NC: On Instrumentals-I'm trying to think-there's the last piece‚ "Slipped Away‚" and on The Giant Pin‚ the last piece‚ "Watch Over Us‚" and on the new record certainly the opening track‚ "Caved-In Heart Blues" sounds like it could be the beginning of a Low record with that musical bass and drum chiming.
Yeah‚ I think that I wear my influences on my sleeve. I could go on and on. There's a lot of them. Call it connect the dots. I feel very often in my life that my‚ not just my curiosity but just absolute happenstance‚ has led me to a great inspiration and a certain kind of an awareness or perception. It's amazing-Sonic Youth has been so great about turning other people on to all kinds of other aspects of sound and culture and I feel like this connect the dots is what it's all about.
MB: That's a great point. One thing you said earlier stuck in my mind. You mentioned "Manic Depression" as being a bit of a light bulb for you in that you knew you wanted to be a guitar player after listening to that. But for me‚ as someone who goes and sees a lot of live music and sees a lot of music in bars and sees a lot of‚ you know‚ not terribly exploratory music in bars‚ that's the kind of song that you can see played by a bar band any night of the week. And I know that the original recording has a lot more than what you see when you see people play it usually. But what in there do you think inspired you and in a way to go in the direction you went as opposed to going in a direction of playing more straight rock 'n' roll? I think a lot of people who heard that song also could probably say they were inspired by it‚ but they went in a very different direction than you did.
NC: It's a good question. I did play straight rock 'n' roll around that time‚ but I didn't try to imitate Jimi Hendrix because‚ to be perfectly honest‚ I probably sucked around that time. I was only 12 years old. But beyond that‚ I didn't think it was possible to imitate Jimi Hendrix. The sound-time travel back to me being 12 and then there was no sound like that other than‚ the closest was Jeff Beck with the Yardbirds‚ which was pretty much just as magical to me just as the guitar break that George Harrison plays at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever‚" or Pete Townshend doing squalls of feedback on "I Can See For Miles." These were the kind of things that absolutely fired me up.
And so if you hear just the groove and the sound of drums in "Manic Depression‚" let alone the guitar sound and him singing along with his guitar and the controlled feedback-after the first statement in his solo‚ there's this amazing controlled feedback. Those things to a 12-year-old didn't even just sound like a guitar; they sounded like pure magic. And I think that I related more to players at that time that I could approach and I guess I ended up sounding in my earlier days a lot more like my influences of Duane Allman‚ or I used to love Peter Frampton playing in Humble Pie‚ for example. To imitate his playing. It was kind of what I considered to be this sort of more quote-unquote jazzy rock style‚ and it was kind of tasteful.
It wasn't really until much later that I kind of started to get super wiggy with effects and whatnot. I was more sort of a kind of straight player. You know‚ Jan Akkerman in Focus and Steve Howe in Yes were big for me at one point. And that was all about‚ not just a certain kind of guitar virtuosity‚ but also a manipulation of sound that all stemmed from Hendrix breaks and also Roger McQuinn from the Byrds‚ who was my first inspiration‚ and the way he used not just all kinds of amazing tones with his 12-string but then some of the reverse guitar stuff. I just loved that psychedelia. That and Indian music-I listened to that at an early age-created a sense of the mystery and magic of sound that maybe set the stage for me to not to just play straight rock my whole life.
And it's hard when innovators come along and are followed by legions of imitators because of course it always ends up being annoying and it somehow cheapens the memory of the original. It seems unavoidable that somebody comes along and copies these classics. And at the same time‚ it's acceptable to people and inspires them directly‚ and a lot of people just scratch their heads when they become so-called guitar gods or whatever. It's hard sometimes to accept them after everyone sort of‚ what do you call it‚ picks the corpse clean or something. It's very bizarre.
Just before we went on tour‚ I sat in my house and listened to Electric Ladyland for the first time in years and just sat there in tears. (laughter) It's not just like the music and the incredibly visionary aspects of it‚ but it's just like‚ oh‚ my whole damn life just rolls out in front of me. And after that then it became John Coltrane and Miles Davis‚ and people like that started…they were approachable because I think I wasn't as concerned with big rock as much as sound and ideas.
MB: Yeah‚ it's like once your ears were opened the future was very‚ very open.
NC: Yeah‚ and it's amusing to me whenever people say guitar god. You know I've heard this for a long time‚ and I think that reviewers have called me this somewhat tongue-in-cheek now for about 10 or 12 years. But part of me is kind of honored only because I'm a music fan. To feel that people like what you're doing. On the other hand‚ the idea of the guitar being singled out is of a little bit of concern to me. I just feel so lucky I'm not a trombonist. (laughter) Or a trumpet player or saxophone player. No one will ever know who they are.
MB: It's kind of like things have come full circle. What you have now is a great gig in a great rock 'n' roll band‚ where you can dip into all of the things you've done and listened to and developed over the years and have that freedom to do it in a rock 'n' roll context.
NC: Yeah‚ the Wilco thing hits on a lot of different areas‚ and it's really working my mid-teenage years so far. Really into Buffalo Springfield and even before I mentioned Humble Pie or the Faces and Bob Dylan and Neil Young and whatever‚ you know. But also the fact that I try to play a little rock feel and‚ you know‚ use some of my sonic palette here and there when it's appropriate‚ even if it's a little more feedback or something with Wilco‚ if it's appropriate.
I'm pretty much hitting on a lot of different things. And in the meantime I'm lucky enough to be able to improvise and be encouraged in that direction‚ and I don't have to make horrendous sacrifices. If I clone myself I'll be able to do everything‚ but since I'm already an identical twin I don't think I'll qualify for clone research.
MB: Yeah‚ I think your genes are pretty maxed-out at this point.
NC: (laughs)