Guitar Player Magazine: The Complete Interview; Winter 2010


Guitar Player: Tell me about your formal guitar training and how that has helped facilitate what youíre doing now?

KK: I started playing piano and trumpet when I was 7óplaying in the school orchestra. I started taking guitar lessons when I was 12. My father was a professional bassist so he had a band and the guys in his band were always showing me things and I was always taking lessons all through about age 12 through high school and then I became a music major once I got to college. I did my undergrad at Wichita State and it was more of a classical background. They didnít really have much of a jazz program to speak of. But I loved it because Iíve always loved classical music so it felt really natural for me to be there.

Were you studying classical guitar or mostly piano?

I was doing piano and guitar. I would never try to pass myself off as a pianist. I use it to write. I never write on guitar. I was doing a heavy focus on composition when I was there and then I went to Berklee for two years after that. While I was at Berklee I was also studying with Pat Metheny and that was wonderful. It was just a great period to be at Berklee and to be studying with Pat, although Patís only condition for studying with him was that I never tell anybody. It was 20-something years ago so I think itís probably OK to talk about. But here I was going to Berklee and I couldnít tell anybody I was studying with Pat.

Why was that?

He didnít want the publicity. He lived in Cambridge, which is across the river from Boston. He didnít want people to know that he was teaching anybody so he gave me kind of a stern talking to and said, "Iíll take you on and Iíll teach you but as long as you donít tell anybody." I said OK. He was great. He was really helpful and frightening at the same time, in a good way though.

What would you say is the single most important thing that you took away from studying with him?

Two things: One was just my time. When I started studying with him, I had been playing professionally at that time for a number of years and I was studying and nobody had ever said you need to work on your time. I always practiced with a metronome and felt like I was paying attention to that. But he was really blunt about it and said your time is just inexcusable. He really got me thinking about time and rhythm in ways that I never had and that made a tremendous impact on me. To this day, I still think about that. It was really interesting. I was on tour back in the fall with Dominic Miller from Stingís band and one night backstage he says, "Your sense of time is amazing. Itís like stone. Itís like rock solid. Itís just perfect timing." I said thank you but I felt like I really didnít deserve that but it was nice to hear some feedback. The second thing that was really good from Pat was more of a spiritual/emotional thing. I had met him before I got there (Boston). I had met him in Wichita one time, and we had a conversation. When I first began studying with him, I had just started at Berklee. It was my first semesteróearly on in my first semester. I was depressed because I felt like all of my teachers are just these monster musicians and everybody walking around there are just these killer musicians. Iím kind of hiding behind furniture and thinking, what am I doing here? When am I doing to be found out, kind of a thing. Pat, I didnít say anything to him, but I guess he must have picked up on it because at the end of the first night we were at his house and he says, "You probably hear a lot of good guitar players at Berklee." I said, oh yeah. He said, "A lot of guys with great chops."  I said yes. He said, "I want you to completely ignore those guys because theyíre not your competition."  I just kind of looked at him and I wasnít sure what he was getting at. He pointed to himself and he said, "Me. Iím your competition. You just worry about me."  I just really felt a lot better after that because I felt like I could really focus on what mattered and not looking around at everybody else.

You began studying classical composition and then when you were at Berklee were you mostly focused on jazz?

Yes. I was heavily focused on jazz guitar and composition at that time.

So, those two things were merging together already at that point. There were probably lots of points of contact between the two. I was listening to a few tracks from the Unit that were recorded back in 1988, and you were playing relatively straightforward jazz at that point, but still it had something of the emotional feel of your more recent music. Do you consider yourself or your music to be a part of any particular musical tradition, jazz or otherwise?

I donít think of what I do now as jazz or really having anything to do with it, but thatís just me. Iíve had other people who are big jazz fans tell me they really love it and itís been played on some jazz radio, which is always really surprising to me. But I tend to think of it going more to a modern classical tradition. I really feel aligned with the composers of the second Viennese school and Bartok and Elliott Carter and those kind of guys, and certainly from the harmonic structural standpoint. I think if you listen to any of the duet stuff or any of the composed pieces, you really arenít going to hear anything that could be interpreted as jazz harmony and youíre not going to hear a lot of diatonic harmony in those things. Itís not intentional; itís just how I hear things.

So the jazz harmony is almost subliminal at this point? Itís there somewhere, but not really as a conscious part of your compositional process?

Itís hard for me to say. If youíre hearing that, I canít tell you youíre not hearing that.

Iím just wondering what happened to it. I donít hear it. I hear a surprising lack of it given that you studied it so thoroughly. I think itís kind of interesting.

I donít feel that influence in it at all. I donít listen to jazz. I sort of packed up all my jazz records years ago. When I hear it, I still enjoy it. Iím not opposed to it and itís not that I dislike it, but I just donít feel like Iím getting anything from it. I feel like I can listen to Bartok string quartets or some Gesualdo pieces and itís like being in school. I feel just this learning and growth experience just from hearing that.

You said you compose on piano rather than guitar. Is that more for the classical pieces, or do you actually write for the guitar but begin with piano and then play the music on the guitar?

Itís kind of two branches on the same tree. All chamber, solo, and orchestral pieces are composed exclusively piano and Iím going to say most of what Iíve written for guitar had started or even been entirely on piano. At times I try to write on guitar and it ends up sounding like a guitar piece. It doesnít sound like a composition. It just sounds like a guitar piece. I really canít stand listening to guitar players that just sound like every other guitar player because all theyíve ever listened to were guitar players. So Iím trying to move out of those boundaries and I just naturally hear and think in more of a pianistic way than a guitar way, so Iím constantly trying to adapt that to what Iím doing and what Iím hearing and what Iím writing and playing. That may be part of why Iíve had the extended range instruments built just because I donít even hear or think in guitar register.

Muscle memory contributes a lot to why guitar players frequently sound the same when composing on the guitarójust because their hands go to familiar places. Does composing on the piano also extend to, say, the way you practice or the way that you conceptualize what youíre doing on the guitaróhelping to keep you from falling into that trap? Because I donít hear any clichťs in your guitar playing. Itís remarkable. Iíve listened to quite a bit of it now.  What do you do in terms of when youíre working out your technique or working out ideas on guitar to avoid that trap?  Is piano an aspect of that?

When Iím practicing, I do a lot of reading out of scores for other instruments. In other words, Iíll sit down and crack open a book of the solo violin pieces by Bach and not play it like you might hear a classical guitarist play it, but like a violinist would play it. In other words, just playing a single line instead of trying to flesh it out in more of a classical guitar way. Just focusing on the line. Or, I often read out of like Bartok piano scores or break open string quartet scores. Itís not that I avoid guitar literature. I mean right now on my music stand Iíve got some Villa-Lobos and some Leo Brouwer pieces open right now. Lately Iíve been reading a lot of Leo Brouwer pieces. But itís really balanced out because like I said, I do a lot of reading out of piano scores and trying to adapt pianistic chord voicings to guitar. When I practice scale patterns, instead of practicing across the fingerboard, like staying in one position and playing a scale start to finish barely moving out of one position, Iíll do something that maybe starts on a first fret F on the low E string, and ends up at the 13th fret F on the high E string, so that I move across three octaves and back down. So Iím moving across the entire fingerboard instead of just being limited in one position, which is a much more linear sound to me and it really affects your thinking when you start to see the entire fingerboard as one entity instead of like a walled-off first position, second position type thing.

The music on Returningólike on all four of the albums you did with Sandor Szaboóis entirely improvised, yet it sounds very composed and even arranged, especially the way that the parts interact. How is that possible?

I will tell you as much as I know about that process. When we recorded the first albumówell, weíve recorded all of the albums in one day. Thatís how well we play together. On the first album, we kind of brought little sketches. We each had little pieces that might be a couple of bars long or maybe I think Sandor had one that was about half a page at one point, but we abandoned that pretty quickly because it just seemed that we were thinking so much alike and we just could almost read the other person that it just felt really natural. Pieces would begin and end in unison. We might discuss it ahead of time like, Iím going to begin this piece in 5/4, give me two bars up front, or weíll both begin hereóyou start in this register and Iíll start in this register. So there might be a sentence or two where we talk through something, but thatís really about it. Iíve had a lot of people say to me that theyíre really surprised when they find out that those are all improvised pieces because they say that they sound like compositions.

Yes, they absolutely sound like compositions. You started by saying on the first album thatís the way it happened. Did things change as you were moving along, or is it pretty much the same process all the way through?

Things changed during the recording of the first album. We just realized that we didnít really need anything written and we would just discuss the form or maybe an element of the form, maybe a harmonic structure, yet it wasnít that rigid. We would talk conceptually about something, but again just two or three sentencesójust a quick little sketch what one of us might have in mind. There were a couple of pieces, I think ďSolitary CypressĒ on the first album that I did with Sandor, I began without telling him what I was going to do so I had an idea in mind and I just started kind of spinning it out in front of him and he just picked it up and ran with it. That was one about which we didnít have any verbal discussion. There are pieces like that where one of us will just begin.

What does improvisation mean to you? And describe as best you can whatís taking place within you while itís happening, psychologically or even spiritually. Whatís the experience?

I donít think of it so much as improvisation as I do real time composition. You pick up a score of music and there was a time when that was improvisation. Written printed music is really just frozen improvisation. I really look at what I do as more of real-time composition. When Iím doing pieces soloóI started recording some solo pieces latelyówhat Iím really thinking about is the form. When Iím working with Sandor really what Iím doing is just listening to him and listening like maybe as a third person and just getting a sense of where that composition is going. Once I have a sense of where itís going I just stay out of the way and just let it go where it wants to go. Iím not thinking about scales, Iím not thinking about harmonic structures, Iím not thinking about transitional moments or sections in the piece. Iím really just sensing the piece as a whole and letting it go where it wants to go and giving it all the space and nurturing it needs to do that.

You said youíre trying to get out of the way when this is happening. Do you ever feel like whatever it is that allows you to make that connection and have the creative flow happening that your analytical mindóthe guy who might sit down with a pencil and paper and work something out or think something through structurallyóthat part of you is kind of moving slower or behind the curve on this and the creative thing is much faster and is happening at a different rate? Is that what you mean by getting out of the wayónot thinking about it too much?

I donít feel like itís moving slowly or behind anything. When Iím composing with manuscript paper and a piano and a pencil, I can go as slow as I want and I can be as analytical as I want and I can really get incredibly molecularly analytical about something. Composing in real time is the exact opposite of that. Thereís no analysis, at least in the front of my brainónot cognizantly. Itís just listening and reacting and sensing in that moment where things are going and just letting them go in that direction. A couple of authors that I have read have discussed that the writing process when youíre writing anything with characters and I have read two or three authors that have said the same thing. They've stated that a lot of times characters will take on a life of their own and start taking on actions and courses of action and dialogue that the author doesnít really want them to, but they just kind of take over. I really understand that because a lot of the pieces in their early stages you think you know where itís going or where you certainly want it to go and by the time youíre done it really had no resemblance to that by the time the piece is complete.

In some of the interviews that Iíve read with both you and Sandor, you talk about the source. Itís a very metaphysical conception of music as sort of already existing somewhere, and youíre in the studio creating a space for it to occupy. That conception is much more in keeping with ancient ideas of music, and how it relates to the social structure, as opposed to the more contemporary idea of music as entertainment, and composing as just crafting catchy tunes or something. Can you talk a little bit about how you conceptualize the source of creativity, and how you connect with it?

I just feel that music comes from somewhere else. I donít pretend to create it. It kind of ties into what I was saying earlier about staying out of the way of it. I just allow it to come through. Thereís a lot of times when Iíll listen back to a master recording, once everything is mixed and mastered, and Iím listening to the final master, thereís a tremendous amount of stuff that I just donít either recognize or remember playing or things that I donít even recognize as me. I think thatís part of that. I think itís coming from somewhere else. It sounds like a very spiritual thing to some people maybe and maybe it is. But I think itís something thatís not really of this physical plane, if you want to call it that. I think it really comes from somewhere else.

Lazy journalists often employ the term ďotherworldlyĒ in a meaningless and clichťd way when they hear something that they canít immediately comprehend. But in your case, itís arguably literally true. There is something thatís going on thereóthereís something magical thatís happening. I donít think you can account for this with an easy to understand rational explanation.  But if itís from another world, then what would it be? Is it something thatís outside of human experience and thereís a point of contact there, which would be more of a spiritual or religious kind of view? Or maybe it is coming from deep within the artist, so itís a human thingóitís part of the human experience but maybe taking more of a psychological view, like a Jungian view where youíre gaining access to some deeper realm of experience? Do you have any sense of that? Do you feel like itís like some other that youíre touching on the outside or is it something thatís coming up from withinóor is that even a reasonable question? Is that a false distinction?

I think thatís a fine question. I donít know that it would be one or the other. It might be everything that you just said and it might be a whole lot of other things too. I live kind of out in the woods in New England and I go for a lot of hikes out in the woods and I just seem to hear things differently when Iím in that element. I donít just mean hearing nature sounds and animal sounds, but just my whole sense of hearing seems to shift. I think thereís an element of nature that is kind of imbued into what I do. Thatís something Sandor and I have actually discussed a few times because he loves hiking and we would record a few pieces and then go for a hike and then come back and work on some more. I think to circle back to what you were saying, I think that source could be God, I think it can be something so deep within the artist that theyíre not even aware of it, I think it could be nature, I think it could be chemistry between two or more people. I know I play differently with Sandor than I do on the records with Siegfried, or I play differently with Sandor than I do when Iím working out pieces on my own. A good example is when we were on tour, there were concerts wherein I played a couple of duet pieces with Dominic Miller, and I didnít play anything with him that I would have played with Sandor. I think that plays into it as well. I think itís a big question, Barry. Iím not that smart of a guy.

Youíve done a pretty good job of answering similar questions in some of your other interviews so thatís why I thought I would bring that up. Itís hugely interesting to me. Itís something that I think about a lot, so when I have the opportunity to ask those sorts of questions to someone at your level of contact with this, itís irresistible to me.

Can you tell me about your primary instruments and if you want to limit it to what was used on Returning, óspecifically the range and the voice qualities.

I think itís going to be two separate questions. To address the instruments, nothing that Iím doing involves a standard concert tuned 6-string. I do a lot of practicing on classical guitar but I donít record with it. I have three sort of main instruments and the fourth one arrived yesterday. Weíll talk about that a bit later if you want. But the three main ones that I use are all part of the Kevin Kastning series that Iíve done with Santa Cruz, specifically with Dan Roberts when he was there. He left about a year ago and started his own company. Dan was really instrumental, between Dan and Richard Hoover (founder and owner of Santa Cruz Guitars), they really made these things happen for me. The first one was the extended Baritone, which is a 6-string instrument but itís tuned to F#, in other words a whole step above a bass. Iíve also done a lot of retuning it, for ďReturningĒ it was tuned to E, so it was tuned to the same register as the bass. Long scaleó28.5 scale. The instrument that I really consider my main instrument is a 12-string version of thatóthe Santa Cruz. Itís called the DKK-12, which is a 12-string Baritoneóa 12-string extended Baritone which is also in F# tuning. So where most Baritones are maybe one or two whole steps below concert pitch, this oneís a full 7th below concert pitch. It might be easier to think of a whole step above a bass. The third one I use is the Alto guitar. It is tuned to A above E so itís pitched a fourth above a concert pitched guitar and thatís also a 12-string instrument. So those are my really three main instruments and probably the DKK-12 sees most of the action.

Can you tell me about the Contraguitar?

Sure. Thatís something about which I started talking to Dan Roberts around four years ago. Iím trying to think of which record we had just finished and I had been really, really living in that lower register for a while and I wanted something that would go lower but not a bassósomething that would allow me to have a lower reach but yet still that upper kind of Baritoneóthat sort of upper cello register sound. So I had been thinking about it and thought about something that was more than six courses so I started to Dan about itósomething that would probably be a longer scale than the KK Baritone series and certainly more than six courses. So by the time I started talking to Dan about it, I kind of had most of the basics of it in mindó7 or 8 courses, I had the tuning in mind, I wanted it to go down to E on a bass if not lower and then well up into an alto register on the top end. We talked about it and worked out the details for a tremendously long time, so long that by the time we had really nailed down what it was going to be, Dan had started his own company. So that is a Dan Roberts instrument. At one point he said, Ďwhat are you going to call it? Itís not a Baritone.í I had been writing some of wind quintet pieces around this time, and I thought about how a contra bassoon is one octave below the bassoon. So I said for now letís just call it the Contra guitar because itís going to start off being an octave lower than guitar. We still call it that. So thatís how the Contra came into being and it arrived yesterday.

How is that guitar going to relate to the other guitars? Is it just one more voice in there, or are you planning to do a lot of exploration on that one and focus on it for a while?

Yeah, I think itís going to become the main instrument because it has such a tremendous range and itís really going to take me a while to learn it. Itís a 30-inch scale, the nut width is 3 1/4 inches, and itís really an entirely new instrument. So right now I have it set up in octave tuning in low E on a bass up to A for the seventh course. As I start getting more acclimated with it, Iíll start using some of my tunings with it. It is just orchestral, just the textures of it, the voicing. Dan is an amazing luthier. He and I have worked on instruments together for about 10 years now. I think this is the 7th or 8th instrument that he has done for me on which weíve collaborated. He really understands musically what Iím doing and we kind of speak the same language. So if I mention a certain sort of timbre or tonal quality then he knows what I mean. Heís really kind of my unseen partner wherever I go because if it wasnít for him, and also Richard at Santa Cruz, I feel like I wouldnít be able to do a lot of what I do because theyíve been so incredibly supportive. Anything Iíve asked them to do, theyíve been really enthusiastic about doing it.

How do you amplify these instruments? Do you just use microphones when you perform or do they have any sort of electronics built into them?

No electronics. In the studio, Iím like a real purist snob that way, everything is just mics and thatís it. On tour thereís a little Audio-Technica clip-on mic the sound crew uses. On the last tour I had a Shure KSM44 out in front of me. So no electronicsójust mics.

Do you insist that the house engineers not equalize or compress or otherwise, following the same philosophy you use in the studio?

Thatís such a different setting that so I think in that case theyíre the expertótheyíre the professionals, so I let them do whatever they need to do. And youíre in a different sound environment every night, so the approach changes; what is required changes. We were lucky. Sandorís been touring with the same crew for many years and they are the best crew Iíve ever worked with. Theyíre like working with a team of recording engineers every night.

Can you tell me how you recordóthe mic placement and that sort of detail? And is there any particular wisdom that youíve gained in terms of how to place the two microphones? How do you capture the extended range of the instruments?

It all comes from mic selection and mic placement. I donít use any EQ. I think if youíre using EQ, what that really means is youíre either using the wrong mic or youíve got it set up in the wrong place. Lately Iíve been using a lot of mid-side things but all the stuff with Sandor was done with A/B pairs and stereo pairs on both of usóa pair of Gefells on me, close-miked at the sound hole. I donít subscribe to aiming at the bridge and the 12th fret thing. That just sounds wrong to me. Iíve tried it, Iíve experiment with it, Iíve been in recording situations where somebody else would set up that way, and it just never sounds natural at all to me. But everything is close-miked. Itís all, like I said, just mic selection and placement. I really like the Gefells. They sound the most natural to meóthe most like what I want to hear.

So you just experimented until you find the very best position for everything and then keep it that way.

Yeah. It took me years of experimentation and trial and error and going through different mics. I just love it so I always set up in the same, when itís in my studio, I always set up in the same way; either it is an A/B pair, or a mid-side setup. We recorded two albums on tour and Sandor was recording in ProTools; we were on location in this old church in Hungary and everything was done with Jecklin disk pairs. That came out beautifully. The first of those two records will be out next year. It was a very different mic setup than Iím used to but it just totally worked for that space.

Describe your right-hand techniques. It sounds like at least on some of the older things, and also maybe on some of the newer ones, that you are using both a pick and your fingersóor is it all just your fingers?

No, on some of that stuff itís pick and fingers. More recently, itís moving to all fingers. My right hand technique seems to confound other guitarists and I donít necessarily mean that in a good way [laughs]. I hold the pick backwards and at kind of a 45 degree angle so Iím not picking directly like you might think of as like a harpsichord where thereís a very direct attackóthe pick moving directly across the string and releases the string. Iím using the rounded back edge of the pick held at a really severe angle. I hold it in my thumb and first two fingers. Iím not holding it parallel to the strings at all. Iím just brushing just trying to pull the sound out of the strings with the pick instead of pounding the sound out with the pick. So when Iím using a pick it tends to sound more like fingers than a pick.

So these days youíre playing without a pick at all.


Are you using some variation on a classical technique? Describe a little bit about how you use your fingers. Do you use all of them including your pinky?

I do. Itís definitely more of a classical technique. Thatís what Iím working on. Playing my classical guitar and reading classical method books, Carcassi, and of course the Leo Browuer etudes are really good to work on my right hand stuff. It just came out of partly the frustration with the pick. First of all thereís no contact with the string. Thereís something between you and the string. Again, I keep going back to the piano. On a piano when you play a chord, youíre hearing all the notes at once and on the guitar you donít always because you tend to strum bass to treble across the strings. But that sound has always kind of bothered me because as a piano player Iíve always voiced all the chords that way and attacked all the chords in this sort of quick arpeggiated kind of manor. It would really start to grate on me after a while. So one thing I can do with all fingers is to just, if Iím playing a 4-note or 5-note chord voicing I can grab all four notes at once and it sounds like a complete harmonic structure instead of four notes sort of one sound after the other, kind of a strum sound. A lot of my lines are pretty angular. I donít always play a lot of really linear ideas. So there will be wide leaps of an octave or more inside of a line or a phrase. While I can do that with a pick, I can do that a whole lot better with fingers reaching across the spread of four or five strings. It happens much more instantaneously and much more cleanly with fingers.

What about the role of your thumb on your right hand?

Same. Itís just like another finger when Iím using my fingers.

Is what you are doing with your left hand also based in classical technique? You did talk a little bit about how you sometimes approach playing up and down as opposed to across. Is there anything thatís going with your left hand thatís unusual?

A couple of things come to mind. I really got the idea from watching cellists instead of watching guitarists, even though itís really common with classical guitarists. But at that time I didnít know it. I was I think still in high school or just out of high school. I was watching cello players. A cellist keeps their thumb in the middle of the back of the neck at all times, which provides tremendous reach with your left fingers. You donít kind of have this fist where youíre thumb is wrapped over the top of the neck. Your fingers just expand to their complete width. So it opens you up to a whole world of chord voicings that wouldnít be possible otherwise. So my thumb is always in the back at the center of the neck. I think my hand looks more like a cellist probably than a guitarist. With the Contraguitar, that is not going to work. What Iíve been doing is keeping my thumb either in the loweróinstead of behind the center of the neck, itís almost more behind the treble strings part of the neck.

On the Contra, the width of the neck is such that I find my thumb is either kind of behind the treble strings on the back of the neck or it comes out from behind the neck entirely so that itís now in the front, or just touching the edge of the fingerboard, at the binding. So to reach the bass notes, my thumb has to come out because the neck is so wide. That has gotten me starting to use my left thumb like another finger in some cases. So I think thatís really going become a part of the technique that the Contra is demanding just because of the physical ramifications of it.

One of your instruments is set up as a fretless guitar. Have you explored fretless guitar playing much?

Yeah. Iíve had a fretless guitar since the early '80s. I have an Ibanez acoustic that Iíve had since I was a kid. It wasnít getting any use and at the same time I used to teach guitar at a music store and I had borrowed a cello from the store for a couple of weeks. I wouldnít say I was playing cello because thatís too kind of a term for what I was doing. I was trying to get sounds out of a cello really because I was horrible. But the thing that really spoke to me was just the vocal quality of the cello because itís obviously fretless. My luthier at the time, who actually still does some of my workóhis name is John Barger óa great luthier. He doesnít build, he just does repair and modifications but just a really gifted man. I took the guitar to him and said I want to make this into a fretless. He pretty much threw me out of his shop because it was unheard of and he just thought it was like blasphemy. Every time I would see him I would mention, when are you going to do the fretless thing and he would just kind of scowl at me. But one day he said, "I was thinking about that and it might be kinda cool." So he converted it to fretless for me, which was in the early '80s, so itís essentially just a fairly inexpensive Ibanez acoustic with nylon strings because they speak better fretless than steel strings. There are a couple of pieces on some of the things Iíve done with Siegfried that are fretless. In fact, Sieg and I have an album coming early next year and I played fretless on two or three pieces on that record, too.

Are you using it to play microtonal intervals or whatís the application?

No. No microtones, no quarter tones, and really limited chords. You really canít do chords. You can pull off double stops if youíre really careful. So itís just like a single note kind of applicationójust this really beautiful vocal quality to the note that really, really speaks to me. In fact, the upper register of the Contra and the alto are fretless too so I can play the fretless in the upper registers on those as well.

Have you experimented with bowing instruments at all?

No. I keep thinking about that but I really havenít as yet.

Do you know about the guitar viol?

Yes I do.

Thatís an interesting instrument.

Yeah, itís really cool. Although, I do use wooden spoons sometimes. Iíll finger chords with my left hand but instead of using my right fingers, Iíll have these wooden mixing spoons. So Iíll sort of tap the strings with it; not only do you get all the notes in the chord at once but itís really a percussive harpsichord kind of sound.

Did you use that on Returning at some point?

I used it on one of those records. I donít remember which one. Playing live, Iíll do it if the piece calls for it.

What the next step for you as a guitarist and composer?

The next phase is certainly going to involve the Contra because Iíve been moving in that direction for quite a while but I just didnít have the instrument for it and now I do. Thatís going to be insanely demanding technique-wise because, Iíve only had it for a couple of days, but already thereís so much that Iím used to doing and it just doesnít work on this instrument. So itís such a whole new world that Iím going to have to learn and itís an amazing sounding instrument. Itís incredibly loud, very rich, very balanced in all the registers. Dan did an amazing job with it. Sandor and I have two albums recorded that will be out over the next two years and are working on some other things that are going to be a little bit different than weíve done so far. Iím doing a record coming up with cellist David Darling. Weíre going to be doing something in December. And I have a recording project coming up with electric guitarist Mark Wingfield from England.

Will that be improvised music or compositions?

I donít know. Iím sure itís going to be a lot of improvisation in it. Weíve just started talking about it. Iím really excited to do that.


Reprinted with permission of Guitar Player Magazine and © 2010 Guitar Player Magazine.