Guitar Player, January 1972

Leo Kottke

by Michael Brooks

Page 4

In the recording studio, what are some of the idiosyncrasies of the studio for fingerpicking?

Oh, I lose my meter in the studio.  I don't have anything to plug into, because they are such sterile places.  But in Nashville they're a lot different, 'cause they had a john across from the chair that I was recording in and a refrigerator full of beer and milk, and Lucy brought us a cherry pie the second night we were there, and I was relaxed and out in the suburbs in somebody's garage.  

Did you record the last LP in Nashville?  

Well, four of the songs on there we did in Nashville.  

Why there?  

[On] Our first pressing, when I finally heard the record, one of  the vocals was hideous, so we had to take it off.  And as long as we were taking one off we had to put one on and as long as we were doing that we just thought we would see how much we could record and use whatever of it was any good.  

How much are you playing for yourself, and how much are you playing for the people around you?  

It's about one and the same thing, really.  Unless I am in a grouchy mood they never really separate.  If I'm n a bad mood and I'm really tired, then I just play for the audience, and it can get pretty boring and I'm not really enjoying it.  But I found out that I could get pretty dragged out and get interested in it, and literally, if I'm really pooped, I have to force myself through the first couple of songs, then I can get into it.  

Is it hard for you to get into a gig?  I think of fingerpicking as having a front porch setting.  I was just wondering about how you feel about it up on stage?

I don't like being up on a high stage, where you're elevated and feet away from the front row of an audience.  

What about capo usage?  

I used to use it, but I don't any more.  Mainly because I just quit doing things that force me to have to tune the guitar in the middle of a set.  It's the most boring thing in the world for people listening.  So now I've got it worked out that I can do an hour without tuning but once.  

Have you ever used an electric solid body?

I do have one, but I only used it once in Chicago, and when I pulled it out, the whole audience groaned.  

What kind of action do you have on most of your instruments?  

Very high.  My guitars are very hard to play, because I use heavy strings and keep the action high.  My biggest problem is staying in tune when I play up the neck, 'cause they are so heavy that they tend to sharp when I fret them.  

Is that for bottleneck use or is it therapeutic?  

I just feel more comfortable if I have to really yank to play.  It feels more concrete if you have to work for it a little bit.  Dick Rosmini said that he didn't really start to play until the guitars which he had that were easy to play, were stolen, 'cause then he couldn't depend on the guitar to carry him over.*

Was he a significant influence on your playing?  

I left him out, but he's another artist I listened to.  He came up after one of my sets at the Troubador and took a crack at my 6-string.  

Have you ever worked studio?

Yeah, once or twice with really disappointing results.  I think that must be a sort of grim way to make a living, because you must have to play an awful lot of trite music.  

What is your musical goal?  

I want to learn counterpoint.  I would like to do more interpretation as I am playing instead of just reeling it off.  Ultimately, I would like to learn how to play piano.  Because I think that if I could play piano, at lest as well as I play the guitar, it would probably be more satisfying.  I'm not sure because I love the sound of the guitar, and the piano is just, I don't know.  The piano to me is pretty dry sounding, but everything is there.  It hasn't got any limits to it.  I would like to be able to exploit that.  

What kind of piano are you interested in?  Classical?  

I would have to find some way of doing it like the way I am playing the guitar now.  Or so that I can get that kind of a melody.  

What about [a] goal in life?  

I want to be able to keep up my interest.  Now and then it gets kind of hard to really enjoy what you're doing, when you have to do it every night for a while.  And if I can keep that going, I'll be all right.  [The End]

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