I had some time off now and I decided to utilize it and get out and play some shows. It’s kind of the Wilco mentality anyway. We tour constantly and it has nothing to do with whether a record is out or not. We just want people to hear the music.
story by Brian F. Johnson
photo by Michael Wilson
Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche had just gone back into his New York home after his third trip outside that day to shovel snow. He was just as over winter as everyone is when February begins to draw to a close, but Kotche is a bit of a glutton and was getting ready to set out on a solo tour the next day that would take him from New York to Montana to Washington state and eventually Chicago — and this wasn’t some plush tour bus kind of tour that he does with Wilco. This was a load-up-the-car-and-drive kind of tour.
Kotche was hitting the road to tour in support of his newest solo album, Mobile, which was released nearly a year ago, but one that he has had little time to perform for live audiences.
“Wilco keeps me busy,” he told Chicago Innerview, still breathing heavy from shoveling. “I haven’t had much chance to tour since Mobile came out. I did an East Coast jaunt and a few Midwest dates opening for Jeff [Tweedy], but that was actually before the album came out. So I had some time off now and I decided to utilize it and get out and play some shows. It’s kind of the Wilco mentality anyway. We tour constantly and it has nothing to do with whether a record is out or not. We just want people to hear the music.”
That music, as it pertains to his newest release, is a rhythmic analysis of a series of questions, Kotche explained. “Whenever I make a solo record I’m trying to pursue some sort of rhythmic question that I’m interested in. As a drummer, I’m rhythmically obsessed and whenever I get an idea that I want to explore and dig a little deeper, I make a record to do that,” he said.
Kotche had a few questions in mind for Mobile, which, in part, was named after the work of Alexander Calder, a famous sculptor who specialized in mobiles. “With Mobile I had a few ideas. I wanted to pursue concepts of negative rhythm, and rhythmically stretching something. So where the other two records [Kotche has two previous solo releases] are a little bit more experimental, this one definitely has some strong concepts behind it and it’s probably more listener-friendly, even though it’s still all percussion.”
Kotche explained that in Wilco he has vast amounts of freedom, but he said he is also limited by the very nature of the music, and thus Mobile and this tour gives him the chance to explore more. “I have a lot of freedom in Wilco, but Wilco to me is about Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics. Primarily that’s what people are relating to, whether they love the music or not. So when I’m playing with Wilco, I’m trying to illustrate that the best way I can, whether it’s supporting those lyrics or taking them out of context and providing chaos behind them. But with my solo stuff it’s a chance for me to explore in ways that probably wouldn’t be appropriate in Wilco. It’s fun being in a band, but I also learn a lot from doing the solo thing and I can take that back and be a better part of that band than I was previously.”
On the day that Kotche spoke with Chicago Innerview, Wilco’s new album Sky Blue Sky, due out in May, was being mastered. He said that the album was recorded very organically, with the band set up in a circle. “It’s an unusual way to record these days, unfortunately, but it was really great to do it like that,” he said. Kotche added that Wilco, which will be playing Australia and Europe in the spring, will do an “extensive summer tour” of the States. “We’ll be touring from the beginning of May until, basically, forever,” he joked.
Glenn Kotche :: Elmhurst College :: March 8.