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By Mike Seeley
Mark Farner was the lead singer and guitarist of the multiplatinum-selling, proto-butt-rockin' Grand Funk Railroad, the loud and rude '70s Detroit group hated by music critics as much as they were embraced by the unwashed, proto-butt-rockin' masses. The solo Farner is also noted as a successful Christian rock act and right-wing political guy who re-posts Ann Coulter columns on his website. Despite all this, I find Farner to be eminently likeable, as he referenced doodies and bungholes for no apparent reason several times during a recent conversation. Further, I'm told the Butthole Surfers even named their dog "Mark Farner" in his honor. The mullet-sportin', ass-kickin', flag-wavin', rawk & rollin' former Funkster appears Saturday night at the Coach House, where he will reprise such metallic marvels as "We're an American Band," "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Closer to Home." Anyone arriving in a foreign-made sedan will be shot on sight.OC Weekly: I can't think of another band that was as hated by music critics as Grand Funk. Why do you think there was such a negative reaction to the band?Mark Farner: I believe it's twofold. One was that our manager, Terry Knight, was telling us he was trying to create a mystique by keeping us away from the press, which was bullshit. All it was was an opportunity for him to tout himself as the mentor of Grand Funk Railroad, so he did all the interviews. His ego was much larger than we had supposed, but we were at the ripe old age of 20 when we signed with the dude. The second reason, I believe, was the political content of the songs. I'm sure that you know, being involved with the media, that it's heavily liberal, and anything us protestors were howling about, they didn't want to give any mention of that. Grand Funk was taking right-wing political stances? I thought of you guys in those days as a hippie band.
We were taking political stances. We were against the Vietnam War, against politicians, against the use of hard drugs.Frank Zappa dissed Grand Funk in200 Motels and then wound up producing one of your albums a couple of years later. How did that come about?
We were looking for a producer, and someone brought up the name Frank Zappa, and I said, "Are you kidding? He wouldn't produce Grand Funk Railroad." But we sent him a demo, and he came out to where we were rehearsing, and he liked the band because we were very friendly guys. I think Craig [Frost] backed Donny [Brewer] against a wall and blew a big fart on him, and Frank knew right away we were his kind of folks.Ultimately, what do you think is Grand Funk's legacy?
I think it's from garage band to Shea Stadium. I think we were just a real lucky bunch of cats that became real popular. When people heard the music, they liked it, and the proof is in the pudding. But since we never obtained the brown ring around our mouth, there's no likelihood of us getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's political. Everything is political.I understand that your politics are somewhere to the extreme right of Ted Nugent. Can you please say something outrageous to piss off our leftist readership now?
Let's just say I believe that the church in this country is highly responsible for the judgmental aspect. There are more than 200 denominations of the Protestant church, and each one believes that their skew is absolutely right, along with the Catholics and the Episcopalians and everyone else. You have to act like them, speak like them, praise God like them, speak in tongues like them, jump though hoops, whatever their niche is. That's not the good news. The good news is that 2002 years ago, the son of God got up on a cross, completed the task and fulfilled the law of the prophets. [Lengthy praise for Jesus Christ follows.]
What you just said wasn't very right-wing—I'm disappointed.
What do you think of, Buddy, when you hear the word "Christian?" You think of these evangelical types who get on the TV and beg for money. That's a lot of bullshit; that ain't Christianity. [Lengthy denunciation of Jim Bakker types and the IRS, plus more praise for Jesus Christ follows.]
What's a Mark Farner show like in 2002? Do you mix the old hits with Christian material, or what?
I do mostly Grand Funk stuff and a little of my solo material from my Atlantic records. I don't go out and do a Christian set because that's the least of my catalog, so I just do a little. But people love it. It's me. I'm rockin', and I'm talkin' about God. Shit, I was doing that on Grand Funk's Phoenix album. There has always been God in our music. [Another lengthy denunciation of evangelicals, the IRS and corporate greed follows.]
Your stance against corporate greed smells kind of leftist. Actually, you don't sound much like Ted Nugent at all.
Good! I appreciate that. Me and Ted were talking the other day while I was taking a shit.That's very nice. You two are friends?
Yep. I was on a cordless phone. He says, "I have this new song I want to sing for you." So I'm sitting there taking a shit, and Ted is singing to me.These are the moments that need to be in the rock & roll history books.
That's right!If MTV made a series about you instead of Ozzy, what would it be like?
It would be about a laid-back, patriotic dude with his four sons and the dramas they've created for us.Isn't there some bogus, Farner-less version of Grand Funk touring around these days?
Yeah, the Faux Funk. [Drummer] Don Brewer had two years' of law school, and him and [bassist] Mel Schacher control the trademark. It's them and three other guys. It took three guys to replace me. I never advertise myself as Grand Funk because I ain't. It was the Three Amigos. The corporation may own the Grand Funk trademark, but my contention is that the fans don't come out to see a corporation; they come to see a band, and I wrote and sang 95 percent of that music.If you could go back and change one thing from your past, what would it be?
I don't think I'd change a thing. I like where I'm at, and it took all that other shit to get me here.
MARK FARNER PERFORMS AT THE COACH HOUSE, 33157 CAMINO CAPISTRANO, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, (949) 496-8930. SAT., 8 P.M. $26.50. ALL AGES.