In memory of Ian C Stewart

Monday, 5 June 2023

yesterday i learned that my friend Ian C. Stewart died.

Ian was a music enthusiast with a massive appetite for listening to new music. He was an obsessive fan of two bands, XTC and KISS, and participated in forums and bootleg trading networks for both.

He was also a heavily active musician during the time i knew him, recording solo music as Samarkand, and under his own name, and playing in groups, most notably Devilcake – the Satanic metal band whose lyrics were all about food, which had some notoriety and reknown in the Columbus Ohio area – and the drone collective Drone Forest, which included me among its members.

He wanted to do music and think about music and write about music and boost music to others all the time. He began a zine called AutoReverse for reviewing music by hometapers. this became a very valuable resource for the community, even if it didn’t have the higher profile and readership of Gajoob Magazine which was the only other publication that bothered to treat hometapers as though they were real musicians worth paying attention to. a few years after AutoReverse stopped publishing, he began a music magazine called Mouthy, for which he had higher aspirations for it to be a more professional endeavor, with greater reach. this proved a bigger challenge than he was able to manage, but he did admirably well professionally editing, printing and distributing it himself.

Ian was an enthusiastic and encouraging presence, always pushing people to do, to create – however much of his encouragement tended to push people into projects he was working on. i don’t say that with any regret or anything, i always loved working on Ian’s projects with him and his various teams. he was an energetic force and really brought diverse people together to do things.

we never met in person or actually spoke on the phone or anything, our whole relationship was by mail or over the internet, but it was still a pretty deep connection.

we met by mail in the early 1990s, maybe 91? 92? i had recorded some music on tape, and had discovered the hometaping underground, and was trading tapes with anyone who sent me something. Ian was one of the earliest people who sent me a tape out of the blue, i don’t know how he got my address. he was definitely the first to be very enthusiastic about my tape, he wrote a very flattering response to it, and it was authentic on his part, because he would bring up how much that tape meant to him many years later.

we began a correspondence and wrote each other frequent, long letters until around 2000 when i finally got a computer and could start doing email, then we emailed each other maybe even more frequently than we exchanged letters. in early years of the internet and the filesharing boom, Ian was deep into it. because we lived in the mountains well out of town, the best internet connection we could get was 128 kbps over a very, very noisy, rough phone line, so filesharing was something i couldn’t really do. when Ian found this out, about every two weeks he’d mail me 5 or 6 CDrs with mp3s he had downloaded, i’d listen and we’d write back and forth about whatever weird shit he found online.

i wrote reviews and did a few interviews for both AutoReverse and Mouthy. i also spent four years recording with Drone Forest, that was Ian, Dave Stafford, Mike Bowman and i. we had a shared FTP where we’d upload sound sources and each of us would mangle them and make music with them. it was an inspiring and fruitful collaboration for a while.

Ian would give really amazing, deep feedback on any of my music i sent him, it was so supportive, i always appreciated that and relied on him for that.

if we had one key disagreement (aside from his love of the very shitty band KISS) it was about the effort i would put in to the details of music. i would work very hard to make things sound the way i wanted them to sound, maybe spending hours on a tiny little sound that was mixed low. that was incomprehensible to him, and an utter waste of time in his opinion. Ian’s approach was fast, easy, have fun and it’s done. that was never my way.

it was sometime in the 00s that he started talking about his mother’s failing health. she had a degenerative disease called Huntingtons. if you know what this is, you know it is a horror. if you don’t know, imagine what Parkinsons disease does to the body and then add to that what Alzheimers disease does to the brain. the disease eats away at the person’s body and their personality to the point where they’re almost unrecognizable as the same person. Ian had almost no extended family, and so he ended up as the sole caregiver for his mother as she withered away and finally died. it was really rough on him.

Huntingtons is passed down genetically, when he finally got tested, and was positive it really destroyed him emotionally. he had seen firsthand what it does to a person, and knew in his thirties that basically he had no hope for a fully developed life, no real hope for a future. i tried to be as supportive as i could, but damn, how can you help with something that heavy?

after his diagnosis, if i remember right, he had about five or six years before he started to really show signs of cognitive decline.

we had some disagreements about Drone Forest in the late 00s which i think made us both feel a little burned. it was nothing major, but we wrote less and less often. eventually he had some housing problems and he lost his computer i think, and we fell entirely out of touch after about 2019. he was moved into a care facility in late 2020 after a hospital stay. i only heard news of him in these final years because my partner FaceBook-followed one of the few people who still visited and cared for him in his last years. as i mentioned earlier, he had no extended family and was basically alone for those years. he lived half the country away, so i couldn’t visit.

every person’s end is sad, but Ian really got the absolute shittiest hand dealt to him. no one deserves Huntingtons, it’s a monumentally cruel disease.

i am thankful to have known my friend Ian, aka Icy Stew, i am grateful for my strengths that i owe to his influence.

Ian has two bandcamps of his solo work, I don’t know where payment goes now, but here they are:

I have always been specifically fond of Pitch Wheel on the SamarkandOhio page.

Drone Forest has a bandcamp where you can hear our work together, several albums were made by him using sound sources from the rest of the group, notably the first one (Drone Forest I) the 10 hour dronefest Meta:Drone and the 28 hour Pieces of MEGA (which all i was able to recover of his 100 hour drone project). Honey is also one of his i think came out beautifully.

The Satanic / food themed metal band Devilcake has a bandcamp as well:

the following WordPress site contains later reviews and interviews as a continuation of AutoReverse, done from 2011 to 2016. I am saving it at the Wayback Machine, because I don’t know what the details are of it being online, or how long it will last there:

Wayback Machine saved version of the AutoReverse wordpress site:

Some of the contents of the original AutoReverse zines were archived on this old Tripod site, similarly i am saving to Wayback Machine, despite this being patchy

Wayback Machine saved version of the Autoreverse archive:

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