Gould: I want to go
backwards, and start at the end. I went to the 6/4 concert,
and I thought you really nailed the St. Stephen situation,
and am curious if you are familiar with all those
Mark Karan: The older stuff I'm more familiar with.
I'm 43, and I grew up in the Haight/Ashbury. I moved to
Marin when I was about 18. So from the time I was 11 or 12
until I was about 21, the Dead were a pretty strong
influence on me.
GG: So you're no stranger to the old
MK: Not to the old stuff. Around
Mars Hotel and Wake
of the Flood was when my
interests started shifting elsewhere. I always held a huge
spot for the Dead, but I wasn't really following them
GG: But you're pickin' up, obviously, on some
of the new material, so are you coming at that from a new
MK: Certainly as far as the specifics of the
songs, yeah. Not as far as the mentality; the music's
certainly evolved over the years and incorporated some jazz
influences and all kinds of wild and cool stuff that wasn't
really there in the early years. But, the sensibilities seem
to have stayed the same, you know, the musicality over A-B
A-B type form stuff and mania over hooks and that kind of
commercial crap. The freedom to jam and take the song to a
new place every time you play it, those kinds of things seem
to have stayed pretty much the same throughout the band's
GG: Yeah, well I guess you could say that
it's a pretty simple formula that has a wide open
MK: To me, it's almost the very simplicity
that leaves room for the possibilities. Something that's
more structured, you pretty much have to execute the same
GG: Let's backtrack a little more now. For
the people who don't know who the hell you are......and I
think there are a few out there who don't.......
MK: I think there are a lot of them!
GG: Well, let's talk about that. Who the hell
MK: That's a huge question; can we get more
GG: Well, when did you start playing
MK: Well let's see, I'm 43, I really started
playing guitar in probably '63. '64 hit and the Beatles hit,
and that's when I started taking it really serious. That's
when I pretty much knew that this was what I was going to be
doing for the rest of my life, that music was who I
GG: And you live in L.A. now right?
GG: So did you play in any bands in the Bay
Area before you moved to L.A.?
MK: Oh yeah, I lived in the Bay Area all my
life, until like 7 years ago. That's why it cracks me up
when I see this stuff flyin' around on the net that calls me
some L.A. session guy! I mean, I grew up my whole life in
San Francisco, and then I spent twenty years in Marin
County. Then I go to L.A. for 7 years because its really
hard to find music to play in the Bay Area, and I have to
pay my rent! And then all of a sudden I'm an L. A. cat with
no history in the Bay Area.
GG: San Francisco's kind of a "back-water
town" economically in a lot of regards. A lot of great
musicians, but the work here, it's kind of slim pickins I
MK: Yeah, and for better or worse, that's
what I chose to do as my passion, but its also what I chose
to do to keep my rent paid. So, at the time that I moved
from Marin about seven years ago, uh, I'd broken up with my
girlfriend, work was really slow in the area, and I thought
"what the hell, I've never been down there." I'd never
thought I'd want to be down there, but I'd always have a big
question in the back of my mind, so I went down to check it
out. When I was up here [the Bay Area] I used to play with
Alex Call from Clover, I played with Jesse Colin Young for a
little bit. That was actually right after I moved to L.A.,
and I was coming up here and working on a record with Jesse.
I played with a lot of bands that nobody had ever heard of
in the Bay Area. I played with a girl named Sara Baker; we
used to play around Marin Co. and Sonoma Co. a lot. I played
with a band called Spyz, and I played with a band called The
band of Loons around Marin forever that was basically doing
what Weird Al wound up doing and making a lot of money at,
only we never made the money at it, we just did it. You
know, we were doing like song parodies and political satire,
and that kind of stuff. And I played in a lot of cover bands
and a lot of straight up blues bands doing the four sets in
a bar-make your fifty bucks and have a great time but not
much of a career thing. To me, in a lot of ways, those are
still the most fun gigs.
GG: But if you gotta pay the rent ya
MK: But I really enjoy a blues gig. I'm not
particularly into the cover tune thing; if they're well
selected I enjoy good songs no matter what they are. But
when I do a blues gig for four sets in a smoky bar, I love
it because I love the intimacy, and I love the immediacy of
the crowd, and the ability to stretch for four hours at a
time. That's one of the things I dig about being able to
play with the Dead, you know, here we are about to set out
on a tour, and rather than that sense that I'm going to be
involved in something for the next month where we do the
same music the same way every night for an hour or an hour
and fifteen minutes or something, I'm looking forward to the
fact that we actually get to play two or three hours at a
time, stretch, take some chances, play some music, and not
repeat ourselves. And that's real different.
GG: Absolutely. So, when you went to L.A.,
I've read some things on the net, you've been doing session
work and playing with bands?
MK: Basically doing the things that musicians
who do it for a living just do, which is, you do everything.
I've been doing everything from......when I get lucky I get
a call to do a session for somebody's record, but I also do
a lot of $50 and $100 dollar demo sessions for
singer/songwriters that probably are never gonna get heard
by anybody. I did a tour with Sophie B. Hawkins, I did a
record with the Rembrandts. But the things I've done that I
really loved down there are things like playing with Delaney
Bramlett from Delaney and Bonnie, because I grew up on that
music, and that's another era of my life where I had huge
influence from the Delaney and Bonnie, Leon Russell, Joe
Cocker thing. I also did a tour with Dave Mason when I first
got down to L.A. and that was cool because I'd always been a
Traffic fan and I loved his first solo album. So I did
actually get to do some music things that were just
musically cool when I was down there also.
GG: Well it doesn't sound like you've been
too unlucky, then, in moving to LA.
MK: In a work-sense, it's worked very well
for me. In a personal sense, boy am I ready to come
GG: No, I hear you..
MK: Not to 'dis LA, I can't really insult it,
LA's been good to me. I've had a lot of good opportunities;
I met the love of my life down there. Unfortunately, she
decided to leave about 2 months ago, so, that was about the
main thing that was keeping me in town. Then I got the call
for this, and it was like, having been in Marin county for
the last 3 weeks, I am so ready to sell my house and come
GG: Well, we will welcome you back,
certainly, the last LA question here is: have you been on
any really good jingles?
GG: Well, that's where the money is, isn't
MK: Well that's one place where the money is.
. .I really never got called to do any jingle work as a
guitar player. I sing also, I sing. . .as in. . .I sing lead
not just like the usual guitar player, "oh yeah, I can go
"la" and I did get hired to sing a couple of jingles while I
was down there. I did a jingle for Old El Paso Salsa and
Michelob Golden Draft. Actually the Michelob commercial is
the really ironic one, because I'm fourteen years
GG: Well, that's cool; ok, enough LA stuff,
but you said you sing, though, and I didn't see any
microphones; are there any plans to let you sing in this new
MK: Yeah, there will be a mike on the road
for me. There really hasn't been, truthfully, enough time to
work me up in the backup vocal stuff and Phil and Bobby and
Bruce kinda had a lot of that nailed and then Dave also from
having worked with Bobby with Ratdog.
MK: And also, the fact is, that, you know,
I'm not that by nature, I'm not a pushy guy. And I haven't,
you know I haven't really been pushing to let them know how
strong my vocal chops are or whatever, because I figure that
when the time comes and it's needed, if the time comes and
it's needed, it'll be obvious..
GG: Good, well I think that with kind of, you
know, it's one of those "you can't push the river" kind of
MK: Very much so. Ok, I would love to sing
some stuff. You know, when I was talking to management, they
were saying that as things probably settled in, I might even
be able to sing a tune or two. That would be wonderful and
I've hinted at it with Bobby, but he hasn't, I don't think
Bobby's really heard me sing, so if I'm hinting at singing,
he's probably wondering why I would be doing it. You
GG: Alright, so, guitar-wise, before we back
into the Other Ones, seems like most of the night you were a
Les Paul player. I saw a Telecaster once and acoustic,
you've been a Les Paul guy for a long time?
MK: I've got a whole shit-load of guitars.
The reason that I went Les Paul. . .I brought that guitar up
with me for the auditions for The Other Ones and the reason
that I had brought it up with me was because when I used to
see the guys play when I was a kid around the Haight, in the
real early days, Jerry was playing a Les Paul. He had a gold
top, and he had a black custom. And there was just something
about. . . I didn't want to come and bring a Strat because
that's like the really quintessential typical Jerry tone, I
didn't want to go there; also the Les Paul tends to be more
forgiving no matter what amp you plug it into. It's got a
nice big round sound. And I didn't know what amp they were
going to have me play through because all I did was come up
with a guitar.
GG: So what kind of rig are you going to be
playing on this tour?
MK: Pretty much the one that I had at the
Warfield show. I've got a Matchless amp.
GG: Oh that's good stuff. . .
MK: Yeah, the setup is pretty simple; I use
my Matchless and a couple of pedals and that's it. I've got
a wah-wah pedal and an overdrive box and they've got me
using an octave box on "Corinna".
GG: Well, you know that's true you know about
the Les Paul. I started out talking about St. Stephen and
that certainly was Jerry's Gibson days. Coming into this
project, is there a really big deal to be "Not Jerry" in
terms of your guitar playing or, I imagine that it will
relax after a while, but coming into this thing, was there
MK: A little bit, but you know, the thing is,
that both Steve and I grew up listening to Jerry in addition
to whatever other influences we've had, and we've certainly
had a lot, but I don't know Steve's childhood that much, you
know, I do know mine and I do know that I was an eleven to
thirteen, fourteen year old kid running around the
Haight/Ashbury and going to see those guys in Golden Gate
Park and stuff. I mean the Dead and Quicksilver and this
other band, the Sons of Champlin, were huge influences on me
musically, and that stuff has gotta come through because
it's so basic to my playing style. And when you wind up
playing these songs with these guys, because those licks are
gonna come through. . ..they're just gonna.
GG: Yeah, I'm a bass player. and, you know,
I've never intentionally studied Phil, but I know that Phil
has warped my style permanently, and, there is really
nothing that I can do about it. Once you get influenced, it
just kinda comes through, you know?
MK: Yeah, exactly. I have a myriad of other
influences and, ultimately, they all come through, and
hopefully they all coalesce into some kind of representation
of who I am. But I will say that there's a stronger amount
of Jerry's influence coming through in this context, because
how can you play this music which was, he was certainly a
huge part of just the whole building of this music from the
ground up? Having listened to that, to him and his
interpretation of these songs music for thirty years, it's
gotta come through.
GG Oh yeah. . .definitely, I mean, for
example this band seems to be taking great pains; pains
isn't probably the right word; to really do these songs up
right. For example, I felt the Scarlet Begonias was tighter than I had seen it in over
twenty years and there seems to be a lot of fidelity to some
of the original "vibe" of the song. You know, what about
Scarlet Begonias and how did that come through as an
MK: Well the rehearsal style that the band
has is really pretty. . .it's pretty loose. . .you know, we
go over the song structure, play the song down and generally
wind up going off on a jam and having some fun with it.
There hasn't been a whole lot of intense focus on copping
the right parts and that kind of thing. . .that doesn't
really seem to be where they're coming from.
GG: No, but I don't know if you've heard
later. . .I don't know if you were exposed to tapes and
stuff, like you say that you kinda dropped out of it around
'74; '75. You know, the later tapes of that song, for
example, got a lot slower and a lot looser and I just felt
it was really tight and crisp. . .not that it was note for
note like the record, but it was very tight and crisp. The
band seems very tight and I was very surprised because the
reports that I had heard was that it was only a couple of
days before where the rehearsals had really turned the
corner and things were really coming together, you
MK: That's a tough call, I mean, what did
happen a couple of days before was that Steve came into the
picture. I had been rehearsing with the band starting, I
think, on the 23rd of
May and Steve came in on the 30th, I
think. So he only 3 or 4 days before the Warfield show, but,
at least from my perspective, it had pretty much been
sounding good from day one.
GG: Yeah, well I thought it sounded
excellent. . .so, let's talk about..you're in this
thing..you could almost call it a guitar section or at least
you guys stand close to each other and you seem to be
working well together. . .now, of course, you've been
involved in a continuum of rehearsals and practices and I
was only at this one gig, so forgive me if I'm focusing on
what I've seen, but. . ..
MK: Well, what else are you going to go
from?. . .
GG: It seemed to me like you were working
well together; what's it like playing with Steve and having
more of guitar section role rather than being the "lead
MK: Well, it's different, but none of us
really knew how it was going to work out you know, I mean
there was talk originally, even of Steve and I taking turns,
like me playing for two or three songs and him playing for
two or three songs; that kind of thing. Because it had come
up that some folks really, really wanted Steve on the gig
and we were just going to figure out how to make that work.
And what in fact happened was, you know, Steve and I knew
each other, shit, twenty years ago in Marin. He used to play
lead guitar with a band called The Goodman Brothers. And
they used to play at the Sleeping Lady all the time and I
used to play there with a band I was in, and so as guitar
players, we got to know each other back in those days and
then we lost touch with each other and then we knew each
other again about ten or eleven years ago when I was with
this group called the John Ferree Group and Steve, at the
time, I think Zero was forming and he was playing with
Cippolina and doing some stuff like that and so, Cippolina
was around the Ferree Group also, so we sort of knew each
other then. So when we saw each other at rehearsals, it was
like, you know, there was this definite gleam of recognition
in both of our eyes. . .like. . ."hey, I know you!", you
know because there had been all this sort of... . .I wasn't
online at the time, but I kept hearing about all this
internet flack of people going - "who's the LA hired gun
guy?" and how come Kimock isn't just doin' it? Blah, blah,
blah, blah, blah..
GG: It was pretty funny. It was really pretty
MK: Well, the bottom line is that when he
walked into the room, we realized that we were old friends
and it wasn't going to be problem. He unpacked his guitar
and we set up a rig for him and I don't remember what the
first song we played was but it was very obvious from the
get-go that there were two major things going on: One was
that we had mutual respect for each other's musicality and
that there wasn't going to be, you know, a pissing contest
over who's dick is bigger than who's, you know, it wasn't
going to be about that, it was like, "hey, let's play some
GG: And that's the way it seemed.
MK: And the other thing that, stylistically,
I play, sort of more raw I think what Garcia influences that
I am more familiar with that are more part of my spirit are
his earlier stuff, which was more sort of
rock/blues/bluegrass. Certainly with the Spacey orientation,
but still, with that stuff, there's more of the roots of it,
and, Steve, on the other hand, I think, is just actually a
more trained musician than me, I think he knows more - music
theory and things of that nature, you know, and is able to
go out on a limb experimentally, perhaps, in some ways more
than I can. You know, he has, certainly, a broader
vocabulary musically than I do. Mine is more intuitive and,
at the risk of sounding like some kind of ego-maniac for
saying that I do something well, but, you know, if I do
something well, that I express myself well with a limited
amount of vocabulary.
GG: Well, I mean, expressing yourself is the
right thing to do in an ensemble like this,. It's not like
you're going to be told. . ."uh oh. . .no, no, no. . .cut
that treble down". You know, I mean, its. . ..I think for
you two to have already known each other and then to wind up
together in this situation, I mean, that's got to be a
pretty nice. . .a pretty nice way to "meet up."
MK: Yeah, it really is, and, you know what a
great opportunity, and, you know, the timing for me
personally couldn't be better, you know, because here I am
nursing a broken heart and this doesn't make that go away,
but it does make it easier.
GG: Well, hopefully you'll get to play some
MK: There ya go. Well, there are some songs
being kicked around that have certainly that leaning,
GG: One other thing: you mentioned Corinna,
what other songs can we look forward to that we didn't see
the other night?
MK: Oh, I don't know if the guys would want
me spreading that kind of shit around, I haven't quite
figured out the politics around that yet because I know that
there is a certain element of surprise for people when they
come, and not, not knowing what they're gonna hear.
GG: That's ok.. and if you want me to, I
don't even have to mention Corinna!
MK: Oh no, I don't care. . .
GG: It's no big deal, Well, let's see. .
.I've got a couple of little simple things. You say that you
gre up in San Francisco. did you go to high school
MK: I did; I started out going to high school
there. I went to Hoover Junior High and Polytechnic High
GG: Hoover and Poly. . .ok. . .
MK: Poly's pretty funny, because, you know,
we're right across the street from Golden Gate Park so I
GG: Yeah, I think that's not really. . .that
Poly I don't think is working any more. . .
MK: No, it's not. But we used to, our daily
routine as being students of Poly was to meet at school; it
was a good place to meet and then ditch, and spend a day in
the park and on Haight Street and stuff.
GG: Well, you know, those were the days for
that certainly, but as a parent and a husband of a school
teacher, I certainly can't approve but,
GG: I certainly do understand. One of our
traditional favorite questions is "what is your favorite ice
MK: Oh [laughs]. . .uh, believe it or not,
and this is has nothing to do with what I'm doing right now
musically, but my favorite ice cream is Ben and Jerry's Wavy
GG: Ok, just a coincidence.
MK: It's hard to find for some reason.
GG: Just a coincidence, right?
GG: Ok, well, you know, I'm sure that I
missed a lot of really important things, and I hope I
didn't, you know, ask too many stupid questions. . .
MK: Not at all.
GG: But, anything else you would like to say
or say hi to the people for?
MK: Not really except to just understand that
for those out there having heated debates between, you know,
myself and Steve, and, who's the better guy and all that
kind of stuff, to put a sock in it because this is about
music and it's not about competition and it's not about
who's better, who's this and who's that, it's about playing
music and acceptance and diversity and things
GG: Yea, I think that's gonna be, and no pun
intended. . .a dead issue very soon, because, I mean, I've
heard a tape and there have been a lot of tapes going around
and I was there, and that is definitely, I mean there are
some great bands who have thrived on two guitar players who
are, who are egotistically trying to out-duel each other and
that's even a good thing in certain bands, you know. But
this is not that; in fact, I tell ya, I listen to a tape and
there are times where it's hard to tell who is who. . .you
guys are really melding really well in a few places and I
don't get this competition feel.
MK: Right; well one thing that was kinda
funny was Elwood's, I don't know if you read the Examiner's
review of the show?
MK: He obviously wasn't able to tell who was
who either, because I think he heard, definitely, attributed
some of the things that I did to Steve and visa versa. . .so
there is definitely a bit of that even when you are sitting
GG: Well, even when you're sitting right
there, it's kinda hard from my position, uh, half the time
Dave Ellis' big saxophone was in the way of you guys.
MK: Right; that won't be a problem anymore;
he's going to the other side of the stage.
GG: [laughs] Steve is sitting on this stool,
you know, sometimes with his back to the audience. You can't
see his fingers moving and, you know, in terms of Steve,
I've rarely seen, you guys are very different in this sense,
you seem to really be enjoying the music, you're kind of
dancing and swaying and mouthing the words and playing
along. Steve, on the other hand, seems to be like, he's
almost like a turtle. . .he just kind of sits on the stool,
sometimes he kind of slowly glides off the school and I
don't see a correlation between his body language and what
kinds out of the speakers. . .I mean, it's very different,
MK: Oh, he's just very intense person when
he's playing music, I think, he's really listening, you
know, which I am too, but it's just a different brand of. .
.. but like you say, I sway to the music and sing the words.
. .I'm very much a songs guy. Not to say that Steve isn't a
'songs guy,' but I think Steve is more of an overall
consummate musician's musician.
GG: Well, you're also a singer. . .I just
think that it must feel, to have wound up here. Awfully darn
good to be sitting on that stage, swaying and singing along
to those songs. . .
MK: Yeah, and to occasionally look up off to
my right and realize that I'm playing these songs and that's
Bobby, and that's Phil and right behind me is Mickey and oh
GG: Absolutely, absolutely, well, I've
forgotten lots of things to ask but I really appreciate you
MK: Sure, Geoff. . .
GG: And, you know, if you feel like, if you
ever feel like doing anything we can arrange with Dennis or
something, if you ever feel like doing a "live chat"
type-thing where you want to answer some questions, online
where people ask things.
MK We could do something like that, yeah, I
mean, it obviously is not going to happen until we get back,
at this point, unless it happens "on the road."
GG: Well we actually, over the past couple of
years, we've actually done that because they have computers
on the road and so, we sometimes work things out where we do
some backstage chats and interviews.
MK: That would be fine, I would love to do
that. This part of it, all the interviews and all that
stuff, is all brand new to me, so I'm having fun with it,
you know, I'm not, like having done this for thirty years
like the other guys, where, maybe, they're a little tired of
it sometimes or something, you know.
GG: Well, they're tired, maybe, but they're
also, it gets quite in the firestorm and they're, they have
to be protected by the handlers, and so on, and it's just
the way it is. And oh, one question I did forget to ask,
though, what is the connection, in terms of, I mean you've
grown up here, and whatever, but how the hell did your name
come up? Where did you come from?
MK: I was like a classic example of going
around your ass to get to your elbow. You're right, I grew
up here all my life and I was right here in the county with
the guys, I mean, I used to see Phil at Fairfax years ago at
Nave's and stuff like that, and never knew any of them, and
my name came up because down in LA I had done some blues
gigs and some sessions and stuff with John Molo.
GG: Oh. . .
MK: And when he heard that they were going to
be looking into guitar players he said he knew somebody who
might be really good, and, so, he gave them my number and
they called me.
GG: So, it's Molo?!
MK: Yeah. . .
GG: We can thank him. Well, that's very good.
Alrighty, well, you're going back down to LA, I hope we do
see more of you up here. You know, if you do decide to
relocate. . .but please keep in touch.
MK: Yep, Yep
GG: And, I guess that's it.
MK: Well, thanks Geoff.
GG: Thank you very much.