It’s a part of the modern malaise to have to demonstrate emotional incontinence at the death of every vaguely famous person you’ve never met.
But it’s far too easy to swerve the other way too and succumb to cynicism about people’s genuine responses: sometimes the death of a stranger genuinely does hit you hard. And it has for me with Mark Bell’s passing. Funnily enough, the last time I got a real pang in similar circumstances was when another Warp artist, Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, died, though that was for very different reasons: 1) because we had friends in common so it felt close and raw, and 2) because Broadcast’s music had very specific and quite intimate personal resonances for me.
With Mark Bell it’s less about small, personal connections, and more the feeling that something foundational in my life has been, if not taken away, then at least shaken. It’s closer to when John Peel died: for all his manifest faults, for someone of my age – coming of musical age in the 1980s and 90s – my life choices, my friendships, my formative experiences, the type of adult I ended up becoming would have been totally different without Peel. It was less about the jolly uncle affection that he engendered, and a lot more about sheer hours of life spent listening, and myriad connections made as a result. And Mark Bell’s work was similarly important.