Feature Interview: Mick Karn

Discussion in 'Features' started by TalkBass, Mar 23, 2004.

  1. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    This feature was published on TalkBass.com in April 2001

    <center> <b><font size="7">Mick Karn</font></b> </center> <p align="center"><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2"><i>Feature interview for TalkBass.com by <a href="mailto:[email protected]">IMRE KOMAROMI</a> </i></font></p> <p> <img src="/images/karn/karn4.jpg" width="200" height="183" align="left">Mick Karn has been a musical force to reckon with since the early eighties with the Brit glam band Japan. Armed with a fretless bass, Mick sketches out angular lines tinged with jazz, funk, and the excess of art-rock to create music with the same intensity that he carries to his sculptures.<br> </p> <p>With his current solo release, <i><b>Each Eye a Path</b></i>, Mick takes his music even further. Through self-imposed exile in San Francisco, Mick isolated himself and with only a computer and various instruments at his hands to probe his psyche and explored the many people and experiences making up his life. After time and more than a few set-backs, including having his computer stolen along with all the music he had been working on saved in it, Mick emerged with an intensely introspective work of music. The optimism Mick had soon waned after arriving in San Francisco, and the result is a CD of an artist baring his soul and allowing the listener to take a small glimpse at a true master of his art relating his life stories for all. Talkbass.com got a chance to talk with Mick and discuss music and the new CD, which was released in the US in March of 2001, here's what he had to say. </p>
  2. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <p></p> <p><b>TB: What can people expect from the new CD?</b><br> <br> MK: It was a conscious decision to make this album highly different from what people may have expected. It's very honest regarding the person I am and so, very personal. Each Eye a Path is not particularly about bass playing or composition, it's more about trying to communicate what I feel regarding particular people, incidents, and unforgettable memories.<br> </p> <p><b>TB: Almost all the instruments on the CD are played by you, was this a conscious decision on your part, or did it seem a natural progression as you started writing and recording?</b></p> <p>MK: Although the material spans five years, Each Eye a Path was actually recorded in a very short space of time. I used only the instruments and technology at hand in my music room, and If I couldn't play one of the parts on an instrument, I'd try it on another, and another until I found the one it could be played on, and so forth. I concentrated on the content itself and spent very little time thinking of the sounds or the instrumentation.</p> <p><br> <b><img src="/images/karn/karn1.jpg" width="200" height="179" align="left">TB: You've spoke often of your lack of formal training; does this have an effect on you when approaching writing and playing the instruments?</b></p> <p>MK: It doesn't affect my approach to writing, to which there should be no limitations. When it comes to playing the instruments, my lack of formal training tends to have a positive outcome. Looking in places where the notes may exist on an instrument can lead to discoveries otherwise missed by already knowing the fastest, tutored route. In that way, the writing is always open to change once recording has begun.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: Being a bass player, do the songs feature the bass as a focal point in the music or did it take a more supportive role at times?</b></p> <p>MK: I hope the pieces speak for themselves. There are tracks featuring the bass, one that contains 13 basses accompanied by an organ, there are others without any bass at all.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: Did you approach recording the instruments, and in particular the bass, a certain way, or was it all pretty straight forward into the board?</b></p> <p>MK: Due to the lack of variety in the instruments at hand, it became necessary at times to use effects to separate the sounds from each other. Not having very many, different combinations of the same effects became very important. The effects used: Korg G5 synth bass processor, Morley wah-wah pedal, Boss bass overdrive pedal (ODB-3), Lexicon vortex, Roland digital delay.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: You've talked of the time in between this release and your previous solo release and how a much darker mood crept in and seemed to impede the progress of writing. Why do think this was and how did the time and mood affect the songs?</b></p> <p>MK: I don't believe darker moods impeded the progress of writing. It can often be quite the opposite, with ones best work evolving out of desperation of one sort or another. Why the darker moods crept in is all too clear for me, but shouldn't concern the listener, the contents of Each Eye a Path is the musical outcome.</p> <img src="/images/karn/karn2.jpg" align="right"> <p><br> <b>TB: What made you decide to move to San Francisco to write material, did the city have a particular effect on you and the songs you found yourself writing?</b></p> <p>MK: I wanted to cut myself off from anything familiar, including recording equipment and personal belongings. That it happened to be San Francisco wasn't important, it was a choice through circumstance not location. The particular effect was loneliness, and through it, self-discovery.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: I've heard the story about your computer being stolen along with all the material you had been working on, were you ready to quit when this happened or did it give you more creative fuel for the fire?</b></p> <p>MK: The incident of the stolen computer was just one of many setbacks that saw me ready to abandon the project, but it was only a question of letting some time pass before needing to write again. Obstacles didn't stop, right up until the last mix, but by then I was close to completion and determined to win the struggle, no matter what.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: What influences your music? Did any of these influences find their way onto the CD?</b></p> <p>MK: Mood always influences my music and inevitably finds it's way onto the cd's; traveling or a good book, anything that might change my perception.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: Is there any music out there today that you find particularly interesting?</b></p> <p>MK: I listen to almost no music and have still not bought a cd. Among my collection are cd's still in their wrappers, however, I do have a<br> current favorite, it's an album by Greek clarinetist, Manos Archalinotopoulos, called Hyacinth, and it reminds me of my childhood.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: What is your bass set-up like these days, are there any manufacturers whose equipment you're fond of?</b></p> <p>MK: I don't really have a bass set-up. I'll use an amp for sessions, if there's one in the studio, but I'm not fussy which and always just record the bass directly if working at home. For live work, I'm endorsed by Trace Elliot and know very little about other amps. Likewise for guitars, but I'm still faithful to my Wals and use DR strings for their consistency.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: How has the success Japan had in the 80's affected your career? Have you ever had trouble separating yourself from it?</b></p> <p>MK: Success at an early age should rarely be desirable but I wouldn't be where I am today without it, so I shouldn't complain. It's affect on my career has been mainly a positive one, the band's popularity staying in the public and media memory. My main criticism is that other people have trouble separating it, and so false comparisons made.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: What led you to go away from major labels and get with your own label/management company, Medium Productions?</b></p> <p>MK: The manipulation, blackmail, insecurity, and ultimately, their ownership of all compositions makes dealing with major record labels a complete nightmare. Medium Productions was already in existence for 2 years before I was able, contractually, to record as a solo artist. That, in and of itself, should answer the question as to what led me away from major labels.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: What is your role with Medium Productions? Do you take an active role in the day-to-day goings on?</b></p> <p>MK: The active role of running the company falls on Debi Zornes, allowing greater freedom for creativity, but main decisions are made by all 4 of the directors.</p> <p><br> <b>TB: Do you like the direction music is going? Where do you see yourself fitting into it all for the future? </b></p> <p>MK: I'm not really aware of any new musical direction; I'm too out of touch with what's fashionable to know whether I like it or not. Fitting in to it all for the future is not an issue for me. I can't change what I do to fit in, that's far too calculated, and would require too many predictions. I believe music is infinite and has room for all types.<br> </p> <p> </p><hr> For more information and CD ordering info, visit Medium at <a href="http://www.mediumproductions.co.uk/">www.mediumproductions.co.uk</a>
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