Kaki King has been on the forefront of acoustic innovation for over a decade and has helped elevate experimental Acoustic guitar to the mainstream. She is truely an avant-garde artist and shared her thoughts on the opportunities for exploration within the instrument and the origins of the Modern Acoustic guitar movement.
AU: What role has the acoustic guitar played in our culture?
KK: I think it's been a really portable tool for songwriters and musicians. The cultural role of the acoustic steel string has been the songwriters tool. I think the ability to put an instrument on your back, take it with you, something that can do everything - it can be rhythm melody harmony. It has allowed people to write a lot of great songs without needing electricity, without needing you know something that's heavy so I think it's been a really portable tool for songwriters and musicians.
AU: Where does FingerStyle come from?
I think there's the songwriter angle and the people who started doing more fingerpicking as songwriters. And then there's the like country angle the flat pickers who became finger pickers like Chet Atkins and then there's the guys like you know John Fahey you just said this is it. The rule is that this is a guitar and I play it and I don't do anything else. And you know the kind of lineage from him to Kottke than to you know hedges and to the Windham Hill guys and that you know
I think that like this style of playing has been informed by by a lot of different things.
AU: How would you explain FingerStyle?
KK: I think it really it opens up the guitar to its potential which appears to be infinite. It just appears that it can never stop being interesting or there's never another you open a door and there's another door behind that door.
When you start changing the tuning of the strings and they start to interact with each other and wobble together and interfere. You know all these unintended harmonies can come out and that's how you discover what your guitar can really do.
AU: What does the acoustic guitar offer you as a musician that the electric doesn't?
KK: So the the fundamental difference to me between acoustic and electric is the length of the decay so the sustain. Like ghosts of chords that you just played are still lasting into the next chord, you know things like that. So if I play a note on the electric it's going to last long time. But playing on the acoustic. You know it's it's halfway gone. I think that that's how you play. You play with the length of the sustain of the string.
AU: What do you say when people ask you what kind of music do you play?
KK: So I I kind of have to say well you know do you know about music so I changed the tuning of the strings and then I play with my fingers on my right hand and then I then they'll go Oh you have long nails on your right hand. But how. But doesn't it make it hard to play guitar. And like going into the left hands the one that you don't want no one. So it's just a really long tedious conversation.
You know if you want to shut down people if they say so what. What kind of music do you play. You just say I play jazz and that's pretty much the end of the conversation every time. They're like oh great.