Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 09th
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Straight Strings


music LeoKottkeGuitar legend Leo Kottke tells it like it is
Leo Kottke ignited the passion of guitar players and music enthusiasts with his 1969 release, 6- and 12-String Guitar. Never before had such a rich, intricate, textured, slightly otherworldly sound emanated from the hands of one man.

Kottke had taken a step back from the mainstream of three-chord blues and rock songs, and dipped in the wellspring of old-time Americana music. The mid-western Kottke had an ability to merge genres with a lightening quick finger-picking bluegrass style that was distinctly American—imagine Django Reinhardt on Hee Haw seeing the world through a stoned Mark Twain’s eyes.

From opening for The Violent Femmes, to appearing on A Prairie Home Companion, recording with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, and phenomenal work with regional favorite Michael Hedges, Kottke has always been far ahead of the curve. Good Times caught up with Kottke on tour in Arizona, where he shared some quick wisdom from his many years on the road.

What drew you to the 12-String guitar?  Do you use picks?
I play with my fingers. No picks. The 12 first
hit me with Pete Seeger’s "Bells of Rhymney.”
That was it.
What are some of your favorite memories  of working with Michael Hedges?
They all count. He was once billed 300 bucks for all the vegetable matter he left in some motel—he carried two juicers at the time. 

In the late 1980s you opened up at Carnegie Hall for The Violent Femmes—do you find your audience to be a hybrid of rock-and-rollers and those who love instrumental pieces?
I can't define the audience, but they are diverse. Ages, backgrounds, criminal records—a good reflection of the act.

You've worked with director Terrence Malick in the past—do you have any recent/future collaborations with filmmakers?
Nothing on the table. Film can be tough because there are many opinions. Terry and I are close friends. I've spoken to him twice in 30 years: each of us is solitary … in other words.

Is your song, “The Other Day (Near Santa Cruz)” based on somebody you met, or general commentary about hippie chicks?
Just some guy I dreamed up and understand. We share some, but not all of his opinions.

Traveling around the country for decades you probably have a better view of what's happening in America than the nightly news. How has the last year been? Does it seem like people are struggling now more than in the recent past?
I can't judge. Except to say that Fox News is banned in Australia.

Where do you find inspiration?  Do you meet people on the road and immediately envision a song?
No, the guitar is enough. I can't stop. It's the “Red Shoes.”

You started out as an artist on a small label. Now, in the 21st Century, smaller labels and the ability to self-promote through the Internet are all the rage. Do you see this as a step-forward or are we throwing out the baby with the bath water?
All of the above, which is usually the way things work. There's no measure. But vinyl still wins.
You seem to have a knack for short, quirky answers.    
Believe me, I'm proud of the brevity. It's hard for me to get to the point.


Leo Kottke plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $35. For more information, call 423-8209.


Comments (2)Add Comment
written by LeoKottkeFan, December 04, 2011
Thanks for this great article, I love Leo Kottke, his music, his style, his humor, and I love the Good Times!! Thanks for this great interview/article!
written by Lynn McGuire, December 02, 2011
Thank you Leo for playing and interviewing in my Home town, I hope he got to ride the Big Dipper while he was there.? an absolute Santa Cruz experience!

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Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


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