Red, White & Blue: An Interview with Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner

By  Ryan Sparks of Classic Rock Revisited

If anyone has achieved iconic status in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, it would be Mark Farner. As the former singer, songwriter and guitarist of one of America’s most successful and identifiable bands of the 1970s, Grand Funk Railroad, Farner lived the rock ‘n’ roll dream to the max.

Grand Funk went on to sell more than 30 million records. The band’s endless cycle of recording and touring yielded a staggering 11 studio albums and two live albums between 1969 and 1976. They even did the unthinkable in 1971: Grand Funk Railroad broke The Beatles’ attendance record at Shea Stadium in New York, a record that remarkably still stands to this day.

Farner’s signature guitar sound played a large role in shaping the band’s musical vision. His incredibly soulful voice also graced many of their most recognizable songs, such as “The Loco-Motion”, “Closer To Home”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul” and “Are You Ready.” If that wasn’t enough, Mark also was responsible for writing 95 percent of all Grand Funk’s recorded output.

In 1977, the band decided to call it a day. Don Brewer and Mel Schacher went on to form their own short-lived group, Flint, while Farner began a solo career. Almost five years passed before Grand Funk got back together again, albeit without Schacher, who opted out at the last minute. While both Grand Funk Lives (1981) and What’s Funk? (1983) were decent albums; the band eventually folded for a second time shortly afterward.

Farner’s personal life, and subsequently, his musical career, took a bit of a detour during the 1980s after he embraced Christianity. He released three albums on Frontline Records, a Christian record label, while continuing to tour with his own solo band. In the mid-1990s, he also joined Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band, which eventually led to a much-anticipated Grand Funk reunion (with Schacher on board this time) in 1996.

The following year, the band captured the reunion with the live double-CD Bosnia, which was recorded at three sold-out Bosnian benefit concerts in their home state of Michigan. Things appeared to be going well as Funk stayed active on the concert scene for almost three years. However, behind the scenes, things were beginning to sour. In 2000, Grand Funk announced it was forging ahead without Farner, hiring Max Carl (formerly of .38 Special) and former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick in his place. The fact that Farner no longer is part of the band he helped build from the ground up is something that still bothers him, and he would like the fans to see the original band together one more time.

Farner has forged ahead and returned to his solo career. Although his recorded output has been sporadic over the years, Farner says that he always is writing songs. His most recent effort, For The People, is full of everything Farner’s fans have come to know and love. For starters, that timeless voice remains stronger than ever. True to form, his penchant for creating thought-provoking, socially conscious lyrics still remains at the forefront of his music.

Discover more about what drives Farner’s creative process, what he feels is missing in today’s music and why he’s proud to call Ted Nugent a friend.
  
Tell me a little about how you’re most recent CD For The People came about, but also why its been so long since we’ve had a new Mark Farner solo album.

MF: It came about because there was just so much demand for new Mark Farner music. I’m a songwriter, and just because I don’t have a record deal with a major label doesn’t mean the songwriting stops [laughs]. I try to live in a conscious state of mind, Ryan, that affords me the time I need to spend in that place where these songs come from, and it’s precious to me.

What do call that? Do you refer to it as your muse?

MF: It’s like the song zone, unconsciousness, you know? It comes from a relationship of love. I feel and I draw from it like it’s from my mother. It’s very much a nurturing kind of thing, and I try to stay there. This is where the music comes from. It influences the music, and I think it adds passion to what a person has to say, especially if you intend to do it this way before you even play the first note. I think things can then fall in order. I haven’t stopped writing songs over the years; I’ve got tons of songs.

Lately I’ve been writing with Richard Young from the Kentucky Head hunters; we wrote this blues country song. I’ve also written with John Anderson, just to diversify who I am and who I turn out to be. Because playing with all the different musicians that I have played with over the years, every one of them has gotten on me, so I’m a bit like them now. I think it’s important to say, when we can afford to say, “Here’s my music,” but who do you say it to? We’ve had to go from the Internet presence as a root and then stem out from that, because it’s kind of topsy-turvy from the old world I used to live in. It’s now ruled by people who don’t know shit about it, so it’s perplexing to a musician, especially one who’s lived through the era and had it when it was good, before it was controlled and contrived.

I’ve had this very conversation with many of the musicians that I’ve had a chance to speak with. I think what’s good about the Internet and things like myspace sites are that people have that instant connection to you. If they’ve never heard of Mark Farner or Grand Funk, then tools like this are great for exposing your music to people. I guess it’s a little different from how you were used to operating.

MF: It was. I think it was more from the passion, Ryan. It was sparked by people and carried forth by people who love music and identify deep within themselves, something in the music is speaking to them. It’s like when Hendrix played, man, that guitar cried. I experienced the emotion of that guitar. I believe that’s the way it should be.

I know you don’t listen to much new music, because you’re so focused on your own stuff, but in your opinion, is that emotion and passion missing from today’s music?

MF: I just think that in the conscious mindset, it’s missing. It’s not talked about enough, it’s not embraced enough and held out visibly to embrace and love upon, like it should be. I think public schools — or government schools, as we call them — dropping music programs because they can’t afford them is crazy. Music is so important; how could there be freedom without any music? It carries a torch bigger than any legal boundaries, and those of us who have embraced it with that kind of passion have kept it alive. If we believe in it, then, by God, it is; you know what I’m saying?      

You’ve got some very talented musicians accompanying you on this disc, as well. I know your bassist, Lawrence Buckner, has worked with you extensively in the past. You’ve also got drummer Hubert Crawford, as well as Dennis Bellinger and your brother, Rick.

MF: It’s because of the friendship. It’s not a case of a solo artist going out and getting a bunch of hired guns. I know some people in the business use studio musicians, and they go in and cut their tracks with guys who are basically hired guns. They don’t play wrong notes because they don’t know how to [laughs]. So everything comes out this way, I mean, especially in country music, if you listen to it. It’s Dann Huff on guitar on 90-some percent of it, and the guy is talented, but he’s also limited, as well. You’ve got to let someone else in there and play, you know? [laughs.] I think that’s kind of what it’s coming around to with the whole business of it being contrived and controlled by people who are just in it from the money angle, and what they can do marketing wise. It’s really messed things up for the talent that is still alive, and I think the stuff that is left is really crying out to be heard, and crying out in ways just to get attention. Some times we think, “God, how can I listen to this crap?” but if you listen close enough, you can get past whatever it is that is upsetting you, to really understand where that music is coming from. There is a passion, but it’s so far removed from peace and love because it hasn’t been given any hope, so it’s doing the best it can.

I think we had a better crack at it, my friend, just simply by the virtue that there wasn’t the shit there is to deal with that these young kids have to go through today. I didn’t have all the video games and stuff; I didn’t have that influence. I’d watch combat on T.V. and all that stuff, and it was kind of cool playing army guys, going outside and playing cowboys and Indians with your friends and all that stuff. However, man, when it turns to the blood and guts and all these toys hanging on the racks are all these superhero-type things, this is what our kids have to embrace in their minds. This is what being a man is? It’s just blown out way past what our limits were. Their imaginations go crazy, because they’ll never satisfy that crap that has developed from the origin of money.

You mentioned about where your songs come from ,but has your approach to songwriting changed at all over the years? For example, do you still have these constant brain waves or flood of ideas floating around in your head at all times?

MF: Pretty much, yeah.

As a songwriter that must be a pretty great thing to have.

MF: My wife encourages it, as well, because she sees who I am, and more importantly, who we are, because her side of the family is Chippewa, and on my side, it’s Cherokee. My mother’s grandmother was full-blood Cherokee, and the Cherokee men esteemed their women to be equal with themselves, and its there that you find true love. Just think about that. If you thought that the person was even slightly inferior to you, then you’re only shitting yourself. How are you going to love somebody that you can’t even give that kind of love to? That’s the influence of my wife upon my music; she encourages me and sees that I need to be in that place, even though sometimes, man ,it sure would be nice for me to come back to earth and help her out on this one little thing. She’ll lay back and wait until it’s time, you know? It’s been really good; we’ve been married for 30 years, so this is my true love. When you give to each other equally and when you give each other what you want, that’s the way it works.

You’ve never been afraid to speak your mind and use your songs as a platform to convey either your political or religious beliefs, and true to form, you don’t waste time or mince words either on the title track. What is it going to take in your mind to rebuild the United States back to what it was?

MF: To get over the religious influence, because we’ve allowed ourselves to believe in a lot of things that are untrue. I believe in love, my friend, and the love is unconditional, and the love that was shown to all men from the creator is unconditional. It doesn’t have any attachments or qualifications to it, or things to get you in, but people believe in this. People believe in hell; they don’t even believe in the words of the holy Bible, but they believe in something that somebody told them. When Jesus went into the earth and he came out with the keys to hell and to death, well bingo, hello! If this is the redeemer and the savior of the entire world, and he has these keys, then guess what? Satan got saved, it’s unconditional, and hell is bullshit. It’s controlled by religion, it really is. If you believe in it, then you’ll fear it, and I believe it’s been put out there for men to fear, for the purpose of control. I believe the powers and principalities live in the hearts of men, not in any devil or spirit or something bigger than life. It’s a man like you and I, brother. He’s just twisted somebody who would allow themself to believe that they are better than another person, or so arrogant as to spend the life of another man’s child, just flaunt it out there and profit from it; that’s sick. It’s a sickness, and I’m sorry that people can allow themselves to go to that level, that they actually believe that they deserve this and that they are better. There are billionaires out there while kids are going hungry; it just doesn’t make any sense. It will never make any sense, because the trickle-down from insanity isn’t good, no matter where it stops on the ladder.

I’ve never been one to put a lot of faith or credence in political parties, as neither side, both in the U.S. or Canada where I live, really seem to serve the people or be working for the people. I’ve never really understood these so-called political labels, for lack of a better word, but I’ve heard people describe you as being even further to the right than Ted Nugent.

MF: I don’t know where that gauge is, because I haven’t really stood back and objectively thought of it in that sense, but I am there somewhere in what I believe, and I believe the truth is drawing me to itself. The truth is this body expires someday, there is an expiration date stamped somewhere on this body [laughing]. I haven’t found it yet, and I’ve been able to look pretty much everywhere. However, when we pass from the body, I believe you can have such a conscious connection with where you’re headed to that you wouldn’t even notice that you had left. I believe this is attainable, and it’s attainable if you believe in the unconditional love, and that, my friend, is the key to it all. If you believe it, then it is, but you’re taught not to, and in this man’s world that we live in ,do you think there’s any balance for a woman’s energy in the mix of things? I don’t think so. I don’t think they’re asking women’s opinions on a lot of things. It’s a bunch of arrogant men running this place, dude. I’m sorry, but things have got to change. People that have children and grandchildren, like myself, that are middle-working class people, there’s a hell of a lot more of us that stand to lose if we don’t just stand for love. We have to stand for love. Forget all the religion; let’s agree on love. Is that a bad thing to have, everybody agreeing on love? I think we could form the people’s army of planet earth! We would only oppose those who would oppose love and peace.

It’s like, why isn’t Grand Funk in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame? Is it the numbers? I don’t think so. As you said, before brother, the music spoke to the hearts of people, and to the generation that today call it protest songs. We sold out Shea Stadium before “We’re An American Band,” “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “The Loco-Motion” or “Bad Time;” there were no hit singles. It was all underground radio that we were getting played on. FM had no commercials; they had a guy spinning the discs, and when he would spin it for the first time, like Deep Purple’s “Hush,” people would go “Wow!” They had to go out and get it. That’s the way it was, and that’s the way it should be, and that’s the love that’s missing today. 

Something that I find is often overlooked about you is your exceptionally soulful voice, which, by the way, is still as powerful and stirring now as it was back in the Grand Funk days.

MF: Thank you, Brother Ryan, I appreciate that.

You voice encompasses everything from Motown and the great Stax singers of the 1960s, but I also understand you were also influenced by gospel music as a youngster. Is that true?

MF: Yes. My family on my mother’s side was from Leachville, Ark., and my Grandpa Cotton, my Uncle Woody and Uncle Brian, all the aunts and uncles and all the kids, all moved into the Flint area to get these high-paying jobs in the auto factories. It brought in people from all over the United States into that area. We would get together every Sunday, which was a family custom, just to get together and play gospel music. So, that’s how my influence initially got started, and also just the way it sets my soul up to receive something of that love that we spoke of.

Your lyrics have always addressed both social and political subjects dating back to early songs like “Closer to Home,” “Loneliness,” “Creepin’,” “Loneliest Rider,” “Save The Land” and on and on.

MF: “People Let’s Stop The War.”

Exactly. These songs dealt with issues which, unfortunately, are still concerns today proving that it wasn’t just a bunch of hippie idealism was it?

MF: No. Those of us who have been chosen for this, it’s almost like a task. It’s not a burden; it’s what ties us together, and the thread between us all, which compels us to keep it alive and to sow what love and life we have into it.

The fact these issues are still very relevant today is somewhat discouraging, yet you still have to have hope for the future, don’t you?

MF: Oh, yeah, I do have hope, absolutely, but I want to provoke people to think without giving them solutions in a song, at least provoke them to think about it. I think that’s kind of what we need, is to just get back to the basics of Mother Earth and to the bosom of who we are. We need to take care of this place and think forward, just like the Indians do to the seventh generation. This is the way it was back in the day. You thought enough of yourself that you would look forward, into your sons and daughters, and you saw yourself in them. You would prepare them with your words and your love for their future. Then their kids would come, and you would see yourself in your grandchildren, and you’d prepare them in the same way for their future, so they wouldn’t go blindly into this programmed, televised way of thinking. Everybody is conditioned by all of these things that have been projected into our minds, and we must consider all these things which come into our eyes. I believe that we’ve sped up time with these machines so fast that we’ve gone past where we should be on this earth.

Speaking of your Christianity or spirituality, was there really a definitive or defining moment when you found God?  It seems to me that matters of spirituality and God were always in your subconscious, but you were just slightly off course and maybe not always on the right road in your life. Would that be a fair assessment?

MF: Oh, God, I believe you just smacked it right on the head, because my Dad died when I was 9 years old. I prayed with Billy Graham, I was on my knees in front of the television set in my living room, and I prayed with him because he was doing a revival in Flint, Mich., at the stadium there. It was very moving, and being that I had just lost my dad, I was watching my mom and her friends in the dining room all turning to drink to try to drown their troubles. I was learning at a very early age that that wasn’t working. Billy Graham said that ‘If you are hurting and need this love right now, then get down on your knees in front of your television set and receive it’. That was my first encounter spiritually, reaching out as a 9-year-old with the understanding, as much as I could grasp as a 9-year-old. I did know that the guy that I loved most in the world, for some reason, wasn’t there anymore. I saw the devastation that took place, because for my mother, my dad was her God. It really tore her up, and she was a very sensitive woman. She had six kids — I have two brothers and three sisters — and we all had to endure it, but we all still love each other, and we still sing music when we get together. We’ve got to keep it alive. I believe in that whole grieving process as well, but from what I know about death now, and the short time that we’re here, there are other things that need tending to that our minds are better suited for.

Lesia and I embrace death, and we believe in things like the Indian ghost suppers, where everybody brings a dish to pass. It starts at 6 o’clock and goes all night until 6 the next morning. You talk and you bring pictures and you tell stories about the people who have passed on. It keeps them with us and keeps them who they are, and who they are in us, in front of us. We bring it out when we speak of these things, and we don’t think of it as a dark day, and that the person is gone forever. No, hold on, because this is graduation! You’re going there. What makes you think you aren’t going, too [laughs]?  You better change your mind about some stuff.

Right. Just because someone is no longer here in the flesh doesn’t mean your relationship with that person has changed.

MF: That’s right, because that stuff will drive you crazy, man.

After this change of heart, so to speak, did singing any of the songs in Grand Funks back catalog pose any moral dilemmas for you at all?

MF: Not at the time I was singing them. I thought so when I first got into the Christian scene back in 1983, because with that scene, there’s a lot of, I don’t know… weight and debt that comes from certain lifestyles, from what you don’t want to do and what you do want to do and all that. So from that perspective, yes, and even some of the first Christian music that I did, was under the influence of that conditional Christ. Well, I don’t believe in the conditional Christ anymore, because through revelation, I thank the creator for the unconditional Christ, who is love, and I serve love. If I err, at least I err on the side of grace.

In Grand Funk, you wrote almost 95 percent of the band’s songs. Was that by choice? I mean, did you just assume that role in the band, and did you encourage the others to contribute more in that regard?

MF: It was forced upon me at first, because I was the only one who could write music, it seemed. I was a 20-year-old kid just starting out. We would be in rehearsals, and they would take off and go to McDonald’s or something. I would get a jam going and a chord progression, and they’d say ‘Oh, do you have anything to go with that?’ and I’d go “No”. They would go to McDonald’s, and by the time they’d get back, I’d have it. A lot of the songs on the first eight albums were that way, so it’s always been part of who I am. Then when Don started writing, it would be, it might be something I didn’t have any words or melody for, and if Don heard me playing a particular song like “Black Licorice” or “Shinin’ On” he would say, “Hey, man, I hear some stuff for that.” I would be like, “Good, man, go for it.” We used to be friends like that. However, I think the desire for more attention in that area and more money from a songwriting standpoint kind of put a contingency on our relationship, and it still does. When Grand Funk broke up this last time in 1998, it was like a divorce, and its hateful shit that really shouldn’t be in our relationship. Our love for each other and friendship ought to go past it, but for some reason, people go there.

In many ways, I thought Grand Funk’s dichotomous blend of soulful R&B influences with a gutsy, raw energy is what really defined the band and subsequently set you apart from your contemporaries of the time. Would you agree?

MF: Absolutely. I think the assembly line of rock ‘n’ roll, which is what we called it, that particular brand of rock ‘n’ roll that was coming out of Michigan, was influenced heavily by what we listened to on the radio. At that time, it was CKLW out of Windsor, Ontario, with Rosalie (Trombley), as well as the local stations in Flint — WAMM, which was a soul, blues and black-influenced station. WTAC and WTRX were other stations that would play R&B cuts, especially Motown, because it was dance, and all the disc jockeys back then were having dances. They’d have people come out, spin the records and have a band show up, and it was great. There was no alcohol, at least, none sold [laughs]. It was a great time, and I think that’s something that’s missing from our music today, too, a place for young musicians to get appreciated. I applaud the people and the stations that are still involved, like this station in northern Michigan, Double Rock KLT. Teri Ray up there has local bands; they have a Northern Michigan Rocks CD that they put out every year. They are a station that promotes local talent, and I’m telling you this is something everybody needs to do, to encourage all of our young musicians to keep love alive.

When you set out to form Grand Funk Railroad, were you looking to the power trios of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience as your musical blueprint?

MF: We certainly considered the sounds and the impact that those bands were having. We knew that we couldn’t be like them, but we knew that what we felt good together, playing as musicians, is what made our sound.

All of Grand Funk’s albums were recorded very quickly.

MF: Oh, yeah.

The band released 11 studio and two live albums in seven years and toured endlessly, which was something that took its toll on your health physically, as you developed an ulcer in your early 20s. It seemed like it was one big, constant cycle of record, tour, record, tour.

MF: Absolutely, but I was at an age where I would look forward to the next thing, no matter what it was, Ryan. If we were taking off the next morning from Detroit for Europe, I was like, “See you at the gate, dude.” I would be looking forward to that and having it provided for you; all you had to do was walk in the shoes. It was good.       

Looking back now, do you think you had enough time to take it all in and really enjoy it as much as you would have liked?

MF: Absolutely not [laughs]. When you’re in the middle of doing it, we had an airplane that we leased that had Grand Funk Railroad written down the side of it in big letters, and Bloodrock was out touring with us. That plane carried both bands’ gear and 17,000 pounds of PA. They removed all the seats from the front bulkhead to the rear bulkhead, and the band and crew would sit in the rear bulkhead in the seats that were left, which was probably about 40 or 50 seats. In those days, it was a prop engine, and when they started it, it was like we were clearing the bugs for 40 miles [laughs]. We took off from Oakland, Calif.; we had just finished 61 cities in 63 days, or something like that. It was a grueling tour; we couldn’t wait to get home, and we were partying in the back of the airplane. It was gaining altitude, and then all of a sudden, “BOOM!” the engine on the right wing exploded into a fireball, and this was like 3 o’clock in the morning, so it was darker than the inside of a boot. I think it caused everyone to speak to God, because it got very silent; you could have heard a pin drop on the carpet [laughing]. Then the captain said that we had to go back, and anyway, when we got back, it didn’t have the power to reverse thrust, so the plane runs off the end of the runway. All of these emergency vehicles were sitting alongside the runaway with their lights on, but we went right by them off the end of the runway and into the cattails of the marsh. We jumped out of the plane into the darkness and hit the turf and went running away from it.

That’s a heck of a way to end a tour isn’t it?

MF: Oh my God! [laughs]. Like I said, I think everyone on that plane had their own conversation with God, I’ll tell you.

The band had other close calls up in the air, as well.

MF: Oh, yeah. One time, we were in the Lear jet. I think we were in Connecticut, flying into New York City. We were going into the private aviation at La Guardia, and you could see New York City from where we finally leveled off, at like 47,000 or something like that. We hit some clear air turbulence, and it flamed out one of the jets, and the co-pilot had the sense enough to put these flaps up, which they use when they cold start the jets, which saved the flame on the one. They did eventually get the other one restarted in the air, but it was so traumatic that when pilot finally landed and got out of the plane, the doors open on a Lear jet like a clam shell, and the stairs go down. He left the door open and went to take the first step and ended up on the tarmac. His legs went out from underneath him, and so did mine, everybody experienced that. Our heads ricocheted of the top of that tube, and nobody was feeling that they were going to make it back to the ground in the first place. When you have a situation like that, it does cause you to think about all those other bands and the people that went down in those planes, and you’re going [yells] “Not now, God. Give me one more chance!” [laughs] 

Do you remember playing a festival called The Strawberry Fields Festival in Montreal and Toronto in 1969 and 1970?

MF: Oh, yeah. In Montreal, I remember when we were coming in on the bus, there was all these people waking around with no shirts on, and this girl who had the biggest set of jugs had peace signs painted on them, two peace signs. It just went so well with the theme [laughs].  

While it’s safe to say your ex-manager, the late Terry Knight, wasn’t exactly what you’d call an honest man with regards to how he handled the bands affairs, he was quite successful at promoting the band, wasn’t he?

MF: Oh, yeah. The guy was really genius in his own respect, as far as the promotional aspect went, and what his grip on the industry was at the time. He knew what to do to get the most exposure for Grand Funk Railroad. Part of that was the ploy to keep us from the press to create a mystique, which really created a platform for him to rave about himself [laughs].

Was it Terry that came up with the great album ideas, such as the coin-shaped cover on E Pluribus Funk, the yellow vinyl and stickers for We’re An American Band and the 3-D glasses for Shinin’ On?

MF: Terry was responsible for the coin. Lynn Goldsmith and Any Cavaliere came up with the Shinin’ On glasses and the gold vinyl for We’re An American Band. Those were great marketing tools, which created something memorable.

I know you forgave Terry for ripping off the band, and he certainly didn’t deserve to go out they way he did. (Editor’s note: Terry Knight was murdered in 2004). In your autobiography, which ends a few years prior to his death, you mentioned unsuccessfully trying to contact him. Were you ever able to speak to him?

MF: I did talk to Terry briefly on the phone, and I got to say to him that I didn’t hold anything against his mortal soul. I counted all his lessons at that point in my life, and I wanted him to know that. Even though I think it was wrong, and I think I got ripped off, I wanted him to be able to come to himself with those terms, and then do what was right in his heart from that point, but there are people that just don’t get it. They sell out to the values of money. 

How did that conversation go?

MF: It was kind of contentious, a little bit, on his end. It was at arm’s length, and not to let on that you were in any way friendly, so it was a little uncomfortable, but nonetheless, I got it off my chest, brother.

Many of your contemporaries, some of whom you actually got to meet personally, fell victim to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and didn’t make it out alive. Did you ever feel yourself dancing at little to close to the edge at any point?

MF: Yeah. I mean, the close calls that you have, just personally with your life and knowing when you’re experiencing that closeness to the exit. When you get that close, you can’t deny it. I think that I’ve been through enough to know that fear that I used to be under is something I now embrace, because I know the inevitable. I’ve contended with it, with the unconditional love, the conception of that in my mortal mind and the placement of it in my conscious day. You have to overcome everything else, because it’s like that “Matrix” movie. The guy had to unplug all the shit that he was plugged into, and that’s what it really boils down to. We are jumping through so many hoops that our slave master is debt, and not just the money debt. People will expect things of you, and you won’t fulfil their expectations, and there will be a debt put on you from that point of view. Then we have the debt of regret when we don’t fulfill our own expectations, and we kick ourselves in the ass. We learned this debt stuff real good, and it manipulates us real good and pushes ourselves around in our lives. It moves us out of the comfort zone a lot of the time; it’s just a burdensome thing. I’ll tell you something; it’s a man controlling it ,and it’s me controlling it if I’m holding it against another person. The evil of this whole world comes from the son of a bitch that will not forgive the debt. Now that’s an evil son of a bitch. That’s where it all originates; it’s in the heart and mind of a man, and I’m sorry, but those kinds of people are just sick. They’re insane with a lust for power, and they can’t be satisfied. Like I said, the trickle down from there isn’t good, buddy.

I think I speak for many fans when I say that without you in the band that Grand Funk is really just the band in name only, as far as I’m concerned.

MF: I agree.

Is it hard for you to be apart from something that you were such a big part of and had such a hand in creating? At this point in your life, would you even want back in?

MF: Well, yes, because in fact I went to Capitol Records when they released the CD/DVD companion of the Shea Stadium footage. I sat across the table from the heads of their department and committed to them to put the band back together to promote this new release, if they could get Don and Mel to do it. I thought, “What better way to show the fans that we’re still sucking air?” We’re all going to die someday. I don’t know who is going to be the first one to go, but there won’t be the ability to put Grand Funk back together someday, not with the original guys, so I figured let’s do it. I had even tried before that, but they want no part of it, so I don’t know what it is. It’s hurtin’ people, hurtin’ people; that’s what I know.  

I think you’ve pretty much gotten on with your life, and you’re making new music, whereas, the last time I checked, they haven’t released anything new.

MF: I played in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy camp with Bruce Kulick, and he played bass on “Closer To Home.” I showed him the chords and stuff, because I make these different formations, and we were very friendly toward each other, and I hold nothing against Bruce. He’s a great player, and just because of the caliber of musician that he is, I’m sure that if they did anything new, that it would sound good, because you’ve got some great players, but it isn’t going to be Grand Funk. Grand Funk in the eyes of the people is Mark, Don and Mel. In my mind, because there hasn’t been anything else to prove that’s who we are outside of our records, then that’s who we are, you know? [laughs] To say that we’re anything else, I don’t know… I could never do it; I’m not built that way. I think there have been so many other bands that have done that. It just feels like something they could do, make some money at it, and they don’t need me… Whatever. I don’t know all the thoughts that go through a person’s mind, but I do know that there’s nothing that either I could do by myself or the two of them can do together to satisfy the true Grand Funk fans who would like to see us get back together before we die.

You mentioned earlier on about the Hall of Fame and why Grand Funk isn’t in there. In your opinion, is it all political?

MF: Yes it is, it has to be. People can say what they want, but it seems like the public just believes what they hear. It’s like 9/11; the official story is the jet fuel somehow melted the six-inch steel I beams, which caused it to pancake floor after floor after floor. That’s what the words said, but your eyes saw the whole building free-falling at one time; there was no pancaking. I know, because I spoke to people that were in the building, so that is a farce that has been perpetrated by the people that own and print our money, and that isn’t us. That’s what America has to do to get back on her feet, because in order for you to make anything out of your business, your money has to work for you, it can’t work for somebody else. In order for the United States to make anything for itself, our money has to work for us, and it can’t be controlled by these European families that own the Federal Reserve. It doesn’t do us any good, because they don’t have a patriotic bone in their bodies, and I believe they’ve been spanking our ass since 1913 for telling the king to go shove it up his. I think that’s kind of what it is, those spoilt little shits.

Last question. We spoke about of Uncle Ted earlier.

MF: Yeah, the Motor City Madman.

I had read somewhere that he said that one of his wishes before he leaves this world is to record with you. Is this the first you’ve heard of it, or have you ever spoken to him about it? 

MF: Those were definitely Ted’s words, because he spoke those words to my wife. I was on my way home, and I didn’t have my cell phone with me at the time, so when I got here, I called Ted. I was sitting in my bathroom, and I’m on the cordless [laughs] and Ted says, “Farner, you’ve got to listen to this.” He plays me a song. He’s in his bathroom, and he’s got his flattop in there, and he plays me this song over the phone. It was great. We’ve had that kind of relationship, very close to mother earth and the Great Spirit. I don’t care about anything else, because that, in itself, is enough for us to be friends.

So do you think it will ever happen?

MF: All Brother Nugent has to do is make the call; he knows I’ll be wherever he’s at. I’ll be there.

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3 thoughts on “Red, White & Blue: An Interview with Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner

  1. Make sure to check back frequently 34to our site. We have tons of new information to be released, including15 details on production and setup, more artist to be announced, stories about art installations, as well as many travel options and general event news. We’ll be working nonstop to bring you a unique three-day event and this website is the official information center for all you’ll need to know about this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival. Consider this your guide to explore all the exciting things we have planed for this years festival. Use it to purchase tickets, browse maps, obtain information about the venue, and to get details about the event as they are made available. Keep checking back and stay in tune! We’ll make sure to keep you tantalized with tons of exciting updates!

  2. Mark’s story about the last trip on the plane with Bloodrock was one I hadn’t heard, but many from that tour are some of my favorite stories my father ever told me about his time touring with GFR. My father felt blessed to be in that time with those people, making the one thing they felt like they were made to do. Thanks to Mark for sharing.

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