The Pop Group was formed in 1977 in Bristol, when teenager Mark Stewart set out to start a funkgroup with schoolmates John Waddington and Simon Underwood. Inspired by the energy of punk rock but feeling the music to be too conservative, the group drew influence from the avant-garde, black music styles such as free jazz and dub, and radical political traditions. Guitarist Gareth Sager and drummer Bruce Smith were eventually added to the group. Soon after forming, they began to gain notoriety for their live performances and were subsequently signed to Radar Records. They appeared on the cover of the NME. Theorist Mark Fisher describes their sound as "both cavernous and propulsive, ultra-abstract yet driven by dance music’s physical imperatives."
"Everyone Has Their Price"
Songwriter Nick Cave declared the song "We Are All Prostitutes" to be the band's masterpiece, saying, "It had everything that I thought rock and roll should have. It was violent, paranoid music for a violent, paranoid time." Mark Fisher described the song "scouring, seesawing, seasick funk, a pied piper’s exit from dominant reality, fired by a fissile compound of millenarian terror and militant jubilation."
"It was very important that we did something that was ours and didn’t sound like anything else,” says Sager. “We appear to have drawn on a much wider variety of influences than most bands.” Complacency was never an option. “I get immense pleasure from risk, rising to a challenge and risk,” adds Mark Stewart. The band's last live performance was in 1980 to a crowd of 500,000 people at Trafalgar Square as part of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protest.
Margaret Thatcher declared there was no such thing as society. Mark Stewart countered that we were all in the same sinking ship and it was time to storm the captain's table.The origins of industrial hip hop are in the work of Mark Stewart, Bill Laswell, and Adrian Sherwood. In 1985, former Pop Group singer Mark Stewart released As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade, an application of the cut-up style of industrial music, with the house band of Sugar Hill Records (Doug Wimbish, Keith Leblanc, and Skip McDonald)
It was around 1980 when Bristol post-punk band The Pop Group were touring in New York, proving their worth as No Wave pioneers. The group’s frontman Mark Stewart tuned into Kiss FM and the DJ at the time, Red Alert, was on the ones and twos, injecting the airwaves with some sonic madness. The story goes that no less than an hour after tuning into that radio station, Stewart passed a construction site and became enthused by the sound of a piledriver slamming into the ground. The industrial city, DJ Red Alert’s chaotic scratching, the distorted echo chamber effects of Afrika Bambaataa’s recently released Death Mix, the booming bass of dub sound systems—they would eventually pile together into a new, as yet unfounded, salmagundi of sound in his head. A few years later, in 1985, these influences become the sound of Stewart’s second solo album, As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade, a landmark record for what would initially be referred to as “industrial hip-hop”. The beginnings of noise-hop were formed in a confluence of these outsider industrial experiments.
"There’s a thing about aestheticising your politics and politicising your aesthetics, it’s crappy words but I love it...Baudrillard, Semiotexte, running with poetical ideas, running with strange ideas and the lyricism of the thing kind of inspires you."