Dave Grohl once said that, “there are some guitar players that are good and there are some guitar players that are really good. And then there’s Kaki King”.
Grohl wasn’t wrong – born in 1979, guitarist and composer Katherine Elizabeth King really is unlike any other. Kaki features on the cover of our grade 7 Acoustic books, and there are many reasons why she deserves this spot on such an advanced graded syllabus. Her use of extended techniques is prolific throughout her 8 studio albums, and her stylistic experimentation is admirable.
Success After Sidewalk!
The track featured in our syllabus is “Night After Sidewalk” from her first ever studio album, Everybody Loves You (2003), and what an immense debut this was. The song has reached almost 20 million Spotify streams and remains her most popular track to date. However, number of streams is not why this song was included in our track list. “Night After Sidewalk” has some unusual features, first of which is its unconventional tuning: D, A, B, F#, A, C#. This tuning creates an ethereal sound so dreamlike and exquisite it’s capable of drawing you in and keeping you there (FYI, we are STILL there). Another key component of the song is the hypnotic arpeggios that continue throughout. In parts, there are some fairly tricky finger movements which may require some focused practise, but we’ll leave Kaki to explain that to you. Watch this video where she clarifies what on earth is going on!
The Everybody Loves You album was almost entirely acoustic, aside from one track which includes some very light singing, where King uses other techniques and sounds like fingerstyle “fanning”, fret tapping, slap-bass and percussive skills, viola tunings, open tunings and even a Russian 7-string guitar. This album was recorded with Velour Records, the first label to sign Kaki. She then moved on to Sony/Epic for her second album, before moving back to Velour. This was an especially brave move considering the size and reach of Sony versus Velour!
The Role of Grohl
As we mentioned at the beginning of the blog, it is very clear that Dave Grohl is a Kaki King fan himself. He asked Kaki if she would like to appear on Foo Fighters album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Kaki accepted and is featured on the track “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners”. The song is immediately recognisable as Kaki! In November 2007 she joined Grohl on stage to perform the song. Have a listen to “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners”, and let us know what you think. Link below!
Visual Arts Appreciation
In 2009, Kaki commissioned 12 artists to create pieces of visual art themed on the names of her songs. The one condition was that the guitar must be used as the primary medium. They put on a one-night exhibition of the pieces and Kaki performed at the event. She played her song “Playing with Pink Noise”, but with her own hands drenched in pink paint, which of course left the guitar covered by the end of the song. We love the coming-together of the arts like this!
Thanks for joining us for another week of Artists in Focus. If you’ve been inspired to dive deeper into the music of Kaki King, then you’ll be pleased to know that her ninth studio album will be released in October 2020! She’s dropped a single called “Teek” as a little teaser for us all. Have a listen here!
Also, if you fancy learning the brilliant “Night After Sidewalk” for yourself, then check out the arrangement in our grade 7 Acoustic book.