Leo Kottke Weighs in On Life, Literature and Guitar (Part Six)

Leo Kottke Weighs in On Life, Literature and Guitar (Part Six)

I’ve seen you play twice. Once at Kent State and once in Nelsonville, Ohio. Neither places were big cities and only have small venues. Where I saw you in Nelsonville was a beautiful old theater, but both of those places are off the beaten path. Obviously, you have to go to major markets, but do prefer playing smaller spaces?

I don’t. It was over ten years ago I wanted to start working secondary markets. You can cover the major markets once a year – that’s kind of the drill. I’m alone, I can travel, why don’t I grab some of these?

I wanted to play Tuktoyaktuk, which is the northern most town in the Northwest Territories. It’s on the Beaufort Sea. And I wanted to play it in the winter. The promoter called them and they said yes. The theater seats 250 people and the promoter asked what the population of Tuktoyaktuk was – it’s 1,000. So you have to sell a quarter of the population to fill the place. In order to even get there, you have to drive up the river – on the river up to Tuktoyaktuk. I think a band has played there. And I think it was Metallica, but it’s a lot easier if it’s someone like me…To limit yourself to a certain market or a certain demographic or a certain kind of place is really ungrateful.

The two times that I’ve seen you – I want to call it an act. The stories that you tell all have punch-lines. It seems premeditated or at least it seems like you know what stories will get a laugh. Do you want to be a comic?

For the first 3 years I was playing, I never opened my mouth. I couldn’t even look up. I was scared to death of the people. And one night, I remembered trying to kill a chicken when I was a kid – I was having trouble with the goose-neck microphone stand. And before I could stop myself, I asked the crowd if they’d ever killed a chicken. They laughed and I remembered in one big lump this thing about the chicken. And that’s the main reason I open my mouth. You’re not repeating anything, I don’t have a script ever, but there are subjects that I’ll return to. I’ll return to them only if I have to. Otherwise, it’s like that first time I opened my mouth. I discover either something I’d forgotten about or something that was right in front of my nose that I didn’t get until now. It’s like running into a room where your friends are and yelling, ‘Guess what? Look at this shit!’ That’s what happens.