Mackay in 2014
September 25, 1949|
Grand Rapids, Michigan, US
|Died||October 10, 2015
Daly City, California, US
|Associated acts||The Stooges, Carnal Kitchen, Violent Femmes, Estel|
Steve Mackay (September 25, 1949 – October 10, 2015) was an American tenor saxophonist best known for his membership in the Stooges. His performances are showcased on several tracks on the band's second album, Fun House (1970).
In 1970, Mackay was familiar to the Stooges from his work with the Detroit avant-rock pioneers Carnal Kitchen. After sitting in with the Stooges on several occasions, he formally joined the group at the behest of lead singer Iggy Pop two days before they left Detroit for Los Angeles to record Fun House in May 1970. Mackay remained with the Stooges for five months before leaving in October 1970. Mackay later said he was "somewhat grateful" to have been fired by Iggy Pop as the band had been deteriorating.
In 2003, Mackay rejoined the Stooges when they played their first show in twenty-nine years at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He remained with the group until his death in 2015. During this period, he appeared on the live Stooges releases Live in Detroit (DVD) and Telluric Chaos (a live album; 2005), and two studio albums, The Weirdness (2007) and Ready to Die (2013). He also contributed to James Williamson's solo studio debut, Re-Licked (2014).
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mackay played and recorded with a highly diverse cross-section of underground musicians, including Violent Femmes, Snakefinger, Commander Cody, Smegma, Zu, Andre Williams, the Moonlighters, Clubfoot Orchestra, and Van Rozay from San Jose, California. He was based in Ann Arbor (where he continued to work at Discount Records and perform with Carnal Kitchen and the Mojo Boogie Band, a blues rock ensemble) until 1976, when he initially relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to his musical endeavors, he worked as a stationary engineer at various San Francisco sewage treatment plants.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mackay performed in a reconstituted lineup of Carnal Kitchen with then-wife, Annie Garcia-Mackay, a blues singer and bassist. In 2001, they divorced due to mutual differences; later that year, he was remarried to Patricia Smith.
As the 1990s approached, Mackay's profile gradually lowered as he took up residence in Pacifica, California (following a sojourn in Amsterdam) and began work as an electrician. The wider perception was that Mackay was dead. In 2000, Stooges biography pages on websites for MTV, VH1, and Rolling Stone included an item indicating that Mackay had died as a result of a heroin overdose in the 1970s. The origin of this story is unknown, but music journalist Nick Kent reported the "fact" in a piece on Pop in the mid-1970s. According to Alexis Petridis, "Kent had apparently misheard the lyrics of Iggy Pop’s 'Dum Dum Boys,' which mentioned the death of Stooges roadie and bassist Thomas 'Zeke' Zettner." A second rumor circulated following the AIDS-related death of a San Francisco-based marathon runner and author who shared Mackay's name. Scott Nydegger from the small record label and noise collective Radon disproved the rumors by contacting Mackay and arranging to release his first solo recordings.
Radon released the "Death City" single in 1999, and Mackay began to perform and record regularly with a revolving line-up of musicians associated with Radon. The first full-scale tour of Steve Mackay and the Radon Ensemble was mounted in July 2003; with a percussion-heavy lineup that featured bassist Marlon Kasberg (Liquorball), drummer Sam Lohman (Nimrod 36), multi-instrumentalist Travis McAlister (Nequaquam Vacuum), scrap percussionist and vocalist Noah Mickens (also Nequaquam Vacuum), and drummer and band leader Scott Nydegger (Sikhara). Other musicians who have performed and recorded with the Radon Ensemble since then included the multi-instrumentalist Tyler Armstrong, projectionist Ed Cooper, bassist Giovanni Donadini, Nyko Esterle, multi-instrumentalists Kamilsky and Dan Kauffman, bassist Jason LaFarge, saxophonist Vinnie Paternostro, Fabrizio Modonese-Polumbo, saxophonist Shane Pringle, Frank Pullen, Suzanne Thorpe (Mercury Rev), John Wiese (Bastard Noise), and drummer Ed Wilcox.
Mackay also appeared at live shows by Violent Femmes, with whom he played off and on for over two decades after appearing on their album The Blind Leading the Naked.
Radon released the Smegma–Mackay collaboration album 30 Years of Service in 2005, his full-length album Michigan and Arcturus (2006), a vinyl-only release with the Radon Ensemble entitled "Tunnel Diner", and in 2008 Resipiscent released Smegma's Live 2004 featuring Mackay and Jello Biafra. Mackay's solo discography included a self-released collection of solo and group demos from the 1980s called En Voyage, and such compilation albums as Popular Electronic Uzak, You've Got Your Orders 3, and Multiball Magazine Issue 2. The Steve Mackay Ensemble continued to perform live and on radio, and embarked on a tour of the US and Europe in 2006.
Mackay continued to collaborate with the Clubfoot Orchestra members, sitting in occasionally at the Bay Area Boat Club's parties. In 2011 Radon and SOOPA released Mackay's new album Sometimes Like This I Talk which features other members of the Stooges, and also the album Machine Gun from U.S.S. with Mackay on sax. Also in 2011, Mackay released North Beach Jazz featuring punk bassist Mike Watt, a member of the reunited Stooges. Mackay was also featured on the record Titans, released in 2012 by the Portuguese stoner-psychedelic rock band Black Bombaim, playing sax on track 'C'. In 2014, he played on the song "A Higher Price To Pay", by the French heavy rock band the Meredith Hunters. He also toured with Bunktilt.
In 2015, Mackay, lo-fi pioneer R. Stevie Moore and Scott Nydegger (Sikhara) were featured on Shanghai-based experimental punk band Round Eye's eponymous LP, which was released by Florida label Ripping Records.
A Tribute for Steve Mackay was held at Winter's Tavern in Pacifica, CA on February 27, 2016. The musicians who participated included Jello Biafra and Mike Watt, who performed Side 2 of the Stooges' Fun House album. Iggy Pop contributed a short poem that Mike Watt played for the audience through an iPhone. Most of the participants included Bay Area friends and family who had known Steve Mackay through many years of local bands and Open Mikes that Steve often organized.
- Jennifer Ruby: Iggy Pop pays tribute to Stooges saxophonist Steve Mackay who dies aged 66. In: London Evening Standard, 12 October 2015.
- Cliff Jones & Paul Trynka Whatever Turns You On Mojo #29, April 1996
- Minsker, Evan (11 October 2015). "The Stooges' Steve Mackay Has Died". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
- "Steve Mackay, Stooges Saxophonist, Dies at 66". Rolling Stone.com. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
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