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John Remembers Mick Karn

January 4th, 2011

It is with great sadness we read of the passing away of Mick Karn, Japan bassist and super-sideman, one of the great visual and sound stylists of the late-seventies/early-eighties.

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. When I think back to that night the image that first comes to mind first is beautiful Mick, red hair and Ibanez bass, shaved eyebrows and ballet shoes, shuffling around the floor like a docile robot, playing also with great beauty and verve, punching delicate holes in the fabric of the songs; in Mick Karn’s basslines no notes were ever wasted.

It is a great tragedy to me that the members of Japan were never able to quite get over themselves and find a way to work again together, as Japan. The Rain Tree Crow episode was a disaster, more-so if the rumors about David were true, changing his mind about calling the project Japan, once the album had been started and he held all the cards.

I did not follow Mick’s work past Dali’s Car, but got to speak to him last year as we both made contributions to the David Bowie tribute, ‘We Were So Turned On’. We made tentative plans to meet in London, and Duran discussed Mick contributing to ‘All You Need is Now’. It never happened.

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.

He shall be missed.