What kind of slides do you use?
“I use a brass slide: it’s the same slide that Leo Kottke has used for years. It’s by a funny machine [manufacturing] company that happen to make guitar slides, called Latch Lake. They’re slightly hourglass-shaped, which is cool because it compensates for the difference in the string gauges, from the low ones to the high ones. There’s a little bit of radius on the strings from low to high, so it compensates for that as well.
“It’s nice, because once I got used to that particular slide I realised one of the great advantages to it was I didn’t have to press as hard with the thing – you can use a very light touch with it. Because it’s kind of taking care of all the curves and angles.”
You’re one of the best slide players out there – what are your tips for raw beginners in the style?
“Oh boy. It’s hard to say one thing, but the obvious thing is always going to be, please, be patient with yourself. Maybe one other thing that comes to mind – and I don’t know if I’ve even thought about this before – I would think it would be wise for someone who does play guitar already to, when they start playing slide, just play single-note melodies. Just to get used to moving the slide around. Because along with the damping issues, you’ve also got potential intonation problems with the slide.
“So it might be good for a person to get comfortable with just playing the melody lines and not try to do the fingerstyle stuff, or even worry about that too much. Just try to pull straight melody lines out: you’re going to want to mute the strings on either side, so if you’re playing a melody on the third string, the second string and the fourth string are going to be the ones to keep an eye on in terms of muting.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m going to be touring in the UK in probably mid-September this year – but, before then, I’m going to be going across the Eastern US, through Canada. In April, I go to Iceland for about 10 days, and then from there to Europe for about four weeks. I’ve recently discussed the possibility of making another recording some time this summer, but I don’t have any material yet, so that may or may not happen. But I scheduled it in a while back just to give me the needed pressure to get some work done!”