HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: June 2011. We had the opportunity to talk with a great musician and a brave person, Mark Karan. Mark currently tours with his band Jemimah Puddleduck and has also played with The Other Ones, Bob Weir & RatDog and Phil Lesh (all bands consisting of Grateful Dead members). His 2009 debut solo album “Walk Through The Fire” is a masterpiece. Check it right now! Read the very interesting things he told us and hope we’ll meet him soon!
You just finished an American spring tour with Jemimah Puddleduck. How did the tour go? What reactions did you got from fans?
Touring has been great… Including our recent east coast run. It doesn’t matter if we’re in a small bar or playing at a big festival, we have a great time together. People pick up on that and get infected with our joy… and, at the risk of bragging, the band really is very good. I’m blessed to have some amazingly gifted players with me and we trust each other a lot… So ‘magic’ is not uncommon at our shows.
‘Walk Through the Fire’ is in my opinion one of the best albums of last decade! What does this album mean for you? Was it an easy process to record it?
WOW! Well, first let me say thank you. that’s quite a statement what the record means to me is pretty deep. It was made right after I’d survived cancer and is the first record of my own music I’ve ever made… so it represents a triumph of survival, an opportunity to share ‘myself’ with whoever wants to listen and a chance for me to apply the many lessons & skills I’ve gathered on my 40+ year career/journey thru life as a musician…
As to easy/hard… it was both. There were many tracks and overdubs that came very naturally… but some things wound up being experimented with & explored quite a bit before they found their niche.
Also, we had several beginning tracks ‘in the can’ (already recorded) for YEARS, but between my tour schedule with Bob Weir & RatDog, John Molo’s schedule with Phil Lesh & friends and JT Thomas’ touring with Bruce Hornsby… It was hard to even get into the same room! Lol… After the cancer I had much more urgency to finish and made it happen.
You had the luck to have in ‘Walk Through the Fire’, Delaney Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton) among others. What memories do you have from Delaney? Do you wish you have worked more with him?
Delaney was a dear, dear friend and I miss him every single day. I played and recorded a lot with him the last ten years or so of his life, which was HUGE for me. as a kid, Delaney’s music (Delaney & Bonnie, Clapton’s solo work and reflections of his work in Mad Dogs & Englishmen and Derek & The Dominos) was an enormous influence and inspiration to me. I wish I’d had the opportunity for Delaney to produce a record with/for me… we really thought we’d have more time with him.
I am indeed writing. I haven’t been very prolific but feel the need to write more all the time. Having finally made a record, I absolutely want to create more. How soon is another record? Hard to say… but not too long i think.
Do you see as something positive for your solo career the fact that now Bob Weir spends more time with Furthur than with RatDog?
Yes and no… obviously I have lots more time to pursue my own expression & creativity and that’s a good thing… But I also miss Ratdog’s ‘rolling boy’s club’… And playing with bobby meant I more frequently played bigger, more ‘high profile’ shows and that doesn’t hurt one’s visibility & perception.But most important, i’m happy to be playing…
How surreal did you feel in 1998 when you were selected to fill Jerry Garcia’s place with The Other Ones? Did at any point you got terrified by fans’ comparisons with Jerry?
I had NO idea what i was getting into. I’d been a fan of grateful dead music when I was a teen, but didn’t know just how involved deadheads could be. Some of their critiques/comparisons messed up my head for a while… But I made peace with the fact that art is art and not everyone likes the same things. There will always be some that love what I do, some that dislike it and some that don’t really care… and that’s as it should be..
You have played with many great musicians. Is there anyone you’d like to play with and hasn’t happened yet? Maybe with John Fogerty? (It would be great)
Did you know my old drummer, John Molo played with John Fogerty? Small world… I’d love to play with Doctor John… Paul mcCartney… Daniel Lanois and/or Buddy Miller… I’d like to play guitars and hang out with Amos Garrett (my fave guitarist). i don’t know… there are so many people I’d enjoy playing with… but I’m also blessed that I’ve played with many of my heroes already (Dave Mason, Delaney, Weir/Lesh/etc, Hornsby).
Did the health problems you faced successfully made you be more focused in every moment and wasting less time?
Surviving definitely gave me some new perspectives and way more appreciation for what life has to offer…. Altho’ the further away in time I get from my cancer, the more I live ‘normally’ without thinking about or worrying about that whole experience.
No one person comes to mind… In music and having had a lot of social impact, I could say John Lennon and/or Bob Marley. In a grander sense… Baba Ram Dass, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela… the men in politics, spiritual teaching and the like that moved the bar forward for all of us on the planet to be able to rise up and be the better people we all know we CAN be.
How possible is to play in Greece in near future? Send a message to Greek listeners.
I wish I could say we’re headed to Greece soon. I would love that… But I don’t see any clear opportunities at this time. Let’s see about changing that, ok?
A big “Thank you” to Mark Karan for his great answers.
BW photo: Alan Hess photography