Steve Mackey, who has died aged 56, was a musician best known as the bassist for Pulp, who rode the Britpop wave in the 1990s with hits like Common People and Disco 2000; He was also a producer and songwriter, collaborating with acts such as Arcade Fire and Florence + the Machine.
Born in Sheffield on 10 November 1966 to Paul Mackey and Kathleen née Harrison, Stephen Patrick Mackey was an early schoolmate of another future Sheffield musical figure, singer-songwriter Richard Hawley (who later spent time at Pulp’s touring band).
He attended Hinde House Comprehensive, then Richmond College of Further Education while playing bass for a local group, the Trolley Dog Shag, featured with Pulp and others on a 1987 compilation tape by Dolebusters, an organization helping the unemployed , was produced by musicians in Sheffield.
An aspiring filmmaker, Mackey moved to London the following year and graduated with an MA in Film from the Royal College of Art. Then in 1989 he joined Pulp, which had been founded 11 years earlier in his hometown; He was recruited by the band’s lead singer, Jarvis Cocker, with whom he had shared many joints about the Sheffield scene over the years and who had also gone to London to study.
It didn’t seem like the perfect match — “They seemed pretty self-contained, pretty aloof, and I was in really loud bands, garage bands, and Pulp was like an art band,” Mackey recalled. “It didn’t seem very inviting.”
But the chemistry worked: Along with Cocker on vocals, Russell Senior on guitar (replaced by Mark Webber in 1995), Candida Doyle on keyboards and Nick Banks on drums, Mackey made his pulp debut on their third album, Separations (1992). . Like its predecessors, it failed to chart, but it did lead to a deal with Island, and in 1994 His ‘n’ Hers reached the top ten, while the second single from it, Do You Remember the First Time?, followed them earned her place first top 40 hit.
The following year, Different Class lived up to their name and took the band to a new level; Packed with hits, it camped at #1, won the Mercury Prize, and was certified quadruple platinum.
That summer was the peak of Pulp’s career. When Stone Roses guitarist John Squire broke his collarbone in a mountain bike accident in California, the Madchester rockers had to give up their Saturday headlining slot at Glastonbury – and Pulp jumped in with a stormy set that they took to Britpop on the side -Stratosphere sent Oasis (who were headlining the night before), Blur and Suede.
“That was the first time we realized that more than a few people liked us,” Mackey recalled. “It was a turning point when we did Common People and everyone sang along and it was pretty deafening and emotional.”
This is Hardcore (1998) also topped the UK Singles Chart, then, following Mackey’s fifth album with the band, We Love Life (2001), Pulp, which had by then sold around 10 million albums, went on a long hiatus.
For the next nine years, Mackey maintained a fast work pace: in addition to working on Cocker’s solo projects, he formed a songwriting and producing partnership, Cavemen, with Ross Orton. They worked with rapper MIA, the Horrors, the Kills, Kelis and Cornershop.
Mackey also produced a few tracks on Florence + the Machine’s 2009 debut album Lungs, and later co-produced Arcade Fire’s 2017 album Everything Now with Daft Punk fame Thomas Bangalter.
In the 2000s he curated the music for the Frieze Art Fair and is best known for his photography, collaborating with fashion houses such as Miu Miu, Armani and Schiaparelli. He has also directed videos for companies such as Hot Chip and Sleaford Mods and has worked with galleries such as the Louvre and MOMA in New York.
In 2005 Mackey appeared in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as one of the Weird Sisters band alongside Cocker and Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway from Radiohead on guitar and drums.
In 2010 he joined the Pulp reunion, playing the Isle of Wight and Reading festivals and returning to Glastonbury but declined to sign on for the recent revival.
Steve Mackey is survived by wife Katie Grand, founder of fashion magazine LOVE, whom he married in 2009, and a son from a relationship with artist Zoe Grace.
Steve Mackey, born November 10, 1966, died March 2, 2023