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Interviews

Nels Cline: Intrepid Guitarist

By Published: August 19, 2004
Cryptogramophone, The Scene and The Future

One of the most noticeable changes on the Left Coast scene in the past five years, and one that has impacted Cline directly, has been violinist/producer Jeff Gauthier's formation of Cryptogramophone Records. "Jeff's idea is to do it right," says Cline, "so everybody gets a session fee, I get a leader's fee—which I try to refuse every time and he insists on. Jeff won't scrimp on the packaging, it's really his dream. He wants it to be what he wants to do or he's not interested. Hopefully their new distribution deal with Ryko will help, because Downbeat polls are voting for Jeff on violin and as a producer, so they're obviously paying attention to the records; somebody's paying attention. Obviously interest in the so-called Left Coast is not going to be as heavy, we don't get that kind of play, which is one of the things that I love about L.A., that we're all basically in the same boat—the 'we're fucked' boat. It's not competitive but I think there are more interesting players in L.A. than ever, with a lot of young players coming out that are really doing some wild stuff and making it good."

Meanwhile, Cline's schedule with Wilco and a handful of gigs to promote the October 26th release of The Giant Pin will keep him more than occupied for the foreseeable future. And while Cline's schedule with Wilco may seem, on the surface, to take him away from his own projects, the fact that he can remain viable playing music can only help to serve his own work in the long run. "I'm gratified that not only am I pleased with the music on The Giant Pin ," says Cline, "but also the design; I got to put my own goofy ideas all over the record visually, and the fact that Cryptogramophone's new packaging smells like printer's ink is extremely satisfying. Carla titled the record because I was unable to come up one. She's in love with the record and she decided to take it upon herself to come up with some ideas for the title. So she titled it The Giant Pin , and I won't go into her definition of the title, but she decided that it should be called that, and of all the different ideas that was the one she was the most married to, and the one I thought was the most intriguing and somehow amusing. I like to keep things, on the surface at least, a little bit light, to have little bits of humor here and there, because it's not my nature at all and it's really not the nature of the music.

"So I think it's tempered a little by a light touch with humor," concludes Cline, "in the midst of all the heavy doom and gloom of my natural tendencies. That's why improvising is so great; the musicians can temper any doctrinaire impulse by contributing their own vision of how the music should be and that really helps me because I not only feed off of other peoples' musical ideas, but it does temper my tendency to go too far with certain things."

Cline may be of the opinion that he goes to extremes with some of his music but, like the best of some of his own musical progenitors, if he didn't take those intrepid risks, then music would never move forward.

Selected Discography
The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone) (2004)
Buried on Bunker Hill (with Devin Sarno) (Ground Fault) (2003)
Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone) (2002)
Destroy All Nels Cline (Atavistic) (2001)
The Inkling (Cryptogramophone) (2000)
Interstellar Spaces Revisited (with Greg Bendian) (Atavistic) (1999)
Sad (Little Brother) (1998)
Chest (Little Brother) (1996)

Photo Credit
Courtesy of Nels Cline
Nels Cline
Nels Cline
b.1956
guitar, electric


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