I so didn't want to write this blog and had prayed and hoped that after returning to London the treatment he was receiving would allow Mick to get well but that was not to be. Condolences to his family and friends who must be feeling his loss so deeply. Of course its the rock and roll cliche but they must have been having a sensational jam session in heaven that day as the world lost not only the wonderful and so talented Mick Karn but Gerry Rafferty too.
Mick Karn was born in Cyprus in 1958 and moved with his family to London 3 years later. Growing up in south-east London, he attended the Catford Boys' School where he met David Batt (later to become David Sylvian), his brother Steve (later Steve Jansen) and Richard Barbieri. Playing music together in the 1970's and with the addition of Rob Dean they became Japan. Signed in the late 70's to Hansa where they created glamrock/disco based/ New York Dollesque music and then to Virgin where they acquired both critical and commercial success. Albums such as Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum allowed them to create both musical and visual artistry which won them fans in Europe and Japan.
Sadly the success came at the time when the band had professional differences which became personal when Mick Karn's girlfriend moved in with David Sylvian - they disbanded at the end of a tour in Japan in 1982. A brief reunion followed in 1991 under the name of Rain Tree Crow which produced the anonymously titled album which was very much in the style of Sylvian's solo work, the album was not a huge success. The writing and production of the album were increasingly controlled by Sylvian and the album may have stood more of a chance if it had been marketed under the Japan name which was favoured by most members, but this was prevented by Sylvian.
Mick Karn embarked on a solo project which produced the album Titles and the single Sensitive, which I still love. He was a regular in the Princes Trust Concerts 'Supergroups', worked with Midge Ure and then went onto form Dali's Car with Pete Murphy of Bauhaus. He also worked with Kate Bush, Gary Numan, Bill Nelson and Joan Armatrading amongst many others. He continued to write and record working in different styles including jazz. It is here that there is one a great sadness to Mick's story, that despite having great success in the 1980's and being a sought after musician he struggled to maintain any standard of living from music. In 2004 Mick returned to Cyprus with his family to allow him to continue working as a musician and artist.
Mick Karn was more than a musician he was also a very accomplished sculptor who exhibited his work through The Hamilton Gallery as well as being a talented photographer. But it will be as a musician that Mick will be best remembered and as a bass player who changed how the bass guitar was used as an instrument in the 1980's and onwards. Two areas always stood out for me in Japan's music, one was Sylvian's voice and the other was Mick Karn's bass. Do I still listen to David Sylvian - well no not much as most of his solo output I have found self-indulgent, pretentious what I often refer to as art for his sake, his Japan output I can still listen to. But Mick Karn's bass still moves me, his sculptures I still find intriguing, a mixture of beauty and mischievous creativity.
Mick Karn's bass playing did bring a new dimension to the bassist, and so many have emulated his style since, his playing was an integral part of Japan and of the 1980's. Mick Karn was an artist with a breadth of work spanning music, sculpture and photography, as well as being a trained psychotherapist, he was a modest and thoughtful man. His death at such a young age is a tragic loss to his family and friends, to the legions of Japan fans out there and to music and art.
With great sadness
2 weeks ago