Guthrie Govan: Fives
Guthrie has really mastered the art of playing horizontally across the fretboard. Also to note is his deft switching from a "blues" type thumb position over the top of the neck to a more classical position to facilitate the long stretches. At 2:40, he transitions to a nice bell-like clean tone and finger plucked chords before dipping back into the soaring melody.
Guthrie Govan Bio
Guthrie Govan (born 27 December 1971 in Chelmsford, Essex, England) is a guitarist known for his work with the bands Asia (2001–2006), GPS, The Young Punx and The Fellowship as well as Erotic Cakes (a vehicle for his own music). He is a noted guitar teacher through his work with the UK magazine Guitar Techniques, Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music and currently the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. He is also a former winner of Guitarist magazine's "Guitarist of the Year" competition.
Biography and early playing career
Govan began playing guitar aged three, encouraged by his dad but initially learning mainly by ear. At the age of nine he and his brother Seth Govan 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.
After leaving school, Govan read English at the University of Oxford, though he left after a year to pursue a career in music. Around this time (by Govan’s own estimation, 1991) he sent demos of his work to Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records. Varney was impressed and offered him a record deal; ultimately however, Govan declined. Regarding his reasons he has explained: "it was as though all I really wanted to know was that I was good enough […] I found I was getting a bit wary of the shred movement."
In 1993 he won Guitarist magazine’s "Guitarist of the Year" competition with his instrumental piece Wonderful Slippery Thing (a version of which would eventually appear 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. Subsequently, he submitted a sample transcription (of a Shawn Lane piece) to Guitar Techniques magazine; this earned him a job as a contributor to the magazine, ending a spell working in fast food.
Govan has since worked with Guitar Techniques, Since the late 1990s, Govan has taught at the Guitar Institute in Acton, Thames Valley University, and the Academy of Contemporary Music; he currently teaches at Brighton Institute of Modern Music. In this context, he is known for his ability to teach a wide range of styles.
Playing career in the 2000s
Asia, GPS and The Young Punx
Govan began his involvement with Asia playing on the album Aura. With his work on the album complete, Govan was added to the Asia line-up for the tour to support the new album. Bad Asteroid, an instrumental in the live shows, was a Govan original composition; it dates back to his early 1990s demo. He went on to play on the band’s 2004 album Silent Nation.
In 2006, Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes left to reform an earlier Asia line-up; Govan and the other two band members, John Payne and Jay Schellen, formed GPS (named after the members' initials). After the addition of Ryo Okumoto on keyboards the band released the album Window to the Soul (2006).
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 had been a member of Asia featuring John Payne with Payne, Schellen, and Erik Norlander from 2007 until mid-2009 when he was replaced by Mitch Perry.
Govan has played live acoustic guitar for Dizzee Rascal, including a performance on Later With Jools Holland.
In December 2010, Govan performed on all tracks on Docker's Guild album The Mystic Technocracy, due for release in 2011. The project also features some other Asia artists, notably John Payne on vocals and Simon Hanhart, who mixed the album. Other special guests include Gregg Bissonette (drums), Tony Franklin (bass), Jeff Watson (guitars), Douglas R. Docker (keyboards), Goran Edman, Tony Mills and Amanda Somerville (vocals).
Erotic Cakes and The Fellowship
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 named after an episode of The Simpsons; he also explains that when playing live, the band is billed as Erotic Cakes rather than simply Guthrie Govan. 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). 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.
The Erotic Cakes band line up, with the addition of saxophonist Zak Barrett, also forms jazz-fusion band The Fellowship. The band plays at the Bassment club in Chelmsford, Essex, every Thursday night and has done so for several years.
Influences and technique
Govan’s earliest influences were Jimi Hendrix and Cream-era Eric Clapton; as such he describes himself as coming from a "blues rock background". 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 as influences. Jazz and fusion elements are an important part of his style: he cites Joe Pass as a pivotal influence in this respect.
Govan is known for his virtuoso command of the electric guitar, due to both his technical ability and proficiency in various styles. Govan’s MySpace profile lists quotes from various guitarists to this effect; elsewhere, fellow virtuosos Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert have praised Govan's playing.
His vertical vibrato and legato shredding is influenced by Greg Howe.
Govan mainly uses various Suhr guitars: three different Guthrie Govan Signature Model guitars, three custom Standards, a Modern 24-fret model, a Classic and Classic T. Govan also favours Cornford amps: the sleeve notes of Erotic Cakes state he has used an RK100, MK50 and Hellcat.
- Official Guthrie Govan Web Site
- Cornford Records on Myspace Samples of the debut album
- A YouTube clip of Govan improvising Sample of his fusion-jazz style
- Another YouTube clip of Govan improvising Bluesy style showcasing Govan's string overbends to create melody