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All eyes on guitar wiz Guthrie Govan

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Put down the smartphone, music fans, and focus your eyes on the stage – especially if you’re attending a gig by electric guitar wizard Guthrie Govan.

The Adelaide International Guitar Festival guest tells InDaily the weirdest thing he encounters while touring internationally is people who watch an entire performance through the tiny screen of their camera phone just so they can post a blurry photo or shaky footage on Facebook or YouTube.

“Why are you watching through this terrible phone when you can have the real thing?” he says of the increasingly common phenomenon.

“Honestly, I hate it. It’s really off-putting to see a sea of camera phones in the front row … it feels like they’re not there.”

Given the esteem in which he is held by guitar lovers the world over and his reputation for astonishing live performances, Govan’s fans would be well advised to take note.

Described by the Guitar Festival as the man who “brings cred to the shred”, the UK musician released his first solo album, Erotic Cakes, in 2006 and has spent recent years playing and recording with rock-fusion trio The Aristocrats and Steven Wilson’s band. Through his work with sample recreation company Replay Heaven, his guitar and bass work also features on singles by artists such as Goyte, Dizzee Rascal and the Sugababes.

Govan’s playing traverses so many different styles it defies categorisation – and that’s the way he likes it.

“For me, the fun is taking all the little bits I like from all the different genres and then letting them reveal themselves when I’m playing.

“It helps to make me borderline employable,” he adds, laughing. “I’ve played with rappers, techno bands, heavy metal … it’s good for the soul, I think.”

He travels light, with just one prototype Charvel guitar which is designed to be versatile enough to meet the challenges of different genres. The upcoming trip to Australia will be the first time he has played solo in this country, although he says he’s been told he will be supported by other musicians he hasn’t yet met for the Adelaide Guitar Festival show at the Dunstan Playhouse on July 19.

“I would advise people to expect a surprise of some kind,” he says.

“I’m guessing it will be some of my own my music and maybe some funky fusion music thrown in there. I like to create something new every time I do a gig.”

Guthrie has been told he picked up his first full-sized guitar at just three years old. He doesn’t remember that himself, but he does vividly recall his first live performance just two years later, when he was invited to play on stage with adult musicians.

“I remember certain Elvis songs I played and a Chuck Berry song but mostly I remember the exhilaration I felt performing with other loud musicians on stage … and the audience reaction.

“That’s when I was bitten. I realised I had to do this forever.

“It was really my epiphany.”

Although he was self-taught himself, Govan spends a lot of his time now teaching others to play the guitar and running clinics all over the world. He will be hosting five clinics during his visit to Australia next month, including one at Adelaide’s Space Theatre on July 18.

At the time of his interview with InDaily, Govan was one of the headline guests at the Vai Academy – an immersive four-day, four-night program of music workshops and performances hosted by legendary guitarist Steve Vai in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Govan’s clinic was clearly popular, with one fan commenting on Facebook that he was “too awesome for words”. The musician described the camp as “rewarding and exhausting in equal measure”, with a highlight being the chance to play with Vai, who was one of his key influences in his formative years.

“We make an unholy racket … my inner teenager is so happy.”


Guthrie Govan (far left) with his band The Aristocrats, playing Erotic Cakes.

Guthrie Govan is hosting a master-class at the Space Theatre on July 18 and playing at the Dunstan Playhouse on July 19 as part of the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, which runs from July 17-20.

Adelaide International Guitar Festival program launch

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