Mick Karn Tapes - Part 2/End - 1984 Interview

Interviews with the band and ex-members

Mick Karn Tapes - Part 2/End - 1984 Interview

Postby heartofdavid on Mon Sep 29, 2008 5:54 pm

The Mick Karn Tapes – Part 2

B: Cookery is a passion of yours. What do you enjoy cooking most?

M: Indian food, I think.

B: Such as?

M: I usually invent things as I go along. Indian-wise…mmm…vegetarian Indian meals.

Deli begins to make more cups of tea.

B: Any more offers to get back at your café?

M: No! I don’t really want to do that! It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life! Y’see the whole idea of doing that restaurant thing…I’ve always eaten vast amounts and I still do eat as much as I can possibly can all day long…

B: (laughter) Glutton!

M: So the idea of opening up the restaurant was to find out if I still enjoyed cooking when I was in a position where I had to cook for people instead of being in a position where I wanted to cook for people, and after 10 months I found out that the answer’s “NO!” I didn’t really enjoy it, it turned me off food, I stopped eating as much…it’s taken me years to get back!

B: Do you get on well with your parents?

M: Oh yeah! We get on really well now.

B: But it was a lot of hassle in your schooldays?

M: Yep. I mean, it’s alright now. The fact that they’ve moved back to Cyprus as well as made me feel a lot freer and now we actually have things to talk about, ‘coz we’re not under eath others noses all the time.

B: What did they object to most?

M: Mmm… yes. (laughs) Um, I think probably rehearsing in the house.

B: Yes, judging by your first LP we can well imagine!

M: God! We used to take it in a rota-system. My house and Dave’s house, 3 months at each go. So of course all the neighbors would complain and the police would come down. But I think both of our parents, mine and Dave’s, objected to the company we kept, y’know? I.e. me and him. Because each of our parents saw it as the others in the band being the bad influence, of course.

B: Have you got any favorite music of the moment? We know you are not too happy with what’s currently in the charts?

M: Yeah, I don’t really listen to music at all.

B: What do you really dislike?

M: What do I really dislike? Anything Trevor Horn has anything to do with – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (mass laughter) – there’s so many, so many…

B: Bad bands?

M: Yeah! So many people that have just suddenly sprung up and they’re accepted as if they’ve been around for years.

B: Flavor of the months?

M: Yeah and they can’t really do a lot except sound like the one that came before. I dunno, I really think it’s a boring time in music, everyone needs something new.

B: Favorite album by Brian Eno?

M: “Another Green World.”

B: What makes you angry?

M: Just anything that’s unfair really, there’s so many things that are unfair in the world today. I get angry quite easily at injustice and unfairness. No one thing in particular.

B: What are you scared or afraid of?

M: I’ve got 2 big phobias actually. One of them is heights…I mean I’ve never made it to the top of a ladder – and the other one is spiders! (mass laughter)

B: You should have seen the one in the bathroom last night!

D: It was horrible! It was massive!

H: They came running in – “We’re not going in there! Kill it! Kill it!”

M: Oh no! I can’t go near them, I’m really frightened of them!

B: How do you gauge your own success?

Mick takes another cigarette and taps it thoughtfully on his silver cigarette case.

M: I gauge it by achieving what I set out to achieve in the first place, if you see what I mean. People have asked me that already. They asked if I’d be disappointed if the LP wasn’t successful but as far as I’m concerned I’ve succeeded already. The actual point of writing the material and recording it is enough to satisfy me.

Tea is served.

B: Do your feet smell? This is a question sent in by one of Bamboo’s readers.

M: No, not really. My feet don’t smell, do they? Why do people think my feet smell!?!?

B: When did you play with Gary Numan?

M: On the LP “Dance”, all the tracks except two.

B: Did you enjoy it?

M: Yeah, I did at the time. I enjoyed it less and less as it went on.

B: Did you get on okay with him?

M: In the beginning. It got a bit weird towards the end. I was a little disappointed with his way of working and we didn’t really see eye to eye towards the end.

B: Are you superstitious?

M: Yes.

B: You won’t walk under a ladder?

M: I’ll walk under a ladder, I’ve got my own superstitions.

B: Anything in particular?

M: Mmm, too many to mention. I think we’re all superstitious but we all have our own superstitions that the others can’t understand. I tend to hold on to things if I feel they’re lucky and carry them around with me, bits of stone I might find on the floor.

B: When did you last see Rob Dean?

M: Oh God! Last time I saw him was about 2 years ago.

B: Have you heard any of the music he has done with his group, Illustrated Man? They’ve released 2 singles now.

M: I’ve heard some of their stuff. What are the singles like?

B: Well, we are not very keen on what we have heard, too ‘poppy’ commercial. They are doing quite well in the States. They’ve released an LP and done some gigs.

M: Yeah, I didn’t particularly like what I heard but for America it’s ideal.

B: Do you keep in touch with the outside world?

M: Mmm, I read whatever newspaper is about, I don’t listen to the radio. I watch TV if there’s a good documentary or film on. So I don’t keep in touch with the outside world very much.

B: Favorite TV program as a child?

M: When I was a child?

B: “Thunderbirds?” “Captain Scarlet?”

M: Oh, I used to watch all that! “I Dream of Jeanie” was a good one – and now he’s become JR!

B: Do you watch any of the soaps? “Dynasty?”

M: No, I don’t watch that, is it good?

B: Brilliant! So tacky it’s excellent!

M: I’ve actually started paying attention to “Dallas.” They’re showing that again on BBC2.

B: The most embarrassing moment in your life?

M: Oh no! There’s one every day, isn’t there? I’m noted for doing embarrassing things, it keeps people laughing. When we first went to Japan, the first time we had fans following us around, I was really excited. Nobody else was, only me, and we were out one day with a photographer to do a session at a Buddhist Temple at the top of these big giant steps. We were all busily walking up and there was this group of girls waiting at the bottom, which the bodyguard had shouted at to stop them going any further. So they staying down there and we walked up and I was dying to turn round and give them a little wave, but nobody else was turning round so I thought, “I’d better do it without them seeing me.” So I slowly turned round and gave them a little wave – and fell down the steps! (laughter fills the kitchen)

M: So everyone knew about it anyway.

B: What personally fascinates you about Japan – as a country and its people?

M: The way it works so perfectly, there’s so many things that you may not agree with – they’re conditioned to think in a certain way and conditioned to get married at a certain age, conditioned to go on holiday with their boss and that sort of thing. There’s so many things that are horrible in our view, but it works so well. It’s such a wealthy country because they’re all in it together. They’re all working for the country and not for themselves, which is a rarity.

B: A kind of Communism?

M: Mmm, but you wouldn’t find that anywhere else.

B: A very consumer orientated society?

M: And a very Buddhist orientated society. I think that’s got a lot to do with it. The theory in Buddhism being that you must put others before yourself and do as much as you can for others – even if it breaks you.

B: Do you think it’s a good way to live?

M: That’s what fascinates me. I don’t think it is a good way to live. I think it’s because of religion.

B: Are you religious at all?

M: Yes, I think I’m very religious, but again, it’s my own religion.

B: Is there a possibility one day that you might stop playing music and go for sculpture or something else, can you see that, or will you playing bass at 65 which is the alternative?

M: (Deep in thought) Mmm, I have thought about it a lot. There were difficult times before I met Pete and Dali’s Car started. I had to decide if I wanted to carry on with music or whether to stop. No, I think it’ll always be a part of my life, music. I can’t really live without it. It’s something I have to get out of my system, otherwise it drives me mad, it’s the first time I’ve had that with music. I used to have it that all the time with sculpture – where an idea for a piece of work goes round and round in your head until you actually make it. Then the mind is free. I get that stronger with music now than I do with sculpture – where I have to get it out of my system, although not particularly playing bass. I don’t get a thrill out of playing bass much any more. I think what I need more than anything is to compose, so I can still see myself composing at 65 – I hope!

B: Will composing and music just be a sideline?

M: I rather think everything else will be a sideline. I think that everything I do now, musically, is a learning period. I don’t think I’ll be making the music I’m really satisfied with, that’ll live for a long time, until I’m middle-aged.

B: What do you think of “Bamboo?” Be honest!

M: Well, it’s the bet I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen lots from Europe and the majority of them are awful, really badly Xeroxed, you can’t read a thing. “Bamboo” is really good though, you can even make sense of the pictures.

B: Did you copy Bowie by shaving your eyebrows off?

M: No, it was a complete mistake! I’ve always had quite bushy, thick eyebrows that used to meet in the middle. (Turns to Debi and Vikii) Do you pluck your eyebrows?

D & V: Yes, painful!

M: Yeah, it’s so painful! So I just used to shave the part in the middle and trim the ends off and I accidently slipped one day and went right through one of them, so I thought, “I can’t shave one off and leave the other.”, and I grew to like it.

V: These aren’t real, I went mad with the tweezers one day!

M: Ah!

B: When it all boils down to it at the end of the day, your success in Japan, how much to you think is musically orientated?

M: Our success there in the beginning and the first few years, I don’t think was very much musically orientated at all. I think it became more musically orientated towards the end of our career, but at the beginning, no. I think it was basically the way we looked.

B: Because David turned round in an interview and said, “The Japanese fans are more intelligent and they appreciate our music more than English fans”, which is very hard to understand when they don’t know what the lyrics mean and scream through every song. I think it’s got a lot to do with looks. A lot of people say a group’s done really well if they’ve made it big in Japan, as it’s a very difficult thing to do. We disagree – if you’re pretty or wear makeup, it doesn’t really matter if you can sing or if you have a talent to write music and lyrics. The Japanese music magazines are proof of this.

M: Well, in the music business, Japan is considered the market you turn to if you can’t make it anywhere else, which is what happened with us. We couldn’t find success anywhere so our management turned to Japan and pushed us there. So we made it big in Japan – which doesn’t really mean anything.

B: Except you had financial backing to go on and try other worlds…

M: Yeah. It took us the longest time in Japan to shake off the tag of the young audience, to make the audience a bit more realistic in terms of listening to what we were doing and not just going for our looks. It took us a long time, but I think we eventually did it.

When we first went over there, you’d get streamers, balls, balloons thrown at you on stage and between every song roadies would have to come on and clear up, because you just couldn’t move, you were tangled up completely! So whilst Dave was singing, he was getting balls thrown at him, which really used to irritate him, y’know? So it took a long time for any boys to come to our concerts. On our lat tour there were a few, about 10% at the most. But even that was a big accomplishment as far as we were concerned. We never thought we’d see a boy in the audience.

B: The Four-Minute Warning – what would you do?

M: I’d eat.

Bamboo burst out laughing. Is this man obsessed by food?

M: I’d eat, definitely. I’ve thought about this quite a lot. I’d like to think I wouldn’t panic, but it’d be different when it actually happened – so I probably would.

B: What would you eat?

M: There’s not really enough time to cook anything, so I’d grab what was around and east as much as possible.

B: Why eat?

M: Because you wouldn’t be worried about putting on weight, and it might be the last good meal you’d get for a while!

B: No one knows what the catering in heaven is like, or the alternative…

M: Or the alternative, yeah. I’d like to be a survivor, wouldn’t you?

V: Never!

H: I’d love to look up, see it all and then die.

M: No, I don’t think it will happen.

Deli: They’ve got a Muslim bomb in Pakistan.

M: Oh no! That sounds dangerous. With wars, it’s religion every time that’s the cause.

B: Any particular artist who you’ve enjoyed, maybe gone out to see, or gone out and religiously bought the records?

M: Yeah, Lou Reed. I’ve always liked what he’s done up until 2-3 years ago.

B: Have you a favorite track of his?

M: Well, album actually, I’d have to say was “Berlin.” I think it’s one of the timeless record of all time.

B: Have you been to Berlin?

M: Yeah, we went once as Japan. I really liked Berlin. Most of Europe has got no atmosphere at all. I think Berlin is one of the few cities that has got a bit of atmosphere, Paris being the other. Other than that, the rest of Europe is pretty dull. But Berlin was a funny feeling. You could feel something had been going on there, the feeling you’re left with is quite scary.

B: Any particular favorite country?

M: Yeah, Thailand – Bangkok.

B: Why?

M: Because the people there know nothing about the type of work I do and they don’t really care. The weather’s lovely and it’s so different from our way of life. There’s so much to learn, it’s like going back 500 years.

B: You were both recently in Egypt, did you actually go and see the Pyramids?

M: Yeah, we were staying right opposite them.

B: And?

M: And? And what? (laughs)

B: And what do you think of them and Egypt as a place?

M: Well, I love Egypt. I went there before with Midge, that’s what made me want to go back and spent more time there. I love the place. The Pyramids – you can’t help but keep looking at them in amazement. You can’t go to sleep at night because you know they’re outside your window, you have to keep looking at them, they’re so big and knowing that through history everyone has done the same, looked and wondered…Napoleon, Hitler,…who else…Moses…and you get this sense of it being so old and yourself so tiny, so insignificant compared to them.

B: Do you believe in life after death?

M: Yes, definitely.

B: What convinced you?

M: Nothing in particular. It’s something I’ve always believed in and no one can change my mind about it – I’m absolutely positive about my beliefs on life after death.

B: What are you going to come back as?

M: I might not come back at all.

B: What form do you think you will assume – a bass player?

M: No! I don’t know hat form I’ll come back as. I’ll decide that much later.

B: Do you believe in fate?

M: Yes.

B: Any particular thing that made you think, “There is something controlling my destiny”, although I’ve always assumed that you are four people who got control from the word go about what you were going to do where you were going?

M: Yeah! That’s what I believe. I believe everyone has that inside them, everyone controls their own destiny. So you’ve got to be careful of what you tell yourself you want in life because I really believe you can get it in the end if you want it enough. You’ve got to be careful you’ve chosen what you really want.

B: What do you want, now and in the long-term?

M: I want to carry on being a composer and be taken seriously as one and have the outlets for my work – that’s all.

B: I get the feeling from what you’ve just said you don’t think you have been taken seriously?

M: I don’t think I have much chance to be taken seriously, when you have to go through the media to get here. You have no choice but to wait and see if time will tell.

B: Have you a got a favorite joke? What makes you laugh?

M: Favorite joke? Oh, lots of things make me laugh! I love all types of jokes! I can watch a TV show for 15 minutes and not find it funny at all – but then suddenly I’ll lock into that sense of humor and find the rest of the program really funny. It doesn’t take me long to find things funny.

B: Who inspires you, artists, etc.?

M: I’ve spoken a lot about feeling, it’s so difficult talking about it, the same feeling I was talking about making this album and in my own work, is a feeling that I get from some artists, and I think it’s a spiritual feeling. It’s something you feel deep down somewhere that suddenly fills you with all types of emotion, brimming to the surface. You don’t’ really know why. It’s almost like talking to something that’s been inside you since the beginning of time – something spiritual.

B: Do you like London much?

M: I’ve always said I’d like to move away form London, but I don’t think that’s very true now. There’s nowhere I’d rather be living than London. There’s nowhere that has the freedom that England has. Everyone’s an individual.

B: Are you doing any more work for Ballet Rambert?

M: They asked me to do a whole show for them, a 40 minute thing but in the end they thought it was a bit too obscure.

B: What did you think of “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence?”

M: Well, the best thing about it was the music. I was a bit disappointed with the film – I wouldn’t go and see it again – once is enough. I don’t like Bowie as an actor – he irritates me – he’s still David Bowie, his own character is stronger than the one he’s playing. I think he should either carry on being a musician or an actor – not both. I don’t really like Bowie that much. He’s got to the same position that the Stones reached 20 years ago, they could get away with murder. It’s the same with Bowie – he can do anything and it’ll be successful because he’s Bowie.

B: Richard mentioned you’d talked to the Duran people, they came up to you and said, “We’ll be bigger than you because we want it more”, and Rich said that thinking about it, it was true.

M: Mmm, yeah, ages ago. I think we were doing “Polaroids.” Rich and I got a cassette from a band who wanted us to produce their album, and it was a band called Duran Duran who we’d never heard of. We listened to the tape and there was this track “Girls on Film” and we thought, “God! What a load of rubbish! This is terrible! We don’t want anything to do with that lot.” So we wrote back and said “Sorry” – we found that it sounded so similar to us that they wanted us ‘coz of who we were and not that they thought we could do anything good with it – yeah, I remember that!

B: There seems to be a void between the band and us, the fans. Is that our imagination or is it preconceived or did it just happen?

M: I think it just happened, because we’re all very serious about what we do, our work, and I know that we all realize that if weren’t for the fans we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in. But at the same time, people have this idea that we’re very egotistical and know our worth, but it’s the opposite, we’re our own worst critics – always, and the point of somebody flattering us and telling us how much they like us, it embarrasses us and it reaches a stage of not being able to control it and I think the point of fans hanging about outside where we have to bump into them is not a case of us thing we’re superior, it’s a case of pure embarrassment. We’re embarrassed by the things they’re going to tell us, ‘coz it’ll only make us turn round to ourselves and tell ourselves it’s not true.

B: Really? Because basically we think you’ve got a following who are a bunch of fanatics/nutters! They’re so devoted, there’s not many bands around who’ve finished 2 years on and are still getting such a reaction.

M: Yeah, that’s lovely to know. But when you come into contact with it, it’s a bit difficult to react. Even the fact of having someone downstairs who’s just going to ask for an autograph or handshake…and rather than feel, “Ah, that was really nice – I feel great”, it’ll make us go away and knock ourselves for it.

B: There seems to be a lot of people whose lives were changed due to your influence in one way or another. Does that embarrass you?

M: No, I think that’s the nicest reward. I think when we very first began, I think that’s one of the things we were all hoping to do and after so many years, when you forget what you’re doing it for, to suddenly find out it’s happened is really lovely. We don’t feel embarrassed about that.

It has been a wonderful insight into Mick Karn’s private and public life, the struggles and mountains he’s climbed, both as a part of Japan and as an individual. We said our goodbyes. The weather was typically Autumn, cold, windy, clouds rushing across the sky and leaves carpeting the pavement - yet it didn’t reflect our mood, we were full of the joys of Spring – so once again – a very special thank you to Mick and Deli for bringing us all some much needed warmth and smiles.
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Postby inkinthewell on Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:15 pm

Thanks again. Had great fun reading it.
By the way, one of the interviewers, Debi Zornes, works for Mick now. I was in touch with her for a problem I had with Mick's forum, and on CDs from Each Eye A Path on she's stated as manager and co-ordinator. Loyal.
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Postby heartofdavid on Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:11 pm

inkinthewell wrote:By the way, one of the interviewers, Debi Zornes, works for Mick now.

Nice to know that, I'd wondered what happened with her after the end of Medium. Wonder what Howie is doing these days?
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Postby anortherncod on Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:42 pm

It was thanks to Debi that I met David in 1987. I caught up with her again at the No-Man gig last month - she very kindly took pictures of me with Tim Bowness and my friend from PTF, Fiona, one of which can be seen on my MySpace page if anyone is interested... So you could say she landed a dream job through all the hard graft at Bamboo.

I'm sure I remember someone saying on Pioneers that Howie was a painter and decorator by trade...
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