Mick Karn 1958-2011

Mick Karn, once bassist with Japan – pop history’s most underrated band (albeit with one of the worst names ever) – died this week.

I remember reading an interview with him years ago in which he was asked about his unique style of bass playing. He said he didn’t know how to play it in any other way. I can understand that statement, if only because in my own microscopically insignificant way, I often used to wonder the same thing when I played the drums (and why I couldn’t just play them better). Where does style come from? Some seem to develop it, some just have it given to them. Karn’s fretless style was fascinating, and in combination with Steve Jansen’s drums, became for a time in my opinion the most innovative rhythm section in contemporary music.

When I heard of his death, I immediately thought of the bass-line for “Alien” (760K mp3 Spotify), where the timing of the sliding bends in and out of the bar in a way that I’d never heard before – or since. We’ve lost a really interesting musician.