The Australian experimental music community lost one of its finest last Friday when John Blades passed away due to complications associated with cancer.
John was best known as a founding member of The Loop Orchestra, the long-time host/producer of the Background Noise radio program , and a tireless supporter of experimental musicians and sound artists around the country.
Outside of music, John advocated for people with disabilities (he was diagnosed with MS in 1982) in many ways, most memorably in his Walkley Award-winning radio documentary “The Too Hard Basket” about sexuality and the disabled.
John was one of the rare people I’ve met who I know pretty soon that I am privileged to have crossed paths with. His severe disability could not conceal his keen intelligence and broad knowledge of the arts, his humour, and most of all a positive energy and enthusiasm that he brought to his work. Listen to his fantastic radio doco “The Too Hard Basket” and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. If anyone in this world had something to be down and self-pitying about, it was John, who struggled for years with MS, only to finally succumb to cancer. His last email of a few weeks ago, informing his friends of his grim prognosis, agreed with what we all thought – ‘it wasn’t fair’. Yet he was still warm and positive, holding out hope for a final experimental treatment. We come across so many negative, self-pitying people – none of them have had the trials John did, and yet he was one of the most positive, enthusiastic people I’ve ever known (even though he had had episodes with depression the past; very common for people with MS). His personal and professional support for my own work was significant and lifted my spirits on several occasions.
I saw reports of John’s passing in social media on the weekend, but didn’t want to post anything here until I had something more official. Rik Rue rang me last night and asked that I inform Melbourne people who knew John, and pass on the details of the funeral service (Monday 5 December at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney). Even if we can’t attend, I’m sure those of us who knew John and/or were moved by his work, will spare a thought for him.