Guitar goddess with thumping sound
YOU would imagine any musician on the rise would be flattered by being named as one of the 20 New Guitar Gods by Rolling Stone magazine. But not Kaki King.
The 30 year-old American guitar phenomenon renowned for her thumping bass lines, tapping melodies and slapping percussion, is more interested in writing her next song or planning her next tour.
King is returning down-under for a series of concerts this month that will include a stop off at the Great Northern Hotel tonight.
When Pulse caught up with King last week to discuss her Byron Bay visit, she talked about everything from her musical awakening at the age of four to receiving a Golden Globe nomination in 2007.
She pondered the impact of watching the World Trade Centre terrorist attack from her rooftop and the significance of lists in popular music magazines.
“I don’t really take much notice of silly magazines,” King says when asked how she felt about being the only female to ever make Rolling Stone US’s 20 Guitar Gods list in 2006. “Who writes these lists? Everyone has their own opinion anyway.”
King’s down-to-earth attitude is probably the result of taking the long way round to success. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, King’s parents sent her off to music lessons when she was four. She chose to learn the guitar but put it aside a year later to take up the drums.
“I picked up the guitar again at age 11 but I continued to play the drums all the way through high school. I still do,” she says.
In 1999 Kaki moved to New York to start college at New York University. She emerged three years later with a humanities degree but with no desire to work nine-to-five.
“I want to be either a vagabond street performer or a sassy bar rat,” she told a professor inquiring about her plans for the future. But on the day before she was to give her final dissertation she witnessed the second plane fly into the World Trade Centre.
“It was horrible,” Kaki reflects. “My room-mate had called me, saying a small plane had flown into one of the towers. I ran up on to the roof and watched the second plane fly in. After that I was left wondering what to do with my life, so I took my guitar and started busking in the subway.”
It didn’t take long for people to start asking King if she had a CD they could buy. Her fret-tapping, combined with her slap bass techniques, using the guitar for percussive beats, as well as sound layering and looping, created a complex sound that left listeners wanting more.
“I realised that if I could sell a CD for 10 bucks every time someone asks me for one, I could actually do all right for myself."
With help from friends King cut a demo and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2003 she released Everybody Loves You which inspired LA Weekly to write: “King is the most striking young musician to emerge in decades.”Since then she has released Legs To Make Us Longer, Until We Felt Red and Dreaming Of Revenge. Rock god Dave Grohl wrote in NME magazine, “There are some guitar players that are good and there are some guitar players that are really f****** good. And then there’s Kaki King.”
In 2007 King was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for her work on the soundtrack for Into the Wild, alongside Eddie Vedder who also contributed music to the film. But what is really important to King is playing to her audience.
“I love to tour,” she says. “I love performing. It’s where I feel most at home. I feel pretty excited about returning to Byron Bay. I’ve spent a lot of time in the area. We always end up hanging out at the Beach Hotel and the Great Northern. This time around we will be playing the Great Northern, which is great. We’ve finally arrived.”
Catch Kaki King at the Great Northern Hotel on Thursday night. Tickets are $24.75 and are available from the venue. Doors open 8.30pm.