So, after treatment and stuff, Bobby was out working with The Dead so I had free reign to do whatever I wanted and dive into the record full-time if I chose to. I was really driven to do it, and all the guys weren't necessarily available to do it as a Puddleduck record so I just decided to change it up and pretty much make it Mark Karan-driven and that freed me up to do a whole lot of things just very spontaneously.
The album really seems to hang together well even given how many different kinds of tunes and how many different arrangements you've got on there. How did you pick the cover songs like the Randy Newman and Joe Jackson numbers?
It's a little bit random. The Randy Newman tune got picked because I'm always looking for new material. I'm not a particularly prolific songwriter, probably an average of a song every few years. So I'm always looking for other people's material that I like. With the Randy Newman tune, JT just showed up at rehearsal one time--one of our extremely rare rehearsals--and the night before I guess he had stumbled across this Randy Newman tune and it had this really cool string arrangement and he had transcribed the string arrangement into parts that could be played in a rock combo.
Well how cool is that? I'm not a big Randy Newman fan, but that tune always hits home with me. My eyes opened up wide when I saw what the song was; I couldn't wait to hear it. You really nailed it too.
Thank you. He brought that in, and "Fools In Love" was just an old favorite of mine. I was into the whole New Wave thing when it happened. Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello are what got me into it. I had rejected the punk thing till I heard those guys.
Yeah, I love the first three Joe Jackson albums.
Exactly, those are the ones. "Love In Vain" was actually a tune that I did with Delaney [Bramlett] for a film soundtrack that's coming out.
I read about that this morning, it's called Guitar Man, right?
Yeah, it's a movie about a friend of ours. He's a vintage guitar dealer and he's made his bones traveling around the country buying and selling vintage guitars and also brokering them to rock guitarists and stuff; there's a scene in the movie where he's handing a guitar to Paul McCartney. It makes for a pretty interesting story. And through his guitar dealings he's had a lot of connections with other musicians so on this soundtrack he's got me on this one track, he's got Kravitz, he's got Sting, he's got Stevie Wonder, he's got Kenny Wayne Shepherd… it's going to be a pretty interesting record.
Yeah, you wouldn't find all those guys in the same room together just by chance.
Exactly, it's a patchwork quilt. So that's where "Love in Vain" came from. Michael was nice enough to let me use the same track on my own record and with "East Wind," that's a Grateful Dead song, so it's kind of my nod to the community that's supported me for the last eleven years, and my nod to Piggy because Piggy was one of my favorite aspects of the Grateful Dead.
Well I was going to say, when I heard it this morning, I guess I'm a little nostalgic today, but I heard that and I thought "Pigpen's really smiling hearing Mark play this" because you did justice to him and justice to Robert Hunter's song and the way he got that churning at the end of the album.
Well thanks for that.
How lucky do you feel that you were able to work with Delaney Bramlett before he passed on?
Really, really lucky. He was a really, really good friend and I miss him a lot. He and I met around '96 or so, and over the course of the past dozen years or so I've been on most of his demos if not all, and quite a few tracks on his more recently released records. We developed a really close friendship and he was kind of a mentor, because he was one of my heroes growing up as a kid.
I've become convinced over the last few years that Delaney is one of the unsung heroes of contemporary R&B and rock 'n' roll.
Oh, very much so, he has very little rep. Unfortunately, the man struggled a lot in his life. He had a lot of issues with substance abuse and stuff like that and I don't think it did his career any favors in the long run.
No, it probably didn't. I hope there will come a day when he will get some measure of the recognition he deserves, he did work with so many different people and I've never heard anything that he was involved in that didn't have a lot of soul and a lot of feeling to it.
Absolutely. He even took Dave Mason, who I played with years ago, and, you know, I always liked Dave and his contributions to Traffic and all that just fine. But when he did Alone Together, that record to me was sort of like the crux of the biscuit of his whole career, and it's got Delaney and all the guys in his band on the record! [laughs]
So you've made mention of your health back in 2007 and I don't want to dwell on that, but I want to wish you the best and say how great it is that you were able to get yourself healthy again and get back to work. You must feel your time is more valuable than ever before.
Absolutely. That's got a lot to do with how and why the record got finished. It had been sitting around with the "we'll get to it" kind of philosophy for a while. At the back end of coming through cancer, you know, it's no exaggeration what people say. You come out of the back end of it and you've survived and you say "Jeez! I don't have any idea how much time I get." I used to think I had all the time in the world. I might have all the time in the world, but I might not.