A short tribute to Adam Banks who passed away this last week
Simple twists of fate are odd when we look back through the lens of time passed. They gain such significance, but let’s be honest they are just happenstance and pure chance. I was at school aged 14, perhaps 15 and there were no Acorn BBC computers available, so I was sat in front of a Mac SE FDHD. This single event put Adam and me on a collision course.
Fast forward a bit and I am consumed by Apple and Macs, I know, cool right? Anyway, part of that inconspicuous consumption was a copy of MacUser magazine every two weeks, which Adam edited and wrote for. I read the magazine from cover to cover for year after year.
Then one day, I find myself sat at a desk on the fifth floor of Denis Publishing in London, I have cut out some detail you can fill that in yourself with a montage set to music, Yakety Sax would fit. Anyway, I am in awe, absolutely beyond imposter syndrome – I have no clue what is going on or how it has happened, but I’m employed by MacUser magazine.
I have to pinch myself, this entity which has been my bible, map and guide to the stars has let me inside and I am going to be part of it. I sit at my desk from which I can see old covers I bought and designs that never saw the light of day. I meet real people who’ve been 2D to me for so long I sort of feel like I know them. I’m set adrift on a fanboy sea and not only can I not sail, I can’t swim, I have no boat and I have no idea which way is up.
Then…Someone, I’m not sure who, is asking who might write something, I’m not sure what “Get Adam to do it” comes the call from across some desks and all of a sudden I’m back in the room. Adam Banks. I know all these names; I know all these people who do not have a clue who the clueless northern lad in the corner is. I’m in awe, not ashamed to say it.
I look up and Julian who is sat opposite me picks up the phone (I know, right? The. Phone.) and dials. I have no idea why, but the call to Adam specifically caught my attention. I remember it very clearly even now. I watched in rapt awe – Julian could just call Adam Banks and speak to him. What. The. Fuck?
Julian waits and then Adam Banks answers the phone, just like that, Actual Adam Banks is on the phone to another person, just meters away from where I sit and everyone else is acting like this is totally normal. My brain isn’t really coping with this. I zone out a bit. It’s overwhelming. Adam has clearly said “Hello” Adam Banks answers his own phone, I can’t really believe that. Then Julian screams down the handset:
“BANKSY! YOU ABSOLUTE SLAAAG, can you do me 2000 words on…”
Later that week it was the MacUser awards, a ceremony where printers and scanners won prizes and PR people and journalists did Colombia’s economy the power of good. All hard to imagine these days. Anyway, I was staying over at Julian’s house after. On our way out of the door of the awards it turned out that Adam was also staying over. I can’t begin to describe to you how insane it felt. Not only was I drunk on free wine, I was in a minicab (unlicenced) heading to somewhere in South London with Adam Banks. Insane.
The cab driver dropped us off somewhere near our destination and we began the short walk to Julian’s house. As we were rounding the corner to his street a car travelling at twice the speed of sound approached, screeching, sparks flying everywhere, the scene made all the more dramatic by a background of blue light getting ever closer. The car hit the kerb and I instinctively jumped into Adam’s arms. I’m not kidding, full-on jumped on him.
The car bumped off the kerb and continued, chased by several police cars. As the dust settled, I realised that the car was a good 100 feet away from us and would not, could not have caused me or Adam or Julian any damage whatsoever. As the sound and light show faded away my embarrassment deepened in equal and opposite measure. Adam told me not to worry about it, but that I should forever remember the night he saved my life.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the world’s most cliché greasy spoon and went back to the office and chatted about Apple-related things, like that was a normal thing to do. In the space of about 3 days, I had met, got drunk with, broken stale bread, been to South London with and had my life saved by Adam Banks.
I know that asking someone to understand the fever dreams of a 15-year-old boy come true is always a big ask, but Apple was my passion at the time and MacUser the main conduit for that passion. So, to try and illustrate: imagine you’re drunk in a minicab heading to Sidcup or Dartford I forget which, with the protagonist of your 15-year-old fever dreams who or whatever they may be.
Over the next several years we worked together apart on many things. Reviews, work-throughs, features, presentations, discussions about publishing, my work, his work, unpaid invoices – his first then years later, mine. We made jokes about publishers and their desire to re-use the word repurpose in ever more creative ways. That some of my work is connected to his will forever give me a deep sense of pride. Adam was always generous and an absolute pleasure to be around, near or in the same general space as.
Like many freelancers our orbits were sometimes tight and other times far too wide. Adam was all the nice things that people are saying about him and much, much more. Adam was a riot of joy and good humour, a real-life life saver. They say, never meet your heroes. They are wrong, the absolute slags.