Some words in tribute to my dear departed friend Mat Davies, whose spirit brought joy, wisdom and boundless enthusiasm to so many people.
My friend Mat Davies passed away on Friday 20 August 2021. He had been ill for more than a year. His illness took away so much. But from what I saw and heard of him over the past year or so, it did not affect his character, the great gent that he was. His spirit was absolutely undimmed.
If you ever had the privilege to meet Mat Davies in person or to interact with him online, you will know what a wonderful person he was.
It is heartbreaking that he is gone. I want to remember him here with the fondness and fullness of heart he deserves.
The news of that we had lost Mat was sudden and devastating. To me and to so many others. As ill as I knew he was, I had such confidence in his spirit, in his indomitable and infectious love of life. I hoped against hope that he would be with us so much longer.
I did not know the end was so near. The night before Mat’s passing, I took part in a lovely video chat with some close friends, sharing fond memories of Mat and trying to think of ways to help show our love and appreciation to him on what would in a fairer world have been his 50th birthday in early September. I woke up on Friday 20 August thinking of Mat and looking forward to trying to put some of the ideas from that chat into action. Life, as it so often does, had other plans.
Within a few hours, one friend from the previous night’s video chat circulated a message with the shocking news that we had lost Mat that morning. I read the DM in shock, immediately numbed. A second of denial. Then tears. I wept more than once that day. So many others did, too.
Ripples spread out from each of us in this life. Our spirits touch and affect the lives of more people than we could ever know. The instant connection of the social media age enables these ripples to spread further and faster than ever before.
Within a few hours, word of this tragic loss made its way around the globe. The shock, the sadness, the disbelief flowed out. But these feelings were mixed with wave upon wave of beautiful tributes to Mat’s spirit.
My friend Steve Browne shared a quite wonderful tweet about Mat.
So many other folks shared their fond memories. I was overwhelmed to see this outpouring of affectionate reminiscence and gratitude on a grand scale.
I – in common with a great many folks in my orbit – first encountered Mat a decade or more ago, through an amorphous, excellent community of souls that met and bonded over Twitter. This online community quickly spilled over into real life with irregular, joyous get-togethers in London and other places.
That community has since dispersed somewhat with the passing of time and the very different paths that life has had in store for each of us. But a decade on, the evidence is clear that the ties, the friendships we made back then are lifelong, unbreakable. That same community came back in full strength the day we lost Mat. United in our love for the friend we have lost. We were all of us fortunate to meet one another and to meet Mat back then, and to form real, lasting and supportive friendships. The spirit will not leave us.
A number of themes keep coming up in my friends’ cherished memories of Mat. His sense of humour. His radiant smile. His energetic passion for life. His seemingly depthless knowledge on so many topics. Perhaps my loveliest memory of Mat was basking in the glow of fizzy enthusiasm when he and Amanda Arrowsmith got talking about American football one night at the Old Bank of England pub in London. Now, American football is a topic I know nothing about. And indeed, up until that point I had no idea that either Mat or Amanda knew anything about it, either. Let alone the passionate and joyful depth of knowledge and enthusiasm I got to witness that evening. An absolutely infectious spirit.
It is also highly probable that anyone who got to meet Mat would have known of his depthless love of music. He particularly loved the heavier and more metallic end of the spectrum. David D’Souza perfectly captures Mat’s infectious joy in music in a tweet to Steve Tovey:
“One of my fondest memories of Mat was an evening with him where he was talking about your band Steve.
I know nothing about that space, but he was raving about you so I asked him to explain it. His knowledge was amazing. So was his respect for you. Have a good one.”
And in a mere few tweeted words, Neil Usher paints a perfect little portrait of this spirit in black that is just so “Mat”:*
“At the end of a working day I remember him disappearing into his office to get changed for an evening out. He replaced his plain black tee shirt with another black tee shirt with SLAYER written across the front.
‘You getting changed?’ I asked.
I’ll never forget the look.”
You were the best of us
“Life is so short and fleeting. To know that you’ve made a positive impact is hugely motivating and energising.”
Mat Davies himself spoke these lovely words in an interview a few years back. As Rick tweeted, they are all too apt to the awful loss of Mr Davies himself.
The ripples from Mat’s spirit touched and improved the lives of so many of us. He made a positive impact on so many people. I love the following words from a tribute to the great gent from GhostCult magazine, a music website for which Mat did writing and editorial work over the years:
“Words can’t really do him justice, but he was a proud son of Wales, supremely gifted with words, kind, and loved music and life fiercely with a boundless sense of optimism few could match. He could talk to you for hours about a band over a pint, which is how we’d like to best remember him. In his 2020 tribute to late Rush drummer Neil Peart, Mat wrote ‘You were the best of us…’ These very same words could easily be applied to him as well. We send our deepest condolences out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Sir: You truly were the best of us. Your spirit lifted up everyone that had the good fortune to meet you. Your memory has brought back the spirit of the loving and supportive community that you were such a key part of.
You will always lift us up.
Your spirit will live on in each of us who had the privilege to meet you.
Spirit in black ’til the end.
* Neil’s tweet also inspired the title for this post.