R.I.P. Mick Karn – Bass Player of Japan (July 24, 1958 – Jan. 4, 2011)

by on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm in Arts & Entertainment, Music

I was sad to hear that Mick Karn, artist and bass player of the band, Japan, lost his battle with cancer yesterday.

Fronted by lead singer David Sylvian, Japan formed in 1974 in South London, and had a distinctive sound vaguely reminiscent of Bowie or Roxy Music.  Karn played a fretless bass guitar, and his unique style of playing helped to define Japan’s sound.

They were a major influence on many of the new-wave Romantic bands that would sprout up in the early 80s.  Yesterday, Duran Duran’s bass player John Taylor blogged about the first time he and Nick Rhodes saw Japan perform live and the impact Karn’s work and style had on him.  Taylor said of Karn: “[he is] one of the great visual and sound stylists of the late-70s/early-80s.”  Japan has long been noted as one of Duran Duran’s major influences.

After Japan’s demise in 1982, Karn and Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy formed Dali’s Car, producing just one album together, The Waking Hour.

In 1991, Japan reconvened with all four original members (Sylvian, Karn, Steve Jansen, & Richard Barbieri) but under a different moniker, Rain Tree Crow.  What resulted was something of an experimental, improvisational album, more in keeping with David Sylvian’s solo projects than anything Japan had previously created together.

Never having made a huge splash on this side of the Atlantic, many Americans are unfamiliar with Japan’s amazing song catalog, including the tracks: Methods of Dance, Still Life in Mobile Homes, Quiet Life, Visions of China, Ghosts, Nightporter, Life in Tokyo, etc.

Here’s Japan in 1979 performing ‘Quiet Life’:

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Mick Karn is survived by his wife Kyoko, and his son Metis.  You can post your condolences and tributes to his facebook page.

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