Photo by Naomi Dryden Smith
Jerome Alexander played and wrote with Mark Keds in the fantastic Deadcuts. Here he writes a eulogy for his lost partner in crime and gathers together fellow musicians touched by the extraordinary spirit…
On Monday 13th at 8.45 am I received the call from Marks girlfriend/soulmate Natanya that I’d hoped I would never hear. Due to several health complications, Mark’s frail body had finally departed this realm.
First it was shock, then extreme sadness, anger and then despair.
And on this carousel spins…
All that loved him are raw so I thought we could at least express our love for Mark by writing him a joint eulogy.
The first time I ever saw Mark Keds was when I was 13 years old. It was on the TV Show ‘The Word’ back in the early 90’s. Senseless Things were performing the punk/grunge anthem “ Hold it Down “. I was transfixed at their energy. Their drummer Cass seemed to hit the drums like an Octopus on Amphetamine, their bassist Morgan fingers were gliding with random precision, their guitarist Ben staccato and tremolo guitar cut through like barbed wire and especially the lead singer who looked like an androgynous, vulnerable, cheeky and sneering kid with giant brown eyes and was known as Mark Keds.
Little did I know that years later I’d be in a band with both Cass and Mark and even join them for the Senseless Things reunion show in 2017 for that same anthem.
Photo : Svanja Block
Chapter One. How I met Mark Hammerton Myers: AKA Mark Keds.
In the late 90’s there were a few cool nightspots ~ my favourites being “ Club Kitten” and “ The Pony”. At both I’d regularly notice a guy decked out in a leather jacket, white shirt and pinstripe trousers surrounded by a coterie of beautiful women. I remember thinking he looked like a cross between Brett Anderson of Suede and Jazz legend Chet Baker. At the time I didn’t realise it was Mark Keds! But I could tell there was something special about him and the way he walked revealed that he had charisma etched into the very fabric of his DNA.
Then one evening my then girlfriend Heidi introduced me to a musician called Anna Page and her date who happened to be Mark. If you’ve ever watched The White Stripes ‘Dead leaves And The Dirty Ground’ video you’ll notice a blonde ghost girl~ that’s Anna . There are certain people you click with and connect with the moment you meet them and Mark and I were like two long lost brothers who had found each other . We ended up staying up till the early hours discussing Film, Music, Poetry, Fashion and great books to read and I realised I had made a friend for life.
After he left Heidi’s that morning she smiled and said “ You do realise that’s Mark who used to sing in Senseless Things ?” ..My jaw dropped this guy looked dapper and nothing like the grunge/punk who’d sung “Everybody’s Gone “ at Phoenix festival some six years prior.
Shortly after Mark called to tell me he was running a Poetry night called “Bring Your Own Poison“ which although it changed venues a few times settled on what became the legendary “Rhythm Factory” in Whitechapel. There you could see The Libertines, Eighties Matchbox B Line Disaster , Selfish Cunt, The Noisettes and so many other groups that came to define the 00’s. There was a really interesting mix of clientele too, wide boys, crims, models , students and musicians . Mark was instrumental in nurturing the East End scene and he made everyone feel welcome.
Chapter Two: The birth of Deadcuts
On New Year’s Eve we 2011 Mark came to visit me at the flat I was sharing with writer, Nina Antonia, in Barnes. He went through my record collection and one by one played ‘Talk Talk Talk’ ( Psychedelic Furs), ‘Juju’ (Siouxsie and the Banshees), ‘Real Life’ ( Magazine), “Six Feet Deep “ by Gravediggaz and The Birthday Party’s ‘Mutiny/The Bad Seed’.The guitars came out along with Mark’s lyric pad and as the first full moon of 2012 shone through the windows Deadcuts was born ~ this added to the spiritual potency and Sonic Magic of our writing and remained with us right till the end.
We were total partners in crime. He once helped smuggle me in and out of Paris for two sold-out gigs with Peter Doherty. I’d had my passport stolen and had not enough time to be replaced – and we were successful in getting in and out despite being searched by customs in our vehicle on the way home ~ But only Mark was the guy who could convince me to go through with this idea because he made me feel safe.
There’s so many stories I could tell regarding Deadcuts but one of my favourites was taking part in the Cancer research event at Bush Hall in memoriam of David Bowie who’d just passed two weeks prior. It was a little surreal as people with a high profile like Suggs from Madness, Jimmy Somerville and David Mcalmont were playing and Deadcuts were last on the bill for the night. It was a beautiful moment and we had Andy McKay ( Roxy Music) and Charlotte Glasson ( Nick Cave and the Bad seeds) join us on saxophone which only made it sweeter ~ We started out with ‘V2 Schneider’ and ended with ‘Lazarus’ ~ Mark was kitted out in suit trousers and a Blackstar jumper and gave it his all and still to this day I get messages from people about how heartfelt that performance was. Of the few covers Deadcuts did Mark sang ‘Lazarus’ with as much passion as it were one of his own songs and I believe that the lyrics really resonated with him.
Mark had massively eclectic tastes. Only a few weeks ago he told me on the phone how happy he was that Deadcuts had the chance and opportunity to collaborate with such varied artists as Flatbush Zombies , Peter Doherty, The Herbaliser, Beatrice Brown, Steve Nieve ( Elvis Costello And The Attractions ) , Kane Grocery’s aka YSB OG , Sir EU, John Perry (The Only Ones) and the legendary Reverend D Wayne Love (Alabama 3).
Chapter 3.“ Songwriting “
Without a doubt Mark is up there with the greatest songwriters /lyricists of all time. For me he is the equal to the likes of Lou Reed, Douglas Pearce, Debbie Harry, Richard Butler, Rose McDowall, David Bowie, Richard Butler, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Kurt Cobain. I’m so proud of our songwriting history and Mark taught me what hard graft was as we’d often write four of five songs a day. Mark was incapable of writing bad songs – just look at the output of each group he played in from The Senseless Things, Jolt, The Lams, his co write on The Libertines ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ And Deadcuts collaboration with Flatbush Zombies on ‘Aries’ they’re all gems ~ mediocrity was not an option for Mark.
Chapter 4. Mark’s Generosity and dedication to life.
Mark was the most complex individual I ever met. He had two sides rooted in extreme absolutes of positive and negative. Sobriety wasn’t a joke to him and despite a few slips he took it very seriously. He also taught me how to perform totally sober and when dealers tried to tempt me at gigs he’d make sure the bouncers threw them out. During his brief stint in Wildhearts Mark would go kickboxing with bassist Danny Mccormack and they remained close friends.
When it came to fans, Mark would always go the extra mile making sure they were on the guest list and often spent time talking to them before and after stage-time. If a fan had a talent Mark would go out of his way to showcase that talent. He adored Sophie McDonald’s talent and purity that went into her art and insisted that Sophie do all the artwork for Deadcuts albums. I just wished that the same amount of care he invested into others would have been equal to the love and care he bestowed upon himself.
Chapter 6: “ Reveal The Love “
In 2017 Mark and I began to write for the third and final Deadcuts album ‘Reveal The Love’. On February the 14th 2019, we went in to record the album in Konk Studios with Marc Waterman engineering. A few months prior to this Deadcuts had supported Killing Joke at Nottingham Rock City and unbeknownst to us, Martin “ Youth “ Glover was watching in the wings. Later Mark and I met at Youth’s house and it was agreed that Youth would mix the album. To say we were over the moon was an understatement.
Sadly from 2015 onwards, I noticed a change in Mark ~ his energy began to wane and he was struggling to breathe. One day on our way to rehearsal Mark barely got to the end of his street before having to stop and pause for breath . If you hear the lyrics on “ Reveal The Love “ you can hear that mortality was playing on his mind. Despite this Mark really wanted to live, buy a house with a garden and have kids with Natanya. He adored Natanya and was so proud to have her by his side making sure she was immortalised on the album covers ‘Dark is the Night’ and ‘Hit on all Sixess’ . His dream regarding their future was almost realised as he was in talks with Merck Mercuriadis at Hipgnosis and his music Lawyer Alexis Grower regarding his publishing and releasing of ‘Reveal The Love”.
My fiancée Holly sent me footage of the final gig we played at Slimelight in March 2019. I had been admitted earlier that night to the hospital where it was discovered I had an inflamed gallbladder and umbilical hernia pain, Against nurses orders, I discharged myself and went to do the gig and I’m so grateful that I did ~ the audience were very forgiving for my lateness and the show was great. At the end of the gig Mark came over and hugged me for a good thirty seconds ~ I recall thinking in the cab home that the hug felt symbolic. There was a special feeling in the air that night ~ a farewell.
Suffice to say ‘Reveal The Love’ will he released in memory of Mark Keds and what we consider our finest work to date will be a truly fitting epitaph for an incredibly talented and beautiful soul.
Rest in peace brother see you on the other side … I love you xx.
Quotes from fellow creatives and musicians about Mark…
Andy Cairns (Therapy?)
When Therapy? were a fledgling band we got a slot at the Trinity College Ball in Dublin and that’s where we first met the Senseless Things. We were fans but were nervous about saying hello. As a Northern Irish noise-rock band from the sticks we were often given withering short shift by established bands from outside the country. We got chatting to their tech, Mole, who introduced us before they took the stage. They were friendly, funny and very open about talking through their touring methods. Mark was very down to earth and chatty and on stage that night was a bundle of grinning energy. After that initial meeting we ended up running into each other at various times in clubs and festivals and even ended up borrowing their tech (Mole) and Sound Engineer, Harvey Birrell, when they weren’t on the road and we needed help. It was always a pleasure when we got a chance to hook up. Mark always had a sweet vulnerability about him that suited the band’s songs well, delivering the melody, fury and melancholy in equal measure and adding a jittery propulsion to the live experience. The last time I saw Mark was quite some time ago at a tribute gig for Wiz from Mega City Four (another talent taken too soon) and although he was very fragile it was good to catch up again and listen to him play those wonderful songs. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, bandmates and all those touched by his music and singular talent. Rest in peace Mark and thank you for your kindness and melody. T?
I first met Mark in 2004, when my sons were briefly in Babyshambles. Mark was part of that scene. He was sweet, gentle, humble and caring – admirable qualities that were rare, and stood out, in that environment.
When I last saw him, in 2017, he had become fragile and emaciated in appearance. We communicated on Messenger at the end of November 2020. I wish I had furnished him with more advice about his health.
My impression of Mark was of a sensitive, talented guy, trying to survive in a harsh, unforgiving world. xxx “
John Perry (The Only Ones)
I shall miss Mark. Always enjoyed getting up onstage with the Deadcuts. As a writer he had a nice sense of Simplicity and he was a good frontman too. His death was a shock. RIP
Dearest Mark Keds, wherever you may be right now, you’ll always remain a beautiful and talented man. x
Mark was a talented songwriter and a truly lovely person. I’m proud to have known him and to have watched many Senseless Things and Deadcuts gigs over the years. My favourite memory is of him onstage with flowers in his hair when the Senseless Things supported the Cure in Finsbury Park.
Lennie Mets (Mambo Taxi/Jolt)
I was playing in a girl band called MamboTaxi and working for a t-shirt company around the early 90ties putting band t-shirts from that time into plastic bags; Senseless Things was one of the bands whose t-shirts I was packing. I remember playing a gig at the Powerhouse in Islington and that was when Mark Keds first walked up to me at the bar and said I want your band to come on tour with us; I think I said something like I’m fucking packing your shirts every day you wanker or something. He was a bit taken aback by my rudeness but we ended up going on tour supporting ST for 2 weeks. I think that tour was the one of the best times of my life; like having a party every night with your best mates. I then ended up going out with Mark and then forming a band with him. I never met anyone with such drive and energy to write and record music and to keep pushing himself…and me; someone who introduced me to books and films and bands I’d never heard of. Someone who took an interest in the world from a woman’s point a view and could see how shit it was. You really felt like you had an ally. And I thought I met my soulmate – and even though I struggle with the term soulmate; he probably was. I couldn’t understand the demons that plagued him and I had to let go in the end; but working with him creating songs was a joy and we worked a lot. He was enigmatic, charming, infuriating and exasperating. I’ll never meet anyone like him. God Bless xx
Mark and I had yet to meet His death has been such a shock to many but Jerome has taken it very bad. They where finally going to finish their Dead Cuts LP. I was looking forward to doing vocals on final mix. Now final has a different meaning, so permanent, a loss and sad as he never had time to see through his plans I am sure many tears have been shed. I know Jerome is devastated but Mark lives on in songs as he should and will be always remembered.
I’m very sad to hear that Mark Keds has passed away.
I will miss Mark very much.
Mark McCarthy (ex Wonderstuff and original Deadcuts bassist)
I met Mark over 20 years ago when he asked me to play bass for a band he had at the time. He was kind, funny, sensitive and one of the most talented songwriters I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. We formed Deadcuts and made Dark Is The Night which Mark said is the best album he ever made and was most proud of. We were as close as brothers and I am going to miss him so much.
Keith McAndrew (The Lams/Flesh for Lulu)
I first saw Mark in September 86 through the window of the common room at Richmond College and I happily told my friends, “I’ve just seen a girl who looks like Johnny Thunders, I think I’m in love!” It turned out to be half true. I’ve loved him for 34 years. He could be difficult, of course but I’ll remember him for his infectious energy, the little shoulder shrug he did when he laughed and all the misadventures we had together. He was my partner in crime and my best mate! Musically, he stuck to his guns like no one else. He was all about the now and moving forward and as much as we loved them, reunions were anathema to him. He ought to be a legend and if you have to die young to achieve that, boom! There you go! I’ll fucking miss him, a hell of a lot more than I did already.
Nathan Saoudi : Fat White Family
Gentle and sweet, with a face etched into your memory before you even met him. Safe passage in the next realm brother.
Erick Arc Elliot ( Flatbush Zombies)
“I will remember Mark as the guy that showed up to the studio with loving and supporting energy. I was aware of Mark’s work with Senseless Things, and I got to know him as a friend through the songs we worked on together. Mark had such a distinct voice and style that really commanded your ear the moment you heard it. I’m appreciative of his life and I will cherish my memories with him forever. He will be missed.
Danny Mccormack ( Wildhearts )
As a man he was a beautiful soul and a glorious mess. God bless you Mark. Xx
A sensitive soul castaway on a mean and dark planet that he filled with joy and melody. I’d known Mark for decades, I’d supported Snesless Things When I was in the Membranes, interviewed him, written about him, bumped into him in Soho or in the East End when he was setting up his club, and argued politely with his about the pandemic which was the last time we spoke a couple of weeks ago – lots of typing but in the most generous of spirits.
Mark played once for us at Kentish Town forum supporting the Libertines. I’ve never worked with a musician who picked up and learnt songs so quickly. Literally a day with one rehearsal. And he wasn’t in great shape at the time….He was a true master, and all about his love of music. No bullshit or frills. His guitar was an extension of him. I feel very lucky to have been on a stage with him. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all that loved him. Rock on in peace Mr Keds
Sent from my iPhone
Mark was a Buzzcocks fan, in the eighties I had a band Flag of Convenience, Mark used to come to the shows, Then his band the Senseless Things supported us many times. He later went on to play with Jerome in The Deadcuts. He was a great guy and lived a rock n roll lifestyle. I have many memories… Steve.
Moonheaded poet strummed guitar gutter and stars,
body ran out of life and
the earth shook in the wake of his supernatural shift.
Those left standing may not judge what we haven’t lived.
His incarnation and his incantations are beyond polarity.
Only the movement of sound, and his fingers and lashes over wise owl eyes.
Music is magick, and Mark was a Mage, that he kept innocence through fire, bringing
Kindness in a bitter world, truth in insanity, sight out the dark, love beyond pain.
Deadcuts, we light a candle for Nietsche, we light a candle for our brother today.
Echoes of a thin, beautiful oldchild weaving and playing and singing in the rare filth of that old witch London.
God Bless babe, dream well. Rest in Peace. Love.
Simon Wells (Snuff)
I met Mark through music, but we were friends because he was so good to hang out with, always a smile and the time to chat. The world’s a sadder place without him.
Al Whiteside ( Skuzzies/Neck/Booze and glory)
They always say never meet your idols… I saw senseless things on the Word in 1992 & something changed for me.
Fast forward to 2008 & I found myself on a central line traveling back from Acton sat next to keds, having a really intense discussion whilst trying not to fangirl.
Apparently, it’s disappointing to meet someone you admire. This wasn’t the case.
He told me that selling one record or a million was meaningless & that the motivation is all that counts.
A truly humble, sweet man who was lovely, caring & happy to take delight in encouraging others to express themselves in the way they saw appropriate.
He burned bright & his passion had a profound effect on those within his orbit, no matter how close or distant.
A true artist.
“We were all very sad to hear of Mark’s death this week. We obviously played with Senseless Things quite a bit back in the day, and it was always guaranteed to be a great gig wherever we were. Mark was an excellent, enigmatic frontman, a great singer and writer of fabulous punk pop tunes. We were lucky enough to play with ST at the 4 for Wiz show and, more recently, support them at one of their reunion shows in 2017. It was great to catch up. Mark seemed in a good place and was as friendly as ever. Just pleased we got to see him play once more and reminisce a little bit. Top bloke gone way too early.”
Mark Keds was a beautiful, kind and extremely intelligent gentleman.
It had been a while since I last heard from Mark. He wanted to visit the Marc Bolan shrine with his girlfriend, Natanya, and as I lived nearby, did I want to meet up with them. I was delighted to hear from him, even more so to hear him so positive. Just as there was something magical about Marc Bolan, so there was something magical about Mark. It must be the petite guy’s thing. Johnny Thunders was kindred to the same effect – all three possessed a spark, were urchin warlocks capable of changing the energy when they walked into a room. Dazzling but damaged, Mark Ked’s sun was dark, his voice full of visceral sorrow, soul weary but still fighting. In his last message, he sounded relatively okay ‘I’ve been clean a long time & with all the weekly checkups & acupuncture I’m pretty certain were as safe as we’re ever going to be right now.’ Poets don’t have the same kind of hope as regular folks, there’s a sense of the fleeting in every greeting and goodbye.
Mass will be said for Mark at Holy Ghost Church, Nightingale Square, Balham, London on 15/01,2021. God Bless, sleep tight. x