I wrote the first six albums of Grand Funk, I wrote all by myself. We sold out Shae Stadium on Mark Farner music.”
Mark Farner: Hello, this is Mark
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hi Mark, this is Nando from Wikimetal. I’m here with Daniel, one of our co-hosts. How are you today?
MF: Good, Nando!
W (Daniel Dystyler): Hi Mark, how are you? This is Daniel.
MF: Hey Daniel, what’s up?
W (DD): Very good, how are you man?
MF: Good, good.
W (DD): We’re are very proud of having you in our show, Wikimetal is the largest heavy metal and hard rock podcast in Brazil.
MF: Alright, rock N’ roll!
W (NM): Yes, we are very happy to have our captain in our show today.
MF: Thank you, God bless you, good to be here with you, boys.
W (NM): So first of all, tell us about this project, the documentary that tells the story of your life. In which stage is it now, and how can the fans participate?
MF: It’s in the beginning, it’s just in the beginning stages. The fans, if they want to participate by finance, by contributing and becoming part of the film, it’s on a website to do that. But a lot of prayers! Because we still have our son Jesse here, we’re waiting on a miracle for him to get out of that… You know, he’s a quadriplegic, he lays on a bed and he’s in a chair for a year and a half now and we’ve been asking people to pray. So that’s what they can do for us and things will happen a lot faster in our life.
W (NM): Tell me how hard is it for you to choose the songs to be part of the set list? After such a long and successful career, how do you choose the songs that you play on the show?
MF: Well, our set list is currently made up from a poll that we did from the internet audience. A couple of years ago we asked people to participate in sending two songs they would like to hear in a live show. So we had like 27 hundred responses that we picked our set from, and we put our set together from the desire of the fans. I said “why not give them the set that they want to see?”
W (NM): That’s a very good idea. And what is the percentage of the set list that is made of Grand Funk Railroad songs?
W (NM): 90?
W (DD): Well, it’s a “must-go” show, then.
MF: It’s who I am, It’s a Mark Farner show, but it’s also who I am. I wrote the first six albums of Grand Funk, I wrote all by myself. We sold out Shae Stadium on Mark Farner music.
W (DD): Excellent, Mark. And talking exactly about that can you chose a song that you’re really proud of having written in the past so we can listen in our show right now?
MF: “I’m your captain”.
W (NM): Thank you for being our captain for so many years. It’s been a real pleasure.
MF: Thank you, the pleasure is on this end, brothers!
When I was with Ringo, I had a great time. One of the best times of my life as far as learning and being with people. Ringo is out there, he’s a Beatle, you know.”
W (NM): What do you think, in your opinion, was the reason the long-awaited Grand Funk Railroad reunion wasn’t such a big success?
MF: The obligation that we made to each other before we even played the first gig. They wanted me to not play any solo shows and only do Grand Funk shows. Because Don Brewer said it would be competition for Grand Funk dates. So I agreed to that but I said only for a period of two years, because I have a solo audience and at that time, brothers, I had been playing for my solo audience for 21 years, so I had a lot of fans. And I said “I’m not going to just leave them alone and forget about them, I’m going to come back and start doing solo shows. So at the end of two years those guys didn’t want anything to do with that, they wanted to do just Grand Funk and I was kind of hoodwinked into signing my ownership, one third ownership, of this trademark “Grand Funk Railroad” into the corporation ‘cause Don Brewer came to my room one night after a gig and told me that we needed to do this to protect the trademark. I thought it was kind of funny at first because I said “Ok, if it’s what we need to do, I guess I’ll do it” and he said “Ok, I’ll go to my room and get it”. And I thought “What the hell, why didn’t he just bring it with him?” so that kind of put me a little bit suspicious but not enough. And I shouldn’t ever signed my ownership of trademark over to the other two guys because they can do whatever they want to, I had nothing to say about whatever they do with that trademark.
W (DD): Throughout those 21 years that you’re saying of your solo career, and more than that, through the 45 years playing around the world and being really really successful, what do you think was the highlight of your career?
MF: I think the highlight actually was the first Atlanta pop festival in Atlanta, Georgia, with 185 thousand people that had never even heard the name “Grand Funk Railroad” before. But that day they became aware of a three piece garage band from Flint, Michigan that came down and rocked their asses out for them and didn’t want us to leave the stage. That’s how infectious it was. And that, because I went from playing at parties and weddings and things, you know, a young musician plays wherever you can play. I played for my mother’s friends when they would come over. I just played for playing, play, play, play. And finally here you are you front of this huge audience and they were loving it. It was like a dream come true. Of course there was Shae stadium after that. Flying over and seeing all the people in the stadium bouncing in the bleachers and it was rocking and rolling and Humple Pie was set up on the stage which was second base. The place was just rocking. That’s some from very memorable stuff. It seems like… I can recall it, but man oh man that was many moons ago.
W (NM): The festival you mentioned before, is that the one that you guys got signed with Capital and is it true that you guys played for free at that festival?
MF: Is it is. The people that were doing the legal work for the festival were our attorneys from New York City, so they got us a position on the festival because of their influence as the attorneys doing the legal work so this festival could even happen. It was pretty good, we played for free and got signed to Capital Records, not a bad deal.
W (NM): We have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person we interview. Just imagine yourself listening to music on random mode and a song comes up that you just lose control, totally. Which song would that be so that we can listen to that one right now?
MF: “Inside Looking Out”.
W (NM): Tell me about the experience of working with great producers like Terry Night and even legendary Frank Zappa.
MF: Yes, very much influenced my career and my admiration for their work as artists. Because I got to work with these great musicians and definately musical geniuses, in their own right. Frank Zappa, you know, so innovative. And people thought that he was high on drugs but he never took drugs, he wasn’t that kind of person, he was just very into the music. And Todd Rundgren just makes it happen so effortlessly. I had the pleasure of experiencing time being spent with these people not just in a professional atmosphere but it was very friendly. Having a cup of coffee, talking about the song, what we were going to do for the day. Always seemed very good people to want to be close enough to the band, to be part of what we were saying together.
W (DD): Great. And about the experience of working with Ringo Starr?
MF: When I was with Ringo, I had a great time. One of the best times of my life as far as learning and being with people. Ringo is out there, he’s a Beatle, you know. He’s very well respected by most people in the world, but I got to sit down with Randy Bachman from BTO and Randy showed me some power chords and I got to learn stuff from John Entwistle , and we jammed together. John Bachman and Zak Starkey. Just the three-piece. It was so good to jam with these guys, they influenced me and I learned, I expanded. I was a better musician after being on tour with Ringo. And when we were in Tokyo at the press conference a young lady came out and said “Mr. Farner, what is it playing with a Beatle?” and I said “Well, let me tell you, honey. Ringo puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like I do”. So Ringo gets up, and he comes over to me and he pats me on the back and says “Thank you brother!”
W (DD): Well, that’s great to hear, that’s a great story.
Make sure that you keep your fingernails trimmed down on your fingering hand and to play the guitar in your bed, laying on your back until you fall asleep. And when you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else, play it some more.”
W (NM): Mark, tell me about the importance of religion in your life, and when did you first start getting involved with religion?
MF: Well, I learned the difference between religion and faith. And when I learned that I started to break the hold that debt had put into me. I was debt conscious because I was born into a world where people accept debt. But Jesus said “Owe no man anything”. And I take that personally serious. So I owe no man anything. Money defines all that, people think way more of themselves than they should and a lot of churches put you further in debt. They tell you, “now that you’re a Christian you owe ten percent to God, and you got to give, and do the ofference, and do this and do that, and pay the pastor and pay this guy”. I’m telling you, it makes me sick. There’s no reward in that, the only thing you’re gonna do is keep people in debt. We got to be free! It’s rock N’ roll, it’s wanting us to be free. It’s leading the way if we ever follow it. And for me, personally, the kingdom of heaven is within us, it’s not past the clouds, in the planets, somewhere out there. It’s right here in our hearts and we are responsible for it. Each one of us, collectively, in the spirit. For the love of it and for the peace that it brings us. Because love is unconditional.
W (DD): And talking about roots, what’s the importance of your Cherokee roots in you music and songwriting?
MF: Importance? I think, brother, is my rhythmic feel. People tell me, after seeing a show, they feel that they saw a part of my animal, who I am as an animal. And it is a part of my native American blood to express myself in these ways. But I am a mixture of Cherokee, but I have Swiss blood in me, I have German blood, I have Jewish blood, I have French blood. I’m telling you, I’m a “Heinz”. It’s what they call over here, it’s like a steak sauce, you put a bunch of things together to make it taste better. I’m a mixture of all those things.
W (NM): You’re pretty much like most Brazilians anyway.
MF: Right on, brother! And we rock to the core.
W (NM): What would you tell a 15 or 14 year old kid that just is just starting to play guitar and getting together with some friends to put up a band?
MF: Make sure that you keep your fingernails trimmed down on your fingering hand and to play the guitar in your bed, laying on your back until you fall asleep. And when you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else, lay there and tune that guitar, and play it some more. Fall in love with your instrument and you get out of it what you put into it.
W (NM): Is there any message that you would like to share with us, any message, special thought that you would like to share with our listeners?
W (DD): Besides all the nice thought you’ve already shared.
MF: Yes, thank you. I just want to share that we are good in our hearts. We need to walk by that and not so much on what our eyes see. Especially on the television because that is owned and operated by people who are questionable in character. Their motives are ill, most of them. And we cannot get our eyes on the sickness of someone else’s dream. We don’t want to live that. In order to be free in our mind we have to walk by what’s in our heart. And I know, when we get to Brazil, and we play for the Brazilian people, I know that I am gonna fell the love. And I want to invite all the Wikimetal fans to our show at São Paulo.
W (NM): You sure will, Mr. Mark Farner. It was a great honor to have you on our show. Let me ask you another thing. Is it the first time you come to Brazil?
MF: Is, it is.
W (NM) One more reason not to miss this great show.
MF: That’s right.
W (NM): Thank you so much for your time and I’m really looking forward to seeing you playing live on the 10th of march.
MF: Thank you, brother. And thank you, Daniel.
W (DD): Thanks, Mark. It was really an honor having you on our show.
MF: Thank you very much guys.
W (NM): And come to Brazil, we’ll be there.
MF: Right on, brother.