Interview :: Nels Cline of Wilco
Having begun in the mid 90's as a band known primarily as a country-folk act, Wilco's sound developed dramatically over the course of the following 17 years to the point where today they're much more difficult to define. Much of Wilco's evolution is due to the addition to the band eight years ago of Nels Cline, a guitarist recently named by Rolling Stone as the 82nd best of all time.
Up until joining Wilco in 2004 Cline was perhaps best known for his work with Quartet Music and various other musical projects firmly rooted in the rock, jazz and avant-garde movements, as well as his exceptional improvisational skills. Since becoming a member of Wilco, Cline has appeared on every record including last year's 'The Whole Love', a collaboration which has brought Cline's guitar artistry to a much higher audience than ever before.
Wilco will headline the Forbidden Fruit festival on Monday 4th June in Kilmainham and John Balfe caught up with Nels for a chat about the show, his approach to music and how he adapted to fit within the band.
You have been recording and releasing music for the best part of thirty years. Did you have to change or adapt your style when you joined Wilco?
I play differently depending on what the song seems to require. For example, I would say that at this point as a guitarist I'm probably best known for the solo on 'Impossible Germany', which is a long story because it originally didn't contain a guitar solo. I don’t think that solo is necessarily in my style. It doesn't have a tone that I would normally use; I think it's a sound that reminds me of other guitarists in the rock n' roll past. There are some things I do a lot more of in Wilco music than in my own music. There are adjustments song-to-song for me, conceptually.
You mentioned 'Impossible Germany'. A friend was telling me that he saw you play it at the Green Man festival and then a few days later in Vicar Street in Dublin and you played the solo part in two entirely different ways. How much scope do you have to play around with your guitar parts?
In terms of that song it starts and ends in the same way, so it's just what happens in the middle. As far as the solo, there's a cue but in terms of hooking up with everybody else, and I don't want to sound like I'm dismissing your question at all, but it kind of just falls into place. There are little details that get worked on usually in terms of the 'groove', just trying to get the right feel and I just stand by and listen to everybody pick apart a groove and work on it at sound check or something to try and get the right feel. Everything else is pretty automatic. We don't really discuss it, when we're working on new songs I don't even know what instrument Pat [Sansone] is going to use - he just starts playing guitar or keyboards, or whatever he's hearing. Nobody talks about it, it just sort of happens.
Review by John Balfe | 14:06 | Monday 28th May 2012 | Music News
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