Henry Kaiser AOL Live Interview 10/29/96

On Tuesday night, 10/29/96 at 7 PM PST, Henry Kaiser and I sat down for a chat in cyberspace, hosted by the AOL Live crew. When you see a question that starts with Question, that means it was asked by a member of the audience.

The transcript has been edited/altered from the original raw typing to improve the intelligibility/intent of the event.

Copyright 1996 America Online, Inc. and the GD Forum

Geoff Gould : Welcome to tonight's special AOL Live event. My name is Geoff Gould, and I am the AOL GD Forum coordinator. Tonight we have with us Henry Kaiser, noted guitarist. Henry's played just about every kind of music, from traditions all over the world. Henry is currently a member of Second Sight, what one might call a "GD Spinoff" band, which features Vince Welnick and Bob Bralove on keyboards, Bobby Strickland on sax, and the excellent rhythm section, Marc and Paul Van Wageningen on bass and drums. Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir also make guest appearances, and the CD was recorded at the GD studio Club Front, by John Cutler.

GG : Welcome Henry

Henry Kaiser : Aloha - nice to be here

GG : While I start fielding Questions, tell us about the current state of Second Sight?

HK : Well- second sight is Bob Bralove's band and I'm just a band member. Our CD is just about to come out and we have one (1) gig scheduled at Maritime Hall in San Francisco for Dec. 7, on a double bill with The Mermen. It's our CD release gig.

Question : Do you still talk with Bobby or Phil or Mickey etc.....?

HK : They're pretty busy nowadays. I talk to Vince pretty often - not so much to anyone else. Though I had a nice jam with Billy K and Andy West in Hawaii during the summer. I just spoke to Weir about The Music Never Stopped Volume 2 (working title) and we fine tuned that project a little.

GG : How's Vince doin'?

HK : Vince is in Jamaica on vacation now and he's doing well. He's very excited/absorbed with his new band: Missing Man Formation. I sat in with them at The Fillmore the other night and it was really fun.

Question : When was your first Dead show? Can you explain MIDI guitar in simple terms?

HK : 1st show I think at Longshoreman's Hall in 67....? Or 66? Go to AOL keyword GUITAR for a MIDI guitar explanation.

GG : good one Henry! ;-)

Question : do you like Blues Traveler?

HK : Never heard BT.

GG : What kind of guitarist do you think of your self as??
Rock, jazz or what?

HK : EXPERIMENTAL! Meaning that I like to try untried things and see what happens. Music as science fair project - sort of.

Question : Henry have you ever done any work with Tom Constanten?

HK : We've recorded several CD's together and played many gigs over the years. I'm on one of his solo CD's - he's on one of mine and he was in The Henry Kaiser Band for a while - that made one live CD. I'm sure we have tracks together on several compilations, too. I just gave Tom a great book to read: THE POPE'S RHINOCEROS by Lawrence Norfolk.

Question : Are you still playing Klein guitars? Any interest in Parkers?

HK : The Klein Electric guitar, yes. It's very portable & mine sounds good. I have a Parker but rarely use it. If not the Klein then Modulus or Ransom guitars are my faves. I usually use a Dumble amplifier. I've pretty much used the same amp since I started playing professionally back in 1976.

Question : Has your musical style been influenced by Lagin/Lesh?

HK : Not really. Their LP was never one of my favorites. I saw them live twice. I think we both have common influences in electronic and modern classical music of the late 20th century.

Question : dumb Question...are you really swimming w/ that whale on Eternity Blue cover?

HK : It's a Manta Ray YES . I rode it and some of its cousins for hours in the middle of the Pacific about 280 miles south of the tip of Baja. Kreutzman was there too.

GG : Tell us about your diving experiences with the GD folk?

HK : No diving with anyone besides Kreutzman, who I ran into by chance out there in the middle of the Ocean. THIS IS TRUE. It's very strange to meet someone you know UNDERWATER out in the middle of the ocean, where there are no other humans around for a couple of hundred miles. But the Mantas both attracted us to that spot.

Question : what do you think about Phish?

HK : I Saw Phish live once at Greek Theater, Berkeley. I listened to their live 2 CD set. Based on that I couldn't get too excited. It seemed fun enough but not at all experimental or spiritual enough for me. I got really tired of the same one or two guitar tones on all the songs.

Question : Do you still use your Synclavier?

HK : It's been off for a year. But I'll be turning it on again soon for Bralove + I to mess with. There's been not much time in the last year. Too busy with Madagascar - Norway stuff wrap up with David Lindley.

GG : Synclavier=exotic synthesizer for those that don't know.

Question : When did you start playing?

HK : 1972 (born in 1952). That was my first musical experience at age 20.

GG : How did you come to record DARK STAR back in the 80's? You were the first person to cover something like that on a recording in a non-imitative way weren't you?

HK : I think we were the first with DS. I just LOVED that music or door into whatever it is and wanted to try going thru it; it seemed happy to have us there. TC has said that DS is this independent entity that is always going on with or without the GD or anyone else specific. You visit it or maybe it visits you. I STILL LOVE DARK STAR - but I understand why the Dead had to go away from it for a few years - being in that state-of-mind myself at present.

Question : Listening to 2-14-86 at HJK Auditorium. What is your
fav dead show ever played there?

HK : I don't keep track or keep tapes. But I went to many shows there. The hall is named for my grandfather, who was a civic figure in Oakland by chance.

Question : Henry I am a very big fan of yours and try to get everything you've ever done. Will any of your old out-of-print LP's ever be reissued on CD?

HK : Probably not. Many old LP's and CD's are best forgotten, for me at least. Also note discography with my comments as promo to this AOL chat which I hope will be posted with the text of this chat.

Question : Will you be doing anything with Furthur if there is anything like that?

HK : If I was asked - if I had time - if it paid enough. As you may surmise, Second Sight was not asked last summer.

Question : I have been a fan for a number of years. Any plans of returning to earlier projects,e.g.: Crazy Backwards Alphabet, Kuriokin, etc.?.

HK : There is another CBA CD in the can- better than the first - but no label seems to want it. THE MISTAKES (see Mike Keneally Web page) is a kind-of CBA Jr. Kuriokhin died a couple of months ago : heart cancer. I miss him.

Question : I heard your band playing a tribute to Jerry on The
GD Hour--it was great. Do you have any material like this avail on CD or tape?

HK : Look for ETERNITY BLUE at GD Forum store. I'm very proud of that Garcia Tribute/Appreciation CD.

Question : Can you sing "La Grange" in Russian?

HK : No, that was Michael Maksymenko singing in Russian. I don't seem to be able to sing.


HK : I've played the Fillmore 5 or 6 times and I love the history thing tradition of playing there. The house crew there is also real pro - more than most places. The first time I played there years ago with The HK Band on a bill with Lindley's EL RAYO X they turned on the mirror ball at the moment we started playing DARK STAR....I loved that! ....call me sentimental..................

Question : Do plan to work again with Glenn Phillips?

GG : Who's Glenn?

HK : Glenn is one of the greatest rock guitarists. I know of he's a hero of mine and he played on my studio Dark Star with me. Was that in '87. I think? Originally he was in The Hampton Grease Band. Anyway, he lives and plays in Atlanta Georgia. We have an album in the can with Weir on one track: a long jam off Hendrix's 6 Was 9. That CD would be called GUITAR PARTY if it ever come out (most artists have plenty of unreleased albums). I'd love to work more with Glenn but we are isolated by geography and resultant economics.

Question : Henry, thank for being here. What is your age?

HK : 44. Born 9-19-52.

Question : How was it playing with Merl Saunders?

HK : I love Merl, too. He went to Germany as a member of a band of mine a few years (4?) ago. Merl is a supreme gentleman with a giant heart. You know...... PEOPLE is the most important thing about playing music for me - the great connections and relations you have with you collaborators - that's one of the most satisfying things about this work for me, I think.

Question : What was/is your favorite Dead tune?

HK : Dark Star. For the Music. I love Hunter's lyrics on my other songs. Other songs I like more for lyrics might be: NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE, BOX OF RAIN, RIPPLE, and many others. I think my favorite line in song is:
That's what it feels like for me to play music - to improvise - at the very best moments. I also like the line in COSMIC CHARLIE:

Question : Will you play with Weir again? You seem to compliment him so well. Would love to hear more.

HK : I'd love to. He's' such a great guitar player. I tried to get him to play more solos at THE VALENTINES gigs. But it's tuff to get him to do that. Who knows what he will do in the future???? He's quite difficult/impossible to predict.

Question : Hi Henry. What was it like working with Mike Keneally when you recorded "The Mistakes"?

HK : Mike is great - wonderful in the studio - and we really had a good time on stage at the 2 gigs we played.

Question : Is your old instructional video worth the investment
for a seasoned player like myself?

HK : I think so.... Is SPINAL TAP worth it for a seasoned player? : It's kind of like that....

Question : What is Fred Frith doing these days? I haven't seen any new records from him in quite a while.

HK I don't know. He does not stay in touch. I think he lives in Germany now.

GG : Will the Valentines ever play again? How did that band come to be?

HK : Probably never play again. Not soon at least. Technically it was my band. Someone offered us an awful lot of $$$ (yen) to go and play in front of 35 thousand people in Fukuoka Japan. It was on national TV all over Japan. Then we played that one Fillmore gig, too. But that's probably it for The Valentines.

GG : for those that don't know; personnel?

HK : Bob Weir, Vince Welnick, Prairie Prince, Bobby Vega + Henry Kaiser. With Danny Carnahan & Robin Petrie assisting on background vocals at The Fillmore.

Question : What artist do you think had the biggest influence on your music career?

HK : Derek Bailey my favorite guitarist/role model as an improviser. He is totally amazing to me! To learn about him. Look on the web on the EUROPEAN IMPROVISATION page. Search for IMPROVISATION or Derek Bailey and you will find it.

GG : what about Beefheart?

HK : The Magic Bands: Beefheart's bands were a big influence. Drumbo (aka John French, their best drummer) and Zoot Horn Rollo and Winged Eel Fingerling, two great original guitar voices. Big musical expression & language/feel influences. I am very much a product of The Dead + Derek Bailey+ Terry Riley + Evan Parker + John Fahey + Gyorgi Ligeti + Hubert Sumlin + Beefheart's Magic Bands + Sonny Sharrock + Cecil Taylor + Conlon Nancarrow + Delta Blues + WORLD MUSICS (especially: Africa, Korea, Madagascar, Japan, China and Vietnam). Those are the most important influences on me.

GG : what a stew!

GG : We're approaching the end of our time here. Is there anything you'd like to say to the GD Community?

HK : I hope people who don't play music at present take up playing music and let the love + power of the Dead's legacy (and Jerry's legacy) and the American roots music legacy and all world musics INSPIRE them to newer and better things for us all. To express themselves with their own unique and personal voices.

GG : Well, I'd like to thank Henry Kaiser for coming tonight, let's give him a hand!

Thank you for coming Henry

HK : Thank-you very much see you in the Rose Garden if you like. Bye!

GG : After-show party in the Rose Garden!

GG : We bid you good night

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