I never knew Tony Sly. I guess most people who visit this page didn't.
It's strange in a way that I feel some sense of personal loss for a man I never knew, but I think I understand why. Tony will be missed by those thousands of fans like me who never knew him because his music was so perfectly pitched to those of us who appreciate it that, even though the majority of us were strangers to him, it always felt as if we weren't, like there was some kind of connection that ran both ways, even though that doesn't really make any sense.
As it happens, I was lucky enough to meet Tony once when No Use played in London in probably 2003 or 2004, something like that. He was by the merch stand chatting to Matt Riddle and a couple of other guys I didn't recognise. My friend and I didn't want to intrude too much, so we just said hi, shook his hand, I mumbled something inarticulate and clumsy about my appreciation for his songwriting, and we left him to it. He seemed like a nice guy. I've been really pleased to find in the last few weeks that most people agree. Nearly every account I've read since his untimely death seems to show that Tony was a really cool, humble, friendly and down to earth kind of guy. That's how you hope your heroes will be, so it's been great to find out that he was so well thought of.
I didn't get to know Tony at all by shaking hands with him in a dingy club in London, but I feel like I did get to know him through his music, and in that respect I feel like I knew the man pretty well. What I get from Tony's songwriting is a sense that he and I shared an understanding about music that most people, it seems to me, don't; Tony's songs introduced me to the idea that you don't have to choose between melody and energy, between quality songwriting and power. You can have everything all together, all at the same time, and it can work brilliantly. Most people involved with music seem to make the basic (and stupid) assumption that a song is either melodic or harder-edged, that these ideas are somehow mutually exclusive. But they're not. There's no reason whatsoever that a song can't blast into you with the unstoppable force and energy of punk rock but have a melodic, intricate and harmonius sheen on the top. Tony knew this, you could hear that in every song. He didn't shy away from writing incredibly beautiful melodies and chord progressions, he churned out quality songs one after the other like a one-man production line. But he knew that the quality of his songs wouldn't stop them from being embraced by the punk scene, because he and No Use knew how to the deliver songs with an abundance of power, aggression,energy and drive without losing any of the subtlety and beauty. The melody lost nothing to the power, and the power lost nothing to the melody. Not many people can do that. Not many people even know that it can be done. Tony did. And now, thanks to Tony showing me, so do I.
That's why I'll miss Tony Sly, even though I never knew him.