Henry Kaiser (musician)

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Henry Kaiser
Henry Kaiser.jpg
Kaiser with Timberdance Swamp Angel Guitar
Background information
Born (1952-09-19) September 19, 1952 (age 64)
Oakland, California, United States
Origin San Francisco Bay Area
Genres Free improvisation, jazz, rock, electronic
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, photographer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1970s–present
Labels Metalanguage, Tzadik, SST, Rhino, Windham Hill, Shanachie, Cuneiform
Associated acts Fred Frith, David Lindley, Wadada Leo Smith
Website www.henrykaiserguitar.com

Henry Kaiser (born September 19, 1952) is an American guitarist and composer, known as an idiosyncratic soloist, a sideman, an ethnomusicologist, and a film score composer. Recording and performing prolifically in many styles of music, Kaiser is a fixture on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. He is considered a member of the "second generation" of American free improvisers.[1] He is married to Canadian artist Brandy Gale.[2]


In 1977, Kaiser founded Metalanguage Records with Larry Ochs (Rova Saxophone Quartet) and Greg Goodman. In 1979 he recorded With Friends Like These with Fred Frith, a collaboration that lasted for over 20 years. In 1983 they recorded Who Needs Enemies, and in 1987 the compilation album With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends? They joined with fellow experimental musicians John French, and English folk-rocker Richard Thompson to form French Frith Kaiser Thompson for two eclectic albums, Live, Love, Larf & Loaf (1987) and Invisible Means (1990). In 1999 Frith and Kaiser released Friends and Enemies, a compilation of their two Metalanguage albums along with additional material from 1984 and 1999.

In 1991, Kaiser went to Madagascar with guitarist David Lindley. They recorded roots music with Malagasy musicians and discovered music that, he says, "changed us radically and permanently". Three volumes of this music were released by Shanachie under the title A World Out of Time. In 1994 he made a similar trip to Norway, again with Lindley, recording music that was released as Sweet Sunny North (2 volumes, 1994 and 1996).[3]

Since 1998, Kaiser has been collaborating with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith in the "Yo Miles!" project, releasing a series of tributes to Miles Davis's 1970s electric music. This shifting aggregation has included musicians from the worlds of rock (guitarists Nels Cline, Mike Keneally and Chris Muir, drummer Steve Smith), jazz (saxophonists Greg Osby and John Tchicai), avant-garde (keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Elliott Sharp), and Indian classical music (tabla player Zakir Hussain).

Kaiser has appeared on more than 250 albums and scored dozens of TV shows and films, including Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World (2007).[3] He was given a Grammy Award for his work on the Beautiful Dreamer tribute to Stephen Foster.

In 2001, Kaiser spent two and a half months in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program grant. He has subsequently returned for nine more visits to work as a research diver. His underwater camera work was featured in two Herzog films, The Wild Blue Yonder (2005) and Encounters at the End of the World (2007), which he also produced, and for which he and Lindley composed the score. Kaiser served as music producer for Herzog's Grizzly Man (2005). He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work as a producer on Encounters at the End of the World.

Instruments and effects[edit]

Kaiser "has amassed an immense collection of guitars, amplifiers, and effect pedals" to achieve "sonic diversity". A favorite of his is a Klein electric with Alembic pickups (his favorites), which he uses when traveling. He owns a Dumble. He has been looping since at least 1984 (It's a Wonderful Life), initially with an MXR digital delay, and later with Lexicon equipment—he sets modulation rates to "either heart or breathing rate, because those are natural healing rhythm rates". He often uses two delays to provide three different voices. He is also an avid user of a large number of effects pedals including the Hall & Collins Echo unit and a range of fuzzes.

Kaiser has listed is "essential effects" as the Old World 1960 Compressor, Barber Tone Press, Origin Effects Slide Rig, Tech 21 Comptortion, Burns Buzzaround Clones, Tanabe Zenkudo or Dumkudo, Crazy Tube Circuits Starlight, Eventide Pitchfactor, Eventide Eclipse Harmonizer, TC Flashback, Red Panda Particle, and Neunaber Wet Reverb.[4]

Partial discography[edit]

As leader

  • 1979 : Outside Pleasure (Metalanguage)
  • 1979 : With Friends Like These with Fred Frith
  • 1981 : Aloha (Metalanguage)
  • 1981 : It's a Wonderful Life (Metalanguage)
  • 1983 : Who Needs Enemies? with Fred Frith
  • 1984 : Invite the Spirit (Tzadik) with Sang-Won Park and Charles K. Noyes
  • 1987 : With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends? with Fred Frith
  • 1987 : Devil in the Drain (SST)
  • 1987 : Live, Love, Larf & Loaf (Rhino) with French Frith Kaiser Thompson
  • 1989 : Popular Science (Rykodisc) with Sergey Kuryokhin
  • 1989 : Those Who Know History Are Doomed to Repeat It (SST)
  • 1990 : Invisible Means (Windham Hill) with French Frith Kaiser Thompson
  • 1990 : Re-Marrying For Money (SST)
  • 1990 : Heart's Desire (Reckless)
  • 1991 : Hope You Like Our New Direction (Reckless)
  • 1991 : Tomorrow Knows Where You Live (Victo) with Jim O'Rourke
  • 1991 : A World Out of Time (Shanachie) with David Lindley in Madagascar
  • 1992 : Lemon Fish Tweezer (Cuneiform)
  • 1993 : Acoustics (Victo) with Mari Kimura, Jim O'Rourke] and John Oswald
  • 1994 : The Five Heavenly Truths (FOT)
  • 1994 : The Sweet Sunny North (Shanachie ) with David Lindley in Norway
  • 1994 : Wireforks (Shanachie) with Derek Bailey
  • 1995 : Eternity Blue (Shanachie)
  • 1996 : Improvised Vancouver (Incus) with John Oswald
  • 1999 : Passwords (Spool) with Paul Plimley and Danielle DeGruttola
  • 1999 : Ennemies (Cuneiform]) with Fred Frith
  • 2005 : Domo Arigato Derek-Sensei! (Balance Point Acoustics)
  • 2006 : Invite The Spirit 2006 (Tzadik) with Sang-Won Park and Charles K. Noyes
  • 2010 : A Little Stroke of Light – Live Solo Guitar (official cd-r)
  • 2012 : Kamüra (ZaDiscs) with Randy Raine-Reusch and Torsten Müller
  • 2012 : Nikola Tesla High School (H(i)nds(i)ght) with Killick Erik Hinds
  • 2013 : Requia and Other Improvisations for Guitar Solo (Tzadik)

As contributor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Myles Boisen (1952-09-19). "Henry Kaiser | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  2. ^ "Henry J. Kaiser III". Wikitree.com. 2014-07-20. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  3. ^ a b Cleveland, Barry (February 2014). "Encounters With the Deep Unreal: Henry Kaiser's Magic Land". Guitar Player. pp. 50–58. 
  4. ^ "Henry Kaiser's 5 Essential Effects". www.premierguitar.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 

External links[edit]