Steve Strange has died. It is with great sadness that Hot Press learned tonight of the loss of one of the most important and influential figures ever to emerge from the Irish Music Industry.
Steve was a founding partner in X-Ray Touring and was agent for numerous major acts, including fellow Northerners Snow Patrol and Eminem.
A statement was issued by X-Ray Touring this evening which confirmed the devastating news.
“X-ray Touring are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Strange, one of the founding partners of the agency, has passed away after a short illness,” the statement began.
“We have lost a legendary figure in our personal and professional lives that we will all deeply miss.
Steve was a unique individual within our industry, his overwhelming love of music lead to a 30 year plus career guiding the touring of an eclectic mix of artists from all genres of music that he adored.
“A universally known, hugely respected and loved character – if you hadn’t already seen him at a gig or festival, you’d most certainly hear his infectious and infamous laugh.
“Steve had the best ears in the agency business,” the statement continued, “signing and developing the careers of countless world class artists, from small club venues to vast international multi-stadium tours.
“He will always be remembered with love by his friends & colleagues at X-ray and the world over.”
Steve Strange was originally from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. He began his music career as drummer in the hard rock outfit No Hot Ashes, who became one of the brightest hopes on the Northern rock scene.
He started his career as an agent with Prestige in 1991, and was there for a year before returning to Ireland to promote shows with MCD/Wonderland for a 12-month period, booking gigs at sone of the North’s key venues. He then returned to London to join FAB Agency, followed by a year at Solo. He joined Helter Skelter in 1997, where his career grew and prospered.
In February 2005, Steve formed a new independently-owned agency with Ian Huffam, Scott Thomas, Jeff Craft and Martin Horne, X-ray Touring Limited.
Among the major clients Steve worked with – and whose global live careers he guided – were Eminem, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Queens of the Stone Age, Jimmy Eat World, and Bright Eyes. He also worked over many years with one of his favourite bands, Ash.
“I’ve been working with then for 22 years, since they were 15-year-old kids,” he said recently. “I’ve had some very, very successful years with them. I built them up in Southeast Asia, Australia, Japan, where they’re still big to this day. It all circles back to that word, longevity.”
Steve had taken on the role of manager with Ash and often ended up playing drums with the band. He was a rocker through and through. Asked by Hot Press last year about career highlights he pointed to the way in which he had built Queens of the Stone Age from an unpromising beginning to become a huge crowd-puller.
“Steve Strange was a really great character,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “He was genuinely larger than life and loved being involved in music. The fact is that he ended up operating at the highest possible level in a business where you have to be really good to do well.
“He was an industry legend, not just because he was great at his job, but also because he had a marvellous sense of fun and a proper devil-may-care attitude, which was highly infectious.
“I’d talk to Steve as often as I could. He was always on the look out for brilliant new artists, and I encouraged him whenever possible to take new Irish artists on. But he also had a fantastic sense of what mattered which is building an artists career in a way that will deliver their proper rewards to people of real talent, over a period of years.
“When you look at the status and the achievements of some of the artists he worked with – Snow Patrol, Eminem, Coldplay and Queens of the Stone Age among them – you get a sense of just how well he achieved that objective on behalf of his clients – so many of whom were, of course, his friends.”
Steve never forgot his roots, going back to play with No Hot Ashes in recent years. And he loved nothing more than doing his occasional stints behind the drum kit with Ash.
“Longevity and loyalty go hand in hand,” Steve observed recently. “Generally, if you do a great service to someone and you build up a great relationship, a respect with the artist, then you can last for as long as you feel passionate.”
The truth is that Steve Strange talked it like he walked it. He was as loyal as he was effective. And he always had Ireland and Irish talent at the forefront of his mind.
“I remember calling him to ask him to participate in The Music Show in the RDS, a few years ago,” Niall Stokes added. “He said ‘Yes’ immediately, even though it’d involve him in some flight-hopping to get from some far flung part of the world at the right time. He was very generous with his time and with his advice.
“Steve will be hugely missed by everyone who knew him and who worked with him. And personally, I will miss the chats, the catch-ups and the laughs we always had when we spoke. It was time for a jam with Jimi Hendrix, I guess…”