“I made a point of never listening to Jaco until I was forced to in 1995!” Mick Karn: an interview with Japan’s fallen bass hero

1st MAY: Mick Karn from Japan posed with his bass guitar sitting on the floor of Basing Street Studios in West London in May 1982. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Getty Images)

Born Andonis Michaelides in Cyprus in 1958, Mick Karn was one of a wave of influential bass players who dominated the British post-punk landscape. His band, Japan, were inspirational as well as commercially successful: you can detect elements of their aesthetic and sound in much bigger acts such as Duran Duran, for example. But few bass players sounded anything like Karn, with his subterranean fretless rumbles and deft fills providing a slithery tectonic foundation for songs such as Ghosts and Gentlemen Take Polaroids.  

Although Karn wasn’t destined for a long career, his output was prodigious. He recorded 10 solo albums and EPs between 1982 and 2009, and he played on two key albums with Gary Numan, Dance (1981) and I, Assassin (1982). He also played on the short-lived Dali’s Car project with Bauhaus singer Pete Murphy, and on several collaborations with experimental musicians including David Torn, Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree, Frank Zappa’s drummer Terry Bozzio, and his fellow Japan members Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri.

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.