Kicking It With King Henry
This week, we met up with King Henry in one of his LA studios as he prepares for his performance at HARD Summer this weekend, on August 5. Henry was originally born in Santa Monica, California but left soon after and landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In anticipation of his HARD Summer performance, we sat down with Henry to discuss his journey in music, moving back to LA, and the exciting transition from working mostly behind the scenes in the studio to now performing on stage.
You grew up in New Mexico—can you tell us a bit about that?
I was originally born in Santa Monica, California but my parents didn’t really want to raise kids in LA. I was thankful I had the opportunities to be in a place where there was a lot of space and had cleaner air. I grew up in a really rural area outside of Albuquerque where I could hop on a bike and head in any direction for miles and not get into any trouble. Growing up in nature, that was a really big part for me being a kid and exploring with my friends.
How did growing up in New Mexico impact your journey as an artist?
I think growing up in New Mexico had a lot to do with it. I wouldn’t say nature affects my music really but I definitely go back there and do write and create music. It felt good not worrying about WiFi or having any cell service. The desert is such a cool environment, it always inspires me. Growing up there, the biggest impact on my music was playing the guitar. I studied classical guitar and in New Mexico there was a lot people on that same vibe. My parents were really big music fans as well. My mom was always playing music growing up, whether it was Bob Marley, The Police or Bruce Springsteen, so I was always listening to their music. My mom was actually the first one to push me do guitar lessons when I was in the 2nd grade but when you are that young I don’t think you really have a choice. By her pushing me to play the guitar I definitely fell that it inspired what I became as a musician.
What differences did you notice about the music scene from there to LA?
I was never around much of the music scene in Albuquerque. Out there I would be lucky if one of my favorite bands would come there versus in LA you can see any artist you want on a given night. I started to learn that I had to be in LA if I wanted to do music. Once I moved out here to attend Chapman for music I knew I wasn’t going back to New Mexico. I think back home is better now in regards to the music scene but they are still considered off the grid but maybe I will go back and open up a venue at some point.
When was the moment you realized you wanted to make music into your profession?
I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I went to college at Chapman. It was really geared towards classical music and it wasn’t really my thing. I kinda fell into the electronic scene there because I took a course to use different programs, but it was really geared towards teaching us how to use those programs in relevance to classical music. But the professor coincidentally didn’t know how to use Finale or pro tools. This class was one day a week for three hours taught by a weird LA electronic musician who was in a band called, The Acid.
He also had an electronic appreciation class where he would show us some weird music. The homework would simply be to make tracks. He would also bring really cool guests like Marian Hobbs, The Glitch Mob and Adam Freeland. They would show us their music and that is really what expanded my mind to the electronic music scene. I started to learn a lot about music and that is when I started to create more and eventually began to make a mixtape with a buddy of mine. After a short duration in time, I got connected to this group STS9, a electronic jam band, who liked my music enough to eventually sign me as a junior in college. By senior year I had called my mom and told her that I was thinking about dropping out of college because I was starting to make some good money. She responded by calling me an idiot, so I stayed in college and eventually graduated but by then I had already released that this was going to be my profession.
What would you say are your biggest strengths while collaborating?
There is a couple of things, and these are things that would help anyone in this industry let alone just in life. People skills. Originally I was super shy and was scared because I thought these people I was around were gods. But then I realized that everyone is normal, so you start being cool and not so weird. Just being a homie has helped me out a lot in this industry. I also have being doing music all my life and in that time I have learned to play instruments such as the piano, bass, guitar and drums so that also helps. Whomever the person is, I am able to adapt to their needs and do what they want to do.
Outside of musicianship, what is something that no one knows about you?
If you catch me between November through June, after 5 PM you can find me watching basketball. I am a big fan as well as an avid player. That is my secret obsession. I got really into basketball within the last 3-4 years. Obviously growing up in New Mexico we didn’t have professional teams but I played basketball and baseball all through out high school. I am now really big on going to see live games, my two teams are the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers. Take us through the emotions of being nominated for a Grammy back in 2016. What was going through your mind?
It was cool and also weird. I actually didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t know how the Grammy’s worked. I remembered knowing that the Grammy’s were coming and at the time I had worked on Lemonade with Beyonce. But I didn’t expect actually being nominated but then I saw my name being credited on the Grammy website. I quickly called my manager and after about an hour of some back and forth he had confirmed that I was in fact nominated. Even though we didn’t win, it was still really cool to be apart of that moment. It took me back to when I had thought I wanted to work on cars for the rest of my life in Arizona to the moment my mom convinced me I should pursue playing guitar. It is definitely cool and an awesome bragging right but someday it would be amazing to win one for myself.
You have an EP set to release this fall, what should we expect from this project? How does it differ from what you’ve previously released?
I am going to be releasing 4 singles and it is being put out through my label, Black Butter. I have already released my first single three weeks ago, “Bad for Me” feat. Elle Watson and I have three more that are still up in the air at the moment but will be releasing over the next four months. It is all in the same vein of darker electronic music. I have also progressed into a house vibe now as opposed to being all over the electronic spectrum and I feel I have found my vibe which is more experimental and darker.
You are set to perform at HARD Summer in August, what is your mindset going into this performance?
My mindset is to create a great vibe and energy. What inspires me right now is to have impactful 45 minute set. The people at HARD are trying to have a good time and I only have a short duration to capture their mind and keep them interested. I have to be honest, I am bit nervous but I am also super excited for my set. I am looking forward to it as well as performing more throughout the remainder of the year. I am excited to announce that I will be doing a North American tour after HARD which will run for about five weeks.
Stay tuned to Milk for more rising musicians we love.