As you get older it’s very easy to take someone’s existence for granted. It doesn’t mean you no longer care, because we as people are woven out of all we’ve said and done, those we’ve met, who we know and who we count as friends – those important people we’ve met and where our lives cross and recross. We are all a pattern of those instances. When somebody suddenly isn’t there anymore, even though you may have not seen them for weeks, months or years, they are still part of that pattern, your life, the story you have written together over that time.
I met Mark sitting on a wall one lunchtime, he was alone, eating fat Chinese chips – the new boy, arriving from the far-off exotic land… of Bedford. His family had moved here to take over a Mace store in Coltishall. Mark and his brother Darren worked in the shop at weekends and during holidays, slicing ham, selling bread, cans of coke and lager to locals and holidaymakers from the cruisers. Anyone who knew or remembers Mark will know the easy smile, his low chuckle, his ability to put people at ease, he worked that way all his life.
When we met he deployed that easy welcoming smile. We shared long fringes, odd clothes and an outlook that was vaguely counter to what was considered the norm, were different but the same, there were a handful of us, a tribe. We revelled in the wilfully obscure, dressed ‘differently’, messed with our hair.
Back at the beginning he changed the way some of us saw how we fitted into the world, the nonchalance of his difference making it easier for us to follow the same track. Be who you are, not what everyone else expects you to be.
He brought new delights into my life; Cabaret Voltaire, Scars, Tones on Tail. I inflicted my own marginal tastes back on him, all cemented together by a shared love of Gang of Four, Killing Joke and Joy Division. He always had ‘explorer’ tastes, something that saw Mark venture into lots of different musical typologies through the next 40 years – listening, playing, supporting – being involved – from New Wave and Post-Punk, through Art Rock and No-Wave, to Electronica, Break-beat, Dance, and Drum n Bass.
He didn’t cover himself in glory at sixth form, but that’s what tends to happen when you pick your subjects based on what you’re told you should do rather than what you’re interested in. He pretty much inevitably sidestepped that and went to Art College in Great Yarmouth – somewhere he could pursue the things that mattered to him – his pattern work, graphics, he had an eye for it, always an artist at heart.
On top of this he played, bass initially, but quickly moved via a drum machine to drums, An initial flaky set bought from some geezer in Mulbarton which looked more like something a marching band would use, he painted north west pacific coast Canadian symbols on the skins during a phase when we were really into that. Later we had a foray out to buy ‘a proper kit’ in Thorpe one evening which barely fitted in my knackered Cavalier.
He started like most people who choose this path by being in loads of bands who never made it out of various living rooms, bands with an overlapping and rotating cast of other nearly musicians trying to find their feet not really knowing what they were doing, practice times – but, always enjoying the sense of it, whatever it is that’s so enthralling about making a lovely, different noise.
Eventually Mark joined bands that made it a bit further and ended up on a stage in front of people; the crowds variable in size, shape and enthusiasm never puts the real people off, with him it never did, the adrenaline/dopamine combo of playing live is addictive. This led him into the weird creative chaos of trying to structure and play those same things in a studio – the art of recording things. He played in various bands including The Bah Humbugs, Steerpike, Yoghurt Belly and Pelt, helped out on other stuff, played for people, released tracks, toured across Britain and Europe, and most importantly had fun doing it.
Most people will know him for his links to music, he worked at Noisebox and Purple in Norwich, dealing with day-to-day running of things as well as engineering and producing. It was in the studio where he eventually showed how much of an autodidact he was, turning his hand to production with ease. He also worked at Access to Music teaching younger people further back on the same path the secrets of it, the art of making your imagination work for you. Part of his legacy is the knowledge he passed on.
Speaking to anyone he worked with you’ll hear the same thing – he was quietly dependable, could be relied on, put people at ease and centred them not himself – smiling and joking his way through each session, In all instances as people have remembered him – the message is the same – he was liked by everyone, from the most nervy newcomer to the old sweats who had been in bands grinding along for years. He had an uncommon gentleness about him, a confidence behind what could be quite a quiet facade, one that calmed people and put them at ease, a settling easy presence, a friend to all.
Quietly as he did this he carried on writing music, moving away from drumming to computers, samplers, sequencing and the hypnosis that is constructing patterns. Most of it never saw the light of day, A few bits and pieces leaked out to people he trusted, I guess it’s still lurking on hard drives somewhere – a cannon of work mostly unheard. He did do a few remixes under the various monikers, some of which you can still find out there on record.
As I’ve spoken to people I’ve heard this again and again, he was a lovely gentle soul, funny, kind, hid his talents under a bushel, put other people first. To his friends, he was someone loved, a smile and that chuckle you won’t ever forget.
Mark Ivor Watson
19th May 2023