It was around three years ago that Basil Pieroni of Butcher Boy handed me a demo of some tracks that had been recorded by Dead Hope, a three-piece band based in Glasgow. He was doing so on the basis that he thought I’d really like the tracks but also as a favour to his lifelong mate, Keith Martin, who was the drummer with this new band.
The demos were really good and it was really pleasing to be able to pick up a copy of their debut album, Songs From The Second Floor, released in September 2017 which offered ten tracks over 34 minutes of music that, while never groundbreaking was the sort which has never ever really gone out of fashion. It’s a blend of new wave and hard rock with the occasional hint of a catchy pop riff…the sort of stuff that seems to be the accompanying music to action shots in countless film and television programmes. I previously tried to sum it up by describing the songs as being in debt to Black Flag but in the way that the sound was later refined for radio consumption by such as Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr.
Live, the band proved to be truly dynamic, but that was hardly a surprise given that Keith, and his band mates Scott McCluskey (vocals/guitar) and Andy Crone (bass), had all been around the local scene for a while and weren’t a group of image-conscious youngsters worrying about looking cool. Their songs were played occasionally on BBC Radio 6, but the fact that the debut album was self-funded and self-released and, for the most part, only available via a bandcamp site prevented them being better known outside of this city and its immediate environs where every gig was a sell-out in front of really appreciative audiences.
Sadly, Keith Martin passed away a couple of days ago after a long and very brave fight against cancer, a fight that was kept quiet to most. It has been a real blow to his many friends.
I only knew Keith through others and wasn’t in his company all that often, but on those few occasions it was immediately clear to see why he was so highly thought of. Many of those who grew up with him In Ayrshire or have gotten close to him in more recent years have taken to social media to reflect both on how influential he was and to offer their own personal memories and thoughts on a man who was highly intelligent, well-read and the most terrific of conversationalists. One of his oldest and closest friends has summed Keith up best:-
“Fiercely intelligent, tough, tender, hilarious, sometimes scary, socialist, loyal, a guy who would always stand up for what he believed in. He was all of those things but most of all he was a good pal…I’ll miss him and that wee glint of mischief in his eye.’
There’s a lot of sadness around just now, understandably so. Mine stems partly from the fact that he’s been taken away just as his band was really gaining a head of steam, with genuine talk of one prominent indie label expressing interest in re-releasing Songs From The Second Floor and most likely providing the platform they really deserved. Keith Martin would have provided loads of great copy if he had been able to spend time in the limelight; as it is, only those fortunate enough to have been close to him during his cruelly cut-short life will have been able to fully appreciate just how poorer the world is today for his passing.