Not many guitarists manage to stick to their dream long enough to make it in the music business, but Nels Cline has launched his career in recent years through wholehearted commitment to his own unique voice on the guitar. Armed with vintage Jazzmasters and Jaguars, Nels has sculpted a sonic texture filled with fuzzy, looped, delayed, and pitch shifting flurries of sound that he can surely call his own.
Always one to have leaned toward the creative exploration of guitar gear, Nels graciously sat down with Six String Soul to discuss his guitar rig, his approach to music, and his recent projects. As the cherry on top, Nels also offers up his dream ice cream flavor if he were ever to also master the classic American dessert.
Note: We apologize in advance for some of the audio outages. We were lucky to get a interview with Nels using a cell phone recording setup. But, mostly it’s great!
Nels discusses his life as a guitarist, prior to Wilco.
Having grown up in Los Angeles, Nels’ initial influences came in the late 1960’s from psychadelic/blues rock artists like Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, King Crimson, Yes, and jazz alto saxophone legend John Coltrane. This jazz/rock combination led Nels to collaborate with well-known artists such as Charlie Haden, Vinny Golia, and eventually his own groups: The Nels Cline Trio and The Nels Cline Singers.
Nels talks about how his various projects and influences have shaped his guitar style.
With years of listening to such diverse guitarists as John McLaughlin, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman and Ralph Towner, Nels discusses how his wide range of influences have helped shape his jazz/rock guitar style. Now playing within Wilco’s Americana Rock sound, Nels discusses how he draws upon his earlier influences to help shape their songs in his own unique way.
In his latest project, BB&C, Nels gets back to his avant-garde jazz roots.
Nels recently teamed up with alto saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Jim Black in a live recording at The Stone in NYC, under the name BB&C. Their live album, called “The Veil,” is an exploration of modern day avant-garde jazz. Reminiscient of Miles Davis, Sun Ra, and Ornette Coleman, the album clearly shows how Nels’ style is much more diverse than what modern-day Wilco fans are used to hearing. Visit www.cryptogramophone.com to listen to and purchase “The Veil.”
Nels talks about his experience playing with Billy Martin at the Blue Note.
Nels talks about a recent jam session at the Blue Note in NYC, where he had the chance to improvise with Billy Martin (drums, Medeski, Martin & Wood), Oren Bloedown (electric bass), and Jacob Stacks (keys).
The Fender Jazzmaster leads the pack in Nels Cline’ guitar collection.
Nels discusses his incredible guitar collection, especially his beloved Fender Jazzmasters, his guitar of choice. Strung with 12-inch gauge strings, Nels goes for big tone from his guitars, further enabling his style to range from jazz to rock with ease. In addition, he also holds the Fender Jaguar, Jerry Jones 12 string, Rickenbacker and other guitars in his collection.
With Wilco, Nels goes from traveling light to amp loaded.
Traditionally, Nels would use house amps at gigs prior to joining Wilco (due to travel constraints). After having joined Wilco, Nels began using a Marshall JTM45 that Jeff Tweedy had lent to him, but quickly took to Tim Schroeder’s custom amps due to the clean, warm sound and love of it’s low midrange.
Guitar effects as colors on a palette on Nels Cline’s pedal board.
Nels discusses his pedalboard, full of guitar effects goodies ranging from the Klon Centaur, MidFi Electronics Glitch Computer, Digitech Whammy, Boss CS-2 Compressor, vintage Electro-Harmonix 16-Second Delay, Fulltone ’69 Fuzz, Lovepedal Eternity, and more.
Nels offers advice to budding guitarists in search of their own guitar voice.
For younger guitarists searching for their own unique sound, Nels suggests following your instincts and to never give up. As a guitarist whose career was steady, but received a “big break” when he was welcomed into Wilco, Nels reflects on his own challenges with guitar performance as a career. As you’ll hear, his pups would agree.
Nels has just as much good taste in ice cream as he does guitars, and invents a flavor.
As one would expect, you’ll never guess what ice cream flavor Nels would create if given the chance.