Henry Kaiser (musician)

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Henry Kaiser
Kaiser with Timberdance Swamp Angel Guitar
Kaiser with Timberdance Swamp Angel Guitar
Background information
Born (1952-09-19) September 19, 1952 (age 67)
Oakland, California, U.S.
OriginSan Francisco Bay Area
GenresFree improvisation, jazz, rock, electronic
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, photographer
Years active1970s–present
LabelsMetalanguage, Tzadik, SST, Rhino, Windham Hill, Shanachie, Cuneiform
Associated actsFred Frith, David Lindley, Wadada Leo Smith

Henry Kaiser (born September 19, 1952[1]) 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.[2] He is married to Canadian artist Brandy Gale. He is the son of Henry J. Kaiser Jr. and the grandson of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.[3]


In 1977, Kaiser founded Metalanguage Records with Larry Ochs (Rova Saxophone Quartet) and Greg Goodman.[1] 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 & 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.[1] 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).[4]

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.[5][6] This shifting aggregation has included musicians from the worlds of rock (guitarists Nels Cline,[6] Mike Keneally[6] and Chris Muir,[6] drummer Steve Smith), jazz (saxophonists Greg Osby and John Tchicai), avant-garde (keyboardist John Medeski,[5] guitarist Elliott Sharp)[6], and Indian classical music (tabla player Zakir Hussain).

Kaiser has appeared on more than 300 albums and scored dozens of TV shows and films,[7] including Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World (2007).[4] He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his work on the Beautiful Dreamer tribute to Stephen Foster.[8]

In 2001, Kaiser spent two and a half months in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program grant.[4] 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.[4] 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 his 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.[9]


  • 1977 Ice Death (Parachute)
  • 1979 Protocol with Andrea Centazzo, Toshinoro Kondo (Metalanguage)
  • 1979 With Friends Like These with Fred Frith (Metalanguage)
  • 1980 Outside Pleasure (Metalanguage)
  • 1981 Aloha (Metalanguage)
  • 1983 Who Needs Enemies? with Fred Frith (Metalanguage)
  • 1984 It's a Wonderful Life (Metalanguage)
  • 1984 Invite the Spirit with Sang-Won Park and Charles K. Noyes (Celluloid)
  • 1987 Devil in the Drain (SST)
  • 1988 Re-Marrying for Money (SST)
  • 1988 Those Who Know History Are Doomed to Repeat It (SST)
  • 1989 Popular Science with Sergey Kuryokhin (Rykodisc)
  • 1991 Hope You Like Our New Direction (Reckless)
  • 1991 Tomorrow Knows Where You Live with Jim O'Rourke (Victo)
  • 1991 A World Out of Time with David Lindley (Shanachie)
  • 1993 Wireforks with Derek Bailey (Shanachie)
  • 1993 The Five Heavenly Truths (FOT)
  • 1994 The Sweet Sunny North with David Lindley (Shanachie)
  • 1994 Acoustics with Mari Kimura, Jim O'Rourke, John Oswald (Victo)
  • 1994 The Psychedelic Guitar Circus with Steve Kimock, Harvey Mandel, Freddie Roulette (Rykodisc)
  • 1995 Eternity Blue (Shanachie)
  • 1996 The Sweet Sunny North Volume 2 with David Lindley (Shanachie)
  • 1998 Yo Miles! with Waddada Leo Smith (Shanachie)
  • 1999 Passwords with Paul Plimley and Danielle DeGruttola (Spool)
  • 1999 Through with Roberto Zorzi (Materiali Sonori)
  • 1999 The Guitar Lesson with Eugene Chadbourne (Victo)
  • 2002 Heavy Meta with Greg Goodman, Lukas Ligeti (Ecstatic Yod)
  • 2003 Guitar Party with Glen Phillips (Gaff)
  • 2003 Yo Miles!: Sky Garden with Waddada Leo Smith (Cuneiform)
  • 2005 Yo Miles!: Upriver with Waddada Leo Smith (Cuneiform)
  • 2006 Infinity Squared with Andrea Centazzo (Ictus)
  • 2006 Domo Arigato Derek-Sensei! (Balance Point Acoustics)
  • 2007 Zen Kaiju with Kiku Day (Balance Point Acoustics)
  • 2008 Healing Force (Cuneiform)
  • 2009 Where Endless Meets Disappearing (Balance Point Acoustics)
  • 2009 Plane Crash
  • 2009 Ultraviolet Licorice with Bob Bralove (BLove)
  • 2010 Electric Willie (Yellowbird)
  • 2010 A Little Stroke of Light
  • 2011 Everything Forever
  • 2011 Ninja Star Danger Rock with Charles K. Noyes, Weasel Walter
  • 2011 Invisible Rays with Trey Gunn, Morgan Agren
  • 2012 Jazz Free: A Connective Improvisation with Nels Cline, Weasel Walter, Jim Thomas and Allen Whitmen[10]
  • 2012 The Starbreak Splatterlight with Paul Plimley, Lukas Ligeti, Weasel Walter
  • 2013 Requia and Other Improvisations for Guitar Solo (Tzadik)
  • 2015 The Celestial Squid with Ray Russell (Cuneiform)
  • 2015 Plane Crash Two with Damon Smith, Weasel Walter (New Atlantis)
  • 2015 Echoes for Sonny
  • 2015 Leaps with Scott Amendola
  • 2016 Indestructible Fantasy with Alexi Pliousnine
  • 2016 Nazca Lines
  • 2016 Skip to the Solo with Alan Licht (Public Eyesore)
  • 2016 Ocean of Storms with Waddada Leo Smith, William Winant, Tania Chen
  • 2017 Positively Space Music with Bob Bralove, Chris Muir
  • 2017 Friends & Heroes (Fractal)
  • 2018 The Deep Unreal (Metalanguage)
  • 2018 In the Realm Of with Joshua Allen, Joshua Marshall
  • 2018 Mudang Rock with Bill Laswell, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Simon Barker
  • 2019 El Tren Fantasma / The Ghost Train with Álvaro Domene (Iluso Records)

As contributor


  1. ^ a b c "Henry Kaiser". All About Jazz. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  2. ^ Boisen, Myles. "Henry Kaiser". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  3. ^ Permanente, Kaiser (26 January 2017). "Founder's Grandson Among First Santa Cruz Patients". Kaiser Permanente News. Archived from the original on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Cleveland, Barry (February 2014). "Encounters With the Deep Unreal: Henry Kaiser's Magic Land". Guitar Player.
  5. ^ a b Anderson, Rick. "Henry Kaiser / Wadada Leo Smith / Yo Miles!". AllMusic. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Cleveland, Barry (January 9, 2014). "Henry Kaiser on His Miles Davis-Inspired Yo Miles! Recordings". Guitar Player. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  7. ^ "Alvaro Domene & Henry Kaiser: Guitar Duos & Solos". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  8. ^ "Henry Kaiser". GRAMMY.com. 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  9. ^ Kaiser, Henry (5 June 2013). "Henry Kaiser's 5 Essential Effects". Premier Guitar. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Jazz Free". AllMusic. Retrieved May 12, 2020.

External links[edit]