Mick Karn was born Andonis Michaelides in Nicosia on 24 July 1958. When he was three, his Greek-Cypriot parents moved with him to London, where he was raised. In his youth he began playing mouth organ at the age of seven and violin at the age of eleven, before he took up playing bassoon for the school orchestra. As a bassoon player he performed with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra in a concert in October 1972 which was broadcast by Radio 4. However, when his bassoon was stolen and his school refused to buy him a new one, he bought a bass guitar for £5 from a school friend.
At school he became friends with David Sylvian and his younger brother Steve. As an escape from their south London environment they began to play music together and in June 1974 they made their first public performance.[Initially with Karn as lead vocalist, they christened themselves Japan in 1974. Joined by keyboardist Richard Barbieri and guitarist Rob Dean the following year, they signed a recording contract with German disco label Hansa in 1977, with whom they recorded three studio albums and became an alternative glam rock outfit in the mould of David Bowie, T.Rex, and The New York Dolls
They switched to Virgin Records to record their subsequent albums Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum.
As the band started to achieve commercial success with the release of Tin Drum and Ghosts, which reached the top five in 1982, tensions and personality conflicts between band members arose. Tin Drum was to be the band’s final studio album. Long-simmering differences among the band members came to a head when Karn’s girlfriend, photographer Yuka Fujii, moved in with Sylvian, and the individual members forged ahead with their own projects.
Karn said in an interview that as tensions with their record company had abated following Japan’s commercial success, band members began focusing on personal differences rather than on the common enemy.
Karn played bass guitar and saxophone on Gary Numan’s 1981 No.6 hit “She’s Got Claws” and tracks on the song’s parent No.3 hit album, Dance.
In November 1982, Karn released his first solo album, Titles, just as Japan had announced their split. In 1982 Karn wrote some material with Michael Finbarr Murphy guitarist and writer for Heatwave, Alan Murphy of Level 42, and Diana Ross among others. They did some low key gigs around London during the summer of 1982, and then went their separate ways. In 1983, he collaborated with Midge Ure on the UK top 40 single “After a Fashion”, and in 1984, he formed Dalis Car with Peter Murphy. The duo released one album, The Waking Hour, in late 1984 In 1982, he appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test along with Angie Bowie, former wife of David Bowie.
In the 1990s he worked with artist David Torn, Andy Rinehart and a number of Japanese musicians, and formed the multinational new wave band, NiNa. Later, he worked as a solo artist.
Karn contributed to recordings by other artists, playing bass guitar on Bill Nelson’s Chimera mini-LP, bass guitar and saxophone on Gary Numan’s 1981 album Dance, and also played with Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading. In the 1990s he started the Medium Productions label along with Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri, two of his fellow former Japan-members. and Debi Zornes (label management and artist co-ordination). In 2006, the MK Music imprint was established, by Karn, Debi Zornes and Mike Trenery — and beginning with 2006’s Three Part Species, all releases, including the autobiography, have the MK Music logo on them.
In 2001, Karn began to work with Gota Yashiki, Vivian Hsu, Masahide Sakuma, and Masami Tsuchiya in the band The d.e.p., or doggy eels project. In 2001, he worked with Paul Wong on his “Yellow Paul Wong” release. Karn left London in 2004 to live in Cyprus with his wife and son, financially enabling himself to keep working as a musician/artist. In 2009, Karn also released his autobiography, titled Japan & Self Existence, available through his website and Lulu, which details his music career, his interests in sculpture and painting, his childhood, relationships, and family.
On 30 August 2010, Peter Murphy disclosed via video message (subsequently removed/hidden) on his personal Facebook profile that he would be reuniting with Karn for a week in London, perhaps in November, to begin writing and recording for a second Dalis Car album. Murphy also added that this would be the first time the two had seen each other since 1983. The project was cut short, however, as Karn had recently been diagnosed with cancer After his death, five of the tracks they did record were released on 5 April 2012 as an EP entitled InGladAloneness. The tracks were mixed by Steve Jansen, mastered by Pieter Snaper in Istanbul and the artwork for the EP was created by Thomas Bak with a painting by Jarosław Kukowski.
He sadly passed away January 2011.