Jones, Rachel and Ian Jones (Karnataka) (June 2001)

Karnataka Looks Ahead To What Lies Beyond The Storm

The Storm (2000)I discovered Karnataka not so long ago, when I found their name on the winner's list of the Classic Rock Society awards. I had never heard of them, but as I noticed they were already a great band, having won 2 prizes, I decided to pick up their latest release and also know better who they actually were. Well, folks, here's the friendly talk I finally had with them, a talk about Celtic roots, pasta, India and the future...

Igor Italiani: Hi Ian and Rachel. The first question is about The Storm , recorded in 2000, but published outside England only in April of 2001. Because the album is almost a year old, have you managed to write some new songs in the time being?

Karnataka: Hi Igor! We've written quite a lot of new material over the last year or so, much of which is already being performed live. In fact the next album is almost ready to record.

II: So when do you think it will be ready? Maybe the beginning of 2002? Will the line-up will be the same as on The Storm?

K: We should start recording in August and hope to mix in December/January with the aim of an early 2002 release. Probably February or March. The line-up is the same as The Storm. We will be using a producer for the next album who has been a fan of the band for a while and has offered to work with us on our new material.

II: You have already played some international dates supporting Porcupine Tree in the last few months. Do you think that with the next album we will have the possibility to see Karnataka on a full European tour?

K: The European dates with Porcupine Tree were a great success so we would love to do something a bit bigger in Europe next time. It would be good to plan something to follow the release of the next album; perhaps a European tour in May/June 2002. We need to contact promoters to see what can be arranged but hope to do a more extensive tour next time.

II: What were your final impressions about the tour you had with Porcupine Tree? The reception of the prog fans was good enough in your opinion?

K: The tour was very successful. The support dates with Porcupine Tree enabled us to play to larger audiences and it was great that our music was received so well from their fans. Porcupine Tree themselves were great to work with and they were very supportive of our music. However we would like to play more of our own concerts so fans can hear more of our material live. The only frustrating aspect of supporting another band is only getting 40 minutes to perform.

II: I, as have many others, I believe, discovered Karnataka when you won (in 2000) 2 prizes given by the Classic Rock Society, led by the great Rick Wakeman. However the Classic Rock Society has (morally) sustained your act from its inception. Can you enlighten me about the birth and the importance of this fundamental support?

Karnataka (1998)K: The Classic Rock Society first heard about us through a copy of our first album which they reviewed in their magazine Wondrous Stories. They loved the album and put us on as a support to ReGenesis at one of their events. This was a great success and started the ball rolling. We did another support with English rock band Jump before playing our first headline for them last July. We played for them most recently on May 12th. This event sold out and has been one of the most successful Classic Rock Society events to date. They have invited us back to headline at their Rotherham Rocks Festival in October 2001. The Classic Rock Society have also helped introduce our music to an international audience.

II: And what were your feelings when you found out that it was you who had won the coveted prizes?

K: The band was so pleased to have won the awards! We have a very loyal following within the Classic Rock Society. It was an honour to be presented the awards by Rick Wakeman, also.

II: OK, boys. Can you give me the story behind the name of the group: Karnataka?

K: The band is named after a state in South India, Karnataka. I [Ian] spent some time in India during 1995 and 1996 living with local villagers. I have always been fascinated by the Indian sub-continent and its diverse culture. An amazing place! We were trying to think of a band name and Karnataka kept coming to mind. It somehow summed up the music.

II: Don't you think it's a bit unusual to have a band coming from the deep Wales?

K: A number of pop/indie bands have come out of Wales in recent years such as the Manic Street Preachers (who we supported once), Stereophonics, Catatonia, etc ... although it's a bit unusual to have a band such as ours with progressive/classic rock influences originating from here. There is also a strong traditional music heritage in Wales, some of which has found its way into our sound with the occasional Celtic influence; although we do not see ourselves as a Celtic rock band.

II: But the songs you create are inspired by the landscape you have around you? Do you think you would have made the same music playing, for example, in London?

K: Some songs have definitely been influenced by our surroundings such as the title track to The Storm which is based upon stories of shipwrecks on the Gower Peninsula near where we live. Another track influenced by our surroundings is "Hay-On-Wye," a beautiful town on the Wales/England border. I also think the surroundings generally influence the way we feel and this comes through in our music. I'm not sure we would have written in quite the same way had we lived in London.

II: Can you tell me which country you'd like to see, but haven't been to yet?

K: Italy! We would love to come and play there; a country which has always held rock and progressive rock close to its heart. A more extensive tour of Europe would be great. We'd also like to make it over to the States at some point, too.

II: And what's your favourite food?

K: Pasta!!! Indian food is also a favourite of the band. Is this big in Italy?

II: Now let's talk a little about Rachel. She is the prime icon of Karnataka and also a beautiful woman. We all know that this is (unfortunately) an image-driven age. Do you plan to use the beauty of Rachel as a weapon to gain a more relevant audience?

K: [Ian] Vocalists tend to be the focal point for bands and Rachel is no exception; she is also very beautiful, which is also something people will focus on, but it's not something we've deliberately used to try and sell ourselves. Rachel is featured on both album covers but in a way which tries to capture the feel of the band and the songs rather than a means of selling more. Rachel writes all of the lyrics so it seems right that she, in some way, represents the band.

II: Speaking of Rachel. How did she manage to generate such a great voice and do you think that it can be compared (like I did) to the one of Anneke [van Giersbergen], leader of The Gathering?

K: [Rachel] On our European tour a few people compared us to The Gathering. I have not had any formal training so my style of singing is natural and has developed, particularly in strength, over the last few years. The touring has definitely helped to build up its stamina and range. I particularly enjoy working out harmonies, which featured quite strongly on The Storm and have become part of the Karnataka sound. I guess this is a bit of the Clannad influence coming through.

II: Are you in touch with other great English bands?

K: We have stayed in touch with Porcupine Tree and recently met Steve Hogarth from Marillion and Geoff Downes/John Payne from Asia.

II: Do you think that music has a bright future or, as the years go by, we will be submerged by an insurmountable amount of bands that I like to call "pre-packaged" and "artificial"?

K: I would like to think that people will reject the manufactured artists and turn to "proper" music which has roots in good songwriting and musicianship. There are signs that this happening and progressive rock, folk, etc... seem to be making more of an impact in the world of music. Music like this which is not necessarily "commercial" needs a voice so it would be good to hear more radio stations promoting these genres of music. Too many radio stations are stuck in a rut and play endless dance music to satisfy their sponsors. Independent radio stations such as Radio Caroline are doing a great job keeping the flame alive.

II: And looking back to the past, what are your musical roots?

K: [Ian] My musical roots start with progressive rock: Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Yes, Pink Floyd, Marillion ... but over time my tastes have diversified to include pretty much all types of music. Rachel and myself have become big fans of Celtic artists such as Clannad, Iona, Loreena McKennit, ambient artists such as Deep Forest.

K: [Rachel] I've always listened to a wide variety of music from an early age. Kate Bush was an early influence. Clannad are also a band I admire much. David Gray, Brian Kennedy and Celtus have also become recent favourites as well as discovering some great bands who have already been around a while such as Yes and Pink Floyd.

K: [Paul] Joe Satriani has been a big influence on my playing but over the years I have come to appreciate all styles and Dave Gilmour has also become a favourite.

K: [Jon] Keith Emerson of ELP was one of my earliest influences and also Led Zeppelin but my tastes have also broadened over the years to include all types of music. Folk artists such as Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy and Martin Simpson are recent discoveries.

K: [Gavin] Rush were an early influence, they're great musicians. But I enjoy all sorts now although I'm always biased towards good drummers!

II: Before saying goodbye, is there one thing you would like to happen in the world (or in the life of Karnataka) before the end of the year?

K: We are all looking forward to recording and finishing the new album. We are so pleased with the new material!

II: OK. That's all. It's been a pleasure to talk to you. A big hello from Italy and hope that one day the music of Karnataka will be appreciated in the whole world. Well... in this case heaven could wait!

K: Thank you Igor and hope to see you when we will come in Italy!

[Karnataka are scheduled to play at the Horse's Head Soup Festival VI on Saturday, June 23, 2001 with Jump, Cadre, and The Sharon Winfield Band - ed]

[In mid-2004, Karnataka split as a band... though in 2005 Ian restarted the group with new members including a new vocalist (who left in 2010; and a new new vocalist joined the group in 2011) -ed.]

Karnataka (1988)
The Storm (2000)
Delicate Flame Of Desire (2003)
Strange Behavior (2004)

In Concert (DVD) (2002)

Added: June 21st 2001
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

Artist website:
Hits: 1873
Language: english

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