Friday, September 15, 1989
The Michigan Daily
Bold and bawdy
Guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke talks of seasons and shoe polish
BY MARK WEBSTER
LEO Kottke, champion of synco-
pated guitar-playing and ribald hu-
mor, appears this Saturday at The
Ark. Sharing the bill is Flying Fish
artist Chris Proctor, like Kottke a
winner of Frets Magazine's Best
Guitar Player award.
Poctor's recent LP, His Journey
Hone, matches technical virtuosity
with musical sensitivity, woven
lyrical melodies and complex, pen-
sive tones. Songs worthy of careful
listening are "The Emperor's
Choice," "White Rooms"
(accompanied by gentle strings),
and°."Desert Dances," which bor-
rows a brooding passion from Aaron
Co land's "Billy the Kid."
"M rning Thunder," with rhythmic
chording and hints of blues riffs,
sho ld win over a concert audi-
Ipttke's My Father's Face is a
colt ction of original vocals and in-
trumientals with stellar backing mu-
siciains such as Jim Keltner, David
Hidalgo (of Los Lobos), and T-Bone
Burnett (who also produced). In the
following interview, Kottke calls
the album "the best record I've
recorded in 10 years."
Daily: Where are you now,
Leo Kottke: Yeah, this is home...
D: If we could start back a ways,
what music or guitar players influ-
enced you early on?
LK: Well, I'm soaking up stuff all
the time. Musically, it's kind of a
blurred beginning. I picked up influ-
ences in reverse, spent hours playing
single note instruments. When I got
to the guitar, the whole idea of a
chord blew my mind. All I knew
was I didn't want to treat the guitar
like a horn... that seemed really
short-sighted to me... it wasn't until
the last few years that I began under-
standing the real potential of the in-
As for guitarists, well there's a
huge long list of present players. A
guy I should mention is George Van
Epps - he's teaching in LA. He's
the most developed harmonically of
any player I know. Another guy is
Jimmy Wyble - that's Wyble, or
maybe Wybel. He lives in
Nashville. That guy is... there's no
words for him. He's done one record,
one book of etudes for two-line play-
ing. They're both old farts.
A guy that combines a lot of
good harmonics with good heart is
Pierre Ben Suzanne. He'll tear you
to shreds. Technically he's horrify-
ing; emotionally, draining. I met
him when he was 19 - he might be
29 now. He's Algerian, grew up in
Paris, he's quite well-known outside
Somebody that everybody knows
is Pat Metheny, who is well-worth
D: Your promo packet has a quote
saying your music is again in
vogue. Any reaction to this?
L K: Ahh, who writes that crap?
That whole side of things is just
laughable... I don't know where any
of that comes from.
D: I'd like to hear about your new
album. What do you think about it?
LK: I think I have to say that this is
my best record - I don't usually get
to say this - it's the best record
I've recorded in 10 years. There are a
lot of records I've made that I don't
really like. This one has a real finish
to it. Where I get my fun is writing
the stuff; there are some songs on
this one - one called "Aunt
Francis," another called "William
Powell" - they're the first things
I've written since I got into the har-
monics - they're really good. It's
rare to walk into the studio and blow
your brains out and still walk out
with your brains intact.
D: You sing on the new album.
What brought you back from play-
ing strictly instrumentals?
LK: It's really so I could get to play
guitar differently. I'm a good rhythm
player - I like to play fills - so
singing gives me a chance to play
D: Tell me about the Private Music
LK: Everything with them is fine.
Private Music likes to try things,
they don't interfere, they really sup-
port me and that's nice. They got
behind me on this one-hour special
on PBS I did a couple months ago,
which I really appreciated. They
don't get anything out of that, so I
D: The line-up of band members on
your new album is very impressive.
And then there's T-Bone Burnett
LK: Well, he's just one of those
people I know. We figured it was
time to work together again. He's a
friend I see every vernal equinox.
He's very good at recognizing that
musicians are putting their heart on
their sleeves when they're recording,
that no matter how long they've
played, they get pretty tender-hearted.
There are a lot of perforations that
can happen that he helps avoid.
Along with fellow strummer Chris Proctor, Leo Kottke will be onstage at
the Ark tomorrow night. Not only that, but he'll play guitar and tell jokes,
Seventh-day Adventist Church
WELCOMES U of M STUDENTS
Come Worship with Us!
9:30 am Sabbath School
D: David Hidalgo, he's the player
with Los Lobos?
LK: Yeah, David Hidalgo I met at
the Troubador some time ago. This
album, it was like closing a circle, I
had a lot inscommon with most of
those people. David Miner I've
known a long time, Jim Keltner
grew up in Oklahoma near where I
lived for awhile as a kid, so it was
real relaxed, it wasn't desperate stuff.
It's so easy for that to creep into a
D: How was touring with Lyle
LK: Oh, a pleasure, he's a great
singer, and he's the person he ap-
pears to be through and through.
He's real peaceable, real good to
D: Did you get to perform together?
LK: Yeah, I sat in on some of his
sets and played a few numbers. He's
real big right now, there's no ques-
tion I was definitely the opening act,
but it was a lot of fun being on tour
with those guys. It went on forever
- it lasted three months. I rode
around in a bus - I usually fly, so
that was a lot of fun. In fact, I found
out about Jimmy Wyble through
Lyle's guitar player Ray Hearndon.
It was a lot of fun being with those
guys. There was one time, I was sit-
ting in a restaurant in Washington,
D.C. and Lyle came in and sat down.
All the sudden, I smelled shoe polish
all over the place, like it was creep-
ing in under the door. I said to Lyle,
"Hey, do you smell that shoe pol-
ish?" and Lyle said, "It's my hair."
We had a lot of fun.
D: Chris Proctor is on the bill with
you this weekend. Do you know his
LK: Oh, is that right? I've met him
a couple times but I didn't know he
was coming. That should be good.
D: Are you looking forward to play-
ing in Ann Arbor?
LK: Oh yeah. I love to play, any-
where, that's what this is all about.
The fact that you get to play is just
great. In a sense it doesn't matter
where I'm playing.
D: You'll be playing solo?
Q: And singing, mixing it up?
LK: Sure, the whole thing.
D: And telling those bawdy jokes.
LK: Hey, well you know it's just
LEO KOTTKE and CHRIS
PROCTOR play two shows tomor-
row night at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at the
Ark. Both shows are sold out.
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