Six Questions with Bleached Guitarist Jessie Clavin

(Image credit: Jeremy Danger)

We recently caught up with Bleached guitarist Jessie Clavin. The Los Angeles punk-pop rockers' latest album, Welcome the Worms, is out now on Dead Oceans.

What inspired you to first pick up a guitar?
My first instrument was actually bass. My dad is a guitar player so we had guitars around the house. I was really young, like in seventh grade, and I was showing interest by picking up his guitar here and there. So he bought me a bass.

I would sit for hours learning a traditional blues scale in G or something, and he’d sit there with his guitar and just shred. [laughs] I feel like he got me a bass just so he could have someone to shred to! I got into guitar when I eventually got good at bass and I just wanted to get crazy. I was getting into punk, and my sister [Bleached singer/guitarist Jennifer Clavin] and I would get a new record every week at Headline Records [in Hollywood].

I was a huge fan of Minor Threat. That was actually my first record I brought home. That’s where I got into power chords and playing as fast as I could play. But the one thing I did have in common with my dad was that we were both huge into Jimi Hendrix. I first heard Hendrix when my dad took us to some work party. My dad used to work at [noted Hollywood recording studio] Cherokee Studios back in the Seventies and there was some reunion party. I was really little but there was this footage on repeat in one of the console rooms of Hendrix playing the “Little Wing” solo. I was like, “What is this!?” I stood there the whole party watching it.

What was your first guitar?
First it was a white Strat, which got stolen. Then I played a Tele, which I liked, but it still felt like something was missing. Then I found the Les Paul. Now I’m set. I like Epiphones and Gibsons. Actually my first bass was an Epiphone SG, too.

What was the first song you ever learned?
On bass it was Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” For guitar it was pretty random; it was “Freight Train” by Elizabeth Cotten. I was younger and playing blues on bass. I was into folk artists and she caught my attention because she was singing and playing a guitar left-handed. It was amazing and felt so powerful. I was also trying to play and sing at the same time, and that is a really good song for someone to learn because it’s so powerful and it’s not too hard.

What do you remember about the first gig you ever played?
I remember that we didn’t know that you needed a tuner with you at all times. [laughs] We were playing in the valley and I guess we thought we could just tune and then go to the show. We were playing this drum store, where I actually took a drum lesson once when I was really young. When we played, my sister did not even look at the audience. She wore sunglasses and had her back to them. I was playing bass at the time and we were so out of tune. It was so crazy, but people liked it! I remember a lot of dancing. What’s your favorite piece of gear? I’m really into my [Fulltone] Plimsoul pedal. I can control the levels, there’s a high-cut and I can really muscle out some of the solos and then sustain them. It’s really cool for solos.

What advice would you give to young guitar players?
My dad used to tell me to play until your fingers bleed. [laughs] And that would actually happen when I was playing bass. We’d be touring and there were actual shows when my fingers were blistering and bleeding. At first it seems so hard and you just kinda want to put the instrument down and do something else. But just take things slow at first. Still to this day when I’m doing a solo I play it very slowly at first. So I’d say it’s very important to somehow find the motivation to keep playing and to practice your parts slowly.

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Brad Angle

Brad is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and video producer. He is the former content director of Revolver magazine and executive editor of Guitar World. His work has appeared in Vice, Guitar Aficionado, Inked and more. He’s also a die-hard Les Paul player who wishes he never sold his 1987 Marshall Silver Jubilee half stack.