(photo by Randy Gunter)
There’s no else quite like guitar hero Kaki King in the music world. From the ease with which she bridges post-rock, jazz guitar and folk, to the very fact that she’s carved out a space in popular music for non-lyrical guitar instrumentals, to the breadth of projects she’s worked on (Timbaland’s Shock Value II and Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild soundtrack, to name just two), the 35-year-old Brooklyn-based musician has no clear model of how to be a creative success. She tends to take advantage of being in her own lane, pursuing unique projects like her most recent, The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body.
Over the last year, King has played a series of shows in which her guitar is used as a projection screen to tell a creation story — all while she’s playing it. These shows, which highlight just how versatile the guitar is as a means of artistic expression, are still ongoing; she recently released an album of these The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body songs.
But there is a downside to being singular: it requires getting over personal concerns about fitting in. This is what “Roaming Guitar,” a video from The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body, gets at with the humor and absurdity that is bound to accompany talking guitars. Flavorwire is pleased to premiere the self-directed, Meg Skaff-shot short film, for the first time outside of the production. (In the show, King does all of the internal monologues and external dialogues live, but here, they take the shape of subtitles.) Watch below, and read on for a brief Q&A with Kaki King.
“Roaming Guitar” feels personal even though its aim is humor. Is it similar to your own story of figuring out how you fit in with other players, in terms of style, when you were young?
In a sense it’s a universal story about adolescence, but it’s also specifically about me finding my voice as a young guitar player. I never really cared about fitting in, but I was always curious as to why people chose the music that they did. How did someone decide to dedicate themselves to rock and metal for instance? I never could choose a set path or any kind of music connected to a type of attitude or fashion or lifestyle. There was no specific moment, but I just kept playing the music that was most interesting to me without all of the cultural attachment.
You sort of poke fun at your own signature Ovation Adamas guitar in the video when you bring up that it looks different and is made of plastic resin. Have you heard this kind of judgement from other guitarists before?
Oh yes. In some circles playing an Ovation is practically sacrilegious. Purists and wood snobs get really uppity with me. But I made my first album with an Ovation Adamas and haven’t really looked back. It’s a guitar that has been essential to my development as a player and has helped me find my voice.
Did y’all get some stares while filming this in North Brooklyn?
I was out there moving the guitar down the street for the stop motion scenes and wiggling the guitars as they were supposed to be talking. I don’t think anyone in North Brooklyn even blinked an eye — there’s someone filming something weird on every corner there nowadays.
You have a handful of dates this spring and have been touring a lot over the last year. What’s next for you?
We’re going to continue to bring The Neck to as many parts of the world as we can. In the meantime I’m going to be developing a new version of the projection-mapped guitar show. My video engineer, Beth Wexler, and I spend hours on the road talking about all the possibilities and experiments that we want to try. Particularly the parts where I’m using the guitar to control the video content. Technologically speaking we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible, so I’m excited to find the down time to really dive in and explore.