Fat Angel, 1973

Leo Kottke

by Andy (last name not specified)

Page 2

Can I establish exactly how many albums you've had out because I've read conflicting reports?

Let's see, six, and there's a seventh one in the can that Capitol is not going to release for three months.note2.gif - 0.9 K

Does that include the one on the Symposium label?

Yeah, there are two records, the first two records I made.  The first one's on Oblivion and it's a 'live' recording and it was made in a coffee house for limited distribution...actually just to the people in the coffee-house.  That just had my name on it and it's a terrible record.  The one good think about it is it's got my old guitar on it.  It was a Gibson that I had, and that I still miss a great deal.  It was a remarkable guitar.

What's the date for that record?

I don't remember.  It was in the late sixties. That thing was only 1,000 copies...I could have let it go on a little longer but I was a little overcome by the weaknesses of it so we stopped the record and i re-recorded it in a studio and in the studio it got screwed up too.  The idea of stereo for the people that owned Symposium Records was to put one mike in front of the guitar and one mike behind it.  You know there are things I wish I hadn't done but I have.  It was the Takoma record that kicked things off for me, although the Oblivion record, it really got around a lot.  It was sold illegally and pressed illegally for awhile and I get request for stuff off it now and then.

So you only made the one album for Takoma?

Yeah, I owe them another one.  In thee midst of waiting or it, Takoma was going to get me to record another one.  I really don't know if that's ever going to happen because I haven't heard from John about it and I haven't heard from Takoma about it either.

Now your first Capitol album was Mudlark which came in for a little bit of criticism.  People had heard the Takoma album, and then you used session musicians...drums, bass and piano occasionally, and then you also sang on it, which contradicted what you said before about your voice sounding 'like geese farts on a muggy day'.  What was the decision behind that?

The motivation behind that was that we had to get a record out, and the fact of it was that I had a few months to get the material for that record and I'd had fourteen years to get the material for the Takoma record, which I'm sure is a universal problem with musicians.  I mean it's the sort of thing that could drive you into jazz.  According to Denny, my producer, vocals were kind of a necessity because I do sing 'live' and he wanted to reflect that and he just thinks that there should be vocals on the records.  If I were to do another instrumental album it would just take a lot longer between records, because they take more time.

Just to go back a minute, Denny Bruce is your manager and producer.  Does that apply to the Takoma album?

No, there wasn't any production there, I went into a film overdub studio in Minneapolis and recorded it in about three hours.  Which is the other thing...I don't know why but it just doesn't seem possible to go into a studio these days, sit down and play and walk out.  Engineers are always coming up and changing this or that.  Something has changed from what it was and I don't know exactly what but I'm far more critical in the studio than I would have been because I can't go in, just sit down, and run the stuff through.  The minute you find that out, the minute you start running into all these obstacles including the kinds of nerves you get in the studio.  You capitulate and give in to that whole perspective and wind up taking a lot of time on every tune.  Technically you et a better record but unless you do it 100% you're gonna have trouble.  And we haven't done it 100% until this very last album.  I told Denny that I didn't want to have to go in and rush through it again because we couldn't rush through it even if we wanted to.  The guitars i have now don't record as well as they should and we're always having moral difficulties over what instrument to use on what tune.  So this time around we spent a lot of time in the studio and got a much better record.  

The engineer on Mudlark was Dave Hassinger.  Whose idea was it to use him?

That was Denny.

You went to Hollywood to do that one didn't you?

Hollywood and Nashville.  Because of that record I'm doing all my stuff in Minneapolis now because that was so nerve-racking.  Neither one of us, Denny or I, was very experienced at what we had to do, so there was a lot of pressure there all of a sudden, imagined or otherwise.

You'd had your guitars stolen before that hadn't you?

That's why there was pressure, and ever since there has been for me because although everything works now, what I have in my head is best expressed by this certain kind of instrument.  I've found one just like it since but it doesn't sound the same.  I like a 12-string with silken-steel strings on it, tuned very low, and there aren't any that work that way, except old Gibsons.  So I'm playing steel strings and there's just a vast vast difference.  You're much closer to a classical feel or a classical perspective with silken-steel strings because you can play with a lot more bounce in your left hand, and you've got separation.  It's more like a lute than a guitar, and the separation is at a maximum between the strings.  It erases all the problems that are inherent in a 12-string, so that I just know that things would go a lot better if I had another one.

Just as a matter of interest, how did Kim Fowley get on the Mudlark album?

Denny's idea.  Denny knew Kim from somewhere or other and Kim had been dropping in sort of, and we had an instrumental, the track that he's on, that just didn't stand by itself, so we tacked Kim on.  And it added a certain kind of like to it.

Now your next album was Greenhouse.

Greenhouse was done like the Takoma record where I would go in, sit down and do it.  but my 12-string wouldn't record properly so I wound up spending a great amount of  time figuring out whether or not I could play an electric guitar.  I found out that I couldn't play an electric 12-string so we took half the strings off of it...spent a lot of time getting the sound of an acoustic 12- string...it was frustrating but we did it in a few days.  The 'live' album [My Feet Are Smiling] was done as sort of a breather and as a pivot point, because we expected to get the 'live' album out without any problem and have more than twice the time we usually have to get another record out.

That's why I'm upset that this new album's been held up for three months.  I'm really upset about that because it's a corny, maybe too sentimental idea that the minute you're done with it...I mean the longer  you wait the cooler it gets, and that's absolutely true if you're looking at it in terms of decades or something.  We spent a lot of time on the arrangements and things like that, and took our time, relaxed and spent some money.  And I really got what I wanted, and we just have to sit on it.  Plus the fact that I don't like putting a 'live' album out because a 'live' album is really...here it's a different sort of thing for a 'live' album, but there [the States] I have the feeling that I should really follow a 'live' album with something fresh pretty quick, because it is, looking at it in a narrow sense, just a reprise of everything I've ever played before.  We're being told the album can't come out because everybody else's record is coming out at the time.

[The original publication indicated this interview would be continued in the next issue, which I don't have.  If anyone out there has a copy of the second issue, please let me know -- B.A. Head]

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