Posted: September 9th, 2009 by Jon Berry
Mark Karan of Jemimah Puddleduck by Robin Tamburr
Who are Mark Karan and Jemimah Puddleduck?
Interview by Robin Tamburr … Part 2 of 2
RT: Id like to ask you some questions about your experience with songwriting. How involved are you with writing music and lyrics?
MK: Hmmmm good question. I have at various times been extremely prolific, but recently Ratdog has been so much of my focus that I havent written much. Its really hard to engage Bob in a partnered writing effort and nearly impossible to encourage him to finish anything and, since I dont sing in Ratdog and usually write best for myself, I havent really written much of anything since Ive been Bobs guitarist.
RT: Well your originals rock (imho). Tell us about your songwriting process. As you start out writing, what is your goal?
MK: I dont know that I have a conscious goal as much as a desire to get out of my own way and allow something to come THRU me. If I have a goal chances are Im too attached to my preconceived notions to allow much inspiration to come thru
RT: So something inspires it or does it just happen naturally?
MK: It happens both ways but usually SOMETHING triggers it a lyric phrase idea, a melodic phrase, a chord progression that I stumble onto
RT: Do you find as you write more songs that it comes more naturally that you get in a zone?
MK: Definitely. Thats exactly why I havent written much, because I havent been writing much (confused yet?).
RT: Not at all~LOL! As an artist, (formerly at the moment) I can totally relate to what you are saying. Do you have any favorite songwriting memories?
MK: My favorite songwriting era was when I was living in L.A. and the folks at Studio 56 dug what I was up to enuff that they kept me on salary for about three years as a writer/producer. I wrote a LOT of toons during that era and was really encouraged to blossom. Sometimes people dont seem to want people to be the most they can be Its nice when people show support for your art and individuality.
RT: Referring back to your bio again, one thing that is not covered is that you are a producer too. How did you get involved with that?
MK: Ive always loved records, arrangement, recording, sounds and thats pretty much what productions all about. Ive produced a lot of song demos and a few independent records (Janet Robin, G-13).
RT: Whats going on with your roll as a producer these days?
MK: Right now Im mostly concentrating on getting to work producing Jemimah Puddleduck and/or Mark Karan but am always looking for interesting people to get creative with
RT: Are you working on a JP studio recording?
MK: Yes. Weve had some tracks in the can for about two years! Its just hard to get us all together between Phil/Fogerty for Molo, Brucie for JT and of course my own busy Ratdog schedule
RT: Can any new originals be expected?
MK: Absolutely both my own, some group efforts and a few more originals to the public by writer friends of mine along lines of Memphis Radio and Annie Dont Lie.
RT: Excellent. OK so when youre working on new material, how do you work things out? Are you all in the studio together, working w/Pro Tools, both?
MK: Working in pro-tools doesnt mean were not all in the studio. Its just todays alternative to tape but to answer the question- both together AND separate seems to be the deal. Sometimes its best to improv and react to each other, sometimes its about exploring and refining some of that material in a more single minded fashion.
RT: What do you consider an invaluable tool in the studio these days?
MK: Ears and imagination. The rest of it are just the means to actuate those things
RT: Shifting a bit to your live gigs. Have you ever gone out there and just choked? What happened and howd you work through it?
MK: Yipes! I just sorta did that with Ratdog. We went to play St. Stephen in Central Park and I just had a total brain-fart on the intro figure. I know it deep in my subconscious as Ive heard it since I was like- twelve and I just choked and once I screwed it up I never caught it. Totally embarrassing but you HAVE to just instantly get over it and be in whatever moment is NOW cause that ones already passed. So, thats it learn to let it go. We all screw up. Its human. Its ok.
RT: Do you have any rituals or routines you have while on tour?
MK: Finding the nearest Starbucks and the nearest CD store looking for Indian or Thai food (especially in areas where that food is not as common as in the SF area)
RT: Who are some of your favorite musicians that you’ve played with over the years and why?
MK: Wow you do realize this is one of those questions where if you leave someone out ahem! I mean, Ive been really lucky to have been able to play w/several of my actual heroes Delaney Bramlett, Bobby, Phil and the Boys Paul Carrack was always one of my fave singers say what you will, I was a Rembrandts fan long before I got the gig and yes, they had a lot going on before and besides the friends theme.
RT: What’s your favorite venue that you ever played why?
MK: I think itd be the Great American Music Hall in SF. It has so much great musical history and is such a beautiful, classy place too other than there, its likely either the Fillmore because of its significance in my own young musical life or Sweetwater because I learned and played a LOT of music there. Its a place with an amazing history of really great music Ry Cooder, Elvis Costello, Etta James, the Radiators, and on and on
RT: Yes, the Sweetwater is a great venue! I recently saw Mark Karens Buds there and you guys put on an AMAZING show, absolutely kickin (imho). That show made me wonder You play a festival like Bonnaroo for like 150,000 and then you play in a Saloon for 150 compare the experiences for us.
MK: Theyre SO different. Truthfully I dont enjoy the big deal shows nearly as much. The sound is usually not great at the sheds and Im a sound snob and its hard to make a very intimate connection with either your fellow musicians or your audience when it gets that big. The teeny places make it hard to make a living but I love the closeness of the sound, the bodies, just the visceralness of the whole experience
RT: Im with ya on that. Unavoidable double edge I suppose, but you seem to be making it work for you. Delving into your personal music preferences, who/what are you influenced by now?
MK: Thats always changing. I listen to so much different stuff I cant really put a finger on any one thing. I have around 5,000 CDs at home and I actually listen to all of them in random rotation so it might be reggae classics one day, new trendy alternative artists another, bluegrass, blues or jazz the next. It totally varies
RT: What music or sound has caught your ear lately? What’s in the CD player/iPOD?
MK: See above. Im an eclectic MF!
RT: LOL~ What album or artist you wouldn’t admit is in your CD player/iPOD?
MK: I dunno. Im kinda proud that my tastes are as diverse as they are so I admit to the Four Seasons or Tommy James being in there alongside Coltrane, the Band, Bowie, Soundgarden, Bill Monroe to me, good music is good no matter what the style.
RT: If you had to pick one, whats your all time favorite song?
MK: Not possible.
RT: LOL~ What is your goal as a musician?
MK: To express myself, create a space for others to connect to and find themselves in, to explore, to create joy & movement to share the gifts that weve all been given among each other. Ill offer my muse, my fellow musicians offer theirs and hopefully our audiences return that energy and we create a thing together that is joyous and unique.
RT: Excellent answer! Lets talk about Jemimah Puddleduck. Who What is Jemimah Puddleduck? Im familiar with the childrens book by Beatrix Potter, but is there a story behind you guys choosing the name or was it one of those things in your head before the band materialized?
MK: Its something a friend of mine thought of when we were young, but never got used. Its kind of a grisly story but I just like the sound of the name. Its fun to say
RT: What brought JP together?
MK: I got asked to do an opening set for Merl Saunders in Ventura, California and I didnt have a band so I called my friends and we jammed and, while it was sposed to be a one-time thang, we all dug it so much we decided we wanted to do more.
RT: In general, what can JP fans and newcomers expect to hear and see on this coming tour?
MK: Some guys playing GREAT music together, doing actual songs with lyrics and melodies (ingredients there are far too little of sometimes) and having actual FUN!
RT: One final question Mark. Along with music fans, there are a lot of musicians who visit this site. What tidbit can you offer to someone trying to break in to the business, whether it be playing, writing and/or producing?
MK: Do it because you LOVE it, because its WHO and WHAT you are. Then it doesnt matter whether or not its a success, YOU will have succeeded in doing that which you were MEANT to do.
RT: And there you have it well said, Mark. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you all the best with the Jemimah Puddleduck east coast tour and all of your other musical ventures. Thanks for continually rocking the house with what ever band you happen to be playing with!!!
Mark and Jemimah Puddleduck will be on the east coast soon! Shows are scheduled from October 14-22, in MD, NJ, NY, and PA. The final shows are at the Fireside in Denville, on October 21 and 22, with the John Ginty Band opening (www.johnginty.net). Tickets are on sale now!
If you miss JP you can always catch Mark with Bobby Weirs Ratdog (www.rat-dog.com) coming back east in November.
For more info about Mark, the JP tour/ticket information and purchasing CDs go to www.markkaran.com
Photos provided courtesy of Alan Hess / Shot Live Photo www.shotlivephoto.com
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