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 67)
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

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, a percussionist. He has worked with musicians in punk and alternative rock such as Carla Bozulich and the Geraldine Fibbers, Mike Watt and Thurston Moore. He leads the Nels Cline Singers, Nels Cline Trio, and the Nels Cline 4.[citation needed]

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]

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

With Acoustic Guitar Trio

Year Title Label
2001 Acoustic Guitar Trio Incus
2009 Vignes Long Song

With Banyan

Year Title Label
1997 Banyan CyberOctave
1999 Anytime at All CyberOctave
2004 Live at Perkins' Palace Sanctuary

With Quartet Music

Year Title Label
1981 Quartet Music Nine Winds
1984 Ocean Park Nine Winds
1986 Window On the Lake Nine Winds
1989 Summer Night Delos

With Wilco

Year Title Label
2005 Kicking Television: Live in Chicago Nonesuch
2007 Sky Blue Sky Nonesuch
2009 Wilco (The Album) Nonesuch
2011 The Whole Love dBpm
2014 Alpha Mike Foxtrot Nonesuch
2015 Star Wars dBpm
2016 Schmilco dBpm
2019 Ode to Joy dBpm
2022 Cruel Country dBpm

With other bands

Year Artist Title Label
1985 Rhythm Plague Dressed for the Apocalypse Killzone Music
1991 Bloc In the Free Zone A&M
1995 Geraldine Fibbers Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home Virgin/Universal
1996 A Thousand Other Names A Thousand Other Names Birdcage
1997 Geraldine Fibbers Butch Virgin
2005 Rova::Orkestrova Electric Ascension Atavistic
2005 Solo Career Season Finale Box-o-Plenty
2006 Damsel Distressed Temporary Temporary Residence
2009 West Coast Modern Day Punk Rock Orchestra Correspondence Elastic
2010 Floored by Four Floored by Four Chimera Music
2010 Rova The Celestial Septet New World
2011 bb&c The Veil Cryptogramophone
2016 Rova Channeling Coltrane Electric Ascension & Cleaning the Mirror RogueArt
2017 Big Walnuts Yonder Big Walnuts Yonder Sargent House
2019 Cup Spinning Creature Northern Spy
2019 Exoterm Exits into a Corridor Hubro
2019 Radical Empathy Trio, Reality and Other Imaginary Places ESP Disk
2017 Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York Fukushima Libra
2019 Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York Entity Libra
2019 Stretch Woven Stretch Woven Alstro

As sideman[edit]

Year Main Artist Title Label
1979 Vinny Golia Openhearted Nine Winds
1980 Tim Berne 7X Empire
1984 Julius Hemphill Georgia Blue Minor Music
1986 John Fumo After the Fact Nine Winds
1991 Dennis Gonzalez The Earth and the Heart Konnex
1993 Firehose Mr. Machinery Operator Columbia
1993 Vinny Golia Against the Grain Nine Winds
1994 Deborah Holland Freudian Slip Dog & Pony
1995 Vinny Golia Razor Nine Winds
1995 Mike Watt Ball-Hog or Tugboat? Columbia
1995 Mike Watt Big Train Columbia
1996 Gregg Bendian Gregg Bendian's Interzone Eremite
1996 Osamu Kitajima Beyond the Circle CyberOctave
1996 Joel Harrison 3 + 3 = 7 Nine Winds
1997 Vinny Golia Nation of Laws Nine Winds
1997 Mike Watt Contemplating the Engine Room Columbia
1997 Wayne Kramer Citizen Wayne Epitaph
1998 Henry Kaiser & Wadada Leo Smith Yo Miles! Shanachie
1998 Mary Lou Lord Got No Shadow Work
2000 Gregg Bendian Myriad Atavistic
2001 Gregg Bendian Requiem for Jack Kirby Atavistic
2001 Alex Cline The Constant Flame Cryptogramophone
2001 Steuart Liebig Pomegranate Cryptogramophone
2002 Jeff Gauthier Mask Cryptogramophone
2002 Mia Doi Todd The Golden State Columbia
2003 Carla Bozulich Red Headed Stranger Dicristina Stair Builders
2003 Rickie Lee Jones The Evening of My Best Day V2
2003 Noe Venable The World Is Bound by Secret Knots Petridish
2003 John Zorn Voices in the Wilderness Tzadik
2003 Scott Amendola Cry Cryptogramophone
2004 Vinny Golia One Three Two Nine Winds
2004 Blue Man Group The Complex Lava
2004 Carla Bozulich I'm Gonna Stop Killing DiCristina Stair Builders
2004 Lydia Lunch Smoke in the Shadows Breakin Beats
2005 Dean De Benedictis Salvaging the Past Spotted Peccary
2005 Wayne Peet Live at Al's Bar pfMENTUM
2005 Scott Amendola Believe Cryptogramophone
2006 Jeff Gauthier One and the Same Cryptogramophone
2006 The Autumn Defense The Autumn Defense Broken Horse
2006 Ramblin' Jack Elliott I Stand Alone Anti-
2006 Matt Ellis Tell the People Krow Pie
2006 Todd Sickafoose Blood Orange Secret Hatch
2006 Jeff Tweedy Sunken Treasure Nonesuch
2007 Eleni Mandell Miracle of Five Zedtone
2007 Alan Pasqua The Antisocial Club Cryptogramophone
2007 M. Ward To Go Home 4AD
2008 Steven Bernstein Diaspora Suite Tzadik
2008 Huntsville Eco, Arches & Eras Rune Grammofon
2008 Jeff Gauthier House of Return Cryptogramophone
2009 7 Worlds Collide The Sun Came Out Oxfam/Sony
2009 Bobb Bruno Dreamt On Vosotros
2009 Wadada Leo Smith Spiritual Dimensions Cuneiform
2011 Tinariwen Tassili V2
2011 Jeff Gauthier Open Source Cryptogramophone
2012 Jherek Bischoff Composed Brassland
2012 Jherek Bischoff Scores: Composed Instrumentals Leaf
2012 Billy Bragg & Wilco Mermaid Avenue Vol. III Nonesuch
2012 Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides Matador
2012 Martha Wainwright Come Home to Mama Cooperative Music
2012 Rufus Wainwright Out of the Game Decca
2013 Ben Goldberg Unfold Ordinary Mind BAG
2013 Yoko Ono Take Me to the Land of Hell Chimera Music
2013 Retribution Gospel Choir 3 Chaperone
2014 Buffalo Daughter Konjac-Tion U/M/A/A
2014 Bobby Previte Terminals Cantaloupe Music
2014 Jim Keller Heaven Can Wait Elisha James/Orange Mountain
2014 Cibo Matto Hotel Valentine Chimera Music
2014 Medeski Martin & Wood Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 Woodstock Sessions
2015 Adam Rudolph Turning Towards the Light Cuneiform
2015 Scott Amendola Fade to Orange Sazi
2015 Ben Goldberg Orphic Machine BAG
2016 Ornette Coleman Celebrate Ornette Song X
2017 Jim Campilongo Live at Rockwood Music Hall NYC Blue Hen
2017 Linda Perhacs I'm A Harmony Omnivore
2017 Lee Ranaldo Electric Trim Mute
2018 Harmony Rockets Lachesis & Clotho & Atropos Tompkins Square
2018 Michael Leonhart The Painted Lady Suite Sunnyside
2018 Bobby Previte Rhapsody RareNoise
2018 Chris Lightcap Superette Royal Potato Family
2019 Ben Goldberg Good Day for Cloud Fishing Pyroclastic
2019 Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons Pyroclastic
2019 Michael Leonhart Suite Extracts Vol.1 Sunnyside
2019 Larry Ochs What Is to Be Done Clean Feed
2019 Wayne Peet What The? pfMENTUM
2019 Chris Stamey New Songs for the 20th Century Omnivore
2019 Tedeschi Trucks Band Beacon Bits 2019
2020 Bobby Previte Music from the Early 21st Century RareNoise


  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.

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