Guitar Player, August 1977
Leo Kottke: His Techniques, Guitars, Slide, & Tricks of the Trade
by Gil Podolinsky
Do you still plan to work with Jack Nitzche [prominent pop music and film score arranger/composer] or do a synthesized guitar project?
Yes, I'm still trying to pull those things off. I'm going to collaborate with Jack on an album, and I'm really looking forward to this project. We were going to do it in this great, but unknown studio in Salt Lake, but that folded. The guitar/synthesizer was brought to my attention by Steve St. Croix [inventor of the Marshall Time Modulator, a digital delay-type device used on Kottke's latest LP (Leo Kottke); Marshall Electronics, Box 177, Joppa, MD 21085].
What do you feel is the most outstanding change in your music since you began playing?
What has mainly changed in my playing is my understanding and use of restraint. This could be thought not only abstractly but in relation to the actual touching of the instrument. When you first start playing, I think, most decisions happen down around your fingers. All the energy seems to come from the fingers. When you learn about restraint a balance happens -- the elbow and shoulder come into it more, and the fingers can relax. The best way to see what I mean is to look at the fingers of the left hand. Without restraining the energy you use there, you ll see the flesh under the nails is not pink, but white, from the pressing and effort. When you relax then, the pink comes back in. This balance idea is really important. Someone who helped very much to illustrate this for me is Stanley Watson, a classically inspired English guitar player and teacher who was formerly associated with the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. You don't squeeze or force anything, but more throw it, as if the finger could just fall off the hand. It must be the same feeling as in sports: totally alert, yet totally relaxed at the same time. All you're restraining really is aggressiveness, the pretence. By letting up, you're left with more power and energy.
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