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 instrumentalists.

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 SCUBA diving.


INTERVIEW: 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.

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