MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates
➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU AT TOP
to go deeper into the past
➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH, see the sidebar below
➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s
❏ Header picture of Darla, Steve, Bowie, Judi and Elise in David Bowie’s 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes © 1983 Jones Music under exclusive licence to EMI Records Ltd
SEARCH our 500 posts
- ➤ The curious high-pressure timeline of Tom Daley’s coming out
- ➤ Vincent the master of hot cuts denied a farewell by Jazz FM
- 1963 ➤ With The Beatles the day Kennedy was shot
- ➤ Deejay Sullivan declares war on the “Wayne and Shirley” jazz-funkers
- 2013 ➤ Gary Kemp’s video message for posterity on TV this Saturday
- 2013 ➤ Canvey Gold Miners polish up their dancing shoes
- ➤ RIP Lou Reed… Today we lost another legend
- 2013 ➤ There goes the great British summer
- ➤ George still in denial over a deed that ‘almost didn’t happen’
- ➤ Dress UP while Sullivan selects sounds from the 80s at the V&A’s Friday Late
ZOOM DOWN to ARCHIVE INDEX
30 YEARS SINCE HOCKNEY REVEALED HIS NEW VISION
◆ Hockney remains active on the country roads of Yorkshire painting and videoing more of the eye-popping series of “cubistic” multi-screen movies that concluded his Royal Academy show in London — and which he proposed 30 years ago to Shapersofthe80s in a landmark interview in 1983 when he revealed “Suddenly I see cubism differently, more clearly”. Read it inside, along with his latest adventures on an iPad
NEWS — OLD FACES, NEW MIXES FOR THE 20-TEENS✱ As Robbie Vincent considers life after Jazz FM, Shapersofthe80s tells how Robbie influenced the shape of British musical taste in his 35 years as master of hot cuts .............................................................................. ✱ Duran Duran by Denis O’Regan is a pop-up photo exhibition hosted by Olympus cameras at 15 Foubert’s Place, London W1F 7QB, Nov 27–Dec 5 .............................................................................. ✱ Last chance to catch the fierce Henry Goodman in Brecht’s razor-sharp satire on the rise of a smalltime American gangster (not) – ends this week at the Duchess Theatre, London .............................................................................. ✱ ‘The Godfather of House’ Frankie Knuckles is among a trio of legendary US deejays that includes Todd Terry and Marshall Jefferson who fly into the UK to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The almost as legendary nightclub FAC51 The Haçienda hosts its first New Year’s Eve event for years in its Mancunian hometown by seeing in 2014 in the first 2,000-capacity club event at the newly renovated Albert Hall, M2 5QR. Tickets £25 .............................................................................. ✱ i-D’s website relaunches as part of the Vice empire: Winter Collectors Issue features Cara Delevingne from catwalk to the silver screen .............................................................................. ✱ December’s Dazed & Confused launches a new landmark video series, Visionaries, with James Franco, cinematic polymath .............................................................................. ✱ Next stop, Australia for the godlike Brit who reinvented the rock guitar for the 80s... Move now to catch Johnny Marr Down Under Dec 30–Jan 7. And remember, “Playing the guitar means always having something cool to do” .............................................................................. ✱ Find out more about the radical fashion from the pages of BLITZ magazine at the exhibition You’re Ugly and Your Mother Dresses You Funny being curated by Iain R Webb at Paul Smith in Mayfair, W1S 4BL, Nov 22–Dec13 .............................................................................. ✱ The Laboratory Project is a utopian vision designed to take music to a global audience. Sample its latest compilation Taste Masters 4 on iTunes .............................................................................. ✱ Through into the New Year – Peter Hook & The Light perform Joy Division live at selected European venues .............................................................................. ✱ Touring ends for “Face of 68” supergroup guitarist and songwriter Peter Frampton who offers lengthy assessments of his Top 13 Albums of all time at The Quietus, from Django In Rome to Muddy Waters’ The Chess Box and Albert King’s The Ultimate Collection .............................................................................. ✱ Free downloads of the Hadley-Kemp reunion in the Radio 4 Mastertapes series ... Catch Big Tone’s party show Saturdays 7–9pm GMT on Absolute 80s Radio .............................................................................. ✱ Remake Remodel claims to be “The Nation’s Saving Grace of Alternative, Rock’n’Roll” with pure indie at Soup Kitchen, Mondays, Manchester .............................................................................. ✱ The gorgeous face of Scarlett Cannon here becomes the key identity for the UK’s must-see fashion show of the year. As door-girl at the style-setting clubnight Cha-Cha, she symbolises the creative explosion that triggered the Swinging 80s. This was led from 1979 by teen-and-twenties clubbers at the Blitz, Beat Route and Wag, who sadly go under-represented at the V&A’s patchy special exhibition Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s, July 10–Feb 16, 2014. More than 85 outfits vividly demonstrate the creative extremes of the decade, yet are too heavily underpinned by commercial mainstream designers who lack the clubbing credentials of the show’s title
160,000 VISITS PER YEAR
◆ At Dec 31 WordPress recorded 538,000 views since Shapers of the 80s launched in autumn 2009, then in March 2013 Revolver Maps reported 319,207 visits to Shapers of the 80s during the previous two years in global statistics measuring hits from 199 countries
Shapers of the 80s “invaluable”
◆ Shapersofthe80s is declared an “invaluable website” by historian Dominic Sandbrook, author of the rich new cultural analysis, Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974–1979. We report how Sandbrook gives generous credit to key influencers on youth culture. His unstuffy combination of high and low life energised the BBC2 series The Seventies aired in 2012
◆ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s, telly don Simon Schama succinctly expresses why we should document the “irreverent freedom” that is a special aspect of life in Britain
FIONA ON ‘REAL’ THEATRE…
Picture by © Alan Davidson
❏ The Blitz Kids outflanked most of the 80s copyists who followed their Bowie-inspired passion for changing their look as often as possible. You’d find the follow-on generation of posers at Studio 21 on Oxford Street or the Batcave, or in a back barrel at Birmingham’s Rum Runner. After the Blitz caravanserai had moved on into the world of work, fashion designer Fiona Dealey said: “You look at these little Bat people with make-up dribbling down their necks and you feel like saying, ‘Sorry darling, not enough loose powder’. The difference was that our make-up was stage slap, Leichner not Factor. The clothes came from a costumier, Charles Fox not Flip. Dressing for the Blitz was real theatre. It wasn’t just another uniform. You felt glamorous.”
Sade in a nutshell ♫ ♫✱ After 2010’s Grammy Award winning Soldier Of Love LP, Sade went on to release The Ultimate Collection. The 29 tracks on two CDs included three new numbers, plus a version of Moon & The Sky featuring Jay-Z . . . In 2011 the band won a Grammy award for Best R&B Performance By A Group for the track Soldier Of Love ✱ 2010 — Shapersofthe80s finds comeback Shard comfy as ‘Auntie Sade’ ✱ 1981 — Pix of Sade’s Demob designs during the first Blitz invasion of the US ✱ 1982 — Pix of Sade helping backstage during Steve Strange’s fashion show in Paris
GEORGE O’DOWD SINCE 1979➢ 1980, Three key men in Boy George’s life ➢ 2010, Ex-Blitz Kids give their verdicts on the TV drama Worried About the Boy (pictured) ➢ 1979 — Unbelievable! The voice of sweet reason in George’s TV debut ➢ 2010, Ex-jailbird George takes his first trancey steps on the path to sainthood ➢ June 14, 2011, Boy George celebrates the big Five-0 and tells the world, yes, finally he has “lots of regrets” ...
➢ . . . then Shapersofthe80s reports from the fruit-cakiest party of summer 2011 ➢ 2011, Boy George released Ordinary Alien, The Kinky Roland Files, a CD import on the independent Decode label — his first solo album in more than a decade ➢ 2012, Boy George reunites with Culture Club for New Year’s Day — and a new album
SPANDAU 30 YEARS ON
◆ Tony Hadley at Facebook: “My wife and I are pleased to announce the safe arrival of our beautiful baby daughter born on February 6, 2012” ... But for Spandau, Tony dropped another bombshell on ITV’s Loose Women on May 16
◆ Shapersofthe80s tells the story of Spandau Ballet’s comeback tour after two decades apart — Videos, interviews, free downloads, links and background articles from the 2009-10 Reformation tour ... That’s all folks, possibly for ever
◆ Story behind the making of Spandau’s Olympic Gold, remixed by deejay Paul Oakenfold and turned into a slick vid
DURAN DURAN THEN & NOW✱ 30 years ago the 80s supergroup’s debut single Planet Earth peaked at No 12 in the UK chart . . . Shapersofthe80s tells how Duran’s road to stardom began in the Studio 54 of Birmingham, UK, in 1980 ✱ Catch up on 2011: Highlights of Duran’s round-the-world adventure ... and DD’s delayed return to the UK ... Plus ten killer videos other people made as tributes to Duran’s return to creativity
ESSENTIAL LANDMARK READS➢ Spandau Ballet, the Blitz Kids and the birth of the New Romantics — a brisk history by yours truly of who did what to make stars out of a club houseband, change the rhythm of the UK charts — and ultimately transform the British media ➢ How three wizards met at the same crossroad in time — a brief scene-setter on the forces shaping the Swinging Eighties ➢ 1980, Strange days, strange nights, strange people: at The Blitz a decade dawns ➢ 1980, One week in the private worlds of the new young: London blazes with creativity ➢ 1980, Shapersofthe80s tells how Duran Duran’s road to stardom began in the Studio 54 of Birmingham, UK ➢ 1981, Birth of Duran’s Planet Earth ... when other people’s faith put the Brummies into the charts ➢ 1983, The Making of UK Club Culture — definitive Face cover story by yours truly seen here in the Wham Rap! video ➢ 1976–1984, How creative clubbing started and ended with the 80s ➢ 2010, Comeback Shard comfy as ‘Auntie Sade’ ➢ 2009, Onstage, Spandau’s Hadley and Kemp finally get huggy: a mighty Reformation ➢ 40 years since “I picked on you-oo-oo”! July 6, 1972 saw the seminal pop moment — David Bowie’s first appearance on Top of the Pops as Ziggy Stardust, the day he created the next generation of popstar wannabes
ESSENTIAL 80s LISTENING ♫ ♫♫ Blitz Club anthem, Visage’s Fade To Grey (Michael Gray remix, 1980/2009)
JUST DON’T CALL US NEW ROMANTICS . . .✧ ... except of course everybody claims they were the first ✧ Steve Strange remains the forlorn Lost Boy of pop after falling out with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure over use of the 80s band name Visage ... Follow Steve’s daydreams at Facebook: Steve “Visage” Strange ✧ Blitz Club co-host and deejay Rusty Egan still going strong ✧ Follow the adventures of an international deejay at The fabulous World of Princess Julia ✧ Judith “frankly” Frankland blogging at The Swelle Life ✧ Boy George dates and official news ✧ The World of Animal Nightlife ✧ Gary Kemp blogs on his own website ✧ Danilo Monzillo’s exhaustive Blitz Kids compendium ✧ The official line on Duran Duran ✧ New Romantics on video ✧ Landmark pop videos from the 80s and all crucial points before — on the Shapersofthe80s channel at YouTube
RANDOM CLICKER✦ READ this QR Code with your mobile, or CLICK HERE to visit a different random post at Shapersofthe80s every time you click
➢ iPAD USERS see only a tiny part of this website. View on a desktop computer for the full content
➢ 500,000+ page views since 2009 — and 500 posts by June 2013... Best for Blitz Kid memories
Archive — Many publication dates are arbitrary, so click and take pot luck!
CLICK TO SEE WHO’S ONLINE❖ Welcome to our latest visitors from 198 countries and dependencies — not forgetting our visitor in the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (54°48′S, 68°18′W), only a smidgeon further south than our readers in Río Grande and Punta Arenas... Our northernmost visitor lives at Hammerfest in Norway (70°39′N, 23°40′E), a nudge nearer the Pole than others in Finnmark, and at Murmansk in Russia (68°58′N, 33°05′E). A special Hello to our one visitor in Greenland!
KEY PHOTOGRAPHERS ON THE SCENEMy gratitude to the photographers who have generously permitted use of their images at Shapersofthe80s, because who would believe the preposterous story of the Blitz scene without the supporting pictorial evidence? These are the people whose lenses first caught the magic, and more subcultural images from the 1980s can be found at their own online galleries
❂ Neil Matthews
❂ Denis O’Regan
❂ Andy Rosen
❂ Homer Sykes
❂ Virginia Turbett
❂ Special thanks to:
Tag Archives: Mick Karn
On video: Muriel Gray interviews Mick Karn and Peter Murphy as Dalis Car on Channel 4’s weekly music show The Tube in November 1984
❚ CONFIRMATION COMES TODAY of the last musical collaboration by Mick Karn, former bass player with Japan, who died of cancer in January. His longtime associate Debi Zornes announces today at Facebook: “Mick’s final work has yet to be released and is a collaboration with Peter Murphy as Dalis Car 2. The duo were reunited in a studio in Oxford at the end of September last year to begin work and four tracks were completed over the ensuing months — a slow process due to Mick’s declining health. Steve [Jansen] has just finishing mixing the four tracks which will be released as an EP. More news to follow soon, including release date.”
Debi also thanks everyone who sent messages of condolence and support and donations. “They were invaluable in providing support for Mick and his family during those last 7 months. It allowed them to relocate to London to receive better care and be close to friends.”
Murphy said that the recent collaboration was the first time that the musicians had seen each other since the 80s. He wrote of Karn’s last months in his own tribute in January: “Mick’s wry sense of humour, keen creativity and graciousness were there even in the times of most physical distress.”
During 1984, after Karn and Murphy left their hugely successful and innovative bands, Japan and Bauhaus, they collaborated with Paul Lawford on percussion as Dalis Car to record an album, The Waking Hour (left), and a single, The Judgement is the Mirror, viewable at YouTube with other keyboard and bass- driven songs such as His Box.
Peter Murphy, whose iceberg cheekbones and baritone voice came to prominence with the British rock band Bauhaus (1978-83), has been dubbed the Godfather of Goth. Right now he is touring in the US until April 10, and signed to Nettwerk Music Group to release I Spit Roses as an EP on March 22. A new album titled Ninth is expected on June 7.
MICK KARN, the acclaimed exponent of the fretless guitar, died today in London from cancer. He was a founder member of the British art-rock band Japan, formed in 1974 with David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri, Rob Dean and Steve Jansen, heavily influenced by Bowie and Roxy. By their 1978 album Adolescent Sex, Japan had developed a unique visual style and innovative sound underpinned by Karn’s sensual bass. In all but club membership, Japan *were* the original New Romantic band
❏ Karn’s Facebook page notes this evening “Even on early Japan recordings, his highly distinctive fretless bass voice for which he is most renowned can be heard. By their swan song, critically acclaimed Tin Drum 1981, he was dubbed one of the best bass players in the world. He’d already supplied bass and sax work to Gary Numan’s Dance album and was the first Japan member with a solo record, Titles [hear audio below]. In 1983, Japan’s live album, Oil on Canvas, brought his playing to new ears: jazz legend Jan Garberek.”
❏ Update on Karn’s Facebook page, Jan 18 “Mick’s funeral service took place yesterday afternoon, Monday 17th January, in West London. The private ceremony was attended by close friends and family.”
❏ Bassist John Taylor writes on the Duran Duran website “Nick and I first saw Japan at Barbarellas in Birmingham on their Obscure Alternatives tour and were blown away. They were so fresh, while every other band in town were tripping over each other in a rush to play the same three chords, Japan were brave in many ways. Mick changed my life in a good way. Quiet Life and Gentlemen Take Polaroids, Adolescent Sex and Tin Drum are amongst the best recordings made during the post-punk era in my view. Mick’s sax playing also was always interesting.
❏ Review by Amy Hanson at AllMusic of Japan’s first album Adolescent Sex (1978) says “A remarkable debut, the set snarls with leftover punk intent, a few glam-rock riffs, and a wealth of electronics that not only reach back to the band’s youth, but also predate much of what would explode out of the next wave of British underground… [Later Hanson continues...] The ‘wow factor’ of an incredibly funky bass and guitar on The Unconventional, repeated again on Wish You Were Black, is not only a surprise but leaves one wondering if the band were closet Chic fans … A more exciting album than just about anything else they’d ever record, Japan were young, hungry, and more than a little rough around the edges. Despite the slick R&B work twined in, it’s important to remember that this band were in the sonic foothold of an early edgy era — groundbreakers at their own inception. ”
A/V tracks featuring Karn at YouTube
➢ Mick Karn, Sensitive (1982) — His first album as a solo artist displays his creativity after Japan’s split, accompanied by Japan drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri
➢ Knights of the Opium Moon (ft Mick Karn) — Track 6 from the London electronic band Furiku’s debut album (Like a Freak, May 2010)… This has to be among Karn’s last musical collaborations. Karn’s own discography lists the four-track EP Love’s Glove as his last published recording in 2005. Dom Agius of Furiku tells Shapersofthe80s: “We were approached by Mick and his management in late 2006 via MySpace. They’d heard our work and invited us to remix a track of his. They sent over a selection of basslines but rather than do a conventional instrumental remix we decided — as long-term Japan and Mick fans — to write and record a new song — the “missing track off Tin Drum” if you will. So we sifted through, chopped and redited maybe six of the basslines together and then we wrote Knights of the Opium Moon over that. Mick and his management were thrilled with the results.”
➢ View video: Sons of Pioneers — The best-selling album Oil on Canvas was recorded live during Japan’s six sell-out nights at Hammersmith Odeon, in November 1982, on their last UK concert tour. Japan’s final live performance was on December 16 in Japan. Worsening personal differences persuaded the band members to go their separate ways virtually at the height of their creative and commercial success.
❚ BITTER-SWEET NEWS TO HEAR THAT MIDGE URE has leapt straight into the breach to organise a benefit concert [See update at foot of this post] for Mick Karn, the former bass-player with 80s hit group Japan. Karn’s website has announced that he has been diagnosed with “advanced stages of cancer” and is struggling to pay his medical bills in Cyprus where he lives with wife and child.
One aspect of this sad news is to be reminded that not all chart-topping “popstars” become millionaires, especially the drummers and sax-players and guitarists who don’t get a chance to write lyrics, which is what generate the big money in royalties. The typical pop group makes two albums in as many years. As hugely influential pathfinders for the glam-into-synth-pop era, Japan had a very good run: over eight years, six studio albums and one live, plus umpteen compilations. Yet the pop industry is not noted for its pension schemes.
Another aspect of this week’s news is to be starkly reminded of our own mortality. Mick Karn will be “only” 52 on his birthday next month. When Michael Jackson died last June, he was “only” 50 and more than a few among our pop pals from the Swinging 80s generation said they suddenly felt the hairs prickle on the backs of their necks. Jacko was exactly their age. So was Steve (Stella) New when he died last month, at “only” 50.
What seems to chill us is the threat of the Big C. For most of the past three decades various forms of heart disease have been the most common cause of death in the UK. But whether as a result of dietary change or gym culture, circulatory diseases have shown the greatest decline, while life expectancy at birth has increased by six years on average to 79. It’s often said that if the heart doesn’t get you in the end, cancer will, but what’s little appreciated is that cancer is the prime cause of death among men when they’re younger – in their thirties. From there on, cardiovascular causes and, curiously, geography become more decisive. So, given a man’s susceptibility, perhaps we ought not to be surprised when cancer claims him earlier in life than a woman.
“We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love,” it is said. “Only” 50, if we’ve come this far, brings ever more frequent intimations of our own mortality, that tilt us from the Wordsworthian vision towards a more pragmatic view of our role as a toiler in the scheme of things. The hot-blooded proclamations of Jimmy Dean, Pete Townshend and Roger McGough starts sounding like romantic indulgence: “Live fast, die young”? You have to be kidding! “Hope I die before I get old”? Oh no, you don’t really! “Let me die a young man’s death”? Absolutely not! As the grand old man of British sculpture, Henry Moore, told The Face shortly before he died at 88: “The work is what’s important, and I haven’t got much time left.”
So all power to Midge Ure for grasping the nettle and planning to celebrate a life not yet fully run. He has urged fans to give Karn both “financial help and emotional help”. In addition, Ure, as the joint-founder of Band Aid, 1984’s fund-raising supergroup, is well versed in how to organise a benefit for Karn. BBC 6Music reports: “While no acts are confirmed yet for the concert, which is to take place some time this year, Ure has his sights on reuniting Japan for the show.” (Karn’s website later said these had not been Midge’s words.)
Ure said of Karn’s diagnosis: “The situation is not very good. The cancer has spread, he is going through chemo right now — but surrounded by family and friends, he has a positive attitude.”
❚ IN 1982 WHEN PETE TOWNSHEND WAS PUTTING TOGETHER a supergroup to launch the first Prince’s Trust Gala, he chose Karn for the line-up and described him as by far the best bassist in the UK. This event was the showcase that led to his collaborations with Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading, Pete Murphy (Dalis Car, 1984), Midge (the chart single After a Fashion, 1983) and many more. The intervening years have yielded 13 solo albums, among which The Tooth Mother (1995) is a standout for its juzz-funky innovation.
Of Karn’s musicianship, Ure said: “Until I heard Japan, I had never heard a bass guitar played like that. It was almost like playing a lead instrument, incredibly percussive and melodic, something that inspired me.”
Mick Karn Appeal – This Fretless
Bass could be yours
Armando Pugliese from Prometeus Guitars in Italy has kindly agreed to donate the proceeds from the auction of a fretless bass guitar to Karn’s appeal – either the bass pictured here, which he lovingly made for himself, or one built to your spec. This a serious instrument worth a high three-figure sum. Auction ends Friday June 25.
[Update: Auction now ended. Winning bid, 1502 Euros.]
Karn’s unusual fretless bass technique is at once surreal, exotic and sinuous, practised in the early days on an aluminum-necked Travis Bean instrument. His best friend guitarist David Torn once said: “It’s like if Bootsy was Moroccan.”
Motown’s James Jamerson insisted that the bass can actually drive a melody, and Karn agrees. It was one of the hallmarks of Japan’s music. The group was founded in 1974 (when Karn was 15) with schoolmates in south London: David Sylvian, David’s younger brother Steve Jansen, and Richard Barbieri. They decided to play Roxy-ish art-rock, both pre-punk and despite punk. By 1979 and the release of their pivotal third album, the synth-driven Quiet Life, Japan’s long hair, glam make-up and progressive melodies saw them branded as New Romantics in all but club membership. In reality they presaged the UK’s edgy new pure pop by going off on their own musical tangent with Sylvian’s sardonic crooning, quirky Eastern influences and saxophone arrangements.
Talk of a reunion might just be a bridge too far, given the deep personal tensions that drove Karn and Sylvian apart in 1982. In 2006, Karn told Beatmag: “For all four of us to agree would be nigh-on impossible. But there’s something I’d really, really enjoy about being on stage with them again, and I’d enjoy playing the old Japan songs again, with my fellow bandmates. That was an enjoyable period of my life, and I’d like to experience it again.”
“Your comments and well wishes have left me speechless, in the same way that our news had affected you. The support and love you give me is felt by all of us here, every day . . .
“At the time of first posting my news I was striving to obtain a medical card that would pay for treatment here in Cyprus and I am pleased to say that in recent days, since becoming officially diagnosed through a series of specific tests, the state will now take care of my basic medical costs . . . Donations that have been received will remain in a fund which will be used to augment the state care . . .
“Words cannot truly express the full scope of my gratitude and feeling of good fortune to have so many friends, both near and far.”
“Thanks to the appeal fund, Mick and his family were able to move to London where he is currently being treated. This really wouldn’t have possible without the support of Mick’s friends and all of you who have raised money for the fund. When it’s appropriate, there will be further updates. Mick also hopes to work with Peter Murphy on a follow up to their Dali’s Car album, The Waking Hour, towards the end of September.”
➤ Latest reflections by the restless Karn on a road well travelled
❚ MICK KARN GIVES AN INTERVIEW to Rob Kirby in the next issue of re:VOX, a pocket magazine dedicated to 80s electronica. The guitarist says of the restless and searching quality in much of his latest album, The Concrete Twin, which was released in January: “My recordings are always a way of dealing with unresolved issues, most of them mentioned in the book [his autobiography] . . . It’s impossible not to hear music wherever you go. Everything I hear will eventually turn into an influence on some level, subconsciously.”
Who, or what, is The Concrete Twin of the album’s title (£7.99 as a download, £17.49 as CD from Karn’s site)? It brings to mind the self-sculpture of Antony Gormley. Karn, who has been admired as a sculptor for 30 years alongside riding the music industry rollercoaster, says: “I guess it’s the closest I’ll come to mixing music with sculpture. The concrete twin is another self we all have. The ‘hard’ side of us that can withstand all the trials and tribulations that life has to offer.”
What prompted you to commit your thoughts on your past life so candidly to the book, Japan and Self Existence (£16.96 from Lulu), which has roused strong reactions? Was it the relocation to Cyprus? “Just tired of meeting so many people that have the wrong idea, and that well-known people can have the same human flaws as anyone else. I feel glad that people know the truth due to the book, but contented, no. I’m never contented. It’s my motivation for carrying on. Self-publishing was the last option. Debi spent three years on my behalf, approaching every publisher that we could think of. The reaction was always positive, but the explanation the same: too many biographies by musicians on the market.”
❏ Extracts from Musique Concrete, an interview with Mick Karn in re:VOX #9, on sale in late June at £1.50 from Rob Kirby, 2 Bramshott Close, London Road, Hitchin, Herts SG4 9EP.
➢ Mick Karn’s own website – Download his latest album The Concrete Twin, order his autobiography, view his sculpture online (“amazingly accomplished” – John Russell-Taylor)
➢ VIEW videos – Selection of Karn’s performances and interviews
➢ Honorable tension: Karn gives a substantial interview to music journalist Anil Prasad in 1996 for Innerviews, the web’s longest-running music magazine. Extract here . . .
On the line-up for Japan’s 1989 reunion as Rain Tree Crow: “We really wanted a soloist and a guitarist. David Torn was my first choice. I recommended him to everyone. It looked as if it was going to happen for a while. But the David Sylvian we’d always known was one of complete control. That made it very difficult for us to work with him. And that was another reason why the band just couldn’t work. We found that as more time went by, the more and more control David [Sylvian] wanted to take — to the point of not wanting David Torn to come into the picture, because he decided to take care of the guitar himself . . .”
➢ VIEW ♫ ♫ Japan on Top Ten New Romantics – Paul Morley: “There was a wonderful moment when it happened for Japan with the album Ghosts, when us serious NME people embraced them, because they seem to have left behind the weird clothing and the makeup” !!! Oh yes.