Nels Cline on Big Walnuts Yonder, Wilco, MMW, The Allmans & More // JamBase

Welcome to another edition of The Art Of The Sit-In, where we mix it up with the scene’s most adventurous players and hear some stories from the road. For more, check out our recent interviews with John Medeski, Marc Brownstein, Mihali Savoulidis, Marcus King, Chris Wood, Andy Falco, Bruce Hornsby and many more. (A full archive of more than 40 The Art Of The Sit-In features is here.)

At least two great things happened when Nels Cline officially joined Wilco in 2004. One of America’s great alt-country bands found its jones for art-rock — an infusion that helped its live show evolve into the powerhouse it became, where visceral tension and improvisational fireworks exist just below what appears to be a placid surface.

Another was that a much bigger audience found its way to Cline, since the 1980s a buzzed-about guitarist and a musician’s musician plugged into everything from jazz, to punk, to alt-rock.

Somehow, Cline — a true sorcerer of the instrument — brings all of those strands into his work with Wilco, and also maintains a small galaxy of other projects, from his nominal bands like the Nels Cline Singers, the Nels Cline Trio and the more recently launched Nels Cline Four, to collaborations with everyone from guitar upstart Julian Lage and Medeski, Martin & Wood to his wife, Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda, with an exhaustive list of associations, collaborations and maybe-we’ll-get-to-this-again-one-day bands with a who’s who in jazz, rock and experimental music.

Cline has plenty to do with Wilco this year, and will join Medeski Martin & Wood during Jazz Fest on May 4. He has more in the works with almost all of the named associations above, and when we talk on a warm day in April, he’s just come off a series of shows behind his 2016 Lovers project, which re-imagined 1950s mood music featuring Cline and an entire orchestra of players — textured and comfortably low-key.

Also on his plate is Big Walnuts Yonder, which reunites Cline with one of his oldest friends and musical associates, punk patriarch Mike Watt, and combines the two with drummer Greg Saunier (best known for Deerhoof) and guitarist/vocalist Nick Reinhart of Sacramento experimental rockers Tera Melos. They’ve recorded a self-titled debut album due out this Friday, May 5 and shows might follow if they can ever align schedules.

It’s with Big Walnuts Yonder that I began my discussion with Cline, and visit so many points of his world, from Wilco to the Allman Brothers Band.


Big Walnuts Yonder (L/R: Nick Reinhart, Mike Watt, Nels Cline, Greg Saunier)

JAMBASE: So what is Big Walnuts Yonder? I love that name.

NELS CLINE: Yes, to me it sounded like a typical Mike Watt sideways poetic weird cool thing. It’s from a Richard Meltzer poem [begins with s] actually.

JAMBASE: And what pushed you to do this?

NC: It was “why not?” Why wouldn’t I do something with Watt, and Greg? Nick, I didn’t know at all. But that’s how it started: Nick saying something to Watt about wanting to meet me and Watt saying if he wants to know me he should play with me, and that’s really what started the whole thing.

Greg is super busy too, and we all kind of put a limit on how much time we’d be able to spend recording, so it took us forever to actually record something. We also kind of decided we weren’t going to play live, but I think that’s going to change, and eventually we’ll do a handful of gigs, even though it’s nothing we can sustain. I’m personally doing so many different things right now that it’s going to be hard, and I laugh because I don’t even know how we’re going to play some of this stuff live. Now that I do know Nick a little bit — and I’ve watched a lot of Tera Melos clips on YouTube — I know he can actually sing and do all those 3,000 pedal changes all at once, so, hey, maybe we can play this stuff live. It’s an interesting idea. Like I said, why wouldn’t I do it? I do all kinds of things besides Wilco and my own stuff. I love playing with different improvisers. I play with people like Scott Amendola, and with my wife Yuka, and then my own stuff, I’m starting another band besides the Singers called the Nels Cline Four. I just like to play. I love ideas that are inherently intriguing and exciting and this one is.

Full article here.