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Guthrie Govan - Reaching New Heights

Issue #13

Time isn't the only thing that has helped Guthrie become the player he is today
Jamie Humphries

Following our exclusive live footage of The Aristocrats in Gi 12, Jamie Humphries meets the one and only Guthrie Govan

As regular Gi readers will know, Guthrie Govan is very much a part of the family here at Guitar Interactive and a long term staple of the British guitar scene, so it gives us great pleasure to see him finally getting the international recognition he deserves. Whether you know him as the “saviour of shred” or “the best guitarist alive” it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide from Guthrie’s ever increasing popularity!

Many guitarists will first have come across Guthrie via his superb instructional material with LickLibrary, or maybe from transcriptions for various UK magazines, or maybe even as the 1993 Guitarist of the year winner - which he stormed through with his song Wonderful Slippery Thing. From that launch platform he spent many years working on his own material and gigging weekly with his Jazz fusion project The Fellowship.

Time isn’t the only thing that has helped Guthrie become the player he is today, in fact his environment was just as influential on his development as a musician. As Guthrie himself admits, his parents were musical, but “more musical enthusiasts rather than accomplished practitioners of the art; they had a great record collection.” The result of this was a broad musical education, being exposed to everything from The Beatles and Eric Clapton to Miles Davis and Joe Pass. It was during these formative years that Guthrie learnt to listen to music properly, which led to him replicating all the subtle nuances like vibrato, timing, tone, volume and beyond This is worth mentioning because the best way to reach the same sort of musicality as Guthrie is to start at the beginning. Remember, that this is a man who’s done incredible covers of both T Bone Walker and Steve Vai! It’s all in the details. You can dig into some of Guthrie’s thoughts in his widely popular Creative Guitar books.

It’s worth understanding that, as you’ll know if you’ve met him, Guthrie and his guitar are very much one entity and at times you wonder if he’d be happier to communicate with just those six strings. This is the sort of thing you would expect from someone who has no memory of starting the guitar - although he is told he did so at three. He has no understanding of a time before the guitar, so when you think about it, to Guthrie his guitar has been around pretty much as long as he’s been talking.

It was 2006 that Guthrie was treated to his first real international exposure, being invited to join Asia featuring John Payne. This was a massive project and saw him playing to packed venues around the world. He featured on two live records and two studio albums with the band before stepping aside for original guitarist, Steve Howe. The next step in his career was to continue on with John Payne and Jay Schellen to form GPS, another progressive rock outfit where Guthrie got to shine as the guitar star he should be. The band put out one album, Window to the Soul, in 2006 but then went quiet, though it was announced recently that they will have a two DVD and four CD set called Two Seasons: Live in Japan, available soon.

From there things finally just seemed to take off for Guthrie. The release of his debut album Erotic Cakes became a cult classic on the guitar scene, he gained worldwide exposure around this point on YouTube due to his outrageous improvisation techniques and a performance of his composition, Fives. Erotic Cakes encompasses many facets of Guthrie’s playing, from beautiful ballads like Eric, to mock Country picking on Rhode Island Shred; there’s something for most fans of guitar here because, despite the other worldly playing, you still listen to a song like Waves and marvel at its melody.

Guthrie’s next projects were the more electronic and grime-based outlets of The Young Punx and hip hop superstar Dizzee Rascal. In fact he can be seen in the video for The Young Punx Rockall (as a demonic pirate ghost no less!) and a whole host of Dizzee Rascal outings, including BBC Live Lounge, Later with Jools Holland and The Electric Proms. The Proms show is definitely one to watch, if only for Guthrie’s solo on Bulls on Parade, where he manages to make his guitar sound like R2D2 on drugs!

Gear wise Guthrie is a man rooted in the classics. For the longest time he was seen playing pretty conventional fare ranging from Strat and Tele-style guitars and models from PRS and JJ Retro as well as his trusty Gibson 335. In more recent years though, he has become associated with Suhr. If you look at Guthrie’s Rasmus signature model, what you have is a modern take on the classics. At a glance it might call to mind Ibanez and ESP, but in reality you have a mahogany body and neck combined with humbuckers, so it actually sits more in line with an SG than a superstrat. From that starting point, he has added a few bells and whistles, like a trem system and five- way switching so he can get all of his Straty tones. And don’t forget (as if you ever could!) the sheer jaw-dropping spectacle of Guthrie playing a Vigier Surfreter fretless guitar. Guitar Interactive scored a world exclusive back in issue nine when he dropped into our studio to demonstrate his mastery of this astonishing instrument. If you haven’t seen it, prepare to be awestruck! As for amps and pedals, Guthrie has opted for both Cornford and Suhr over the years, both of which are based on the classic Marshall circuits, so you can’t go wrong with an old Marshall. When it comes to pedals though, the bill really racks up as Guthrie likes to experiment with anything and everything. His smaller board consists of wah, auto wah, delay, chorus and a boost, but when there are no limits, expect phasers, ring modulators and anything that can make a funny noise!

As we saw in Gi 12, Guthrie’s next project was alongside Marco Minnemann and Bryan Beller in the rock fusion supergroup, The Aristocrats - and if you haven’t, check out our live video of the band in that issue!

The Aristocrats project is a real coming of age for Guthrie in terms of recording, reaching new highs in terms of melody and groove, not to mention his best tone to date.

Which brings us to the present day, and it’s clear that Guthrie has become one of the most in demand players on the scene. This year has seen him guest on Periphery’s much anticipated second album and, most recently, join Steve Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) for his upcoming third album.

What next? Well he recently recorded guitars for the new Steven Wilson album in EastWest studios, Hollywood (with Alan Parsons engineering) is now formally a member of the SW band and “...will be doing copious touring with them throughout 2013”, he tells us. Meanwhile, the Aristocrats are busily touring Europe, while December 2012 sees the release of the band’s live album Boing! January 2013? Fully booked for recording the Aristocrat’s second studio album. All that and still he’s in demand for sessions, with recent activity including playing the bulk of the guitar parts on The Mystic Technocracy by Docker’s Guild. Also he’s been playing guest solos on Periphery’s Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal and soon-to-be-released albums by Richard Hallebeek and Marco Minnemann.

Busy? In demand? A phenomenon? You might say so.

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