Personalities | Nels Cline | From BLOC to Wilco | Guitar Heroes

Nels Cline (b. 1956) was born in Los Angeles. He first came to prominence in the 1980s playing jazz, often with his identical twin brother, drummer Alex Cline. Cline has worked with many notable musicians in alternative rock, including Mike Watt, Thurston Moore and Wilco, of which he became a full-time member in 2004.

Cline appears on Wilco’s albums Sky Blue Sky (2007), Wilco (The Album) (2009), The Whole Love (2011) and the live album Kicking Television: Live In Chicago (2005). He also records and performs with his own Nels Cline Trio and The Nels Cline Singers, with whom he has recorded four albums – Instrumentals (2002), The Giant Pin (2004), Draw Breath (2007) and Initiate (2010). Cline has performed on over 150 albums in the jazz, pop, rock, country and experimental pop music genres.

Cline began to play guitar at age 12. He and his brother worked in a youth rock band they dubbed Homogenized Goo, and both graduated from LA’s University High School. Nels said that hearing a recording of Jimi Hendrix performing ‘Manic Depression’ was a defining moment in his decision to become a guitarist.

In 1983, Nels joined BLOC with drummer Chris Mancinelli and bassist Steuart Liebig. A year later, they added guitarist Nicholas Kirgo and vocalist Camille Henry and the quintet became a Los Angeles club favourite. In 1990 they signed with A&M Records, releasing In The Free Zone in early 1991. In the years 1984–86 Nels was a member of the JAH Band. In 1984 they recorded Georgia Blue.

In the late 1980s, Cline formed The Nels Cline Trio, which featured his guitar playing complemented by Mark London Sims on bass and Michael Preussner on drums. The trio released one album and then replaced Sims with Bob Mair, releasing three further albums before splitting up. In 1997, shortly before the end of the trio, Nels recorded two albums, In-Store and Pillow Wand, with Sonic Youth frontman and guitarist Thurston Moore.

Nels was also a member of The Geraldine Fibbers and Scarnella with Carla Bozulich, with whom Cline worked on solo albums, performance pieces and live shows during a 12-year collaboration.

Essential Recordings

BLOC: In The Free Zone

The Nels Cline Trio: Silencer

The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath

Wilco: Wilco (The Album)

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