Japan bassist Karn dies of cancer

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Mick Karn, the bass player and founder member of British art rock band Japan, has died after succumbing to cancer, his website said Wednesday. He was 52.

He died peacefully at his west London home on Tuesday, surrounded by family and friends, a brief statement said.

Born Andonis Michaelides to a Greek Cypriot family in Nicosia, they emigrated to London when he was three.

He formed Japan when he was 15, with singer-guitarist David Sylvian and Sylvian's younger brother Steve Jansen, a drummer.

After years as a cult act they scored hits between 1981 and 1983.

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 and was noted for his fretless bass playing style.

"I couldn't help but feel that bass players were always hidden somewhere in the background whereas I was determined to be heard," he said.

The band's 1982 breakthrough album "Tin Drum" was also their last. It spawned their biggest domestic hit single, "Ghosts", but the band split a few months later.

Karn was in demand, playing alongside artists like Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Kate Bush, Midge Ure, Joan Armatrading and Gary Numan. He later moved into jazz.

After being told Townshend had called him the best bassist in Britain, Karn replied: "The best? No, but having never heard anyone play in a similar way, I'd certainly consider perhaps being the most original."

He was diagnosed with cancer in June 2010.

Karn is survived by his wife Kyoko and son Metis.

© 2011 AFP

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