Guthrie Govan tulevasta Helsingin The Aristocrats –keikasta: ”Expect the unexpected!”

Kuva: Daniel Work

Yhdeksi tämän hetken taitavimmista monipuolista rockia eri musiikkityyleihin yhdistävistä yhtyeistä tunnustettu The Aristocrats saapuu Suomeen ja esiintyy Helsingin The Circus-salissa 24.9.2018.

Metalliluola keskusteli aikaisempina vuosina mm. Asiassa vaikuttaneen ja soolokeikkoja ympäri maailmaa esittävän kitaristi Guthrie Govanin kanssa tulevan Helsingin konsertin lisäksi miehen vaikuttajista, improvisoinnin merkityksestä live-esiintymisissä sekä seuraavasta The Aristocrats –albumista.

Hello Guthrie and welcome to Finland in September!

Hello to you, too, and thanks for the welcome 😉

What can we expect from the Helsinki-show? These days a lot of bands build their stage shows as huge mechanisms with very little room for changes because of the way lights are set and so forth. How much emphasis you put on improvisation, changing set list and generally surprising audience?

It’s interesting that you mention elaborately scripted stage shows, as I think everyone in the Aristocrats has been involved with at least one detailed, meticulously-rehearsed project like that… for example, Bryan (Beller)’s live work with Dethklok, all the stuff Marco (Minnemann) and I did with Steven Wilson and indeed my recent adventures with Hans Zimmer’s enormous band. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of an elaborately prepared show, and there’s a certain kind of “spectacular” element which you can only deliver to the audience if you’ve done a lot of advance preparation and focused on a lot of production details.

Having said that, I think a big part of the fun we have as The Aristocrats comes from having the freedom to explore the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a natural kind of connection when we play, so we like to surprise each other and we’re perfectly happy to “expect the unexpected” – we have no click, no pre-recorded tracks, no fancy light show and I suppose, on a more fundamental level, no rules!

This may sound like quite a brave, “old school” approach but we understand each other pretty well as musicians – we’ve done a lot of gigs together over the last few years – and that somehow gives us the confidence to take more risks. I guess it also helps that we’re just a trio, so each of us generally feels very aware of what both of his band mates are doing/thinking at any given moment: it’s much harder to be quite so “present” within a larger lineup.

What in your opinion is the main difference between playing your solo shows and being on stage with The Aristocrats?

Well, for one thing, the typical crowd at one of my solo shows will mainly comprise guitar players, whereas the Aristocrats is much more about sharing the spotlight equally between the three musicians on stage… and that format will naturally invite a greater degree of diversity in the audience.

I personally feel that the most exciting aspect about any gig is the stuff which happens between the musicians – the way the players communicate with each other in “real time”. Whilst I care about those things every time I play live in any context, I do think that kind of interactive/communicative element is particularly apparent at an Aristocrats show. All we’re really trying to convey to the crowd is the fun we have when we’re playing together… and I think the people in the audience instinctively “ get” that an Aristocrats gig isn’t intended to be a gratuitous display of instrumental prowess.

I suppose the other difference is that I’ve done solo shows with all kinds of different house bands, all over the world, so any real sense of continuity has to come from the choice of material rather than the personnel on the stage… whereas the Aristocratic recipe really requires three very specific, individual musicians: if you were to replace any one of us, it simply wouldn’t be the Aristocrats any more.

Which guitar players influenced you the most when starting out and do you have any upcoming favourite players we should have our eyes on?

I suppose my first real guitar influence was my dad. He only knew about five chords but… way back when I was an impressionable three-year old, it was quite a mind-expanding experience for me simply to be in the same room as someone who could use a musical instrument to play an actual song!

I’m entirely self-taught: once I had learned my dad’s five chords, I found myself exploring my parents’ record collections so many of my formative influences came from that source: lots of ‘50s rock ’n’ roll, Beatles, Cream, Hendrix etc. Relatively early in life, I also had a kind “epiphany” when I realised that I could also apply “non-guitar” music to the instrument so I started trying to work out what the other instruments in the band were playing, or attempting to copy random things like TV themes… and that approach almost certainly had a big impact on what the guitar represents for me today.

As for upcoming players: I honestly don’t know. I’m vaguely aware that YouTube is full of exciting new guitarists pushing all kinds of boundaries but sometimes it’s hard for me to be totally objective when I listen to other guitar players so… I don’t really keep up to date with that whole world as much as perhaps I should. I generally prefer to derive inspiration from instruments I don’t play – this might sound odd but for me, there’s something more pure about the way I experience music when I have no idea how it’s being created!

How much do you still rehearse and play when you are off the road? Do you think there is still room to improve and take your playing to new places?

Of course, there’s always room to improve. The accumulation of musical knowledge and experience always seems to be twinned with an ever-growing awareness of all the things you don’t know… That’s what’s so fun about it all, I think: I find it weirdly comforting to accept that your musical journey never actually needs to end!

In terms of actually rehearsing/playing when I’m not on the road… I’m fortunate in that my chosen career guarantees an opportunity for me to play at least some music on a virtually daily basis. I don’t really have a practice routine, or anything like that, but I’ll always welcome any opportunity to play…

What’s your favorite song in the current The Aristocrats set?

Actually, we have yet to finalise any kind of set for this tour, so it’s hard to say! Every time we make a new album, the process of picking “favourites” for the road seems to get trickier so… watch this space, I guess!

Your last studio album (with The Aristocrats) “Tres Caballeros” was released in 2015, any plans for a follow up?

We’ve all been pretty busy doing other things lately but we’ll be spending a lot of time in a van together over the next month or so… I’m sure we’ll have formulated a much clearer idea about The Aristocrats’ next steps by the time this tour has ended! Again… watch this space, I guess 😉

What other future plans musically do you have?

Earlier this year, I played some shows in Greece and Turkey with a bassist/composer named Yiorgos Fakanas (I suppose you could reasonably describe his music as jazz-fusion, as opposed to the more rock-fusion flavor of the Aristocrats or Erotic Cakes?) There may well be a live album coming out at some point: Yiorgos is currently sifting through various live multi-track recordings to find out what we have to work with.

I’ll also be visiting various Asian countries later on in the year to do a mixture of clinics and live performances with some splendid Indian and Japanese musicians (including Mohini Day, Senri Kawaguchi, Akira Ishiguro and Gino Banks.) After that… who knows? My musical life is quite unpredictable so I can very rarely see any further than 3-4 months into the future… but I’m actually totally comfortable with that. Fortunately, there always seems to be something to do 😉

Last greetings for the Finnish fans and readers of Metalliluola?

Many thanks for reading all this and… I really hope to see some of you in September, when the Aristocrats come back to Helsinki! I always look forward to playing in Finland, and I know that my band mates feel the same 😉


The Aristocrats esiintyy Helsingin The Circuksessa 24.9.2018. Lisätiedot linkistä.

Haastattelu: Ville Krannila
Kuvat: Daniel Work


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