Tributes have been paid to ‘visionary’ music journalist and co-founder of Alternative Ulster magazine Gavin Martin after his death at the age of 60.
The Bangor-born writer, who was first published in the NME when he was just 13, died while on vacation in Barbados.
Martin co-founded the original Alternative Ulster fanzine during the height of the punk movement, writing about local bands such as Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones and Rudi. While still a teenager, he began writing for the NME as a freelancer before moving to London to work as a journalist for the music magazine. He then worked as a music critic for the Daily Mirror.
During his tenure as a journalist, he interviewed many artists and bands, from Van Morrison to Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Dexys Midnight Runners.
Belfast Telegraph columnist and author Stuart Bailie, who worked for the NME alongside Martin, led the tributes, calling him a “visionary” with a “vast reserve of musical knowledge”.
He said: “Gavin was passionate about music. He wrote what he thought, not what others thought he should write and sometimes he confused some, but for all the right reasons.
“At one point he was writing something positive about U2, then he was doing ax work on them. He said what he meant, which was pretty rare in the business.
“He had a love/hate relationship with Van Morrison and a 10,000 word article he wrote in two weeks about Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan and his heroin addiction caused a stir.
“Alternative Ulster was the start of it all for Gavin. He was a visionary and brilliant opinion.
Jake Burns, lead singer of Stiff Little Fingers, recalled his first meeting with Martin when the band and the journalist were just starting out. Writing on Facebook, Burns said they didn’t always agree and he thought Martin had often been unfairly harsh on the Belfast punk outfit, but over the years they had “rebuilt the burnt bridges”.
“Enthusiasm oozed from every pore of her for new music and the times we were all living in,” Burns said.
“We came out of a timeshare. We have lived a similar life. We will miss him. And he “caught it and changed it” because it was his.
Bangor crime writer and Martin’s friend Colin Bateman said he was shocked to learn of her death. The pair grew up together in Ballyholme, attended the same school and shared a love for punk music, which Martin introduced Bateman to.
In a Facebook tribute, Bateman recalled a punk gig Martin hosted at a Bangor church hall, before embarking on a career as a music journalist.
“He was engaged full-time at the NME as a teenager, interviewing stars – from Marvin Gaye to James Brown – before spending many years as a music critic for the Daily Mirror,” Bateman wrote.
“He retired quite recently – it’s such a shame he’s gone now, way too soon.”
Dexys Midnight Runners frontman Kevin Rowland said he was also shocked, adding that they interacted on social media shortly before Martin’s death.
The Waterboys’ Mike Scott said he was “disgusted” to hear the news, saying Martin was not only a fantastic writer, but also a fantastic person.
“I loved this man,” he posted on Twitter. “Travel well, my friend. See you on the other side.”
Radio Ulster broadcaster Ralph McLean described Martin as a “true original” who always spoke his mind and often rubbed artists the wrong way.
“He was a fierce talent and a passionate music lover,” he said.