourselves inside a self-built cultural jail! The very opposite of wall-destroying, prejudice-denying, ideas-generating that is the very essence of contemporary music. And yet it is the much-mocked freedom of movement that so effortlessly allows our troubadours, our cultural warriors, to wander Europe and speak of us to a world that cannot get enough of [them], and which generates countless billions for our threatened institutions.
This is all a serious madness. We must take back our future.We must reform and restructure the EU. When Europe is in a mess, the Brits get stuck in. They don’t withdraw, they double down. They get in close and messy. Make Europe the continent that we and the people of Europe want. Not the one dreamt up in another time by the ideologues, or by the undemocratic fiat of mediocre politicians or the dull exhortations of a pallid bureaucracy. A new one. A different one. An exciting one. A rock’n’roll one.
Let’s rock Europe and let’s save our music, our musicians, our music jobs and our songs. Let’s save our voice.

Yours, Bob Geldof and friends.