In 1997 Ian started a project to record a selection of songs written during his spells with these earlier bands. No recordings of the tracks existed other than poor quality rehearsal and live recordings and the three track demo recorded by The Big Pink. The initial idea behind the project was simply to create some better quality recordings for posterity – there was no plan to release these tracks commercially or form a band. Rachel Jones also contributed on vocals and as a writing partner.
Ian initially began sequencing the keyboard parts (using a Roland PMA5) and programming drums before collaborating with keyboard players James Law and Phillip Lloyd. He also moved into PC sequencing and recording and as the project continued, Jonathan Edwards was invited to contribute. The trio continued to write and the project and recordings were subsequently augmented by guitarist Paul Davies, Big Pink drummer Gavin Griffiths and saxophonist Steve Simmons.
Photo by Belinda Jones Copyright © 1999
Karnataka – the name!
One of the most asked questions is – where does the band name come from?
As a teenager, in 1979, Ian had read a magazine article written by fisherman/author/broadcaster Paul Boote who had spent six months in India in search of a mythical fish – the Golden Mahseer. Once widespread across the Indian sub-continent’s rivers – decades of pollution, poaching and dam building had destroyed much of the Mahseer’s habitat. No one really knew if the giant fish still existed. Paul Boote spent months traversing India, often suffering from poor health, until he eventually discovered and caught this amazing fish in South India – in Karnataka. The article left a deep impression on Ian but he never imagined he would ever get the opportunity to follow in Paul’s footsteps. A chance meeting in 1994 resulted in Ian being offered the opportunity to join an expedition to the same river in South India in 1995.
Camping in a remote area of the jungle for several weeks, Ian was stung by a scorpion, had snakes slither through his tent, dodged the occasional wild boar bursting out of the undergrowth and came close to be being flattened by a herd of elephants walking past the camp! But it was all worth it, when, on the last day of his stay Ian landed one of the largest Mahseer caught in India that year. The magnificent fish was returned alive to the river.
The river also contained some rather large crocodiles which, Ian pointed out, made the twice daily trip across the river in a wicker coracle rather exciting! Not put off by the scorpions, snakes, crocodiles and elephants Ian returned the following year for another jungle stint!
It was only at the end of the recording process that the decision was taken to formally form a band. Inspired by Ian’s experiences in India, the band was named Karnataka.
There was no initial plan to release the recordings but encouraged by the positive response to the music, the collection of tracks were released in 1998 as the band’s eponymously titled debut album. Initially only available on CDR, the growing demand led to it eventually being pressed on CD.
The release of the album coincided with emergence of the internet which enabled Karnataka to start reaching a global audience. The band would soon be fulfilling orders from an expanding fan base around the world including the US and Japan.
One of the band’s first live performance as Karnataka took place at a talent showcase in Soho, London in 1998 where the band performed a 30-minute set along with five other bands.
The band was encouraged to approach The Classic Rock Society based in Rotherham who gave the debut album a favourable review in the Society’s magazine which brought the band to the attention of a wider audience. A support slot with Genesis Tribute band Re-Genesis followed which further enhanced the band’s reputation as a strong live act.
The band continued touring and were increasingly performing outside the band’s native town of Swansea. The band supported Buckinghamshire based band Jump at their annual ‘Horses Head Soup’ Festival in June 1999.