This is a great interview with the main writer, guitarist and lead singer of Grand Funk. The band is more famous in America than in Europe, but if you never heard them, check them out! Have a fun day!
Straining and soaring against the entire Dark Ages of Rock…
…When all he really wants to do is muck out the cows `n stuff.
`Jus` wan` grow mah own vegetables.`
`I dig the doom pow-wow powdoo popapoppop poooow!`
Yes friends, just two examples of the wit and wisdom of Mark Farner, guitarist and mulcher-in-chief of GRAND FUNK.
Pitchforks at the ready. Here we go…
By Tony Stewart
Mark Farner sits rigidly upright in a hotel room, his rippling biceps folded firmly over an impressively expansive chest. If it`s possible to stand to attention in an armchair, he`s doing it.
Tell me, Mark…
(He smiles pleasantly, showing off a set of teeth so sparkling white that it looks like he`s got a mouthful of piano keys.)
…and this is a question of considerable import, since it could well affect your life-style and the very future of Grand Funk…
(He`s curious. The sharp, clear eyes squint slightly as he concentrates, and his head nods understandingly.)
…and possibly even your own appeal…
(He`s listening really hard now.)
…why did you get your hair cut?
His mouth drops open, and a look – if not of complete horror, then certainly one of total incredulity – creeps across his rugged Dan Dare features.
“Why did I get my hair cut?”
Well – yes.
After all, it was a conversation piece earlier in the day, but somehow the exact reason why Farner had boldly lopped off four feet of his famous brown locks had never been put.
Quite a number of Grand Funk fans have recently failed to recognise their hero off-stage, it`s that savage.
“Because,” Farner finally manages to answer, “I work around my farm machinery all the time and on several different occasions I would bend over, be working on some equipment, be bailing hay or something, and that tractor motor has got a helluva lot of horsepower y`know, 125 horses, and it`s turning the power take-off shaft…an` my pony tail has damn near got jerked into it.
“An` that tractor wouldn`t stop just for my head gettin` jerked into it, y`know.
“I don`t wear bell-bottom jeans at my farm either when I`m working. I use straight legged pants coz I don`t want my leg gettin` jerked into none of that equipment.
“Plus,” he continues, turning to look at his publicist, a young American chick called Lynne Goldsmith who`s the only other person present, “how much money did my hair make for charity? We auctioned it off.”
Yes, sports fans. Mark`s a farmer-boy at heart.
But would you buy a second-hand cow off him?
“That`s what I`m working for y`know,” he goes on. “That`s what I went into rock music and strived for.
“I wanted to have enough money where I could buy me a farm and do what I want to do and be my own boss an` jus` grow m`own vegetables.
“I raise my own beef, I raise my own pigs and horses. One of these days I`m jus` gonna be self-sufficient.”
So you`re “into” it, eh?
“Oh yessur. It`s in my soul, it`s in my blood. I`m one-sixteenth Indian, an` I believe it`s in my heart.
“I`ve been round the world a coupla times,” he continues, “an` I don`t want anythin` but the land, because I relate to it. I don`t worship land, an` it`s not sacred to me, but it`s essential.
“I don`t know if anybody feels the exact same way about it as I do, but I cried when they strip-mined down in West Virginia, and they ruined all the trees an` the mountains an` the countryside. They jus` went through `em, took all the coal and fuck everything else, y`know? At the price of our future and our children`s future they`re jus` makin` money an` money, an` money. Money, money, money!
“Nothin` is gonna be in the way of these guys. The bankers` bankers and the ultra-rich who`re doing this sort of thing an` makin` a livin` ain`t gonna stop, I mean, `coz they`re runnin` the World.”
You don`t use spray deodorants, do you, Mark?
“Uh-uh. Roll on.”
“About the aerosol cans? Well, because they made a study down at the University of Michigan…an` they discovered while makin` tests that the outer layer of ozone, which is in the outer layer of the earth`s atmosphere an` which filters out the ultra-violet rays from the Sun, is gettin` more thin and gettin` eat up by these gasses that they pressurise these cans with. Freton or something they call it.
“When it`s released from the can it goes out and it goes right up to the outer atmosphere, coz it`s so light, an` it`s eatin` away at the ozone.
“They predict that within five years it`s gonna have an effect on the crops, an` people will be gettin` skin cancer from laying out in the sun too long. In ten years,” he continues, beginning to get down and get with the topic, “people won`t be able to go out in the sun, they say, if the use of aerosol cans keeps up.
“So that scares me. In fact, I`m writing a song about it.”
What`ll you call it?
“`Aerosol Can.` The first verse is” – he breaks into song, clicking time with his fingers – “`The rays of the sun are gonna burn ya, hun. You can`t kill a villain with a bomb or a gun. You can`t blow him out of his dhooooes. So it`s time to choooose.`
“They listen to my music now, an` I`ve said things in song that would be political, I guess. It`s my opinion, an` people have come to me an` said, `I get behind what you`re sayin` in that song`.
“As long as those people are listenin` to the words, I`m gonna keep sayin` it, because I feel obligated to say it. An` they`ll listen to the music coz it`s a good, funky beat.
“That`s the thing behind it – the drive.
“The doom pow-pow powdoo popapoppoppooow.
“It`s gonna cook. An` people`ll be boogie-ing and they`ll be saying, `Hey, what`s he saying? Yeah! He`s right!”
Yeah. But roll-ons are stickier than sprays.
“But,” he comes back eagerly, “the stick deodorants – like Brut – are good. They don`t leave a mess under your arms.”
On an otherwise uneventful Sunday night in Copenhagen, Grand Funk arrive at a half-full concert hall for the first date on the European leg of a five-month World tour (which includes one date at Wembley this weekend).
All is not well.
The audience is jeering and slow hand-clapping because the support band are half an hour late. Their disenchantment intensifies when the group`s equipment is removed from the rostrum and it becomes apparent they`re not going to appear at all.
This occurence does, however, allow us time to reflect on the main attraction.
Emerging as the opening act at the 1969 Atlanta Festival, Grand Funk were virtually an over-night commercial success in America – though the acclaim they have subsequently received from capacity houses throughout the states has created so little consternation in musicbiz and Press circles.
Reactions have been extreme.
On the other hand, they`ve been described as the most hideous of all Heavy Metal creations, while on the other (that of ex-manager Terry Knight) they`ve been ecstatically declared the phenomenon of the 70s.
“It has often been said,” he once solioquized, “that Art becomes great not when it is `good` or `bad`, but only when it absolutely cannot be ignored.”
He has a point, actually.
Having released 11 albums (one a double) in their seven-year existence, each of which – according to Farner – has achieved platinum status, it would be…unfair to ignore them. Though time has shown that laughing at them is another matter.
At Copenhagen I didn`t laugh. I was too bored.
This, however, was not the concensus. By the end of a dozen numbers, a film-show projected on a screen above the stage, and some rather dazzling lighting effects, the audience response was rapturous.
Farner is the only focal point. Naked to the waist, wearing a pair of red satin pants possibly on loan from a pantomime genii, he leaps about the stage athletically, guitar strapped tightly to his barrel chest.
Drummer Don Brewer enthusiastically beats time, his afro-frizz lolling over the snare as if controlled by a puppeteer, while an immobile Mel Schacher rounds out bass riffs with apparent disinterest.
To the far left of the stage Craig Frost sits between two keyboard instruments, one of which resembles a fish tank.
The sound is elementary and repetitive. The only distinguishable difference between the first three numbers, “Are You Ready?”, “Foot Stompin` Music” and “Rock And Roll Soul” is a slight variation of tempo…somewhere.
Unlike other bands in the genre (Purple, Heep, etc.), Funk seem to place very little emphasis on spontaneity or improvision, their main philosophy apparently being: Find that riff and sit on it.
Back in the hotel room Mark`s saying how important he believes the lyrics of his songs to be. I`d like to have taken him up on this, except that I couldn`t actually hear them the previous night.
“When I write a song,” he expounds, “I`m behind that son-of-a-bitch 100 per cent. I mean, there`s no doubt in my mind whether it should go on disc that way. It`s going down that way an` it`s gonna be said. If anybody tried to fuck with my words, I`d just…”
And he smacks a powerful right fist into a large left hand, drawing Lynne to laugh and a resolution on my behalf not to delve too deeply into that particular area.
His unshakeable views on this subject have caused him some difficulties within Grand Funk.
When recording “We`re An American Band”, the other members refused to use some of his material because they considered it too political. Now he intends to record his own album and use these songs.
“I just feel obligated – because I`m where I`m at, in this position. A lot of other bands have been in this position, too. Like The Beatles – they were really political. They were social conscious and a lot of people were listenin` to `em, like on that `Magical Mystery Tour`.
“It was The Beatles, though, who inspired me to go on and do this, because I said, `If I ever get in that position` – an` I had my fingers crossed – `if I ever get as big as them guys were, or even halfway near it, I`m jus` gonna keep puttin` what I believe down on record`.
“We got 11 albums,” he states proudly, “an` all of `em are gold, an` all of `em are platinum, an` they`ve all sold a million copies a piece. That`s my testimonial.”
Commercial success, I cliche loudly, doesn`t necessarily indicate quality.
“Well, when we started down at Atlanta the people felt that music,” he defends. “When we went out it was 110 degrees in the sun, and the people were jus` dyin`, but they got up and gave it back to us.
“An` that was like my inspiration from that point on. Two hundred and fifty thousand got up an` called us back for an encore. And the guy even said our name wrong when he announced us.”
But wasn`t it mostly manager Knight`s hype at that stage?
“If we were a hype it would have stopped at Atlanta, or have stopped when people said, `Hey they can`t play, it`s a hype`. If it`s a hype you can tell by what`s comin` outa bands.
“And Terry Knight didn`t create us, because it`s our original music, which he had nothin` do with at all, except to produce it – if you can call it producing.
“I`ll tell you what: when we split with Terry Knight you couldn`t have put our money and assets together and made a million dollars. We were in debt.
“I owed the government $400,000 or something like that. I just got it paid off last year.
“Like we were working in the red for a long time…until our last American tour.
“If Grand Funk broke up tomorrow I`d go back to my farm and be a farmer. I wouldn`t try to go out with nobody because there`s not that combination in the world.
“An` I don`t have to have that elaborate amount of money because I don`t live that way. Like I told you, I`m getting to the point where I`m self-sufficient.
“My number one concern is my physical condition. I wouldn`t be any good if I didn`t have myself together – fit. So I work on my farming. I wanna die old; I wanna be in good condition. I don`t wanna get fat.”
“The first time Mark had a satin pants fitting,” says Lynne Goldsmith. “He didn`t have his shirt on and the woman fitter looked at him and said, `How do you get your chest like that?`
“And Mark said, truthfully, `I shovel shit everyday`.”
“I`m staying right down here on the ground,” Farmer maintains, stoutly. “I`m not a superstar who`s got his nose up in the air and who don`t recognise anybody else. I`m just like you and her.
“You kick us all out in the street and take our clothes off and we all look the same.”
Unless you`re shovelling shit.
“I`m very grateful to the people who put me where I`m at,” he continues, his eyes glistening, “and I jus` can`t repay them enough.
“It`s like my family…and I try to help them as much as I can. I could never do enough for my parents or the people who`ve put me where I`m at.”
“Well then,” interjects Lynne immediately, “you can take me to dinner.”
“You buying?” He laughs innocently.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Phil Manzanera, Curved Air, Tammy Wynette, “How to compile an album”, “An investigation into Japanese Rock”, Alice Cooper, David Crosby, Hedgehog Pie, Ralph McTell.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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