In the beginning…
Karnataka did not so much start as evolved – an evolution that has continued over the years. The band began life as a recording project started by Ian Jones in 1997. The initial idea was to record some demos of songs written in earlier bands Angel Heart, Dream Circle and The Big Pink. And that’s where we’ll begin…
Angel Heart was formed in 1988 and was the first collaboration to feature Ian Jones (bass, acoustic guitar, Roland TR707 drum machine), Rachel Jones (vocals) and Jonathan Edwards (keyboards). The band’s stripped back melodic indie-pop sound drew on influences from the Cocteau Twins to Madonna but also saw them incorporate less mainstream influences such as folk.
In order to recreate their sound for live performances the band used a four track tape recorder synchronised to a drum machine to provide additional backing. Each song required a new tape to be inserted – which did not always go to plan! Much was learned in the art of stage presentation during these formative performances!
Their live set included a reworked arrangement of the traditional Irish folk classic ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ inspired in part by All About Eve’s 1988 version of the same track. Angel Heart’s version featured Ian playing bass with a violin bow – the rosin applied to the violin bow really messed with the bass strings!
The band performed a handful of support gigs with Swansea indie band No Flags Etc at The Coach House in Swansea – a well know music venue in Swansea city centre.
Ian and Rachel later teamed up with Swansea musicians, guitarist Mark Hunter and drummer Richard Bailey to form Dream Circle. The band began writing their own acoustic, melodic rock material and also performing a small number of gigs in the Swansea area. Jonathan Edwards would subsequently join on keyboards.
The song writing and arrangements continued to mature and develop from the more simplistic writing of Angel Heart. The music was moving in a slightly heavier direction and incorporating more progressive and rock orientated influences.
The Big Pink
By 1990 Dream Circle had evolved into The Big Pink with Mark Hunter departing making way for new guitarist Nigel Boulton. Nigel had enjoyed some success in the late 1980s with Welsh band The Hepburns who had recorded a session with the legendary John Peel in March of 1989. Drummer Richard Bailey also moved on to be replaced by Gavin Griffiths.
The band went on to enjoy some success in their home town of Swansea with their own brand of anarcho-prog-pop.
The Big Pink regularly rehearsed at a studio owned by Paul Durden – writer of the screenplay for the critically acclaimed film Twin Towns. The band won a Battle of The Bands competition in 1993 (judged by the late Man guitarist Micky Jones) with a first prize of a recording session. Taking advanatge of their prize, the band recorded three tracks ‘Must Be The Devil’, ‘Woman In Me’ and ‘Instinct’ in Slate Street Studios Swansea. Whilst these recordings were never released, the DAT and multi-track masters are in existence. Must Be The Devil and Woman In Me would eventually be re-recorded and appear on the debut Karnataka album.
The band performed on the Melody Maker stage of the Heineken Festival in Singleton Park, Swansea in 1992 alongside a rapidly rising Manic Street Preachers.
The Big Pink continued until 1993 before parting company and pursuing individual music interests. Interestingly, the name is now being used by another band.