Guthrie Govan

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Guthrie Govan
Guthrie Govan2013.jpg
Govan in November 2013
Background information
Birth nameGuthrie Govan
Born (1971-12-27) 27 December 1971 (age 46)
Chelmsford, Essex, England
GenresRock, jazz fusion, heavy metal, electronica
InstrumentsElectric Guitar
Years active1991–present
Associated actsYoung Punx, Yiorgos Fakanas, The Fellowship, GPS, Asia, Dizzee Rascal, The Aristocrats, Periphery, Steven Wilson. Douglas Docker, Hans Zimmer

Guthrie Govan (/ˈgʌvən/; born 27 December 1971) is an English virtuoso guitarist and guitar teacher, known for his work with the bands The Aristocrats, Asia, GPS, The Young Punx and The Fellowship, as well as his solo project Erotic Cakes. More recently, he has collaborated with Steven Wilson and Hans Zimmer. He is a noted guitar teacher, working with the UK magazine Guitar Techniques, Guildford's Academy of Contemporary Music, Lick Library, and formerly the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. He is the 1993 winner of Guitarist magazine's "Guitarist of the Year" competition.

Biography and early playing career[edit]

Govan began playing guitar aged three, encouraged by his father, but initially learning mainly by ear. His father taught him six chords, and introduced him to his record collection. Govan began listening to 1950s rock 'n' roll artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard; he then moved on to later eras, listening to such bands as The Beatles, Cream and Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and AC/DC, among others. He worked out chords and solos from listening to the records. Half-Scottish, Govan was also heavily influenced by Zal Cleminson, a Scottish guitarist best known for his work with the Alex Harvey Band.[1] At the age of nine, Govan and his brother Seth played guitar on a Thames Television programme called Ace Reports. At secondary school he was exposed, via older classmates, to "shred" guitarists of the time.[2] His first electric guitar was a Gibson SG, which he keeps at home.

Guthrie Govan.jpg
Guthrie govan.jpg

After leaving school, Govan studied English at the University of Oxford. He dropped out after a year to pursue a career in music. Govan states that he was torn between continuing his studies or focusing on becoming a musician; he ultimately decided to concentrate on the latter. Around this time, (by Govan's own estimation, 1991[2]) he sent demos of his work to Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records. Varney was impressed and offered him a record deal. Govan declined, despite inititiating contact in the first place. He explained that: "it was as though all I really wanted to know was that I was good enough […] I found I was getting a bit weary of the shred movement."[3]

In 1993, he won Guitarist magazine's "Guitarist of the Year" competition with his instrumental piece Wonderful Slippery Thing. A version of this song was included on his debut solo album. The demo of the track earned him a place amongst several other entrants in the live final, which he then won. In the meantime, Govan hit upon the idea of transcribing music from records professionally, and submitted the most technically difficult piece he could think of (a Shawn Lane transcription) to Guitar Techniques magazine. This earned him a job as a contributor to the magazine, ending a spell working in fast food.[2]

Guitar tuition[edit]

Govan has since worked with Guitar Techniques,[2] providing transcriptions of songs, including his own track Wonderful Slippery Thing.[4] Since the late 1990s, Govan has taught at the Guitar Institute in Acton, Thames Valley University, and the Academy of Contemporary Music. He formerly taught at Brighton Institute of Modern Music, and is invited to teach in seminars, masterclasses and clinics all around the world. In this context, he is known for his ability to teach a wide range of styles.[2] Govan has published two books on guitar playing: Creative Guitar Volume 1: Cutting Edge Techniques and Creative Guitar Volume 2: Advanced Techniques.[5][6]

Playing career in the 2000s[edit]

Asia, GPS and The Young Punx[edit]

Govan began his involvement with Asia playing on the album Aura, after the band was unable to secure the services of their first two choices for guest guitarists: Brian May or Steve Lukather. Govan explained that he was then chosen as an "affordable" option for the band, which had not experienced recent chart success. With his work on the album complete, Govan was added to the Asia line-up for the tour to support the new album. He wrote an instrumental song, Bad Asteroid, which itself was based on material from Govan's early 1990s demo. He went on to play on the band's 2004 album Silent Nation.[7]

In 2006, Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes decided to reform the band with its original 3 members. Govan and two other band members, bassist/singer John Payne and Jay Schellen, along with keyboardist Erik Norlander continued under the name Asia featuring John Payne. Govan left in mid-2009. He was replaced by virtuoso guitarist Mitch Perry, known for his work with Cher, RATT, Lita Ford, and the Michael Schenker Group, and for famously replacing Randy Rhoads in DuBrow.[8][9] Since Govan's departure from Asia featuring John Payne, they have gone on to considerable international success.[10]

Payne, Govan and Schellen also formed GPS (named after the members' initials), and after the addition of Ryo Okumoto on keyboards the band released the album Window to the Soul (2006). Most of the material on that album was written for a proposed Asia album, but was scrapped by Geoff Downes when he reunited the original line-up of Asia.[11]

Govan performs on a number of tracks on Your Music Is Killing Me, the debut album of UK electronic dance music act The Young Punx and is part of their live act. He also appears in the music video for their track Rockall.

Govan has played live guitar for Dizzee Rascal, including a performance on Later With Jools Holland.[12]

Erotic Cakes and The Fellowship[edit]

Govan's debut solo album, Erotic Cakes, was released through Cornford Records in August 2006. In the album's sleeve notes, Govan states the album is a Simpsons reference (From the Episode "Treehouse of Horror VI"); he also explains that when playing live, the band is billed as Erotic Cakes rather than simply Guthrie Govan.[13] In addition to bass by Govan's brother Seth and drumming by Pete Riley, the album features guitar solos by Richie Kotzen (whose Los Angeles studio was used to record the guitar tracks on the album) on Ner Ner and Bumblefoot on Rhode Island Shred respectively. Seth Govan and Pete Riley also complete the Erotic Cakes live band. Previous versions of Waves and Rhode Island Shred appeared on the compilation Guitar on the Edge, Vol 1. no.4 (Legato Records, 1993).[13] A version of his Guitarist of the Year winning piece, Wonderful Slippery Thing appears on the album. While this is his first album, Govan had been collaborating with drummer Pete Riley on the music since the mid-1990s.[2] Govan faced a set back after the albums were produced when several thousand copies of Erotic Cakes were stolen during a warehouse robbery and were never recovered, but the record company said that "if the thieves can sell all of the records they have a job here with us".

The Erotic Cakes band line up, with the addition of saxophonist Zak Barrett, also forms jazz-fusion band The Fellowship. The band used to play at the Bassment club in Chelmsford, Essex, every Thursday night and did so for several years. They continue to play the Bassment club to this day, normally just two or three times a year.[2][14]

Playing career in the 2010s[edit]

Govan with The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats[edit]

In late 2011, Govan announced a new tour with new band The Aristocrats, featuring Bryan Beller on bass and Marco Minnemann on the drums. Their self-titled debut album was released worldwide in September 2011, followed by Culture Clash in 2013. In January 2015 The Aristocrats released their second live CD/DVD Culture Clash Live! through all official channels and a very special so-called official self-released bootleg double CD Secret Show - Live In Osaka which is only available in their own webstore and during the live concerts at the merchandise table. The band's 3rd official studio album was released on 23 June 2015, and its title is Tres Caballeros.[15]


In 2013, Govan played a series of gigs with Paul Gilbert. He played guitar on Steven Wilson's third and fourth solo album and as of October 2013 was a full-time touring member of Wilson's band until April 2015. He is also one of the guest stars on Michael Angelo Batio's album Intermezzo, released in November 2013. Guthrie was also a guest guitarist on one song, Electric in My Veins, in Nick Johnston's solo album, In a Locked Room on the Moon.[16]

In 2016/17 Guthrie Govan has toured the world with Hans Zimmer live. He also has performed some solo shows in India and Bangladesh (with bassist Mohini Dey, drummer Gino Banks) and selected dates in Japan with bassist Mohini Dey, drummer Senri Kawaguchi and keyboard player Akira Ishiguro. Guthrie called those Japanese solo shows one of the must fun concerts he ever did.

Govan has consistently stated that he will eventually record another solo album, but has yet to announce when said album will be recorded and released. He's said "[To record the album, I need to] carve out a big chunk of calendar and say no to everything else. Some crazy things have gotten in the way..."

Influences and technique[edit]

Govan is known for his virtuoso command of the guitar, due to both his technical ability and proficiency in various styles. A 2006 interview hailed him as the "virtuoso's virtuoso" and said of him, "Guthrie Govan is recognised by his peers as possibly the scariest guitarist alive. Combining an unparalleled technical ability with a mastery of almost all styles, Guthrie is comfortable comping in a traditional jazz combo as he is performing death-defying 'shred' guitar. Coupled with some seriously funky grooves and an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music styles, a wonderfully developed slide style and improvisational abilities to match anyone, he may just be the most complete guitarist out there".

Govan's earliest influences were Jimi Hendrix and Cream-era Eric Clapton; as such he describes himself as coming from a "blues rock background".[2] While he is "wary" of 1980s technique driven guitar music ("shred") he cites the imagination of Steve Vai (as well as Frank Zappa, with whom Vai played) and the passion of Yngwie Malmsteen. Jazz and fusion elements are an important part of his style: he cites Joe Pass, Jeff Beck and John Scofield as pivotal influences in this respect.[3] He also admires a lot of modern guitar players with different styles such as Derek Trucks and Alex Machacek. Although a very able player in a diversity of styles, Govan has a distinct playing style typically characterised by long, smooth runs often using chromatic notes to "fill in gaps", his fast and fluid tapping up and down the neck, funky slapping, and occasional use of extreme effects. Govan has said that the guitar is simply a "typewriter" for getting a musical message across. Due to his experience in listening to music and working out riffs, Govan states that he is often able to visualise playing in his head without even playing and said that he pretty much has all of the notes in his head before writing something or learning to play something to produce the sounds that he wants.

Govan's MySpace profile lists quotes from various guitarists;[17] elsewhere, fellow virtuosos Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert have praised Govan's playing.[18][19] Satriani said "What sets Guthrie apart, is that no matter what he's doing—picking, tapping, slapping, playing legato, whatever—he mixes everything up gracefully and absolutely nails each approach. And all the while the music sounds natural." Gilbert said "Guthrie Govan gives shred a good name. It's absolutely heartwarming to hear someone play super fast and have musical depth to match. What a breath of fresh air."[20]


Guthrie Govan's Aristocrats pedalboard (US tour)

He used various Suhr Guitars: three different Guthrie Govan Signature Model guitars, three custom Standards, a Modern 24-fret model, a Classic and Classic T.[21] He plays Vigier fretless guitar. Govan also has used Cornford amps: the sleeve notes of Erotic Cakes state he has used an RK100, MK50 and Hellcat.[2] In the last European tour of 2010 and 2011 he played Brunetti amplifiers (CustomWork Mercury 50) like his friend Dave Kilminster, and he recorded live his last CD/DVD during the Lapsus (Torino, Italy) show on 8 December 2011. With "The Aristocrats" he was using Suhr Badger 30 amps live as well as a CAA PT-100 and the Badger 30 on the Album. In 2013, Govan has started using amplifiers designed and produced by Victory Amplification for both Steven Wilson and the Aristocrats tours.[22]

On 17 December 2011, Govan and the Erotic Cakes band had their gear stolen after a show in Rome. Among the equipment stolen were Brunetti Mercury heads, a 1989 Warwick Streamer bass, and yet-to-be-edited footage from the show played at Lapsus, Torino in Italy.[23]

In October 2012, Govan was seen using Charvel guitars on tour, however it was confirmed to be a prototype and will be used throughout The Aristocrats' current tour. Govan recently stated that he and Suhr parted ways, and that Suhr would no longer carry his signature guitar, however, he also mentioned that he did not have an endorsement deal with any brand.[24]

In July 2013, Charvel made it official that they had joined forces with Govan,[25] who had been using their guitars for a few months. Govan's latest prototype sports a caramelised basswood body, birdseye maple top, a caramelised maple neck, Sperzel locking tuners, custom pick-ups by Michael Frank-Braun and an original Floyd Rose bridge without fine tuners. In January 2014 at the NAMM Show, Charvel officially introduced the Charvel USA Guthrie Govan Signature Model in two versions: one with a Birdseye Maple top and the other with a Flame Maple top.

Guthrie uses Rotosound guitar strings, notably the R10 nickel on steel set, 10-46 gauge.

Partial discography[edit]

Solo Albums[edit]

Jamtrackcentral backing tracks[edit]

With Asia[edit]

With The Aristocrats[edit]

Studio albums
Live albums

With Steven Wilson[edit]

With GPS[edit]

  • Window to the Soul (2006)
  • Live In Japan (2006)

With Docker's Guild[edit]

  • The Mystic Technocracy – Season 1: The Age of Ignorance (2012)


Movie Soundtracks[edit]


  1. ^ "The Players' Player Interview". Total Guitar. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Owen Edwards, (30 August 2006). "Guthrie Govan Interview: The Virtuoso's Virtuoso". All Out Guitar. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  3. ^ a b Neville Martin, 'Guthrie Govan: Artist Interview', Guitar Techniques, November 2006, pp. 14–15
  4. ^ Guthrie Govan, "Guthrie Govan: Wonderful Slippery Thing", Guitar Techniques, April 2005, pp. 56–64
  5. ^ "Creative Guitar: Cutting Edge Techniques v. 1 (Paperback)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  6. ^ "Creative Guitar: Advanced Technqiues v.2: Advanced Technqiues Vol 2 (Paperback)". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  7. ^ "Guitar Icon GUTHRIE GOVAN Talks ASIA In New Interview - "They Kind Of Faded Out Of My Life, Rather Than I Left Them"". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  8. ^ "BOBBY BLOTZER's RATT Adds Guitarist MITCH PERRY, Bassist BRAD LANG". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. 2016-08-14. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  9. ^ "Neh Records Mitch Perry Biography". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  10. ^ "Touring Asia: Longtime frontman John Payne brings own band version | version, john, alton - Features - The Telegraph". 2011-07-23. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  11. ^ "GPS Interview". Archived from the original on 9 October 2007.
  12. ^ "Guthrie Govan with Dizzee Rascal". Guitar Techniques. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  13. ^ a b Erotic Cakes, Cornford Records, 2006
  14. ^ Warren Timmis, (6 July 2009). "Martin Taylor, Stanton Moore and Guthrie Govan for Bath Guitar Festival". Jazzwise. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  15. ^ "The Aristocrats | "Tres Caballeros" Is Out NOW!". 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  16. ^ "In A Locked Room On The Moon | Nick Johnston". Bandcamp. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Guthrie Govan MySpace Page". Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  18. ^ Owen Edwards, (6 March 2007). "Joe Satriani – Instrumental Hero – G3 2007 Update". All Out Guitar. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  19. ^ "Fall In Love With Paul Gilbert Again". Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  20. ^ "Guthrie Govan Takes the Reins in Prog Rock's Rowdy New Democracy". Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Suhr Artists: Guthrie Govan". Suhr Guitars. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  22. ^ "The Aristocrats | Gear". Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Guthrie Govan's Gear Stolen in Rome". Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  24. ^ "Showpost". Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Charvel Joins Forces With Guthrie Govan | Charvel Guitars". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  26. ^ "Lee Ritenour: 6 String Theory". Discogs.
  27. ^ "DEWA BUDJANA Zentuary reviews". Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  28. ^ "Guest Musicians". New Ayreon Album. Retrieved 29 December 2016.

External links[edit]