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Published: 2009/07/31
by Brian Robbins

Mark Karan: Tempered By The Fire

BR: I really like the mix on “Love In Vain.” I knew Delaney Bramlett was on that cut, so we were looking for him … but the first time you hear his voice and the way that he’s mixed on the cut – wow. Powerful and haunting – it’ll make the hair stand up on your arms, man.

MK: You know, the interesting thing about that was the actual sound quality we got on Delaney’s voice didn’t lend itself to being real dry and crisp and in-your-face as much as the sound that we got on my voice. The way that we ended up dealing with that was to put a bunch of ambient reverb sound on Delaney’s voice and the dobro he’s playing.

BR: Oh man – it’s perfect. I mean, now that he’s no longer with us …

MK: Oh, exactly – exactly. And the song was already mixed before Delaney passed … when we went back to it after he died, there was Delaney with all this reverb and stuff, almost like he was singing with me from the other side.

BR: Yeah, that’s what it feels like – but not creepy at all … just sweet. When did you first cross paths with Delaney?

MK: Oh, gosh … I first met Delaney in Southern California back in ’96 or ’97, I guess. There was a blues jam that I used to go to every Sunday night and Bob Gross would play bass. Bob was also Delaney’s bassist for many, many years and he brought Delaney to one of those blues jams one Sunday. We just fell in love with each other, man – I ended up playing on a bunch of his recordings over the last dozen years or so; hung out at his house a lot and demo’d a bunch of tunes that haven’t been released yet.

BR: Oh, cool.

MK: Yeah, I think his wife may be planning on releasing them at some point. We probably did the sessions for “Love In Vain” about six months before we lost him. He was a great man – a real mentor for me.

BR: “Rock Your Papa” is another one of those songs that anyone who’s followed Jemimah Puddleduck has heard before, but not quite like this – with the Persuasions doing their thing and Billy Payne letting it fly on the keyboard.

MK: Oh, yeah – I mean, you don’t put Payne on something and then tell him “hold back.” (laughter) My big regret, though, is the fact that Mike Finnigan’s on there and he doesn’t really get a chance to stretch out. I’m hoping that one of these days Mike and I can do something live together and really give him an opportunity to play and just stretch it out, you know?

BR: Next time – there’s always next time …

MK: (laughs) There you go.

Where did “Memphis Radio” come from?

MK: A friend of mine from L.A. named Susan Sheller wrote “Memphis Radio”. I used to do shows with her: everything from guitar gigs where we did a ton of covers and snuck in an original every ten songs or so just for fun – to the little around-town showcase sets where you go play 45 minutes for a bunch of record execs. Susan’s just a really sweet gal, a great songwriter, and a warm, wonderful person. I’ve always loved that song and when we first put the Puddleduck thing together, I asked her if we could cover it – she was all for it.

BR: Did the original have that cool guitar hook at the beginning?

MK: I made that up – when she introduced us to the song, I came up with that riff for it.

BR: There’s a moment during the solo on “Memphis” where your guitar has totally taken flight and all of a sudden, it’s JT on the keys leading the way … there’s just this cool, seamless transition between the two of you.

MK: Well, thanks. (laughs) I love that you’re picking up on all this stuff that I planned! (laughter)

BR: How about “Time Will Tell” – when did you write that?

MK: Probably ’93 or ’94 – I was about 40 when I wrote it. That’s a good example of one of the songs where you could go back and listen to one of the earlier versions and hear how it’s changed. There were some lines that were more the dig-in-the-heels angry young child stomping his feet, as opposed to the man with a little bit of wisdom and maybe some grief under his belt …

BR: I’m 51 and I’m waiting for the wisdom that comes with age.

MK: Well, I’ve got you beat, man: I’m 54 and I’m still waiting! (laughter)

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