KARNATAKA – Requiem for a special tour

As Karnataka embarks on its new European tour, we had the pleasure of speaking with bandleader Ian Jones and vocalist Sertari, who is making her debut with the progressive rock group. This special tour marks the band’s return to mainland Europe after a significant hiatus and will feature performances promoting their latest album, “Requiem for a Dream”
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As Karnataka embarks on its new European tour (more information for tickets here), we had the pleasure of speaking with bandleader Ian Jones and vocalist Sertari, who is making her debut with the progressive rock group. This special tour marks the band’s return to mainland Europe after a significant touring hiatus and will feature performances promoting their latest album, “Requiem for a Dream”

Karnataka
Sertari – Photo by Howard Rankin

Preparing the tour

So, first of all, I want to thank you for accepting the interview. Welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you? How are these days we are this way to you?

Ian Jones: Thank you to the website for inviting us. It’s great to be talking to you. We were swamped. So two weeks, I think we started our tour. So we’re in the middle of rehearsals, which has been quite frantic. And all the usual stuff, you know, around arranging a tour. But we’re excited to be getting back on the road.

And for you Sertari, it’s the same also, I reckon.

Sertari: Yeah, me and Ian have been just going 100 miles per hour with this. And I don’t know if many readers know but we organize everything. It’s full-on management of every aspect of the band. From every lead to the instrument, paperwork, or which van we’re going to drive and how will drive. So you know, and it’s always lovely to get into rehearsals, because then, you know, the creative juices start doing and that’s what you love. We can’t wait to do what we love and get back on stage and from rocking out.

Karnataka playing in the Netherlands

Karnataka has been missing from the Netherlands since 2017. You will embark on a European/UK tour in a long time. So, yeah. What you are looking forward to most? What are the difficult sides of it?

Ian Jones: We are looking forward to returning to the Netherlands for the first time, in quite a long time, and were allowed to mention the Brexit word. Lots of obstacles have stopped us from returning such as the COVID pandemic, which we’re still really suffering from the after-effects of and the whole music industry is mean that was just catastrophic.

The Brexit problem

But yeah, Brexit has put in place a lot of obstacles, it has made it quite difficult for bands to travel into mainland Europe. There are a lot of logistical issues around customs taking equipment in. I guess as well, after COVID, we just needed to get back out on the road. It was maybe a little bit easier, to just do the UK again, largely because of Brexit. So happy to be returning. I cannot wait for that. Aren’t you too Sertari?

Sertari: Yeah, I mirror what everything has been said. We don’t want to say the B word for Brexit has been a challenge for musicians. You know, all we want to do is perform and play to our fans. And we want to get out there but there are many more hurdles and costs. Yeah, it is. It’s been very, very difficult for musicians. And for me, this will be my first time performing in the Netherlands. So I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and having a good time. The challenges will be worth it. So yeah, we will get through the challenges and we are looking forward to the shows.

Karnataka new lineup

The tour is in support of Karnataka’s sixth full-length “Requiem of a Dream”, which features a brand new revamped lineup. Aside, from Mr. Ian Jones, we have Sertari on vocals, we have Rob Wilsher on keyboards, and Luke Machin on guitars.

So this whole brand new lineup for a brand new album, how did you guys get together? Because I know the fans know that Sertari has been in the band since 2018. But, it’s still the first time that the fans in mainland Europe, we see you we will experience to see you guys performing live. And still one year from its release, you have received a lot of rave reviews.

Ian Jones: The questions about the line-up crop up a lot. And I understand why, of course, because I guess there’s a bit of a tradition with some bands that, you kind of stick with the same lineup while Karnataka has always been quite different in that we’ve always worked with session musicians, to some extent. We don’t always advertise that, you see the band as it’s this person, this person, this person, and this person.

But behind the scenes, you know, you’ve got core members, and the writers, and then, and we’ve always brought in, external musicians to work in the band, and, it keeps things fresh. And it allows you to work with musicians that, you know, you admire, you appreciate that they’re fantastic musicians.

Being fluid with the line-up

So there’s always been that fluid aspect to the lineup. I wouldn’t be honest, I’m saying, you know, you don’t always want change, because, it does sometimes stop the momentum. And I guess that’s happened in the past. But when it does happen, you have to see it as an opportunity to have some rebirth within the band.

You know, bringing people who’ve got fresh ideas, fresh sounds. So it’s something I’ve used to over the years, I don’t, you know, I don’t necessarily look for change, but, you know, change happens. And it inevitably will, especially in a brand that’s been around as long as Karnataka. And at some point as it hasn’t happened to many, many bands.

Karnataka

The name involved in the past, if you are a prog rock fan, you know, you are aware of which kind of professionals we are talking about. And it becomes evident that even if you don’t have to advertise it, you know it.

Ian Jones: Yeah. Yeah. And with Karnataka, there’s only been a core writing team at the heart of the brand, for “Requiem of a Dream” has been myself and Sertari. You know, the musicians that we brought in, we know them very well. For example, Luke had already played on the debut album of my side project Illuminate. So, we very much knew what Luke could bring to the band. So, you know, we’ve been working with session musicians, and, it gives us the luxury of choosing who will get something in music and elevate it.

The production and working together according Sertari

Before Karnataka, you were already active as a solo artist. And sincerely, that gives an extra flavor. The production of “Requiem of a Dream” sounds fresh and It has been a long time since I didn’t hear something like that if I have to be sincere.

Sertari: Yeah, I think. In truth, when we first met up, we didn’t know what would happen. You don’t know how things would gel. But I always would come back to the same thing that I’ve always said when we started writing this album, it just felt very natural. It was exciting. And we bounced off of each other. And we were very open and honest with each other, if things didn’t work, that was fine. But then we knew when things did work, we were happy to change things. So, we have had a good working relationship from the start. And, we were all very much willing to chuck things into the cooking pot and, see what would happen. And I guess that’s where the magic happened.

From Ian Jones’s perspective

Ian Jones: From my perspective, it’s always difficult to quantify when you try to find a singer, or similarly with the musician what you’re looking for. Obviously, with Karnataka, you’ve got an established sound which requires looking for somebody that can continue that to some extent, but you’re not looking for an identikit sort of person. In the end, it’s a lot of gut feeling, how your body reacts to hearing somebody, that kind of instant thing.

That happened when I heard Sertari‘s solo track “Hero”, which the minute I listened to it, it could be a Karnataka track. It wasn’t exactly like Karnataka, but all the elements were there. And that gives you a clue that person is tuned into similar influences. And, that’s more important to me than somebody that sounds like a previous singer. Indeed, stereotypically completely our own identity as a vocalist and our ideas. But, I could sense that she was coming from the same influences. And to me, that’s kind of more important.

Otherwise, you end up turning yourself into your tribute band, which is never what I’m after you want to bring yourself to music, bringing something fresh and new. And unbeknownst to what Sertari said, you don’t know for everybody to step into the unknown. And is it that an element of excitement? You never know, it could go disastrously wrong. In our case, it’s just been brilliant. And yeah, it’s different. It’s not like a recipe, you can apply it, there’s just a lot of luck. But there were a lot of coincidences that brought us together, which added a little extra sort of magical layer, to the whole process. You know, without wishing to make its own mistake, it was a lot of happy coincidences.

Karnataka working with Joe Gibbs

What also the difference for me is the mixing of Joe Gibbs. He worked with The Cure, Massive Attack. For me, it was, fresh to my ears. I said, this is fantastic. It’s so bright. How did you manage to work with them?

Ian Jones: Yeah. So again, I mean, we’ve worked together with him for the last 20 years. Again, just some happy coincidences. I was living in Swansea, Wales at the time. This is going back to 2003’s “Delicate Flame of Desire”. At the time, Joe moved down from London to work in a new studio that opened in Swansea. We’d gone to another studio to start mixing. But we started trying to mix the album and it just wasn’t working, which was a bit of a shock because we’re in one of the best studios. So after a few days, we just took everything back to Swansea and, were in a bit of a limbo situation.

We didn’t know what to do now. And somebody mentioned this guy called Joe Gibbs who has just started working at his new studio Mighty Atom. It’s sadly it’s closed down now. But somebody put us in touch with Joe not knowing that he’s a big prog rock fan. If you look at his catalog of work, you won’t get that impression, because as you mentioned, he’s worked with Katatonia, Massive Attack, and The Cure. However, being a big prog rock fan, he was aware of what we were trying to achieve with our sound, which was that progressive element, but also, you know, really trying to put a fresh perspective on it.

Karnataka

The sixth hidden member of Karnataka

So, since then Joe Gibbs has joined our team if you like, and we work with them, it’s pretty much mixed every album since. But even Joe‘s proud of his work on “Requiem of a Dream” because this is as close as he’s got to being completely happy with something. And so I will give him your feedback because he’d be content with that.

Sertari: Now that you’re saying that, you know how good we’ve worked with him on this album. And, you know, when I got to meet him, he was never someone that would put something out that, you know, he felt was okay, you would work on it. You spent a long time working on this album, just making sure even the small minor details were perfected, and there was a lot of chewing and froing and discussion about it. Everything was very methodic. He spent a lot of time working. Yeah.

As a listener, and as a fan, I can appreciate that. And I can listen through the album that was a sort of detailed work, like a puzzle, in a way. It’s not, it wasn’t something like, thrown there randomly without any control. It is a resonated work behind. Still, it looks good, and I was listening to it today after one year, it is amazing. So it passed the test of the one year.

Ian Jones: I think it’s just one of those albums where there are so many layers. Yes. You know, even like you say, after the year we are used to, we know what’s gone into it. But it’s always nice to hear people saying that you are still discovering fresh things in the sound.

The future of Karnataka

Do you have the hunger for more work in the future?

Sertari: We are desperate to start cracking and getting some ideas down, we have dabbled a little bit. But I think where we’ve been doing so much work on this tour, it has such a little time, which is difficult. That’s always the challenge when you are managing every aspect of the band. I don’t want to quote Taylor Swift.

90% of your time is spent doing the business side

But she was the one that said that 90% of your time is done by doing the business side, the admin, the emails, and then it’s the 10% which you’re left, doing the creative and the stuff that this is why you’re doing it, and you have to love that 10% so much for you to do that 90%. That’s why we’re still here. Because we love doing that 10%. Indeed, writing and performing push us through the rest of that 90%. And, you know, the business and the hard graft, as they say. But we want to, you know, we’re probably going to do some more writing, we can’t wait.

Proud to be independent

Ian Jones: I agree with everything Sertari just said and because you have you know, in advance, I guess it’s kind of a cottage industry. And I don’t know if there’s a Dutch equivalent phrase. But as it’s already said, you know, we pretty much do everything ourselves. And I guess if there is a little positive in that economic force because we’re working on so much of the stuff and putting the two together, it was a huge amount of work because it’s quite a big tour as well.

But it does mean then when the opportunities come along to write, you got this huge appetite for it, you’ve got lots of ideas stored up to bring in. So it becomes like a sort of a cyclic thing, I guess, when you finish the album, you need a break from the studio anyway. And that was nice. We did the tour last year. But I think we’re both kind of itching now we’re coming to the next point in the cycle where we’re looking forward to the tour but we’ll be looking forward to spending time in the studio and getting your ideas down.

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