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Thread: Mick Karn

  1. #1
    The Enemy God
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    Mick Karn

    New on here though active on main prog site but was fearing no response to this post.

    Have been listening to a lot of Mick Karn lately and find him astounding , having read his book, he seems basically a complete one off , at times seemingly unaware of what he's doing on bass. He seemed to dislike his high profile session gigs as he felt inadequate up against Bruford, Simon Phillips etc. but what a player and tone and his long fluid lines seem unearthly.

    Can any bass players comment on what the hell he does.

    What a loss to bass world and music world he is.

    Also Steve Jansen never seems to pop up in drumming histories, yet , again fairly unique player.

    Any feedback be good, thanks.

  2. #2
    Huge Karn fan here, he deserves far more recognition. Such a great sound, played with such taste. I don't play so i can't add anything to your quest, but good god was he good!

  3. #3
    Member dropforge's Avatar
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  4. #4
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Whey-hey

  5. #5
    Member wideopenears's Avatar
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    Definitely a One-Off. I read an interview with him years back, and if I recall, he didn't read music or really know much theory, etc. but just played by ear. He's quirky, but I love what he does. Polytown is a favorite, but I like his solo albums and his work with Japan as well.

  6. #6
    I've been collecting Mick Karn's music for a long time (1978) including his contributions and project. Love his tone and his compositions.

    There's not a lot that is being (re-)released lately, but next month will have the first release on LP from a concert in de Melkweg Amsterdam (better known as Live At The The Milkyway) from Steve Jansen and Richard Barieri, featuring Karn and Steven Wilson.

    https://www.burningshed.com/store/ks...duct/272/6473/

  7. #7
    Member progholio's Avatar
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    Polytown - it f'king rocks.

    Sorry, i'm not a bass player so i can't comment on what he does, but damn is it good.

  8. #8
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I wish a show from the Cloud About Mercury tour would get released somehow.

  9. #9

  10. #10
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    He had his own style. I really liked most of what he did. ... Dali's Car...

    Percy Jones sounded like him on just one album:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPeNMPwKvto
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NrHMrmmSFc

  11. #11
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    I wish a show from the Cloud About Mercury tour would get released somehow.
    Listening to some boots tonight. Thanks for the thread idea, gallen1964.

  12. #12
    I saw him with David Torn once and wasn't that impressed at the time. To be fair, that's my only experience with his playing.
    I remember reading in Bass Player that he didn't understand which was considered up the neck and which down, nor did he know
    the notes on the fretboard. Not an indicator of playing ability, but a bit startling at the time.

  13. #13
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    I wish a show from the Cloud About Mercury tour would get released somehow.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Zeuhlmate View Post
    He had his own style. I really liked most of what he did. ... Dali's Car...

    Percy Jones sounded like him on just one album:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPeNMPwKvto
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NrHMrmmSFc
    Always thought it was funny. Jones was an influence for Karn and then Jones played with a couple of Japan-members in Ippu-Do on their most Japan-influenced album.

    Later on Jones played on albums from former Japan-members David Sylvian and Richard Barbieri, while he also played on Japanese albums from Masami Tsuchiya (Ippu-Do), Melön.

    B.t.w. Mick's widow and friends created a wonderful website for him: http://mickkarn.net/
    There's still a forum (http://mickkarn.proboards.com/) although that's not very active anymore. In the past Mick used to post on it too, discussing his view on improvisation and playing with Cloud About Mercury, plus his arrangements for Japan. These posts do not longer exist anymore though, due to a temporary shut down of the forum.

  15. #15
    King of the "snake bass" :-)

  16. #16
    Member FrippWire's Avatar
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    I absolutely worship Mick Karn. I've been obsessively collecting any recording he appears on since I discovered him and Japan in the 80's. I fortunately saw him perform live on two occasions. Once with David Torn on the Cloud About Mercury tour and once with Polytown. His overall sound and approach to bass playing is simply amazing and really appeals to me. I'm a sucker for fretless bass. I rank him right up there with Jaco and Percy Jones.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by FrippWire View Post
    I've been obsessively collecting any recording he appears on since I discovered him and Japan in the 80's.
    Hé, that's my line although I started in 1978 after buying Japan's debut. The result so far are recordings from:

    Joan Armatrading, David Bowie (Tribute), Kate Bush, The d.e.p, Fjieri, Furiku, Genre Peak, Yoshihiro Hanno, Mari Iijima, Ippu-Do (Masami Tsuchiya), Ippppu-Do/Masami Tsuchiya, Masami Tsuchiya, Mark Isham, Japan, Japan (Tribute) (as Kim Morrison), Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook, Midge Ure & Mick Karn, Mick Karn, David Torn/Mick Karn/Terry Bozzio, Dalis Car, Jakko, Metronomy, Bill Nelson, NiNa, No-Man, Gary Numan, Richard Barbieri/Tim Bowness, Lonely Universe, Steve Jansen And Richard Barbieri, Jansen/Barbieri/Karn, Various (CMP-sampler) / (Jimi Hendrix-tribute DVD) / (Echoes Of Darkness-New Wave sampler), Stefano Panunzi, Rashit, Andy Rinehart, Indigo Falls, Gavin Harrison, Holi, Rain Tree Crow, Miu Sakamoto, Sugizo, David Sylvian, David Torn, Midge Ure, Paul Wong and Akiko Yano.

    Any suggestions?

  18. #18



    Couple of Gary Numan songs featuring Mick. He also played sax and clarinet well. I play bass and have copped a few Karn licks. First, you need a fretless bass. I use a Schecter Studio 5-string with the active pickups (battery-powered). I use the edge of my thumb a lot. He often plays these very quick notes that I can't duplicate by plucking so I use the edge of my thumb to hit the string and stop it which works much better.

    Another guy that has chops like Karn and Percy Jones is Pino Paladino.

    I also forgot to mention that I have my amp compressor set at about a 4:1 ratio for a quick attack and decay so that it doesn't sustain but makes more of a "THUM" sound.
    Last edited by Speare-shaker; 04-11-2015 at 04:34 PM.
    "One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us." ---Kurt Vonnegut

  19. #19
    Here's his contribution on Mary Friedman's "Loudspeaker".



    Not a track that features him the way I like (if you can recognize him at all).

  20. #20
    On the cover of Birds Through Fire's "Letters To Thurza" you can read: "remembering mick karn (1958-2011)".

    One of the tracks, "Portrait Of Amber", was written with the sound of Mick Karn in mind:

    PC: MK was extremely ill. My reaction at being so far away from the situation (distance wise) was to get something musical happening. The bass lines were written to a drum program that my good friend Ian Vaughan composed. I immediately sent them to P.S. to see if he could add some of his ideas to it. The original demo made me feel that it had a spirit, but had to find a home. When I heard Robby’s transformation of the piece (and knowing his friendship with Mk), it felt to me that the song had come full circle.
    RA: when Paul C. originally got in touch with me about the idea of collaborating on a track, I was feeling paralyzed in dealing with my own grief and had no idea if I was even going to be able to contribute to it... especially with musicians I only knew from a few email exchanges. At that point I didn't want to allow myself to be in any way vulnerable, I was just feeling too fragile. Putting oneself in a creative situation, especially a collaborative one, while it opens you up to new and interesting things, can also potentially set you up for getting wounded, as you are under intense scrutiny. But then i figured well, it’s only one track; maybe just see if I can pull some ideas together.
    It was unsettling to me at first how so like MK the bass line was, especially the sound of the instrument; it took some getting used to that it wasn't MK playing. Finally I said to myself, "ok, it's an homage" and so I approached it in that spirit. I decided the track had to have a very distinct and unusual shape and incorporate a lot of characteristics that existed in opposition; such as high detail contrasted with extreme untidiness, or atonality crashing up against gentle lyricism... loud passages and silence, understated vocals overwhelmed by drum & bass mayhem. There were something like 12 or 14 stems, across which I did a lot of cutting to create an arc for what was obviously going to be a "song"... whatever a "song" was going to be for BTF. At this point I had no idea at all where any of this might be going. When we had been touring together, MK was always pushing me musically to stop being so "careful" in my playing and to just, as he would say, "go f'rit..." so I wanted to untether my guitar playing a bit in the track and above all attempt to jettison idiom from my vocabulary. He hated stuff that sounded like other stuff. As for the lyrics, I meditated on the title A Portrait In Amber and asked questions about its inception but neither Paul's could really shed any light on what it meant; it just needed to be the title. So I had to extrapolate my own set of meanings. There's a little roadside shop not far from where I live, at least there used to be... where among other oddities, they sell "watered amber". Amber is basically fossilized tree resins, and often you can find organisms like insects trapped inside these drops of hardened tree sap; and these who knows how old... well, you can carbon date them I guess but beyond that,... they’re just unimaginably old. As a kid, I was always fascinated by the phenomenon, and even think I had a piece of it, but it didn't have a bug in it and I finally lost it somewhere. As many know, MK was an incredible artist and I saw several of his cast sculptures when I was visiting him in Cyprus... a few of them were cast in bronze, a few in resins, with an amber coloring. Musing on all of this, it brought me by the hand down a path of remembrance and the imagery began to fall into place..."now it’s caught forever, trapped forever in the trees..." and "...tracing the trees the color of bees..." MK hated bugs, especially spiders... also, he was always calling you "dear" or "my dear", it was so very old-world of him, very Charles Dickens, and it always made you feel warm and cared about. And yes, he was notorious for not returning any books you might have lent him. Once when we were touring in Europe, there was a 10 or 12 day break between legs and it was more economical for the production if I was to stay in Europe rather than fly home and then to just return a week later. So it was agreed I would go to London and stay with MK, saving them not only the airfare, but hotel costs as well. But something went haywire with the travel, I don't quite remember, but the upshot was I would get to London a full day before MK. So he gave me the keys to his flat in Kensington and I was to fax him when I got there to say if everything was sound, etc... this was in the '90's, well before we all had mobile email, or mobile phones. So I made my way on my own to his digs in Kensington and it was an adventure finding the place and letting myself in; it was no big deal at the time, but now it hits me rather hard when I think of it, that bunch of days just screwing around while we were on break. I laundered all my clothes at his flat, but he failed to tell me how hot the water was and all my white shirts turned permanently grey. I remember he had the book Songlines by Bruce Chatwin which I had read before, and so then, working on this song, out of the blue the idea of ley lines hit me and found its way into the lyric and I thought, ok; now this has finally connected my own experience with MK to these new friends I've made down in Oz. There was my connection; the idea that all people, things, times are connected by mysterious forces hidden within the earth... I started delivering rough mixes and from the reaction I got, I guessed they liked what I was contributing, because before I knew what was happening we had decided to do an entire album project as a threesome, with lovely MK as our patron Saint

  21. #21
    ^^^^

    paul smyth; keyboards, treatments
    robby aceto; guitars, piano, mandolin, guitar loops / atmospheres, drum programming, vocals, string arrangements
    paul cartwright; basses, piano, keyboards, guitar, vocals, percussion
    with
    maia vidal; spoken word.
    max buckholtz; violin, viola.
    peter dodge; cornet, trumpet.
    produced by birds through fire at
    heron ghost (new york)
    sarahouse (melbourne)
    ​nero's bunker (sydney)
    mixed by robby aceto and paul smyth
    mastered by david torn
    lyrics by robby aceto, paul cartwright, eve cartwright.

  22. #22
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Not to thread-jack or anything, but if you like the stuff that Karn did that involved Torn, I can't imagine not liking Aceto's Code album.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    Not to thread-jack or anything, but if you like the stuff that Karn did that involved Torn, I can't imagine not liking Aceto's Code album.
    Great album indeed! Wonderfully produced by David Torn (who also plays along) and not so far away from Karn as his Japan-mate Steve Jansen is on it. Happy Rhodes is even singing on one track.

    Aceto's band Red Letter is also worth mentioning.

  24. #24
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I just bought this after it was recommended on my Facebook wall by both David Torn and Douglas September.
    http://www.birdsthroughfire.com/lett...-thurza-1.html

    It's Karn-related: http://www.birdsthroughfire.com/about.html

    paul smyth; keyboards, treatments
    robby aceto; guitars, piano, mandolin, guitar loops / atmospheres, drum programming, vocals, string arrangements
    paul cartwright; basses, piano, keyboards, guitar, vocals, percussion
    with
    maia vidal; spoken word.
    max buckholtz; violin, viola.
    peter dodge; cornet, trumpet.
    https://soundcloud.com/birds-through-fire

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    I just bought this after it was recommended on my Facebook wall by both David Torn and Douglas September.
    http://www.birdsthroughfire.com/lett...-thurza-1.html

    It's Karn-related: http://www.birdsthroughfire.com/about.html


    https://soundcloud.com/birds-through-fire
    See post #20 + #21 for more info. Wonderful album.

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