WORLD DOMINATION THROUGH ACOUSTIC MUSICAn Interview with Kaki King

Kaki King is a woman with a plan: "World domination through acoustic music." Her unique sound and compelling personality will no doubt garner much attention from music lovers of all kinds. She performs and writes moody, solo instrumental music full of overwhelming tones and intricate rhythms.

New York indie label Velour Records found Ms. King on stage at the Knitting Factory and asked her to join Lettuce on their West Coast and Northeast tour in July 2002. The unassuming Kaki captured the hearts and minds of audiences all over. Her new CD from Velour, Everybody Loves You (scheduled for release in April, 2003), features songs from her demo. Kaki King is joining multi-instrumentalist David Lindley on a West Coast swing starting in Santa Cruz at the Catalyst on Friday, February 7th. [See all tour dates.]

So who is this curious girl with the strange looking guitar? I had an extremely enjoyable email exchange with Kaki through which she was kind enough to indulge me with some insights to her music.

SuperDee: The way you play guitar is completely unique and it creates an orchestra of sound with just one person. How did you learn your unique technique? Could you explain the technique a little bit?

Kaki King: Eddie Van Halen. I wasn't into the music, but I remember being very little and seeing him on TV doing his tapping solos. Everyone at the time must have thought that he was revolutionary, but to me it simply made good sense. So I was doing a little tapping and percussive stuff here and there while I was growing up and learning guitar. It wasn't until I started playing fingerstyle and using altered tunings that the tapping style really started to become useful.


Preston Reed
Wirral Int'l Guitar Festival - Nov 2000

So, what the technique consists of is taking the left hand and placing it over the neck instead of curling it under. Your middle three fingers can tap out lines on the strings, freeing your right hand to move onto the neck and tap out its own lines. It's basically like playing piano on the guitar neck. All of this I learned from a guy named Preston Reed who really perfected this technique. But, it is a well known yet little publicized fact that this is not the only way that I play. Some of my tunes are straight up fingerstyle so I'm actually forced to write interesting music.

SD: This "fingerstyling" and the way you blend percussion and melody is compared to the one-man-band stylings of Michael Hedges and maybe even Keller Williams. One guy in our office refers to you as "The Female Vic Wooten." Have any of these artists had a conscious influence on your development? Are there other artists that have influenced you more profoundly?

KK: I haven't heard Vic Wooten or Keller Williams. Hedges is of course an influence and an inspiration, but I didn't start listening to him until I was several years into playing fingerstyle. Preston Reed has been my biggest influence technically. He really perfected the idea of playing over the neck and using the guitar as a percussive box, and I was lucky to meet him and study his technique. But interesting technique does little for me without good composition. Alex de Grassi is my hero when it comes to actually writing music. His ideas are so complex and I find his music fascinating.

[Kaki added later: Tell your guy in the office who thinks I'm the "female Vic Wooten" that I'm actually the hermaphrodite love child of Segovia, Stevie Nicks, and a circus monkey.]


Photo by Nick Fitanides
11.22.02 | Pearl Street | Northampton

How does your Ovation guitar differ from a standard acoustic guitar and how does that affect your playing? Did you search out the Ovation to go with some of the ideas you were having? Do you play multiple kinds of acoustic guitars? Ever play electric?

Ovations differ from standard guitars in several ways, but the ones that I play have round bodies and carbon fiber tops. My original ovation was a gift from my father. It had been around our house for years and it was the guitar that I really learned how to play on. It was sturdy and well traveled and felt really great to play on, so I never really used any other guitar for gigs. Now I'm trying to expand my sound and try using more than one guitar on stage. I have a Taylor that sounds great and I'm looking into getting an electric. Something that looks really cool.

When did you first perform solo?

I had been playing drums in a band called The Government for a while. It was total indie rock and I loved it. But I really suck at playing drums and I knew that it wasn't going to pay the rent. So I started doing little guitar shows in music-cafes around New York. In the beginning it was always sad little me playing out-of-tune over the sound of some guy making smoothies. But people still seemed to like it.


Photo by Nick Fitanides

I first saw you perform between sets at a Lettuce show at the Great American Music Hall. The reaction from the crowd was amazing as people stood rapt and speechless just watching you perform and trying to figure out exactly what it was you were doing. The crowd near grew larger and quieter as you played. Are you aware of your affect on people and are you intentionally trying to demand something of your listeners?

Sometimes I feel very distanced from my own music so I'm always pleasantly surprised when people like it. I've really gotten used to playing in front of crowds who have never heard me before so it's always a battle to try and win them over. They come around by the second song, usually.

Everybody Loves You is a beautiful collection of instrumental songs. Where did the inspiration come from to create this album? Did you always intend to have an album as a finished product?

The record was written and recorded over a number of years while I was in college. I had never approached music or guitar very seriously, so writing for me was a long and slow process. Occasionally I would have spurts of creativity and out of it would come a complete song. After a while I had enough recorded music to put together a proper CD, but I never considered it to be the definitive album or anything.

How did you get "discovered" by the folks at Velour? Are you changing the demo at all for the Velour release?


Everybody Loves You
will be released on
Velour Records on
April 22, 2003

I was given a month-long residency at the Knitting Factory shortly after I made Everybody Loves You. I was on a tiny little stage with a half-crippled PA system every Tuesday or some such nonsense. Jeff Krasno from Velour happened to be there one night along with some of the guys from Lettuce. I think they were looking for a TV with the basketball game on - instead they found me.

When Velour decided to license the record we talked about re-recording some songs or switching out a few, but after listening to it over and over I realized that it had its own vibe and it didn't really need to be altered. The album is essentially the same one that I put together myself, which is so punk rock.

Who are your favorite current touring or recording artists?

I like Interpol quite a lot, but only when they're playing live. A friend turned me on to a jazz trio called The Bad Plus and I can't stop listening to their record. Matthew Herbert is an absolutely genius sampler DJ guy - he's got a manifesto.

Who would you like to play with live?

I want to tour with a death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse or Immolation. Maybe the Genesis reunion tour. And I only want to play laundromats and tattoo parlors.


I'm totally hooked on this CD and can't wait to catch Kaki as she opens for David Lindley and the Blind Boys of Alabama on Saturday night at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Look out for Everybody Loves You this spring and keep an eye on Kaki's tour dates.

Find out more about Kaki at:
Kaki's Official Website [sign up for her mailing list!]
The Rosebud Agency
Velour Records

SuperDee
JamBase Home Court
Go See Live Music!

http://www.kakiking.com

[Published on: 2/4/03]

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