Intervista The Aristocrats (Guthrie Govan)
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Welcome to Truemetal Guthrie: you are now touring in support of your new album Tres Caballeros. How was it received by the fans?
Touch wood seems like everything’s going really well; we’re getting bigger turnouts on this album cycle than on any tour we’ve done before, so I guess they like it, I hope they do because we’re all pretty happy with how it came out
So you’re are satisfied with the reaction.
Oh yeah, totally, it’s nice for the people to show up and if they stay til the end and don’t throw shit at us it’s a bonus; yeah, we’re getting good energy from the crowds, I think they’re responding well.
In this tour you are going to play 8 different shows in Italy next year; it’s quite unusual for a foreign band to play this many shows there, how did you choose that?
Not really a personal choice, we have a tour manager for this kind of things, all we knew was we want to tour as much of the planet as possible and in the case of Europe the guy who puts all of this together is Riccardo Cappelli; I’ve been working with Riccardo for years, initially just doing clinic tours and things like that, touring with my own band and with Dave Kilminster, so I guess there’s quite a network of venues in Italy, obviously it’s always a pleasure to play there
So you never pick yourselves any city where you’d like to play or anything like that?
No, in the same way that we wouldn’t trust our tour manager to play keyboards, you know, it’s best if everyone does the job that they do most comfortably. We say things like “we want to tour Europe, but it would have to be at this time of year because we have other tours with other bands” other than that we trust the professionals to sort out all the details.
As you mentioned your work with other band, you and Marco Minnemann have interrupted your collaboration with Steven Wilson a few months ago to pursue this tour, are you going to resume the collaboration once the tour is over?
That’s up to Steven, and Steven wants consistency in his band, who wouldn’t? You know, he wants to make a band with a certain set of musicians and then he wants an year, a year and a half of their time while he tours the world, so we tried to work with Steven’s management to find some way of balancing everything we do with all bands, unfortunately we couldn’t make all works, so for the rest of this tour cycle it won’t be me an Marco, when next album happens…who knows?
How different is it to play with Steven Wilson compared to playing with The Aristocrats?
Oh, completely different! When I play with Steven it’s a bigger band and a smaller piece a bigger puzzle, if you like, and the music is, for the most part, quite scripted and structured, everything has to fit in with the video projections so it’s a much more specific thing. In that band I am, I guess, the guitar expert and when there’s a guitar moment I do my thing. With this band [The Aristocrats], it’s our baby, we write all the music, we make all the decisions, we own the record company, so we have total control over every aspect of what we do; we respect each other and try to act as a total democracy.
Do you prefer to play with one over the other?
Well, I think it’s good to have a balanced musical lifestyle instead of just doing one thing all the time, but as I said this band is our baby, it’s a different feeling if it’s your own music and if you created something out of nothing; it’s a fun experience we have with this band just watching it grow, watching it develop musically and watching the fanbase kinda grow a little bit.
As you talked about a balanced musical lifestyle, you teach, write for magazines, play in different bands, compose, is there one approach to the music you prefer?
Well, I’m trying to eliminate all of the teaching, I haven’t had a private student for about ten years now, I don’t really feel like a teacher! There are certain things I think I can explain well and all of that stuff is based on the fact that I’m self-thought and I started really young, so I try to explain to more schooled musicians what it feels like to be a 3 years old, how it’s a totally different relationship with music if you start learning at that age with no preconceptions. But really I think I probably have more to offer writing and recording and gigging, doing all that stuff, so I’m trying to focus more on being a player rather than an educator.
You won the “Guitarist of the year” award in 1993 but it’s not until 2001 that you got involved with Asia and 2006 that you released your solo album, why did it took you so long? Why didn’t you release anything else before?
Well, this was a time before the Internet, this is gonna be a hard thing for some of you readers to get their heads around, but if you played a kind of specialized music with a very minority following scattered all over the world it was really hard to reach them. I remember winning “Guitarist of the Year” and it was obviously very nice to receive an accolade like that, but basically I got a free amplifier, I got an interview in a guitar magazine an then…I went back to McDonald to carry on working there, so it wasn’t like Christmas in terms of a career, it was just a nice feeling that someone recognized the way I play, but it wasn’t the huge breakthrough you might think. So, yeah, I spent some years transcribing and teaching and all that stuff, just writing music for myself because I didn’t think there was a market for it, I didn’t think anybody cared.
So in 2000 you got to record your first album with Asia…
Was it that late?
Yeah, I think so; back to my question, did you ever felt any pressure to have your very first album recorded with such an important band?
Not really, I didn’t know much about Asia before I got the call, if there’s any pressure that I felt it was more when I went into the studio and they started playing the backing track and I realized that the players were like Vinnie Colaiuta and Simon Phillips and Tony Levin, because there were a lot of session players in that album
You didn’t know anything about them before?
Not really, no; I thought it would be more of a prog band, I didn’t realize how much it was oriented towards 4 minutes Rock/Pop singles so it was a more commercial band than I expected
You’ve been working with Charvel for about 3 years now, how did this collaboration came to be?
I guess I just met the guys, maybe at a trade show, like the NAMM show or something like that and it became clear that they really wanted to work with me and they talked about the kind of relationship that we could have, and I very much liked their proposal. Instead of just saying “well, we’ll make this guitar and that guitar, so you can have one in blue with your initials at the 12th fret and we can call that you signature model” they were saying “instead of that let’s just build something from scratch and make sure it’s your dream guitar, we will listen to all of your feedbacks, all of your requests” and then I spent at least 2 years just touring around the world with different prototypes.
So right now you are using a “definitive” model?
Well, it’s an ongoing project, we’re still talking about other exciting things we could do, but what I like is that they were so keen to listen to everything that I could report to them about how the guitars were performing; that’s good for those guys and it’s good for me, so I get to play a guitar that I really really like and hopefully it makes it easier for those guys to sell them, because I truly believe in it
What is that you look for in a guitar?
I like it when a guitar can cover a lot of stylistic grounds because I have such a weird attention span as a player, I like Jazz, Country and Funk, Rock, and I guess I have to say Metal. Normally you’d have a different set of equipment for each of those styles, I like the idea that you can switch between any kind of style at any moment, just because that’s my idea of music, I don’t think so much in terms of genres being different boxes; I think there’s just two kinds of music: good music and bad music. Good music should be a blend of everything you like as a listener; so, yeah, I look for a versatile guitar that can do the fat Jazz guitar thing, or do the funky Nile Rodgers thing, or do the screaming Eddie Van Halen thing.
You said you like a lot of different music, is there a genre you prefer to play or that you find funnier to play?
Not necessarily, in fact I don’t like it so much if I feel that I’m boxed in and everything I play has to belong to one genre, I like the situation where I have the freedom to make things up; to me different genres are not different languages, they are all the same language just different dialects or different accents and I hear connections between all of these styles
Thank you for your time Guthrie, I’ll leave to you this spot if you have a message to the readers
Hi this is Guthrie, we’re coming to Italy pretty soon, hopefully we’ll see some of you there, let’s have some fun!