"You've got it, that's where I get my fix and I don't get it anywhere else; not like there," emphatically stated legendary guitarist and founding member of Grand Funk Railroad, Mark Farner as he discussed the joys of performing as well as his new concert DVD, "From Chile` With Love."
Farner, whose high energy style and authenticity helped launch Grand Funk Railroad into the stratosphere after their appearance at the 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival has never lost his enthusiasm for the stage and has continued to create new music while bringing his past into the present and this latest effort is a perfect encapsulation of the man, the music and a rock 'n' roll career that has spanned nearly seven decades.
When Farner talks about the making of this DVD, he does so with such enthusiasm and passion, not only because he's very proud of his career and accomplishments but because he is also doing something very special with some of the profits.
"That's right! It is 16 live performances, there are two bonus videos; one of which is available right now at Markfarner.com. The "Rock & Roll Soul" video which is taken from this live shoot from Santiago, Chile at Teatro Caupolican and there's five additional bonus tracks, just the audio, on this DVD as well for $14.99; such a deal I'm telling ya'," he said with a laugh as big as his personality. "Also, my wife Lisa and I are giving three dollars from the sale of each DVD to our friends at Veterans Support Foundation; they help get veterans integrated back into society. They have taken veterans off the street, given them transitional housing, they have gotten them job placements, they get them some self-esteem and put them back in society as a whole person. I love these guys because it's veterans serving veterans; there's no government B.S. or red tape in there whatsoever. The funds go straight to the efforts and none of these guys who work this take a salary; not a penny. They give all of the money to the cause and I've been working with them since the '70's so, I know these guys are real, I believe in them and I thank all of the people who bought the pre-sale DVDs which are not only autographed by me but three dollars from each one is going to our brothers and sisters who need the help. I want to thank those who have pre-ordered or will buy the DVD and even after the DVD comes out we are still going to give three dollars for every one sold to the cause because it's that near and dear to our heart."
A worthwhile charity indeed; so why exactly is it, "Near and dear" to their heart?
"My dad was a World War II veteran, he was a tank driver in the 7th Armored Division and he returned home with four Bronze Stars; he made it through four major battles and I'm telling you, most tank drivers didn't get to see more than one or two and that was it. So, I'm telling you, my dad was very, very fortunate and so were the guys in his tank because they all came home. My mother was the first woman in the United States to weld on Sherman Tanks at Fisher Body in Michigan. I remember the front page of the Flint Journal had her standing on a Sherman Tank, she had her helmet tipped back, she had her striker in her right hand and her left hand clinched and this big beautiful smile on her face and it was like; I'm here for my man, we can do this, we are gonna do this! That revved me up as a young man to the point where I'm very proud of my parents and the efforts that they made during the second world war to bring us to a peaceful situation in our country and because of the songs that I've written and the veterans that have grabbed on to the hope that they find in those songs; I find that they are my most prized audience. They are coming from their hearts; these guys that joined us up at Fort Irwin for the celebration for the Viet Nam veterans, we got as many Viet Nam veterans on that stage as we could possibly put and then we did "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home" and I'm going to tell you something; all of these guys from different states had never met until they got together for this reunion there at Fort Irwin but they were standing there hugging, crying, singing "I'm getting closer to my home" and I'm tellin' you, it's such an emotional fix and you know you're doing something right when something touches your heart in this way."
Farner grew up in Michigan but his family roots were far south of there; yet, no matter where you settle down it is the atmosphere that shapes us; something that has never escaped this veteran rocker.
"My mother moved from Litchfield, Arkansas when she was 16 years old to come to Flint, MI and the whole family moved there to get jobs in the auto factory; uncles, aunts, grandma, grandpa, everybody and all of the kids. Every Sunday we would do a hoedown either at Aunt Dorothy's or our house and everybody brought their instruments; fiddles, banjos, guitars, violin, my dad blew sax and all of the women sang like angels; it was good. I felt so good about what they were doing every time we got together that I couldn't wait for Sundays because I knew there would be jammin' and singin' and I was going to be eating southern fried chicken with those hockey puck dumplings or Sloppy Joes guaranteed (laughs)."
Southern roots, a Cherokee heritage and a full rock 'n' roll pedigree have served Farner well over his years in music as he has graced some of the world's largest festival stages, variations of his music have gone platinum 30 times over and his successes have been many. So, with all of the different venue stages he has graced in countries literally around the globe; why was Chile` the choice for the DVD?
"We had been to this venue before and the promoter Carlos has a friend in Abysmo Films; Carlos Toro and he is the head and president of Abysmo and they were talking and the guy from Abysmo says to Carlos, "I Want to do this eight camera shoot on Mark Farner when he gets here and you've got to pitch him on this because we want to put this out and we're going to do it right;" money is always a consideration of course but man, he made it so right that it was like an offer we couldn't refuse. I couldn't hardly wait for this concert because I knew that if it was going to be anything like the first time we were there it was gonna rock and brother, they didn't let me down at all. They were rockin' and they were rockin' hard and singing my songs back to me. I am who my songs say I am and I get on that stage and those people expect me to be that guy and I am and they sing it back in American English even though it's a Hispanic country. They sing it back; in fact, some of the fans that I talk to tell me that they learned how to speak English just so they could discover the words of what "Heartbreaker" meant. I'm telling you, music crosses all of those boundaries, there's no language barrier; I mean, they had to find it out but something in the music touched their heart in the music. Was it the guitars? The Drums? Something was prophesizing something lovely to them and they had to find out what it was; yeah."
Farner lives for his fan base and often finds ways to involve the crowd both on and off stage; for instance, choosing a set list. So, how did he choose the setlist for the DVD and how does he do so when touring?
"This is all the Grand Funk stuff and we did a Chuck Berry thing down there to honor him and to give him wishes from our heart and to speak of him highly as he should be spoken of; we did "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller" down there," he explained. "We did "Heartbreaker" and like I told you the audience was singing it back to me so loud that it was louder than the PA and of course we did "The Locomotion," "Some Kind of Wonderful;" we just go for it. I polled the audiences a few years back to find out what they wanted to hear in a live stage performance and out of 2,700 people that responded in the two weeks that we had the poll out there; we put our set together and found out pretty much what people had in common, what songs that they wanted to hear. So, we built from that little nest-egg of about 10 songs that we had started and we add as we go but we always keep that base of songs in there just because we can (laughs). We pick the setlist from those 10 to start with and then it just goes as far as my heart and what I'm feeling. I always put songs that people might not; I put something obscure in there to keep people saying, wow! I didn't know they would play that! That happens all of the time, people say, I didn't know you guys were gonna play that, I've never heard you do that; there's so much music. I'd like to be able to sit there for five hours and play all those albums but I just physically can't do it. What we do is from our hearts and it's never too much for them because they always want more (laughs)."
Autographed copies of "From Chile` With Love" can be pre-ordered now at a cost of $19.99 with three dollars from each sale going to Mark's favorite veteran's charity; the DVD is scheduled to begin shipping on May 21 and by then Farner says he'll be up and running once again.
"People can find out on Markfarner.com; I'm on the road, I've got three gigs starting in May with Blue Oyster Cult in St. Augustine, FL and I've actually got a lot of offers coming in now. So, hopefully we can fill up this calendar and bring some love to the people because they really need to know that they are loved and they really need to clear their heads of the BS (laughs)."
To purchase the DVD or find out more about mark Farner, please visit www.markfarner.com.
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!