Japan bassist Karn loses cancer battle

Mick Karn, the bass player with 80s chart act Japan, has died after fighting cancer for several months.

Karn, 52, co-founded the arty group and his fretless bass gave the music a distinctive sound.

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He died yesterday surrounded by family at his home in Chelsea, a statement on his website said.

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Karn and the rest of the band began as a teenage glam rock act inspired by artists such as the New York Dolls, but they went on to develop an eclectic sound. Their later music was influenced by the sounds of the Far East, Kraftwerk and even the French composer Erik Satie.

After years as a cult act they achieved a number of chart hits between 1981 and 1983, many of them re-releases. The band's breakthrough album - 1982's Tin Drum, which included the number five hit Ghosts - was their last.

Cypriot-born Karn, who sported yellow hair in the band's early days and was later noted for slicked-back hair and shaved eyebrows, was a regular face in pop magazines such as Smash Hits.

He went on to form the group Dali's Car with ex-Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy for one album. They had been due to record together again but Karn was diagnosed with cancer last summer.

The musician, who also played saxophone, was born Andonis Michaelides and moved with his family from Cyprus to south-east London when he was three.

He was also a proficient bassoon player but switched to the bass after his instrument was stolen and his school refused to replace it. Karn was just 15 when he formed Japan with singer/guitarist David Sylvian

and his younger brother Steve Jansen, a drummer.

A message announcing his death said: "He was surrounded by his family and friends and will be deeply missed by all."

Karn - who also exhibited his sculptures - was noted by many as an influential bass player and was much in demand, playing with musicians as diverse as Jeff Beck and Gary Numan.

He played in the supergroup assembled by Pete Townshend for the first Prince's Trust Gala, and later moved into the world of jazz, playing with figures such as David Torn and Bill Bruford.

As well as solo and group releases, Karn also had a brief reunion with his Japan bandmates under the name Rain Tree Crow.

A message posted on Japan singer David Sylvian's website said: "May his suffering be at an end, may he find eternal peace."

He is survived by his wife Kyoko and son Metis.