Posted July, 2011
As I’ve written several times before in other interviews and pieces, when I was a teenager, I played a mean air guitar while accompanied by some of the best rock and roll to come across my stereo. One of my favorite tunes to play some of my best air guitar to was Grand Funk Railroad’s, We’re An American Band.
My sweet rock star, guitar god poses and moves were often best struck to that tune as a teen. For those of you who are wondering, I refuse to answer if those same poses and moves are still being struck at my tender age of 50 – something. A guy’s gotta maintain a certain level of dignity.
When the opportunity presented itself to interview the driving force behind those aforementioned moves, Mark Farner, I gently laid down my air guitar and replied with a resounding yes.
Farner called me from his home in Michigan where he and his wife share the responsibility of caring for their son, Jesse, who was severely injured in an accidental fall. Despite the very serious circumstances of his son’s condition, Mark’s chooses to maintain a positive, sunny disposition. This is evident in his response to my typical phone greeting of, “How are you doing?”
He has me laughing with his reply, “I’m doin’ but I’m not mildewin’!”
Mark then slightly cracks open the door into the Farner household by sharing, “I’m so busy here at home. I’m ‘handicapping’ the house for my son. I didn’t know if you knew what happened to our youngest boy. He broke his neck last July and he’s quadriplegic. So, we’ve had to revamp our home. We had to take all the carpet out because he’s a vent patient, too. Not only is he quadriplegic, it takes electricity to keep this boy alive. But we’re praying for a miracle. The doctors say he’s stuck where he’s at and to not expect any better but we do.
“We feed him fresh juice and my wife is into all the alternative medicines. He’s only on a blood thinner. He’s doing a whole lot better because he’s got a girlfriend in his life now. Yeah, man! It’s like a miracle there! That’s an answer to prayer.
“Anyway, I’m used up. When I’m home, you can’t imagine how busy I am.”
I complimented him as to his selflessness in attending to the needs of his son in a day when we read about parents accused of abandoning or, worse, killing their own children. Farner responds with continued positive perspective that is founded on a faith that might blow some peoples minds.
“It’s spiritual growth and whatever it takes, that’s really to our benefit to allow it to be and to accept it. That’s where I think that I’m at with it. I have seen other things – other than what people normally see. I’ve seen – in the supernatural realm – I know of this realm – I haven’t seen the angels that stand on either side of me but people in three different states at three different times, of course, have seen them and identified them to-the-t!”
Farner then quotes what the people in the three different states have told him.
“‘Ten feet tall. One has his hand on your left shoulder, the other one has his hand on your right shoulder and they’re just lookin’ out! They’ve just got you. They’ve got you!’ So, I’m thinkin’ that’s where I’m feeling that. Something besides what I feel when I looked up into the heavens. Now I look into Heaven because that’s where Heaven is. The kingdom is within. That’s what it says in Luke. That’s where love is. That’s who I really am. The original blueprint is down there. It has been obstructed by a few events. I go back and recoil, and retreat and go back. But I’m coming back out because that’s what love does – coming out. I’m going in and it’s coming out!”
We began chatting about more carnal things such as Farner’s participation in this summer’s Hippiefest tour along with rock legends, Dave Mason, the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere, Gary Wright and Rick Derringer. I asked Mark if this the first time he has been involved with the show.
“I worked with Hippiefest for a few dates – oh, man! – when they first got started a few years ago. But I haven’t been back out because I’ve been doing other things, of course. This year, it happened to line up with the time they wanted me for. I hadn’t been booked yet. We worked it out and I’m glad to be on there with them.”
With a stellar roster like Derringer, Wright, Cavaliere and Mason, I asked if he had ever worked with any of these giants before.
“I worked with all those guys before. Gary – I didn’t work with him. When he jammed – he came out to one of the rehearsals when we were in Vancouver rehearsing with Ringo’s band.”
Farner then goes on to share what fans can expect to hear from him at the Hippiefest shows.
“It’s gonna rock, I know that! They’re gonna hear the hits (from his Grand Funk Railroad days). That’s what the people want to hear – mainly the hits but there might be a couple of three piece numbers thrown in there because people want to hear that, too.”
While the subject of GFR came up, I went ahead and asked Mark the obvious question that I know he’s been asked at least ten thousand times: Are there any plans at all for any kind of temporary reunion between him and his former GFR band mates for a few shows?
“Randy, I’ll tell ya, I’ve been tryin’ to do that very thing for a number of years but they’re just – it’s like putting a man and wife back together that got a divorce. You know, try that once and see how far you get with that! That’s kinda like what it is. That’s really how it is putting a band back together.
“But, I am willing and I have made it known to those guys. In fact, even though I’m not an officer in the corporation because they threw me out in ’98, I still sit in on a phone call of the corporate board meeting. Every once in a while I’ll say something. Like, last time I said, ‘While we’re all three still sucking air, why don’t we give the fans what neither one of us can do separately – give them Grand Funk Railroad.’
“Brewer said, ‘Put something together and bring it back to us after we get done touring in the fall.’” Farner laughs and then adds – with just a little bit of sarcasm, “So, I’m going to do that. I’m going to run right out and do that since I have all this time on my hands. But that’s where it is. I’m willing but only for the sake of the fans, brother. I’m telling you, Randy, I am a fan – I wanted to see the Beatles get back together while they were all still on the earth at the same time. What a magnificent thing that would have been and I missed it! I thought that’s how bad I wanted it.
“From the fans viewpoint, there are some fanatics who want to see Grand Funk. They don’t care about the internal bickering or anything, they just want to see the band. For that purpose – for the fan – for the sake of that loyal fan – I would go out there and not pay any attention to the other stuff that’s going on and just rock the crap out of it.”
Acknowledging the financial rewards of such a reunion, Farner adds, “Wouldn’t they be doing the corporation a better service by making as much money as they could? I’m just a minority shareholder over here.” He concludes with a laugh.
So, until the fan-demanded GFR reunion takes place, I wondered if Mark has any other collaboration or solo projects in the works in the mean time.
“Yes, a matter of fact, Ronnie Montrose, Eric St. Holmes, Pat Travers and myself just did a gig in St. Louis as The Guitar Godz of the Seventies. That’s ‘g-o-d-z’ of the seventies – and it came off. People showed up and we rocked them. Prior to that show, I had been with Pat Travers down in Tallahassee shooting a 3D video – the first 3D rock video ever shot – Panasonic actually sponsored it and supplied all the gear. It’s awesome!
“There’s only a few cable satellite channels that carries 3D content but they are looking for content because 3D – by next Christmas – everybody will have a 3D iPhone. 3D is coming on! You’ll have a screen that’s 3D without glasses. You hold it right there in your hand and see 3D! I’ve got one already on a camera and it works great – it actually does it! When they come out with a TV that will do that, then they’ve got something. Right now, you’ve got to have the glasses but, even with the glasses, it’s awesome, man! To be in a rock concert? You standing right with these guys!”
Bringing it back to the “Guitar Godz” concept, Mark adds, “We’re definitely going to bring that show to more locations. And, as far as working with Pat . . . he came up with me and did Closer To Home and a few of my songs at a concert in Tallahassee at a club down there where we taped the whole thing in 3D with the audience.
“That (Guitar Godz) is a strong possibility because Pat’s coming up to my place to write. He know that I can’t get out from here because I’m strapped but I can take a few hours here and there and he can be there and we’ll write. We’ve already got a spark and ‘iron sharpens iron’. That’s one of our songs already and that’s going to rock. And that boy is playing some slide! Woo, man!”
Of all the questions and interest in you/your work, what would be the one thing that you feel has been least covered and understood about you, your work and your legacy?
“I believe it’s the sincerity to which I am committed. It’s been the same the whole time but it’s been obscured in the early years by different things, events, consequences, recoveries, collisions – life goes on. But, what’s driving me is love. I gave myself to love. Every day that I stay in the bones, love becomes more a part of me. It becomes bigger because it’s erasing that hurt and the things that shove me back into the hole that I was buried in. But that is emerging, coming out of me and emerging into who I am. I believe, because I gave myself to love, love has given itself to me and that I might just flip out of these bones without even knowin’ it - that’s how good it is . . .” and, with another chuckle, he reiterates, “. . . without even knowin’ it! Just to the next stage. Not bad!” Mark then cackles out loud at the thought of the beauty of that realization.
As I have with many other icons, I asked Mark what negative changes, culturally and within the music business, he sees between now and the sixties and seventies.
“Generally speaking, it’s the shock value that one has to go for or, like when Kiss came out and dressed up and became bigger than life – dimensional. They added more to it. It was a theatrical performance with fireworks and everything. Now, to see what live shows are about, to see the culture of music reflects a ‘debt consciousness’. We’re in debt to something. The whole move is based upon ‘debt’.
“What influenced back in the day, making music, was I had a DJ in my local town who went to California. He was in L.A. for a week and he came back. He said, ‘This is what I heard. Listen to this!’ and he spun Deep Purple’s Hush and Flint, Michigan, fell in love with Deep Purple and Hush, dude! That’s how music got around. That is no longer possible since 1995 because the FCC had the 7/7/7 rule which limited you to the ownership of 7 AM, 7 FM and 7 television stations.
“Until 1995, the culture – what we saw – was pretty much based on fact and actual news reporting and people who weren’t paid off to say certain things and to make things appear as though they were but they’re really not. That’s what’s going on now. You used to have a moral conscience that governed our cultural and now what governs our culture is the influence of distinct, utter – you talk about the devil, this is evil. This is evil. There’s no devil because, in my opinion, when Christ came out of the earth with the keys to the kingdom of Hell and of death, that just showed – not only the resurrection, the power of the resurrection – it showed unconditional love because He redeemed his brother, Lucifer’s, soul and now holds the keys that Lucifer once held. We’re ‘in’ because of that.
“That’s the Jesus I know and these people that used to have a moral conscience to govern that and to instill morality in our children have lost the grip to all the fantasies – the computer generated bull*** they see on the television. It’s not good. It’s in the hands of sick men who have never had to earn anything. They don’t have a sense of value. It’s skewed and they’re hell-bent on taking over the world – this one world order, new world order, Global baloney B.S. and, really, nobody is stopping them.
“Music had a chance before they had a grip on us. Now, it’s a stranglehold. Clear Channel owns everything and Live Nation went in and bought up all these promoters, all their contracts with all the amphitheaters in all the major cities. You can’t go in and play a market unless you play at Live Nation and if Live Nation ain’t playin’ you, you’re not going to play that city and that is B.S.!”
It’s at this juncture of his comments that Farner injects his political and economic views that aren’t always popular with folks but he puts them out there anyway.
“It’s in the hands of Mr. Money and Mr. Money happens to be the European families who own the Federal Reserve and have no patriotic interest in the United States of America. Their interest is in destroying the potential for freedom because we were getting strong with our factories. We were getting debt free. We were getting towards that when they pulled the rug out from beneath us. We were getting to be a strong nation but they control us by the issuance of our currency. The fact that they are all Jewish families is not coincidental and the fact that we are kicking the crap out of Palestinians in Afghanistan and in Iraq and they’re rattling the saber to go into Iran. It’s them in control by virtue of television to confuse people and put us in a state of disinformation and we base our opinions on B.S. Well, what does that say about our opinions?
“Man is such an egomaniac anyway, we believe what we believe is true. We’ve been lied to so much, we believe it’s true. Really, the acting out before us shows selfishness. As long as this evil rules – and that’s what it’s going to do to every country that it issues currency to – that country will become ruined.
“It’s just like following Rome. You’re going to follow that? You’re going to follow Rome. You’re going to follow that you’re going to follow the false god because those guys are the ‘Wizards of Oz’. They’ve got the big levers. They’ve got the buttons and the whistles in their hands but they’re hiding behind a very expensive curtain.
“The internet has helped expose who these rats are. They’re just insane with the lust for power. It’s not about money. If you own the machine that prints money – just by virtue of the scenery on a hundred dollar bill and what I have to do to earn it and what it’s face value is and what it costs them to print it – are you kidding me? How are you ever going to overcome that debt and they charge you interest to borrow some of it! Unbelievable!”
One may not agree with Mark Farner’s view of all things political and economic but one thing is for certain: You’ll know exactly where he stands when you discuss them with him.
And what Farner view as being the biggest positive changes in the music industry since the 60’s/70’s?
“The positive is there are a lot of people coming to things like that Guitar Godz show – the first 20 rows were all young people – to the shows where I’m playing music – I don’t know if it’s because of Guitar Hero or what but there’s a lot of kids coming. They want to shake your hand. They want an autograph. That’s great. I love that because they’re gettin’ a grip on it. They’re fed up with this other stuff. They don’t want to hear the negative point of view. They want to hear the hope. I’ve always stayed with the lighter side but I’ve always been political, if I felt it, in my writing and I’ve been spiritual at times. I stay true to my heart and that’s what the young people want – somebody that is staying true to their heart and is saying what they have instinctive for. That you can’t deny.
“We are people. We’re men. We have needs. The women have needs. We need balance. The problem is balance. It’s a man’s world and how does feminine energy – how do we let it in? How do we let it balance us? If we don’t, these men are going to get us all killed!” Farner concludes, laughing.
“My Cherokee blood is to esteem my woman to be equal with myself. How could you love somebody with all your heart unless you did?”
One thing that is apparent in the music world is that what we all refer to as “classic rock” is still incredibly popular as evidenced in its inclusion in movies, commercials and video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Also, acts like McCartney, the Stones and Springsteen are still clocking in record revenues and attendance records. I asked Farner why he thought it was that classic rock still has the “legs” that it does.
“The groove. I mean, you can flash your guitar and rip the neck off of it and it’s fine. But there is a groove and rock and roll has a groove to dance to. It has a groove to set your soul to – if the words are right – and take you in that direction. You have a natural inclination to follow the groove because the groove is made out of love. This other stuff that masquerades as rock and roll, they’ve missed the whole groove. It’s got all the flash and the audience has bought the marketing scheme or scam, whatever. It doesn’t fulfill them. They’ve got to have the groove and, my friend, we gotta to have the groove. That’s what sets our certain music apart – it’s got a groove to it. I fit right in there.”
To that point, I asked Mark if he felt if any of the new music had a message that compelled people to action like it did in the sixties and seventies.
“I don’t listen to the radio enough to give you an answer. I really don’t listen to the radio at all. I only hear what my son, Jesse, is playing. It’s in the house because he’s in the house and I can’t deny him his music because it overshadows the sounds of that vent. It’s a noisy S.O.B., it really is. But that’s what I hear. I don’t know the group names. I’m not in an out of that room enough to stay on a song to say, ‘Oh, who’s that?’ I’m trying to keep my mind clear too, Randy, so that I can stay open to ‘incoming’.
What is coming to your town is this former member the American Band, Grand Funk Railroad, to help you “party it down” during the Hippefest Tour next month and concluding in early September. You can find out when and where it stops near you by clicking here. You can keep up with Mark Farner and how things are progressing for his son, Jesse, by visiting www.markfarner.com and signing up for Mark’s free newsletter.