Guthrie Govan

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Guthrie Govan
Govan in February 2019
Govan in February 2019
Background information
Birth nameGuthrie Govan
Born (1971-12-27) 27 December 1971 (age 49)
Chelmsford, Essex, England
GenresRock, jazz fusion, heavy metal, electronica
Years active1991–present
Associated actsThe Fellowship, The Young Punx, GPS, Asia, Dizzee Rascal, The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Hans Zimmer

Guthrie Govan (/ˈgʌvən/; born 27 December 1971) is an English 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. Govan was named "Guitarist of the Year" by Guitarist magazine in 1993.

Biography and early career[edit]

Govan began playing guitar aged three, encouraged by his father, but initially learning mainly by ear. His father taught him three chords first, and introduced him to his record collection. Govan began listening to 1950s rock 'n' roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, and later The Beatles, Cream, 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 St Catherine's College at Oxford University. 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 initiating 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 Teaching[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.[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 & 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 at 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 a new band The Aristocrats, featuring Bryan Beller on bass and Marco Minnemann on 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,[15] which was only available in their own webstore and during the live concerts at the merchandise table. The band's 3rd official studio album, Tres Caballeros.[16], was released on 23 June 2015. In March 2019 The Aristocrats recorded their 4th studio album (You Know What...?) in the Brotheryn Studios (Ojai, CA), which was released June 28, 2019.

Steven Wilson[edit]

Govan was the lead guitarist in Steven Wilson's band, performing on the critically acclaimed The Raven That Refused to Sing, Hand. Cannot. Erase., and albums, and was a full-time touring member of Wilson's band until April 2015. These recordings captured what many[who?] agree to be some of the finest guitar playing in the history of the progressive rock genre, and introduced Govan to a broader global audience. Guthrie left Steven Wilson's band because of touring priorities with The Aristocrats whose touring schedule was clashing with Wilson's. Guthrie recommended Dave Kilminster as his replacement.

Hans Zimmer[edit]

Since 2016 Guthrie Govan is also the lead guitarist in Hans Zimmer Live live band and has toured the world with this ensemble. Hans found Guthrie on YouTube where he saw Guthrie play a fretless guitar. After some messages were exchanged on Guthrie's official Facebook page (Guthrie thought he was dealing with an imposter first, until Hans sent him his private phone number and asked Guthrie to call him), he became part of the live band. In addition, he has contributed to a number of Hans Zimmer soundtracks such as The Boss Baby (2017), X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), The Lion King (2019), and Dune (2021).[17]

Other Projects[edit]

In 2013, Govan held a guitar workshop with Paul Gilbert. 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 Govan was a guest guitar soloist in the song "Have a Blast" by Periphery.[18]

In 2016, Govan played alongside Joe Satriani and Steve Vai in G3 2016 touring across Europe. The trek made its way through Italy and Germany and featured support from Mike Keneally on guitar, keyboards and vocals as well as Govan’s band, the Aristocrats: bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann.

In 2019, Govan organized the Tony Mills Festival to honor his ailing collaborator Tony Mills. Govan played a set of all Mills' originals at the festival. [19]

Solo Tours & Guitar Masterclasses[edit]

Since 2015 Guthrie Govan has been undertaking more frequently solo tours, mostly in Asia where he has a lot of fans requesting him to perform live. He has toured extensively since then (when there were no tours scheduled with The Aristocrats or Hans Zimmer) across India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Philippines, South Korea & Japan. In India he has been using in his band drummer Gino Banks and protege bass player Mohini Dey, both high profiled players in India. For concerts in Japan he relies on protege drummer Senri Kawaguchi, keyboard player Akira Ishiguro and bassist Mohini Dey. During tours in Russia he teamed up with bassist Anton Davidyants and Hungarian drummer Gergo Borlai

Guthrie is also a very in demand clinician often undertaking specialised guitar masterclasses around the globe.

Influences and Technique[edit]

Govan is known for his 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, Allan Holdsworth, 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.


An overview of all past and current gear [20] Guthrie Govan uses.


In October 2012, Govan was seen using a Charvel guitar on tour, it was later confirmed to be a (koa) prototype. Govan stated in January 2013 that he and Suhr parted ways officially.

In July 2013, Charvel made it official that they had joined forces with Govan,[21] who had been using their guitars for a few months.

Govan's model sported a caramelised basswood body, birdseye maple top, a caramelised maple neck, Sperzel locking tuners, custom pick-ups by Michael Frank-Braun and a custom in-house developed (floating) tremolo bridge similar in design to a Floyd Rose, but 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, both equipped with custom pickups. In 2017 Charvel added a newer lighter baked Ash body signature model to the GG-signature models and upgraded the former models with a single coil-humbucker switch.

In the past he has used Suhr Guitars: three different Guthrie Govan Signature Model guitars, three custom Standards, a Modern 24-fret model, a Classic and Classic T.[22]

Before becoming a Suhr Guitars endorser he used a PRS guitar, as seen in many instructional videos from his early career. [23]

Govan used a Strandberg 8-string while on tour with Hans Zimmer.

He also plays a Vigier fretless guitar (not endorsed).


Since 2013, Govan has started using amplifiers designed and produced by Victory Amplification for both Steven Wilson and the Aristocrats tours.[24] He has been working closely with designer Martin Kidd (who was originally the brain behind the Cornford amps) getting the V30 and V30 Mk II made the way he likes a tube amp to sound. Since 2013, Guthrie has been taking his carry-on V30 across the globe. For the Hans Zimmer tours, Govan uses a Kemper profiler, because with an orchestra on stage and using in-ears it is not advised to blast loud noises through a cabinet.

In the past, Govan also has used Cornford amps. The sleeve notes of Erotic Cakes state he has used an RK100, MK50 and Hellcat.[2] On the European tour of 2010 and 2011 he played Brunetti amplifiers (CustomWork Mercury 50) like his friend Dave Kilminster. With "The Aristocrats" he was using Suhr Badger 30 amps live, as well as a CAA PT-100 and the Badger 30 on the debut album.


Guthrie Govan, as stated before, uses his beloved Victory V30 MkII amplifier but to get the desired tone he prefers to use 4 x 12 cabinets with Celestion V30 Vintage speakers inside, slightly having a preference for cabinets made by Mesa (for the thick wood), Orange, Bogner.


Govan has been an analog fan concerning pedals, but for a few years (since 2016) he has been moving towards using a Fractal FX-8 live on tours. The small footprint makes it easier traveling for a musician and the current digital solution comes extremely close to the former analog experiences.


Guthrie uses D'Addario guitar strings (NYXL 10-46) since October 2018. Before he was a Rotosound endorsed artist. "NYXL's last longer, are brighter and last for 4 shows", Guthrie said.


Solo albums[edit]

JTC backing tracks album[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)

Collaborations & Guest Solos[edit]

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). ASIN 1860744672.
  6. ^ Creative Guitar: Advanced Technqiues v.2: Advanced Technqiues Vol 2 (Paperback). ASIN 1860744672.
  7. ^ "Guitar Icon GUTHRIE GOVAN Talks ASIA In New Interview - "They Kind Of Faded Out Of My Life, Rather Than I Left Them"". Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  8. ^ "BOBBY BLOTZER's RATT Adds Guitarist MITCH PERRY, Bassist BRAD LANG". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. 14 August 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Neh Records Mitch Perry Biography". Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Touring Asia: Longtime frontman John Payne brings own band version | version, john, alton - Features - The Telegraph". 23 July 2011. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  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 – Secret Show: Live In Osaka". Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  16. ^ "The Aristocrats | "Tres Caballeros" Is Out NOW!". 23 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  17. ^ "How Hans Zimmer Conjured the Otherworldly Sounds of 'Dune'". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  18. ^ "In A Locked Room On The Moon | Nick Johnston". Bandcamp. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Black Swan - Tony Mills Festival".
  20. ^ "The Aristocrats - Gear page". 8 January 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Charvel Joins Forces With Guthrie Govan | Charvel Guitars". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Suhr Artists: Guthrie Govan". Suhr Guitars. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2008.
  23. ^ "Guthrie Govan Interview - The Virtuoso's Virtuoso". All Out Guitar. 30 August 2006.
  24. ^ "The Aristocrats | Gear". Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  25. ^ "Lee Ritenour: 6 String Theory". Discogs.
  26. ^ "DEWA BUDJANA Zentuary reviews". Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  27. ^ "Guest Musicians". New Ayreon Album. Retrieved 29 December 2016.

External links[edit]