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Solo Show No More: Henry Kohen's Prog Rock Project Mylets

To celebrate MYLETS recently releasing new music, LOUDER is running an interview with HENRY KOHEN from back when his next-generation prog rock project was still a one-man band.
November, 18 2019 |
Henry Kohen sitting on scarlet couch with pedals and other equipment

To celebrate MYLETS recently releasing new music, LOUDER is running an interview with HENRY KOHEN from back when his next-generation prog rock project was still a one-man band.

Once a teenage guitar prodigy, Henry Kohen never intended to become a one-man band. But fans of his next-generation prog rock project Mylets are glad he did.

Growing up in a sleepy town with no real music scene, Kohen faced a common dilemma for many guitarists: How can you perform live when you don’t have a band? Not content to noodle around with incomplete songs or being confined to never playing in front of an audience, his answer was simply to become the band.

Working under the name Mylets, Kohen is armed with just his guitar, a drum machine and an impressive collection of pedals. He plays everything live, building songs using samples and a looping pedal. The result is a potent mix of next-generation prog rock combining crushing power chords, soaring harmonized leads and delicately picked arpeggios.

He explains his method while home for the holidays in Indiana: “I’m  more  interested  in guitar playing than the effect pedals or specific guitars or amps. Technology is something I’m very reliant on. But it’s a means to  end  that  you  can  really  be  creative  with  and have a lot of fun with.”

Hailing from part of the Midwest not exactly known as hotbed of live music, Kohen’s isolation  became  his  inspiration.  After  his  brother  went  off  to  college  and  another  bandmate  developed  other  interests, he  learned  how  to  layer  tracks  in  real-time  and  build  his  own  unique  soundscapes.

Signing to the select Sargent House label at the tender age of 17, he moved to Los Angeles and  underwent the  transformation  from  musical  prodigy  to  seasoned  performer  and  recording  artist. After  releasing several EPs, his 2015 full-length album Arizona garnered  critical  praise  and  dramatically  expanded his fan base. Now 22, (This article was originally published in the 2017 LOUDER Guitar Edition. -Editors.) Kohen is widely considered one of the most compelling young guitarists in the world. 

As to be expected, his guitar influences are many and wide-ranging, including King Crimson, U2’s The Edge and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. 

“I’m listening to a lot of a band called Gentle Giant, who were very consistently  ahead  of  their  time without  much recognition or acclaim,” he says. 

His  vocals  have  prompted  comparisons  to  Trent  Reznor  of  Nine  Inch  Nails,  but  it  would be just as easy to hear the influence of  Cedric  Bixler-Zavala  of  The  Mars  Volta  and At The Drive-In fame. And ultimately, Mylets is Kohen and no one else.

Affable, articulate and contemplative in conversation, he is the thinking man’s guitarist.

“My inspiration is coming mostly from real world events, not that the music I write is remotely political, but more in the sense of trying to capture a wider shared experience,” he says. 

After his early aural explorations, Kohen says he’s slowly continuing to refine his sound. “It’s the natural process. Especially starting off so young. The very first stuff I did was sonically and song-wise all over the place. Arizona was little bit more focused,” he says, adding that the technology he uses on stage has influenced his songwriting. “There’s de-finitely always an awareness when I’m writing songs that I’ll have to play them live. And up till now it’s always been I have to play them within the context of this setup that has very defined limits to it.”

But Kohen says it is important for audiences  to  know  everything  is  created live and no canned tracks are  simply  being  triggered  at  the  push of a button.

“When I started this project I decided  I’d  never  have  a  laptop  on  stage. There’s always the question how much of the sound is coming from it,” he explains. “It would be easier for me. But you don’t know how  much  is  authentic.  The  performance  aspect  is  also  import-ant. I want to bring people along for the ride.”

Kohen’s  current  main  guitar  is  a  1985  Peavey  Horizon  II  that  he  discovered  in  a  music  store  in  Pittsburgh,  Pennsylvania.  “It  was  advertised  in  the  eighties  as  having  23  different  pickup  set-tings,  which  is  crazy,  but  they’re  amazing,” he says. “You can split the humbuckers. You can do coil tapping  stuff.  It’s  weird.  They’re  just  these  really  dense,  sensitive  pickups.”

But  he  said  he  was  talking  with  Guild  about  possibly  using  some  of  their  models  during  his  next  tour: “I’m really excited about it. I’m a huge Kim Thayil fan and he plays a Guild S-100.”Kohen  does  most  of  his  song-writing these days on an  acoustic-electric Taylor T5Z,  which could partly be because he is currently in-between amps.

“I’m  borrowing  a  Fender  Show-man from Tim Collis (from the UK band ttng and Mylets label mate) until he comes back to the US to tour,”  Kohen  confesses.  “Before  that, I was borrowing a really nice Peavey  Session  400,  which  is  a  solid-state amp from the eighties that  was  used  primarily  by  lap-steel players. I loved it and it was great for layering, but I couldn’t afford to hold onto it.”

Perhaps the good people at Peavey will read this article and help sort out an amp sponsor- ship deal before Kohen’s next tour. Until then, he will be getting settled in his new home of Austin, Texas, where he moved after spending the holidays with his family in Indiana. He says that Austin’s lively and supportive music scene had lured him away from the bright lights of LA, where he’d spent the past four years.

And that tight-knit community could be crucial as Kohen begins working on his next album this year.

“I have no idea whether that means playing with a full band or expanding the already pretty extensive technological setup for my live show,” he admits. Besides the increased musical possibilities, there is, of course, another key advantage to having bandmates: Kohen would have help lugging around his massive pedal board while on tour.  

Words: Marc Young

Images: Jose Ruiz / Gerhard Kuhne

Hear the first new track from Mylets in four years on Bandcamp.

Marc Young
With a background in journalism, Marc is an editor for Shure covering anything and everything that has to do with sound. He tries to compensate for his mediocre guitar-playing skills with his writing. He is based in Portland, Oregon.