Mick Karn

Born July 24, 1958, Mick Karn first studied wood and wind instruments such as bassoon and clarinet. However, it is his highly distinctive fretless bass voice for which he is most renowned, an accolade placing him next to Jaco Pastorius. According to Karn, bass went unnoticed and his mission was to get it noticed. Even on early Japan recordings, his wiggly bass can be heard. By their swan song, Tin Drum in 1981, he was dubbed one of the best bass players in the world. He'd already supplied bass and sax work to Gary Numan's Dance album and was the first Japan member with a solo record: Titles. In 1983, Japan's live album, Oil on Canvas, brought his playing to new ears: jazz legend Jan Garbarek. The following year brought an unlikely collaboration with Peter Murphy of Bauhaus. The Waking Hour became Dali's Car's only album and soon Karn was again a solo agent teaming up with close friend Steve Jansen to produce Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters. Session work with Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading bridged Karn's solo efforts, which were few and far between, often odd in title and texture (Beard in the Letter Box, Plaster the Magic Tongue). The early '90s saw a more prolific Karn who formed the label Medium with Jansen and Richard Barbieri. All three joined guitarist David Torn to produce his best efforts: Bestial Cluster (1993) and The Tooth Mother in 1995. Between these came an experimental project, Polytown, again with Torn and drummer Terry Bozzio. Its muscular and at times funky prog rock is not for the fainthearted. Karn found time to spend on his sculpture and a San Francisco sabbatical eventually bore the album Each Eye a Path. The Concrete Twin was released in 2010. Diagnosed with cancer the same year, Karn died on January 4, 2011, at the age of 52.
Kelvin Hayes, Rovi