Nels Cline

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Nels Cline
Cline in 2004
Cline in 2004
Background information
Birth nameNels Courtney Cline
Born (1956-01-04) January 4, 1956 (age 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresFree jazz, experimental, noise, punk rock, indie rock
Years active1977–present
LabelsCryptogramophone, Nine Winds, Atavistic, Enja, Little Brother, Strange Attractors, Audio House, Long Song, Mack Avenue, Blue Note
Associated actsQuartet Music, Nels Cline Trio, The Nels Cline Singers, Wilco, Geraldine Fibbers

Nels Courtney Cline (born January 4, 1956)[1] is an American guitarist and composer. He has been the guitarist for the band Wilco since 2004.

In the 1980s he played jazz, often in collaboration with his twin brother Alex Cline, a percussionist. He has worked with musicians in punk and alternative rock such as Carla Bozulich, Mike Watt and Thurston Moore. He leads the Nels Cline Singers, Nels Cline Trio, and the Nels Cline 4.

Cline was named the 82nd greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2011.[2]


Cline playing a double-necked guitar with Wilco in 2010

Cline began to play guitar at age 12 when his twin brother Alex Cline started playing drums. The brothers developed together musically, playing in a rock band called Homogenized Goo.[3] Both graduated from University High School. Cline cites hearing a recording of Jimi Hendrix performing "Manic Depression" as a defining moment in his decision to become a guitarist.[4]

Cline in Aarhus Denmark 2014 playing with the BB&C Band

Cline has performed on over 150 albums in jazz, pop, rock, country, and experimental music. He was featured in a cover story by Guitar Player magazine for his work with the rock band Wilco.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Cline is married to Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto.[1][6] Their wedding was in Honda's hometown in Japan in November 2010.[1][6] They met through Mike Watt when he assembled the group Floored by Four.[1][7] Cline joined Honda as a guest guitarist in the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono band for their tour in 2010.[8] Cline joined Honda and her band Cibo Matto at the 2015 Solid Sound Festival.[9]


As leader[edit]

  • Elegies with Eric von Essen (Nine Winds, 1981)
  • Angelica (Enja, 1988)
  • Silencer (Enja, 1992)
  • Ground (Krown Pocket 1995)
  • Chest (Little Brother, 1996)
  • Pillow Wand with Thurston Moore (Little Brother, 1997)
  • In-Store with Thurston Moore (Father Yod/W.D.T.C.H.C. 1997)
  • Rise Pumpkin Rise with Devin Sarno, (Volvolo 1998)
  • Sad (Little Brother, 1998)
  • Interstellar Space Revisited with Gregg Bendian (Atavistic, 1999)
  • The Inkling (Cryptogramophone, 2000)
  • Destroy All Nels Cline (Atavistic, 2000)
  • Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone, 2002)
  • Ash and Tabula with Andrea Parkins Tom Rainey (Atavistic, 2004)
  • The Entire Time with Vinny Golia (Nine Winds, 2004)
  • Buried On Bunker Hill with Devin Sarno (Ground Fault 2004)
  • Graduation with Chris Corsano, Carlos Giffoni (free103point9 2004)
  • The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone, 2004)
  • Banning + Center with Jeremy Drake (Experimental Music Research 2005)
  • Immolation & Immersion with Wally Shoup & Chris Corsano (Strange Attractors, 2005)
  • Four Guitars Live with Ranaldo/Giffoni/Moore (Important 2006)
  • New Monastery (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
  • Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone, 2007)
  • Suite: Bittersweet with Wally Shoup & Greg Campbell (Strange Attractors, 2007)
  • Downpour with Andrea Parkins, Tom Rainey (Victo 2007)
  • Duo Milano with Elliott Sharp,(Long Song, 2007)
  • Nothing Makes Any Sense with Giffoni Licht Ranaldo (No Fun 2007)
  • Coward (Cryptogramophone, 2009)
  • Elevating Device with G.E. Stinson (Sounds Are Active, 2009)
  • Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone, 2010)
  • The Celestial Septet (New World, 2010)
  • Initiate (Cryptogramophone, 2010)
  • Jazz Free with Henry Kaiser (There, 2012)
  • Open the Door with Elliott Sharp (Public Eyesore, 2012)
  • The Gowanus Session with Thollem/Parker (Porter, 2012)
  • Room with Julian Lage (Mack Avenue, 2014)
  • Macroscope (Mack Avenue, 2014)
  • Radical Empathy with Thollem/Wimberly (Relative Pitch, 2015)
  • Molecular Affinity with Thollem/Oliveros (Roaratorio, 2016)
  • Lovers (Blue Note, 2016)
  • Currents, Constellations (Blue Note, 2018)
  • Gowanus Sessions II with Thollem/Parker (ESP Disk, 2020)

With Acoustic Guitar Trio

  • Acoustic Guitar Trio (Incus 2001)
  • Vignes (Long Song, 2009)

With Banyan

  • Banyan (CyberOctave, 1997)
  • Anytime at All (CyberOctave, 1999)
  • Live at Perkins' Palace (Sanctuary, 2004)

With Quartet Music

  • Quartet Music (Nine Winds, 1981)
  • Ocean Park (Nine Winds, 1984)
  • Window On the Lake (Nine Winds, 1986)
  • Summer Night (Delos 1989)

With Wilco

With other bands

  • A Thousand Other Names, A Thousand Other Names (Birdcage, 1996)
  • bb&c, The Veil (Cryptogramophone, 2011)
  • Big Walnuts Yonder, Big Walnuts Yonder (Sargent House, 2017)
  • Bloc, In the Free Zone (A&M, 1991)
  • Cup, Spinning Creature (Northern Spy, 2019)
  • Damsel, Distressed Temporary (Residence 2006)
  • Exoterm, Exits into a Corridor (Hubro, 2019)
  • Floored by Four, Floored by Four (Chimera Music, 2010)
  • Geraldine Fibbers, Butch (Virgin, 1997)
  • Geraldine Fibbers, Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home (Virgin/Universal, 2017)
  • Radical Empathy Trio, Reality and Other Imaginary Places (ESP Disk, 2019)
  • Rhythm Plague, Dressed for the Apocalypse (Killzone Music 1985)
  • Rova, The Celestial Septet (New World, 2010)
  • Rova::Orkestrova, Electric Ascension (Atavistic, 2005)
  • Rova Channeling Coltrane, Electric Ascension & Cleaning the Mirror (RogueArt, 2016)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York, Fukushima (Libra 2017)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York, Entity (Libra 2019)
  • Solo Career, Season Finale (Box-o-Plenty 2005)
  • Stretch Woven, Stretch Woven (Alstro, 2019)
  • West Coast Modern Day Punk Rock Orchestra, Correspondence (Elastic, 2009)

As sideman[edit]

With Scott Amendola

  • Believe (Cryptogramophone, 2005)
  • Cry (Cryptogramophone, 2003)
  • Fade to Orange (Sazi 2015)

With Gregg Bendian

  • Gregg Bendian's Interzone (Eremite, 1996)
  • Myriad (Atavistic, 2000)
  • Requiem for Jack Kirby (Atavistic, 2001)

With Ben Goldberg

  • Unfold Ordinary Mind (BAG, 2013)
  • Orphic Machine (BAG, 2015)
  • Good Day for Cloud Fishing (Pyroclastic, 2019)

With Jeff Gauthier

  • Mask (Cryptogramophone, 2002)
  • One and the Same (Cryptogramophone, 2006)
  • House of Return (Cryptogramophone, 2008)
  • Open Source (Cryptogramophone, 2011)

With Vinny Golia

  • Openhearted (Nine Winds, 1979)
  • Against the Grain (Nine Winds, 1993)
  • Razor (Nine Winds, 1995)
  • Nation of Laws (Nine Winds, 1997)
  • One Three Two (Jazz'Halo, 2004)

With Bobby Previte

  • Terminals (Cantaloupe Music, 2014)
  • Rhapsody (RareNoise, 2018)
  • Music from the Early 21st Century (RareNoise, 2020)

With Mike Watt

  • Ball-Hog or Tugboat? (Columbia, 1995)
  • Big Train (Columbia, 1995)
  • Contemplating the Engine Room (Columbia, 1997)

With others


  1. ^ a b c d Fusilli, Jim (2010-10-05), "Four Rock Nomads Unite for a Fleeting Tune", The Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2011-03-31
  2. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
  3. ^ Hoinski, Michael (2009-05-08). "Nels Cline on Masturbation, Thurston Moore, and Wilco's New Record". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2009-05-10. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  4. ^ Poole, Rod. "Nels Cline: In The Avant-Garde Spotlight" (Audio interview). National Public Radio. Retrieved 18 December 2013. It was hearing Jimi Hendrix one afternoon on the AM radio, the song was Manic Depression. That was it. We were both literally jumping up and down and freaking out.
  5. ^ Steadfast Inclinations. Barry Cleveland. Guitar Player. March 2005.
  6. ^ a b Gilbert, Andrew (2011-01-27). "Nels Cline and Yuka Honda treasure time together". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  7. ^ "Interview: Mike Watt talks about Yoko Ono gigs". 2011-01-27. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  8. ^ Tulich, Katherine (2010-09-30). "Musicians pay tribute to John Lennon and Yoko Ono". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  9. ^ "Wilco Tinkers and Experiments at a Festival It's Happy to Share". The New York Times. 2015-06-29. Retrieved 2015-06-29.

External links[edit]