Karl Meyer - 10 Questions Music Interview
As a sophomore in high school, Karl co-founded the hardcore punk outfit Sluggo, whose 8-song Contradiction E.P. is still regarded as a genuine article of DIY Midwestern thrash. Despite his young age, Karl was soon sought after by established bands SS-20 and The Edge who were looking to upgrade their sound with a great bass player. In college, Karl performed dozens of gigs at the legendary Jockey Club in Newport, Kentucky, recorded six records, and co-founded the notorious Human Zoo. After moving to Chicago in the 1990’s, Karl started his second musical career as a hustling, bass-playing sideman performing with many legendary artists including Little Mac Simmons, Eddie Taylor, Jr., Tail Dragger, Little Arthur Duncan, Alex “Easy Baby” Randle, Willie Buck, and many others. Along the way, Karl developed an interest in authentic blues harmonica and produced three harmonica blues CDs for established labels Random Chance Records and Wolf Records. In 2015 Karl responded to an advertisement for a punk rock bass player. Within a few months he found himself writing a fresh batch of songs to perform with his new band-mates Sabrina, Ted, and Nicole. They named the band LC/50, and in 2017, released their first E.P. “Lovebirds and Lies.” At 50 Karl returned to punk and songwriting and decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of making his own album, on his own terms, with concessions to no one.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I realized a few years ago that I should stop worrying about whether or not my songwriting was good, and just start writing songs. Then, after a few tries, I discovered that I had written a few songs that I felt really proud of, so I decided to record them and share them with the world.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
In the 1980's I played bass in a band called Johnny Cuba and The Edge. We created our own low-budget video and submitted to MTV. Unbelievably, MTV aired the video. It was featured on a show called 120 Minutes. I don't think something like that would happen today -- we literally just mailed a VHS cassette to MTV and that was that.
What has been the high point of your music path?
As a bass player, I have been fortunate enough to share the stage with some of the greatest Chicago Blues musicians of the last few decades -- Little Mac Simmons, Easy Baby, Tail Dragger, Eddie Taylor Jr., Little Arthur Duncan, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and many others. These artists taught me a great deal about music and life.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Usually, I start a song with a phrase or a small bit of lyrics -- something that makes me angry, or something that makes me laugh. I flesh the idea out on paper a bit until I have a verse and a chorus. Then, I pick up the guitar and try to put some chords behind the lyrics. After a bit more work, I make a rough demo recording of the song so that I can hear what it sounds like, and then I can refine it more from there. Some songs come together very quickly; others take many iterations.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I have no idea how to change this, but the biggest problem facing independent artists these days is that there are far too many of us. It's very tough to get noticed because the market is completely flooded. Anyone with a computer can record themselves making music and with a few clicks upload their music to BandCamp and SoundCloud. And yet, here I am, adding to the flood. Oh well.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I would love to share the stage with Handsome Dick Manitoba of The Dictators. I think he is the best frontman ever. His delivery is perfect.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I don't get stage fright or anything like that so I don't need to do any special preparation. I just make sure to show up on time and have all my gear set up for the gig.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
"Detractors" is one of my proudest moments, probably because it was the most difficult to write. It went through many iterations in the studio. At one point, I almost gave up on the song -- I'm really glad I stuck with it. My awesome engineer, two-time Emmy winner Tim Reisig, has the patience of a saint and did a lot of work to transform the song into something unique and compelling.
What's coming up in the future?
I am known mostly as a bass player. The bass always seemed a better fit for me. I've historically had a love/hate relationship with the guitar because I have surrounded myself with many excellent guitarists and I never felt that I could compete with them. But, just recently, on a lark, I auditioned for a slot as a guitarist in a punk band, and I got the job. It's kind of perfect really -- a new decade and an opportunity to shed outmoded ideas and try something new. We've only had a few rehearsals, so we shall see how it turns out, but I'm really happy about it.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
My 10-song album, Career Ending Move, is available on BandCamp, Spotify, iTunes, Google, YouTube, and many other platforms.
This music interview was brought to you by BWH Music Group.