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Born July 24, 1958, Mick Karn emigrated to London as a Greek Cypriot when he was 3 years old and from an early age was looking for ways to express himself. He began with the chromatic mouth organ at the age of 7 and then the violin when 11, both lasted just 3 years before he was offered the chance to take up the bassoon with the school orchestra and later chosen as a member of the London School Symphony Orchestra. After a big concert, which was broadcast on Radio 4, the bassoon was stolen from him on the way home. His school refused to buy him another, and in anger at their decision, he bought a bass guitar for £5 from a school friend.. And so ended Mick's career in classical music.
By this time, he had already made friends with like-minded teenagers David Sylvian and younger brother, Steve Jansen who were coincidentally both learning their own instruments, David an acoustic guitar and Steve, bongos. It seemed a natural progression that David move on to an electric guitar, and if Steve were then to progress to drums, they could form a band together and escape the confines of south London. That was the plan and a month later they performed for the first time as Japan on June 1st 1974 when Mick was 15. Over the next two years, they each concentrated on developing their own styles, rehearsing their own music together every day.
MK: "I wanted to be able to slide and bend notes as I'd learnt to do with the violin and so decided to take all the frets off the bass guitar. I also began playing bass directly after the bassoon which, although a bass instrument, often plays lead melodies, both of these factors were major influences in shaping the way I play.
Mick bumped into Richard Barbieri one morning (another school friend) who he invited to one of their daily rehearsals. Richard instantly wanted to join the band. They needed a keyboard player and weren't too worried that Richard had no experience with music because more importantly, he had a steady job working at a bank, and so became our main source of income for the band's equipment. Japan were now a four piece and ready to advertise for another guitarist (Rob Dean) and management, which led on to their first record contract with Ariola/Hansa in 1977 and subsequently, their first album release.
Punk rock was at it's peak and as a reaction to it, Japan decided to not be seen as part of the fashion and so went in the opposite direction, creating their own look with long dyed hair and make up. Tours in Europe and the U.S. saw them playing to hostile audience, they were not well received, with the exception of one territory, Japan, where they instantly became the number one foreign act and remain to this day a lasting influence, both musically and visually. By the time of their third album release Quiet Life in 1979, punk was no longer dominant and Japan's sound had altered drastically. Mick brought saxophones and clarinets into the arrangements, and there seemed to be a string of lookalike/soundalike bands emerging in the U.K. Japan were heralded as innovators of a new sound and era in music, the New Romantics. For Japan, this simply meant it was time to, once again, move on leaving the others behind. No-one could have foreseen the direction they would take with their fifth album Tin Drum in 1981, a blend of Chinese pop music with their own distinctive mood making it a truly outstanding and original work. Nor could anyone have predicted it would be Japan's last studio album.
By now, Mick Karn had most certainly been heard and released his first solo album Titles on Virgin in 1982. His unique style had musicians from all types of genres wanting his contribution to their own work, from Jeff Beck to Gary Numan. That same year, he was chosen by Pete Townshend to be part of a supergroup to perform for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in celebration of their engagement. Mick left a marked impression at the event, which later led onto collaborative work with Midge Ure and recordings with Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading.
Karn had also surprised the art world by holding his first sculpture exhibition in 1981 to outstanding critical acclaim, with many reviews and features in columns and magazines not usually frequented by musicians. Proving himself as an accomplished artist with his often disturbing works of art, he has held 5 exhibitions in London, Japan and Italy. The next project was to be a trio with vocalist Pete Murphy (Bauhaus) and drummer Paul Lawford. Dali's Car released The Waking Hour in 1984, with all instrumentation written and played by Mick, an experiment in stripping music down to it's bare minimum, whilst retaining a strong mood and Middle Eastern flavour. A taste from which he'd picked up from his mother who used to listen to it.
1987 saw Karn's 2nd solo release Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters. Relying heavily on his classical beginnings, using woodwind and brass more extensively as well as harmonica, accordion and even choirs to complete it's haunting themes, as well as Steve Jansen on drums and in the producer's chair. Truly a step away from the expected rock genre and into a field of it's own. By now, Mick's bass guitar had reached the world of Jazz and the next few years saw him working with some remarkable players. An experimental project, Polytown, saw Karn work with David Torn and drummer Terry Bozzio. There then came another surprise decision and a sojourn from solo work as Japan reformed for a one off album under the new name of Rain Tree Crow in 1991. The recording held no reference at all to where Japan had left off, but rather showed a distinct maturity amongst the members. Mick decided to play an unfamiliar five string bass to differentiate his playing from the style listeners had become accustomed to, and in some cases left the bass out altogether, concentrating on bass clarinet as the lead instrument.
Through the associations he'd made within the Jazz world, Karn recorded his next album Bestial Cluster in 1993 for German Jazz label CMP . Co-produced with David Torn, who also played the guitars, Steve Jansen on drums and Richard Barbieri on Keyboards, a Bestial Cluster tour with the same line-up of Europe and dates in Japan followed. CMP also signed Polytown to their label. The album Polytown was written recorded and mixed in three weeks and released in 1994. A staggering feat for any group of musicians, improvised, heavy and far from Jazz. Karn recorded another album for CMP in 1995 - The Tooth Mother, with Natasha Atlas on Middle Eastern vocals. This was to be Karn's most ethnic CD to date and, curiously, also his most funky, drawing on both of those early influences to enhance the ever present dark moods.
Mick's work with Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri decided to form their own record label Medium Productions as an outlet for collaborative work independent of limitations set by major labels. Forming their own unit JBK, they recorded several CDs together (Beginning To Melt, Seed, _ism ) including a live recording "Playing in a Room With People" taken from some rare shows in Tokyo and London . Included on Mick"s discography for Medium is a collaboration with Japanese Drum and Bass artist Yoshihiro Hanno, Liquid Glass released in 1998. Mick's next solo recording was to be for the Medium Productions label in 2000 and took a distinct step away from the last two CMP albums. Eye a Path was to be Karn's most introspective and personal of albums, drawing on troubled past experiences as it's source of inspiration. However, he was delighted to see the response from fellow musicians lead to an eventual remix album in 2002 entitled: Each Path a Remix, the contributors being Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Torn, Richard Barbieri, Paul Wong and Claudio Chianuro.
Mick then shifted gear again, this time towards what can only be described as instrumental pop. More Better Different was released in 2004 by Invisible Hands Music and reviews certainly agree with the sentiments in the title. 2005 Karn released a EP called Love's Glove and released his 7th solo studio recording, Three Part Species as well as going on an own extensive tour later that year. In 2007 he released Selected a compilation from his own hand.
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Mick Karn - Titles (flac 251mb)
Multi-instrumentalist Mick Karn's first album as a solo artist reveals the significant degree to which Japan's sound was shaped by his bass playing. The presence of Japan drummer Steve Jansen and keyboardist Richard Barbieri, combined with Karn's own singing style (which owes a heavy debt to former bandmate David Sylvian), only strengthens the impression that this is a Japan album in all but name. While Karn plays various woodwinds and keyboards as well as bass on Titles, it is his amazingly agile and creative fretless bass playing that holds center stage, even when he is singing.. Some tracks offer hints of reggae, North African modalism, and ambient experimentalism.
1 - Tribal Dawn (4:13)
2 - Lost Affections In A Room (4:18)
3 - Passion In Moisture (4:13)
4 - Weather The Windmill (3:53)
5 - Savior, Are You With Me? (4:06)
6 - Trust Me (4:58)
7 - Sensitive (4:34)
8 - Piper Blue (4:18)
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Dalis Car - The Waking Hour (flac 185mb)
Dali's Car was doomed almost from the start. A seemingly good idea when it was first suggested to former Bauhaus vocalist/lyricist Pete Murphy that he collaborate with ex-Japan bassist/composer Mick Karn, the group nearly self-destructed before it was disbanded. Their sole album, The Waking Hour, released in 1984, came in more than 50% over the sixty thousand dollar (40,000 pounds) budget given them by Virgin and Beggars Banquet. While on the one hand Waking Hour is pretty much the sum of its parts -- Murphy's dramatic, edgy singing style and Karn's fluid, immediately recognizable fretless bass and other instruments, plus percussion from Paul Lawford -- there was enough variety going on to set it apart enough from the legacies of both Bauhaus and Japan. Murphy avoids the more torturous roars and screams of his most extreme work in Bauhaus, everything feels a touch gentler and more meditative. If nothing else, points for credit for the cover art: a lovely reproduction of the famed Maxfield Parrish painting that provided the title for the album.
1 - Dalis Car (5:15)
2 - His Box (4:44)
3 - Cornwall Stone (5:19)
4 - Artemis (4:37)
5 - Create And Melt (5:34)
6 - Moonlife (4:48)
7 - The Judgement Is The Mirror (4:35)
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Jansen/Barbieri/Karn - Beginning To Melt (93 ^ 351mb)
Having performed with the band No-Man, and in Barbieri's case nouveau prog rockers Porcupine Tree, JBK began exploring longer possibilities in their music, as demonstrated on their label debut, Beginning to Melt, a compilation of tracks by or featuring JBK that had no home elsewhere. Worth the price alone for the Karn/Torn composition "Shipwrecks," a perfect summation of how a piece called "Shipwrecks" should sound, other notable tracks include "The Wilderness" (Mr. & Mrs. B) and Robby Acceto's "Human Age."
01 Beginning To Melt (11:50)
02 The Wilderness (4:45)
03 March Of The Innocents (4:09)
04 Human Age (5:41)
05 Shipwrecks (6:21)
06 Ego Dance (7:39)
07 The Orange Asylum (6:11)
08 Beginning To Melt (Remix)
09 In The Black Of Desire
10 The Insect Tribe
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All downloads are in * ogg-7 (224k) or ^ ogg-9(320k), artwork is included , if in need get the nifty ogg encoder/decoder here !