Q: WHAT SIGN ARE YOU?
Capricorn, which I think in astrological terms translates as "secretly psycho".
Q: SO, HOW DID YOU HOOK UP WITH WILCO?
I met Jeff Tweedy in 1996 when The Geraldine Fibbers opened for Golden Smog (a "fun" side project made up of members of The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Run Westy Run, et al). The Fibbers really cottoned to Mr. Tweedy, seeming to single him out as "special". I'm rather chagrined to say that I didn't really notice him any more than the other fellows. It mostly sounded like well-selected cover songs and familiar-sounding songs in the key of 'G' to me! Sorry... Anyway, they were swell cats. Carla (Bozulich - Fibbers leader) stayed in touch with Jeff, and when we would play Chicago, Jeff would come to the gigs and/or lend me gear (as all of you who have read "AMP DU JOUR" know, I don't usually travel with an amp if the tour involves flying in some way). What a generous and friendly sort he seemed! Little did I realize that he was kind of keeping tabs on me. When Carla. with yours truly in tow, opened for Wilco a few times in 2003, we all became better acquainted, and I also met the rest of Wilco. It was delightful! Glenn Kotche really grabbed the attention of my comrades in Carla's band, not only because of his noticeable skills, but also because of his predilection for playing WEIRD IMPROVISED MUSIC in his spare time. Too long story shorter, when Leroy Bach left Wilco after recording "A Ghost Is Born", it was deemed intriguing to ask me aboard. Jeff called Carla first, sounding her out. He knew that any involvement in Wilco on my part would kind of take me out of any serious Carla touring scenarios. But Carla and I both knew that this was a great opportunity. Right?!?! At first, in deference to the seemingly monolithic enterprise that is Wilco, I told Jeff that I should come out to Chicago and see if there was any chemistry. You know, see if it was a better concept than a reality. But after one particularly long and in-depth phone call with Mr Tweedy (there had been a few), it was becoming apparent that this was already kind of working! Now, after months of Wilcoid endeavor, I must say that we were right - - it's working! This is a real pleasure, to be sure.
Q: IS IT HARD FOR A JAZZ/EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC WHORE TO PLAY REAL SONGS IN A REAL BAND LIKE WILCO?
No. I started out playing rock'n roll in bands. BANDS. With my twin brother Alex. The first one was Homogenized Goo, and we played all original material (3 songs) at our elementary school graduation. Set list: Flying Frogs, Chewing Gum Minds, Non-Stop Chicken Flight (inst.). Those poor kids... After that, we bacame an all-instrumental band that one might now refer to as a "jam band" and changed our name to Liquid Blue. Then Toe Queen Love in Junior High. We were actually good, and it was here where I started learn how to play normally by watching and listening to the other guitarist in the band, Bill Watts. He could play just like Clapton, but his hero was Terry Kath. My heroes at the time - aside from Hendrix - were Stephen Stills, Duane Allman, Johnny Winter, Steve Winwood...Also Dave Edmunds and Paul Kossoff seemed pretty cool. Then high school happened and so did my interest in "jazz", but we still had a BAND. It was comprised of Alex 'n me (of course) and two sociopaths named Lee Kaplan and (later) Michael Preussner. We were all-insrumental and hardly ever played gigs. What do you expect? We were playing original jazz/prog mega-opuses and the odd Miles Davis or John McLaughlin cover, were in high school, and our only friends practically were the two sociopaths! Anyway, that band was called variously Frog Prints, Android Funnel, and finally, Glirendree (the name of some evil spirit in a sci-fi story that Lee was sort of obsessed with). We played once a year during lunch at our school, and one or two other gigs. Was this the end of BANDS and the beginning of freelance free jazz freakdom? NO! Alex and I were in an acoustic classical/jazz group called Quartet Music (with Eric von Essen and Jeff Gauthier) for ELEVEN YEARS. Concurrent with this and my work with recognized artists such as Charlie Haden and Julius Hemphill, I was in a ROCK BAND called BLOC for almost EIGHT YEARS WITH THE SAME FIVE PEOPLE! Steuart Liebig, Camille Henry, Nick Kirgo, and Chris Mancinelli. I list the names not just in tribute but because now you all can look up these people on the Net and find out their favorite color, shoe size, etc. And whether or not I speak the truth, I suppose. And whether they hate my guts! I had really long hair, BLOC got signed and immediately dropped, blah blah blah. THEN I played in the slightly more ballyhooed combos like The Geraldine Fibbers, Mike Watt and the Crew of the Flying Saucer, Mike Watt and the Black Gang... These are BANDS. I am really sort of a BAND dude. And a jazz/experimental music whore, but that music's methodologies differs greatly from ROCK in many ways, does it not? I love to play. Oh, and incidentally, my own groups Nels Cline Trio and The Nels Cline Singers are bands, each running around 6 or 7 years (long may The Singers wave - maybe we can hit the 10 year mark).
Q: SO, WHO IS THE OTHER NEW GUY IN WILCO?
His name is Pat Sansone. He's a Southerner - from Meridian, Mississippi. He's lived in New Orleans (where he met Wilco bassist John Stirratt), New York City... He's played with a lot of folks like Dave Pirner, Joseph Arthur, and he's in John Stirratt's band The Autumn Defense. This explains his easy assimilation into Wilcoworld. I'm not sure how many instruments Patrick plays, but he is accomplished on keyboards (both "real" and the kinds one programs), guitar, bass, and he has a SWEET voice! Plus, he can produce/mix. Watch this site for an upcoming interview with the colorful Mr. Patrick Sansone.
Q: WHAT WAS IT LIKE PLAYING WITH WILLIE NELSON?
I never did. Carla (Bozulich) went down to Austin on amazingly short notice when someone from Willie's staff called to tell her that Willie was home and wanted to overdub on her version of "Red Headed Stranger". My friend John Rosenfelder was working for Willie's label a bit then and was hanging out a lot with him at various points during Willie's tours. He had played Willie a rough mix Carla's record (which is essentially Carla plus my band The Singers plus Jenny Scheinman on some tracks), and he had said, "I'd like to play along with THAT!" And so he did. I was out with the Scott Amendola Band or something and couldn't go with her. Damn! It's just as well. The label that was originally to release the record wouldn't front/add to the budget the money for Carla to fly to Austin. I think the record - recorded in two days - had run up a tab of $3,000 at the time, and the few hundred more dollars to get Willie Nelson on the record FOR FREE was deemed "excessive". Both Carla and I were quite poor then (OK, she still is), so just up and flying off somewhere without advance booking rates was actually untenable. At least she went for it (and eventually parted ways amicably with the unmentioned label)! But I never played with Willie. He sang and played Trigger on 3 or 4 songs. He replaced one of my solos on the record, and I couldn't be happier. He's a national treasure.
Q: HOW DO YOU KEEP ALL OF THE MUSIC YOU PLAY STRAIGHT?! ISN'T IT HARD? CAN YOU REMEMBER IT ALL?
Truthfully, it's not really all that difficult. Strangely, I have begun to have to spend little skull sessions relearning certain of my own pieces - especially ones that are infrequently played or ones that I revised 20 times (example: "Square King", a Singers piece with little riffs that I re-wrote dozens of times). At first the Wilco songbook was a challenge, not just because the basic song list that I started with was about 64 songs, but also because a few of the songs have similar ("classic") chord structures. I couldn't always remember what key these songs were in, so I found myself testing notes with the guitar neck next to my ear onstage! Don't be scared - I can't go back and play you the whole Gregg Bendian's Interzone songbook from memory! However, as a rather poor music reader, memory has been an essential tool. As for shifting gears gear-wise or aesthetically, it doesn't really seem very difficult. In The Singers' music, the hardest thing is setting the gain structure for my many effects boxes (very different from the Wilco parameters), and remembering to set certain effects ahead of time (like harmonizer settings, for example).
WHO'S OLDER, YOU OR YOUR BROTHER? [Referring to Alex Cline]
We're the same age.
Q: HOW IS YOUR BROTHER DOING?
Alex and his wife adopted a Chinese girl in 2004. She's two years old now. He's still playing, but they've got their hands full! And she's adorable... Thanks for asking!
Q: ARE THE GERALDINE FIBBERS EVER GOING TO GET BACK TOGETHER?
Highly unlikely. Kevin Fitzgerald plays with Eleni Mandell and also with The Circle Jerks. Bill Tutton has gone on and off the music scene here in L.A. (I think he's playing out a bit again) and no longer owns an upright bass. I don't think (original guitarist) Daniel Keenan plays any more. Who knows about all the violinists?! I'm in about 5 things besides Wilco. And Carla has one new band (The Night Porter) and other projects in the wings. Plus, hasn't almost every band that ever existed gotten back together (sometimes with only one original member!) to cash in? It may be time to rebel against this trend!....
Q: DO YOU TEACH?
No. But if I have the time, we can hang out and talk music and I'll answer any questions I can. I never had a good guitar teacher, and never one for long either. Consequently,I don't think I'd know the first thing about being a good teacher. It's an art! I learned everything pretty much wrong or in the wrong order. I have almost no concept of technique, how to get it, etc. I have little or no discipline. So you see..... No. Sorry.
HOW DID YOU, Y'KNOW, LEARN ALL THAT STUFF, DEVELOP YOUR OWN STYLE?
To be honest, i don't really know. I have many influences, many fascinations. And my generation (i was 12 years old in 1968) was, to my mind, heavily affected by the amazing foment of the late sixties. There was so much electricity in the air that i, as a youngster, could only absorb it in the most instinctual way. And music had fewer boundaries -- soul was psychedelic psychedelia was soulful, and Coltrane was blowing free...I am virtually self-taught on the guitar. All i've done is try to make sound that has an affect on me, to listen, react, and be authentic in the moment. I've never had any real direction, any career design, and i've never been very disciplined. But i've always known that i want to play, to feel sound, all-enveloping sound. My main strength is that i never gave up. It remains my only advice -- never give up, 'cause you don't know what tomorrow may bring.
Q: WHY DO YOU USE ALL THOSE EFFECTS PEDALS? DON'T THEY DEGRADE YOUR SOUND?
I just hear lots of sounds and colors. These sounds and colors in my head are compelling to me both emotionally and intellectually. Besides, i learned long ago that i seem to have a weird aptitude for using them. And yes, they do mess up one's sound. But then again, i just started equating tone and the proper equipment a few years ago! Before that i was just trying to play notes i liked, i had virtually no scientific "tonemeister" mentality. Being allowed to age and grow is indeed a blessing!
Q: YOU'RE LEFT-HANDED BUT YOU PLAY WITH YOUR RIGHT. WHY??
Believe it or not i have met many musicians who are left handed but play right handed (recently, Andrea Parkins, forced to play those right handed keyboard instruments). If my brain was working i could come up with 5 or 6 guitarists or electric bassists that i know with this affliction but don't you think it makes sense anyway since the left hand does all the hard stuff? Personally i just picked up the guitar right handed to begin with as did the other people whose names elude me.
Q: IF YOU COULD COME BACK IN ANOTHER LIFE AS SOMETHING OR SOMEONE ELSE, WHAT OR WHO WOULD IT BE?
My mom used to say she'd like to come back as "a beautiful blonde of limited intelligence". Setting that aside, maybe a Hindustani slide guitarist (Oh no! More guitar?!?). Any other ideas would be too revealing of my damaged psyche.