Legendary punk/oi! guitarist Tony Van Frater, who was one of the founding members of the UK punk band Red Alert and later went on to play with other legendary bands such as the Angelic Upstarts and Cockney Rejects, died early Thursday morning at the age of 51, reportedly of a heart attack.
Born Anthony Frater on May 4, 1964 in Sunderland, England, he formed the band Red Alert in that town in 1979 along with Steve ‘Castiron’ Smith on vocals, Gaz Stuart on bass and Dona on drums, first performing at a carnival there. Red Alert would later release their demo as their first album, a four-track EP titled Third And Final, and would later record four more studio albums as well as a number of singles that have appeared on compilations such as Carry On Oi! (1981). The band toured around England, gaining popularity as an antifascist band, before breaking up in 1985. The band reformed again with a new lineup in 1990 and have been touring internationally since.
After the initial breakup, Van Frater, who was also known as “Tut”, played with several bands that also took antifascist positions. He played with Red London for a time as well as a revamped lineup of the Angelic Upstarts. In 1999 he began playing bass for the Cockney Rejects and remained with them until his passing.
Tributes and tweets have been widespread with the news of Van Frater’s death. Another iconic oi! band the Last Resort was among those who posted the news on their Facebook page. “Gutted to hear of the death of our old mate Tony Van Frater,” the post read. “We were due to play with The Rejects again this weekend and were looking forward to sharing the stage and a joke or two with him and the boys. RIP Tony, you’ll be missed mate.”
Red Alert lead singer Steve “Castiron” Smith also lamented the loss of his former bandmate on his Facebook page. “Best mate, brother, legend, thanks for the memories son, see u up there,” he posted.