5 Seconds of Summer’s Michael Clifford Plays His Favorite Riffs
We all want to be rock stars when we first pick up the guitar, but it's not as simple as strapping on the instrument. Loudwire's Josh Bernstein chatted with 5 Seconds of Summer's Michael Clifford for this edition of Gear Factor, powered by Sweetwater, and while showcasing his custom Gibson Michael Clifford Melody Maker, the guitarist also spoke about his persistence at learning the instrument, leading to his career.
Clifford recalled taking a lesson on Day One, with the teacher tasking him with playing a choir song, but after struggling mightily, he thought about quitting. "I remember sitting on my floor and I couldn’t play it, so I put the guitar down, and my dad was like, ‘Michael, you can’t just quit. You’ve been playing for one day and you’re not even going to see this through.’ So he managed to help me and convinced me to keep playing.”
The guitarist eventually continued to get better to the point where it all made sense for him. “I feel like you hit this thing when you’ve been playing for like a year or a year-and-a-half where you have this moment where it clicks. I know people say that a lot and you think, ‘Yeah, that’s bullshit,’ but there was this moment and I remember I was playing this song called ‘I Was Wrong’ by Social Distortion. I was playing it, but at the end of the song, I was like, ‘I get it. Holy crap.’ I understand the shapes. I understand the chords and I understand the music theory of it.”
During this chat, which took place at the 2019 NAMM convention, Clifford proudly displayed his dark black Joan Jett Melody Maker.
“I went into the Gibson office and they had a bunch of Les Pauls and super expensive guitars laying around, and I walked over to the Joan Jett one that was black and white, and I’m like, ‘What’s this one?’ ‘Oh, it’s a Joan Jett custom that’s like 10 years old and it’s one that she made a limited run of,” and I’m like, ‘Hmm. I’ll take that one.’ And since then I've never really played any other guitar.'"
As this is Gear Factor, and we like to see the musicians play a little, Clifford pointed to Green Day's "American Idiot" as one of his favorite riffs. “I can’t even imagine how hard it was to think of, and it’s one in a million that you’d write a riff like ‘American Idiot,’ but it’s so simple that I bet he wrote it in like 30 seconds," said Clifford. "When you have those sparks of genius … it doesn’t necessarily have to be so complicated.”
He also offers up bits of "Youngblood" and "Jet Black Heart" from the 5 Seconds of Summer catalog, stating of the latter, “I think that there’s something magical about the way that these chords kind of take you to this place.”
If you're inspired to pick up a guitar, much like Michael did all those years ago, make sure to visit Sweetwater.com for all your gear needs. 5 Seconds of Summer have a little time off before their touring year picks up again. They'll hit the road with the Chainsmokers in September. See their dates here.
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