The Aristocrats’ Guthrie Govan on the influence of Joe Satriani and Zal Cleminson


By Steve Newton

Earlier today I interviewed guitarist Guthrie Govan, who–while not nearly as well known as the Satrianis and Vais of the world–is equally monstrous when it comes to technical ability and musical inventiveness.

He plays in an instrumental rock-fusion trio called the Aristocrats, which makes its debut Vancouver appearance July 12 at the Rickshaw Theatre.

Just yesterday the 43-year-old picker was taking part in the G4 Experience, a “guitar camp” led by Joe Satriani, so naturally I had to ask if Satch was one of his faves.

“Well, yeah, he’s a pivotal part of my development,” said Govan. “He was a hugely influential player in that period in the ’80s where suddenly he was one of the main guys who validated the idea that you could be a rock-guitar player but still know what you’re doing.

“Before that I think there was always this stigma attached to knowing too much music theory, and he kinda made it okay, by showing us ‘This is all the extra stuff that you can do.’ ”

While chatting about guitarists who’ve most influenced him, I was rather surprised to hear that Govan regarded Scottish guitarist Zal Cleminson–formerly of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band–as “his Jimmy Page”.

“Pretty much, yeah,” he stressed, “I mean I’m half Scottish. But I grew up in the south east of England, and I grew up hearing a lot of the Alex Harvey Band. The whole thing had a huge impact on me, actually. I guess I kind of got some sense of the theatrical possibilities of rock–which maybe other people would have got from Alice Cooper–and that whole biting guitar-tone thing. Zal had a unique take on that I thought.

“I always loved that band,” he continued. “It was so eccentric and fearless and vaudeville and genre-defying. I guess the curse of that band was it really was meant to be a live spectacle, and a lot of people only ever encountered it in the recorded format, losing a whole dimension of awesomeness.”

Stay tuned to Ear of Newt for more from Govan, including how he got so damn good, and how on their new album, Tres Caballeros, the Aristocrats managed to recreate the exact same echo Van Halen did on Fair Warning.

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