Guitar Player, August 1977
Leo Kottke: His Techniques, Guitars, Slide, & Tricks of the Trade
by Gil Podolinsky
The fingers take over and the brain just watches?
Yeah, sometimes that can be a real education once you've gone through your standard library of licks.
How do you get out of it?
Well, I learned guitar by discovering that I couldn't play what anyone else was doing or find out how they did it. So, I just started making things up. I do try to keep from getting stuck in my own pile of ideas, so after I have performed and run through my storehouse of licks and new things, if I'm still wound up and loose, I go back to my hotel room and go at it. That's when it's fun to play. That's the problem for me on the road: I'm up late playing a lot. I don't tour the way most people do. I'll do four days on the road, then home for two, then back out. I've come to realize that I get paid for being on the road, not for playing.
Do you have any particular favorite chord patterns?
No, to be perfectly honest, I'm really ignorant of the lingo. I invented my own chord formations for a long time, terrible spaghetti-like things. I do like the E chord, and I find the D, G, and B strings nice and fertile. I'm trying to find augmented chords, that don t sound like gin and tonic that's gone flat -- all the stuff I don t like about jazz guitar going cocktail.
How much of your playing is improvisation?
I really try to avoid improvisation for two reasons. One, I'm not that gifted and two, I don't like to hear that much of it myself. I rarely play a single-note line anyway because I think you can say so much more, especially on a 12-string, with multiple notes, so improvisation doesn't really fit my style.
It's curious that you haven't gotten into playing ragtime since your syncopation technique lends itself very easily.
Well, I've never really been moved to get into it. At the moment there are other areas that hold my interest. I prefer to explore my own, new styles rather than those already done.
I notice there are string arrangements on the new album, Leo Kottke. What brought that about?
I wanted to try it, but I was very careful not to get that particular disease. We used a fourteen-piece string section on "Range" and "Shadowland." I had to throw one piece out because it sounded like "Holiday for Leo" or elevator Muzak. I almost put it on because it was so humorous, but I don t think most people would see it in that light. I had a lot of technical problems with this album. I developed a ping on a G string which on a mike made it sound louder than the whole guitar. I tried everything to get rid of it, furniture polish, everything. As soon as we got out of Australia where we recorded a few tracks while I was on tour, it went away. This time I had all the material written before I went in to record.
You've mentioned in the past that you avoided recording in Los Angeles because you didn't feel that you'd get much done. Now I see on the new album some of it was recorded in L.A.
Right. True to my suspicions I didn't get much done so I returned home to the Sound 80 studio [2709 E. 25th St., Minneapolis, MN 55406] in Minneapolis. I also came to the realization at that point that a dead room is best for recording guitar.
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