Mick Karn


musical style: 

photograph of Mick Karn

An English musician (born July 24, 1958, died January 4, 2011), multi-instrumentalist & songwriter, most noted as the bassist for the 1980s art rock band Japan (1974 to 1982).

Karn was born Anthony Michaelides in Nicosia, Cyprus before emigrating to London, England at the age of 3. He has worked with noted New Wave artists Gary Numan, Kate Bush, Midge Ure and Joan Armatrading as well as being a member of Dali's Car with Peter Murphy of the gothic post-punk group, Bauhaus. In the 1990s he worked with artist David Torn as well as a number of Japanese musicians, including the band NiNa.

He has a distinctive playing style and sound on the fretless bass guitar which makes his playing immediately recognizable not to mention highly influential. With his contribution Japan is often considered one of the most unique and greatest groups of the late glam rock to new wave era. After Mick's first solo release Titles in 1982, Pete Townshend claimed that "Mick was by far the best bassist in the UK", and so invited him to join him in a super group to celebrate the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

Karn played the aluminium neck Travis Bean bass in all Japan albums up to Gentlemen Take Polaroids. In 1981 he moved onto the renowned Wal basses and bought two fretless mk1, one with Tulipwood facings and the other being a Cherry solidbody. Mick recorded Japan's last studio album Tin Drum with the Wal and has continued to use them, helping further their popularity worldwide.

It is interesting to note that Karn's mastery of the fretless bass,with his own unique sound,eclectic voicings,and oft strange intervals,belies the fact that he has little to no knowledge of music theory.

"I don't know about being the best, I still can't read music so I'm certainly not technically the best, I don't even know what the notes are on a bass. Sometimes I'm told I can't play that note with this chord, to which I reply: well, why not if it sounds good? The best? No, but having never heard anyone play in a similar way, I'd certainly consider perhaps being the most original!"

Still,one can only guess at the inner working of an artists' gears as they turn and propel an art that can not be denied.
After all,can a colorblind painter be judged by his choices in hues? Is not the final product,as well as the act,the sufficient sum?
Mick Karn has carved out for himself an incredible career with thousands of adoring fans,students of his unique style on the bass, and the respect of his peers.

Suggested listening:

With Dalis Car "The Waking Hour"

With Gary Numan "Dance", "Telekon"

With David Torn "Door X"

With Torn/Karn/Bozzio "Polytown"

With Japan Anything!

With Rain Tree Crow "Rain Tree Crow"

With Yoshihiro Hanno "Liquid Glass"

With JBK "-ism", "Playing In a Room with People"

Mick Karn "Bestial Cluster","The Tooth Mother","Love's Glove","More Better Different" Read more about Mick Karn on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

Gear used by Mick Karn

Mick Karn bass guitars

Mick Karn links