Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Karma to Burn: The Long Version, Pt 1

When I first met the guys in Karma to Burn, I wasn't even old enough to drink yet. In fact, in order to attend the SxSW be bonded at, HIGH TIMES had to invest in a fake ID for me (which I was promptly busted with during my second night in town). We were introduced by their long-suffering A&R guy and a long, tempestuous friendship was born—particularly with bassist/ringleader/snake oil salesman Rich "Little Dickie" Mullins.

Little did I know then just what a dangerous meeting it was. Over the years, I beared witness to so many hustles, white powders, unsavory situations, and industry fuckfests with the instrumental trio, that I'm honestly surprised (and infinitely pleased) they're all still breathing and thriving. And it always irked me that their place in stoner rock history was regularly overshadowed by their party legacy.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview them about their reunion for DECIBEL. It gave me the rare chance to put on my Journalist hat and really ask them all the questions I probably would never have the balls to ask as a friend. And naturally, a lot of it didn't make it to print because of word count restrictions.

Not wanting to waste all that editing, I decided to post my interview with Rich Mullins and Will Mecum here in three parts. Enjoy.

Did you ever expect Karma to Burn to reunite?
Will Mecum: No, definitely not. There were a lot of things that were left undone when we decided to split; a lot of anger—and a lot of late night revenge scenarios. Like, ‘if I ever see that guy again…” And that went on for years.

What was the breakup like for you?

WM: I lost my band, I lost a friend, and I lost a career—if you want to call it that. [Laughs] It all went to shit. Substances got in the way, personalities got in the way. We lost sight of the goals that we set when we first started playing.

What kind of substance issues did you have?

Rich Mullins: Everyone in our band had a little bit of a heroin problem; mine was giant and Rob’s was giant. Will was able to just stop, Will doesn’t really have that personality for it.

How did you get clean?
After Speedealer, I went to Holland for a year, then I came to L.A. and that’s where I got clean. I was in a rehab, and the guy who ran the place came up to me and said, what if I say the name ‘Rob Oswald’ to you? I go, ‘Oh, I love that guy.’ He said, ‘well, he’s behind this door.’ Can you imagine?

WM: I’m proud to say that I’m the only member of the band that didn’t have to go to rehab. But my addiction wasn’t anything minuscule. I went cold turkey and it was not pleasant. I quit my job and I locked myself in my apartment for 10 days. After the eighth or ninth days, I started feeling human again. 

How did the two of you get back in contact after you’d cleaned up?
I got a call really late at night, [a mutual friend] said that Rich and Rob were trying to get a hold of me. Two weeks later I said yes to giving them my number. Rich texted me—and I’m not one to really receive texts that well. The first thing I texted back was, “Fuck you, L.A. cunt.”

Then Rob called and we talked for a good two hours. He said, “You really need to talk to Rich.” After that conversation, I waited another week and got Rich’s phone number and I sat down and talked to him.

Want to read more? Check out the rest in Part 2 and Part 3.

Photo lifted from Raginpit magazine.

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