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Progressive Rock Interviews

Karnataka

Interviewed by Steve Alspach
Interview with Karnataka's Ian Jones from 2003
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.


The band has been together for a relatively short time, yet you seem to have accomplished quite a lot. How has that happened?
The band formed in 1998 in slightly unusual circumstances. I had decided to record an album's worth of songs I had largely written with an early incarnation of Karnataka. This was simply to have well recorded versions of the songs. Jonathan, Gavin and Paul offered to help out and we set about recording the songs that were to become the first album. When the recording had finished we were all so enthusiastic about the project we decided the next step was to perform live. At this point we became a band!
MSJ: Where did the band originate?
All the band are from South Wales - mainly Swansea and Llanelli. I was introduced to Jonathan a few years ago by a mutual friend. We had a common interest in the types of music we liked to listen to and immediately struck up a writing relationship. We had written some instrumental pieces and decided to look for a vocalist. Jon was working with Rach's mum at the time, so we passed on some tapes, and agreed to an audition. At the audition Rach produced the tapes we had given her and she had written vocal melodies and lyrics to our instrumentals - they sounded great. I had played in a previous band with Gavin, so he was an obvious choice for a drummer, and Paul was recommended to us by a friend. There was a common thread running through the band at this stage - we had all recently played in bands that had heavily featured cover versions. We all found this a little uninspiring and were united in the desire to create original music.
MSJ: You seem to have a good working relationship with the band Mostly Autumn. Can you tell us about that?
We have shared the stage on a few occasions and both bands get on really well. Rachel contributed vocals to their live DVD and Heather contributed some backing vocals to Delicate Flame Of Desire. Both bands were recognized by the Classic Rock Society based in Rotherham, UK, an organisation instrumental in bringing new bands to the fore.
MSJ: Who are your (i.e. the band's) musical influences?
Each member of the band has very different musical tastes, and our influences are quite diverse - ranging from Genesis, Yes and Rush at one extreme, to Clannad, Joe Satriani and The Chili Peppers at the other! There's a mutual love of vocal harmonies and more folky, Celtic instruments, too - so we're an interesting combination when we get together for writing sessions!
MSJ: Any comments or thoughts on the band's songwriting process? How do the songs come together?
Writing is an ongoing process, I'm always working on things and recording them - these could be complete songs or just sections. Jon has the same approach. When we rehearse as a band we bring these ideas in to the studio and then start working on band arrangements. The writing process is very 'open' - everyone gets the chance to contribute and there are no rules ! Anything goes ! With some ideas you might have a very strong idea of where the song needs to go, but with others you just want see what develops. I may bring an idea in on acoustic guitar but end up not using the guitar as the song progresses - switching to bass instead. One Breath Away from the new album is a good example of this - the song was written on acoustic, but later developed into a band arrangement, where the acoustic was no longer appropriate. It's nice to then perform these songs in their original acoustic versions occasionally - it gives them a completely new perspective.
MSJ: Is there anything you tried to do differently from your previous album, "The Storm"?
The major difference between the recording process of Delicate Flame and The Storm was the use of a producer. From a songwriting perspective I think we'd all moved on quite a bit since The Storm in terms of compositional skills and I think this shows in the arrangements. When you're writing there's a sense that the songs almost write themselves - they take on a certain feel that guides you - it's not a process that can be forced. We didn't sit down and consciously decide to write in any particular style as I mentioned earlier we try and stay open to all ideas and let the writing flow naturally. Having producer Steve Evans on board for the recording was a major bonus - he works for Warner music and fortunately had a break in his schedule that allowed him the time to take the album on. Steve was introduced to the band just after we finished recording The Storm and he offered then to get involved with our next project. Having someone not too closely attached to the songs and able to take more of an impartial view on things helped us shape the songs. Steve has an uncanny ability to get into the heart of a song and bring that out in the production. He encouraged us to experiment with sounds and arrangements - it was a great learning experience for us.

MSJ: Any chance on coming over to the States anytime soon?
We would love to return to the US - there no definite plans at the moment but if the opportunity arises we'll be there ! We're focusing on touring in the UK at the moment - our current tour is 30 plus dates and we have a second tour planned for later in the year.
MSJ: Are there any other groups or performers whom you would like to collaborate or play with?
There are so many great artists producing wonderful music the list could be very long ! Rach has actually just contributed vocals to the forthcoming solo album of Dave Bainbridge from Iona, which was a great opportunity and good fun!. I think Peter Gabriel must be one of the most exciting people to work with and still a great innovator. His use of rhythm in particular has always been a major part of his creativity and I think it would be interesting to approach writing more from this angle.

I think we tend to write more from a melody angle. Clannad have been an influence on our use of vocals - I've always seen Clannad as a progressive band within their own genre: again adopting the term progressive as an ' attitude' , rather than a sound. Maire Brennan has a truly heavenly voice, and I'd love to hear the result of a Rach/Maire collaboration.some time in the future!

MSJ: If you had to put a label on your music (which defies easy categorization, by the way), how would you describe it?
This is such a difficult question because we've always tried to avoid attaching any particular label to what we're doing. We genuinely think we've created something original and actually progressive in the true meaning of the word. As I mentioned earlier, we all listen to a diverse array of music and I suppose this feeds through into our sound.
MSJ: Besides the release of "Delicate Flame of Desire," what are your plans and goals for this year?
We're undertaking quite an extensive UK tour at the moment and will be touring again towards the end of the year. We have a Live In The USA DVD coming out in July - this was filmed at The Classic Rock Festival in Trenton New Jersey last October. We're writing new material and have already given a few lucky fans a live preview of two new songs!

 
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