Graham Clise

Bay Area Blaster
Graham Clise
Graham Clise: Jordan Joseffer

Graham Clise is one of the most-heralded underground rock guitarists of the past 15 years. A mashup of Chuck Berry, BOC’s Buck Dharma, and Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, his style is unique and relentless.

Clise plays in a half-dozen groups, but his main gig is with scuzz rockers Lecherous Gaze, which will release its new album, One Fifteen, in January.

What gear did you use on One Fifteen?

For the majority of the guitar tracks I used a 1970 Dan Armstrong guitar with stock Rock Treble pickup, which is a low-output single-coil. My main rhythm amp was a’68 200-watt Marshall Major. That amp sounds really great and is horrifyingly loud. They’ve got this clarity I haven’t found in other Marshall amps. But it’s super-unreliable – constantly blowing up on me, which is highly annoying, especially at a gig. But it sounds awesome, so I think it’s worth the hassle. For the leads I used a ’69 100-watt Marshall Super Bass into a cab with 65-watt Celestions, which gave me a really clean, clear sound but still kept it aggressive, which for me is always a hard balance to find in the studio.

How about pedals?

I went with an Analog Man Beano Boost treble booster for the lead tones and a King of Tone boost for the rhythm.

What’s your live rig?

The Dan Armstrong, the Marshall Major and Super Bass, a ’73 Marshall Super Lead, and three cabs with 65-watt speakers. I’ve got a King of Tone pedal going to two of the amps that are on at all times for my basic rhythm channel. When the lead loop is engaged in my pedalboard, it first hits a treble booster, then into a delay set to a slight slap-back, then into a Zvex Super Hard On pedal for added headroom, and finally out to the third amp that comes on when I step on a switching system. So, essentially it’s like having a 100-watt half-stack as a boost pedal. Having that much stage volume is really a sound guy’s worst nightmare.

The band’s sound has expanded with One Fifteen. “Blind Swordsman” and its opening acoustic guitar riff is a good example.

Our singer, Zaryan, had this sort of Ennio Morricone/Spaghetti-Western-sounding guitar lick that I really liked. It set the vibe for the whole song and the other parts just came together pretty effortlessly. We spent a lot of time layering different acoustic and electric guitar parts. It sounds pretty different from a lot of our older songs just because we were messing around with lots of different tones and dynamics this time. We even have a little synth stuff on this record. There’s a lot more experimenting. It’s less typical meat-and potatoes rock.

Your style is usually described as classic-rock-meets-hardcore. Do you think that’s accurate?

Yeah. I’ve always been super-obsessed with ’60s and ’70s rock and late-’70s punk, especially the English stuff. When my old band first started touring, playing all these brutal basements and squats all across the states and Europe, we’d attempt to play like sped-up Blue Oyster Cult and Hendrix-type riffs to all these confused and annoyed punks. It was really offensive to a lot of people! But I think things have changed a lot. These days, kids are way more open-minded and into a wider selection of music. The internet has made it much easier for younger people to get hip to cool old bands.

Which guitarists have influenced you the most?

As a kid, I saw Bl’ast play and was blown away by how intense they were. Mike Neider’s playing instantly inspired me. My other big influences are Larry Wallace and Paul Rudolph of the Pink Fairies. To me, that’s the perfect band. They had that ’60s west coast psychedelic sound, only through a UK filter and really nasty-sounding. 

Also, for the past five-plus years, I’ve been the guitar tech for J Mascis, and he’s taught me so much. Just getting to pick his brain and geek out on gear over the course of all the tours has vastly improved my tone. I’ve really gained a lot of knowledge from hanging out and working with him.

Lecherous Gaze has played some exotic places. Do you have a favorite?

Australia is our favorite place to tour. We all really love that country and the two times we’ve gone have been a blast. In early 2016, we did a really fun southeast Asian tour of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Any broken-guitar horror stories?

Luckily, not yet! I make sure to never check my guitar when flying. If you get a small enough case, you can take your guitar on the plane, or at the very least check it at the gate, which is a much safer way to go.

This article originally appeared in VG January 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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