Widely recognized as one of the most creative and innovative guitarists, composers, improvisers, and
producers in the fields of rock, jazz and contemporary experimental music, California-based musician
Henry Kaiser is one of the most extensively recorded as well, having appeared on more than 180 different
albums. A restless collaborator who constantly seeks the most diverse and personally challenging contexts
for his music, Mr. Kaiser not only produces and contributes to a staggering number of recorded projects,
he performs frequently throughout the USA, Europe and Japan, with several regular groupings as well as
solo guitar concerts and concerts of freely improvised and composed musics with a host of diverse
Evidence of his exceptional musical breadth and versatility can be found in a few
of the extraordinary artists with whom he has recorded and/or performed: Herbie Hancock, Zakir Hussain,
Richard Thompson, David Lindley, Thomas Mapfumo, D’Gary, Mahaleo, Bob Weir, The ROVA Sax Quartet,
Raymond Kane, Michael McClure, Bill Laswell, Steve Lacy, Fred Frith, Barbara Higbie, John Abercrombie,
Anthony Braxton, Michael Stipe, Terry Riley, Jim O'Rourke, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sergei Kuriokhin,
Diamanda Galas, Sonny Sharrock, John Zorn, David Torn, Bill Frisell, Eugene Chadbourne, Evan Parker,
Sang-Won Park, Victoria Williams, Yuji Takahashi, John Medeski, Merl Saunders, Derek Bailey,
Harvey Mandel, Greg Allman, Jerry Garcia, Miya Masaoka, Miroslav Tadic, and Cecil Taylor.
As one of the "first generation" of American free improvisers, Mr. Kaiser has helped unfetter the
guitar from the conventions of genre-bound techniques, but his instrumental virtuosity and technological
breakthroughs are always deployed in the service of deep and immediate personal expression. Likewise,
he has developed a highly individual, inimitable style from an uncommonly varied range of influences.
Some of his musical sources include traditional blues, East Asian, Classical North Indian and Hawaiian
music, free jazz, free improvisation, American steel-string concert guitar, and 20th century classical,
but like any probing artist he also draws creatively from other abiding interests, which for
Mr. Kaiser include Information Theory, experimental cinema, mathematics, experimental literature and
Q: What are you up to lately?
HK: Ever since I started spending 2 or 3 months of the year on the ice as a diver in the US ANTARCTIC
PROGRAM, I seem to always be rushed with work and doing too much traveling; along with struggling to
get overdue projects completed. At the moment I just finished the soundtrack for the new Werner Herzog
feature GRIZZLY MAN. I did that with my pal Richard Thompson.
Also just finished producing a Freddie
Roulette CD for a German label. David Lindley played some great slide on it! I am about to head off to
the Azores to be an underwater videographer, shooting social groups of sperm whales out in the open ocean
for two weeks. I’ve go a solo CD I am finishing and several group albums that should have been finished
a long time ago! Then back to our field camp in New Harbor, Antarctica for 10 weeks on Oct 1.
Q: You play a very large variety of different guitars don’t you?
HK: Too many. Favorite electrics are the Klein Custom Electrics, Danny Ransom guitars, Girl Brand Guitars,
Tom Anderson guitars, Versoul guitars, and Totem/Spalt guitars. AND, of course, the 4 guitars that
I put together from Warmoth parts.
Q: What do you like about the Warmoth parts guitars?
HK: Well, it’s the necks and bodies. I can select unusual woods that I enjoy and get big clubby necks
with the largest frets. Usually I would have some pickups that I wanted to try and I would order a body
and neck from you folks to compliment the pickups.
Q: Which is your favorite?
HK: I have this one Warmoth with a Koa, 2 piece, tele body and a wenge neck that is acoustically the best
solid body electric that I have ever strummed. I put 3 Harmonic Design Z-90’s into it and it is a tone
monster. A magic guitar. I don't know if the koa body + wenge neck is some secret thing that I discovered
or if it's just those two particular pieces of wood. Maybe someone else will try that unlikely combo and
let me know!
There is another Warmoth tele that I set up with the unusual pickup combo that Zoot Horn
Rollo used on Captain Beefheart’s CLEAR SPOT album - it’s another magic instrument. I like that I
created these guitars myself, relatively inexpensively, and that I am not afraid to continue to
experiment with them. I guess since I am an experimental guitarist, I enjoy being an experimental
luthier and Warmoth helps me to do that without having the woodworking and luthier chops that my great
luthier pals have. You can see all 4 of my Warmoths and read my comments on them in the tele gallery
on your Warmoth website.
Q: When you play large shows (big stages), what does your set up consist of?
HK: I will bring a harmonizer and a multi-effects processor, at the moment an Eventide Eclipse and a
TC Electronic G-System. At home I generally use the same Dumble Overdrive Special Amp that I have had
for 25 years. I don’t like to take it on the road - so I usually request a Fender “Red Knob” Twin.
Which, oddly enough, is the generic amp that comes closest to the Dumble clean sound. Then I use 3 or 4
fuzzes for different distortion colors. At home I also enjoy Two Rock Amps, Rivera Amps, and Divided
By 13 amps. Also a couple of old Fender Super Champs.
Q: What are your favorite pickups?
HK: Alembic Activators. Bartolinis. Lace Alumitones. Harmonic Design Z-90’s. Those are what works for me.
The neck pickup in the EMG alnico tele set is the best pickup that EMG makes - and amazing pickup that
sounds like nothing else - especially direct into the board. I have another Warmoth tele body with 3 of
those in it that I got EMG to cast into their strat mold shells.
Q: Any touring soon?
HK: Not until 2006! Next gig is at McMurdo Station Antarctica; drop by if you are on the ice this season!
We hope to be out in Europe with the big YO MILES! band next summer. Otherwise I will mostly be at home
trying to catch up. Thanks for the interview.