Mark Stewart and The Maffia
About Mark Stewart and The Maffia
Post-punk renegade Mark Stewart's early, Adrian Sherwood-produced solo efforts were credited to Mark Stewart and the Maffia (or similar variations, such as Mark Stewart + Maffia). Releases such as the groundbreaking 1983 full-length Learning to Cope with Cowardice were volatile, confrontational bursts of distorted dub rhythms and radical politics. Over the coming decades, these recordings heavily influenced industrial, trip-hop, illbient, digital hardcore, and other forms of subversive, counter-cultural music.
Bristol native Stewart first became known as the leader of post-punk cult favorites the Pop Group. While short-lived in their initial run during the late '70s and early '80s, Stewart's paranoid vocals and the band's fearless sense of experimentation made a major impact on the underground music scene. The Pop Group broke up in 1980, and Stewart (along with drummer Bruce Smith and guitarist John Waddington) appeared on the 1981 eponymous debut by New Age Steppers, a collective assembled by producer Adrian Sherwood which incorporated musicians from Jamaica as well as the United Kingdom. In 1982, Sherwood's On-U Sound released Jerusalem, the first Mark Stewart and the Maffia EP, which featured Jamaican musicians Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, Eskimo Fox, and Evar Wellington, all of whom played on several other On-U projects. Full-length Learning to Cope with Cowardice, additionally featuring keyboard player Desmond "Fat Fingers" Coke, appeared in 1983. Stewart's next album, As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade, appeared in 1985 and featured the powerhouse line-up of Doug Wimbish, Keith LeBlanc, and Skip McDonald, all alumni of the Sugarhill Gang's band. While Veneer wasn't credited as a Maffia release, tracks from both Learning and Veneer were compiled on the American-issued compilation LP Mark Stewart + Maffia in 1985. Stewart's subsequent releases were largely credited as solo releases, although 1987 single "This Is Stranger Than Love" bore the Maffia name. In 2019, Mute reissued Learning with an additional disc of previously unreleased material from the same sessions as Learning to Cope with Cowardice/The Lost Tapes. ~ Paul Simpson