So the question was asked, who would you like to interview and throw five questions at? Guthrie Govan and Bryan Beller came Allan Weston‘s cry; Plot hatched, questions compiled and answers attained. A BIG THANK YOU must go out to Rhiannon Jenkins of RJPR: Music Promotion and Tour Production for making this happen.
QUESTIONS TO GUTHRIE
Allan Weston: I first came aware of you when I saw you on Jools Holland show with Dizzee Rascal (DR) where you played acoustic guitar in the band. How did you get involved with DR and is this a style of music you enjoy playing?
Guthrie: Well… by way of some background information: I do a fair amount of guitar and bass work for a sample recreation company called Replay Heaven. Dizzy used their services to “clone” various samples for one of his albums, so I somehow ended up playing some bits and pieces on some of his recordings. Now, the BBC (the “official” TV and radio service in the UK) organise an annual event called the Electric Proms, where the general concept is to present a well-known pop artist in an unusual new musical context, encouraging them to reinvent their best-known material. Several years ago, they invited Dizzee to participate: they provided their own string section and a choir, but asked if he could bring his own “rock band”… Of course, Dizzee’s particular field of music production relies much more on devices like the Akai MPC as opposed to live musicians, so he asked Replay Heaven to put a band together for him… I’m sure that both he and the BBC were just expecting a typical guitar/bass/drums combo but what they got in the end was a 13-piece band comprising some really good session players, so that gig was a lot of fun. (In addition to playing a little bit of acoustic, I also played regular electric, fretless guitar and some disco bass!) I firmly believe that all forms of music are equally valid if they’re done well, and the Electric Proms was a very polished and unique production so I’m very proud to have been a part of it. I love the idea of people from different musical disciplines coming together to create something new… and I like to think that Dizzee found the whole process inspiring, too.
Allan Weston: You have released one solo album to date, 2006’s Erotic Cakes. Could you tell us your plans for another solo effort in the near future?
Guthrie: Of course I do intend to record another solo album at some point, but I’d be reluctant to give you any kind of release date… all I can really say is that it’ll be ready whenever it’s ready! Right now, my involvement with various other musical projects is keeping me very busy and I’m very happy about that – there’s a part of me which prefers functioning as a band member rather than as some kind of self-proclaimed guitar hero – but sooner or later I really will find the time to write/record another solo offering. I have no idea what it will sound like, but I can guarantee that it will sound different from Erotic Cakes!
Allan Weston: I read on wiki that you dropped out of Oxford University, choosing a music career instead of a possible literary one. Can you tell us a bit more as to how hard that decision was and were your parents supportive at the time (and do you have any regrets)?
Guthrie: Well, the musical and literary worlds are the two places where I feel comfortable, so for a long time I was trying to focus equally on both. My “epiphany” occurred during my first year at Oxford University: there was a point when I realised that I was actually reading fewer books but doing more gigs than had been the case before I commenced my studies there. I chose to interpret this as some kind of sign 😉 . I have no real regrets: sometimes you just have to follow your instincts and see what happens. There’s certainly some truth in the old adage that a person’s biggest regrets, in retrospect, always turn out to be the things they didn’t do! To address your other question: I think my parents would have been equally supportive of any choice I made, though I’m sure that I would have made the same decision regardless of their judgement!
Allan Weston: Asia is another band you’ve been involved in. Can you tell us how that came about and was it a satisfying musical experience?
Guthrie: Well, Asia was my first experience of international touring, living on a tour bus and so forth: my passport certainly accumulated a few new stamps during that period! It was a valuable opportunity for me in the sense that it enabled me to figure out whether or not I could cope with the unusual lifestyle of a touring musician, and I think I “got lucky” in the sense that there were no unpleasant people in that operation: everyone definitely made “the new kid” feel very welcome! The guy who connected me with Asia was Mike Sturgis, who was drumming for the band towards the end of the ‘90s. We were teaching at the same music school in the UK, so he recommended me as a session guitarist during the recording of the Aura album. After that, my progression from “session guy” to fully fledged touring band member just happened organically.
Allan Weston: Both you and Marco have both been involved with Steve Wilson and his latest album Hand. Cannot. Erase. Can you tell us a bit about how your association with Steve Wilson came about?
Guthrie: Indeed… in fact, Marco and I also played on Steven’s previous album, The Raven That Refused To Sing. Marco was already in the band before I joined; I guess he must have recommended his fellow Aristocrat to Steven, who subsequently came to check out an Aristocrats gig in London and emailed me shortly after, inviting me to work with him… The rest, as they say, is history.
Allan Weston: I was recently watching the DVD of Rush’s Clockwork Angels tour and really blown away by Geddy Lee’s bass playing. Who have been your influences and why were they important to your development as a bass player?
Bryan : John Paul Jones – he was the first, and taught me how to groove. Then Geddy Lee, who pushed be into the higher register for the first time. Cliff Burton taught me about galloping and flicking, as well as distorted wah. Jaco taught me how to be Jaco. Flea taught me how to slap (like a rock player). John Patitucci showed me that jazz bass playing could be soulful. Scott Thunes showed me how to be mentally agile. Tim Commerford taught me what a distorted bass should sound like.
Allan Weston: Do you think The Aristocrats would have come about if the guitarist had been Greg Howe instead of Guthrie who was parachuted in at the last moment?
Bryan : We’ll never know.
Allan Weston: The Aristocrats have just released their 3rd album ‘Tres Caballeros‘. Is the magic and chemistry still there between the three of you that we will see many more studio albums in the future?
Bryan : I feel like we broke new ground in terms of not just our chemistry, but also the possibility for future productions, in the process of making “Tres Caballeros“. We had a lot of fun and we’re all proud of the result…so as long as that keeps happening, I’m sure we’ll keep making records.
Allan Weston: Do you have any plans in the future to work again with the great Steve Vai?
Bryan : I would love to work with Steve again – he’s a legend, obviously! But right now, between my work with The Aristocrats and Joe Satriani, my calendar is full, and I’m grateful for that. Hopefully in the future we’ll do something again.
Allan Weston: Do you feel left out not being involved in Steve Wilson’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. album and tour while your Aristocrat band members are? (tongue in cheek question!). Nick Beggs is a cracking bass player as well!
Bryan : Nick is amazing! He plays stick, he plays with a pick, and his fingers, and he’s amazing onstage. I don’t feel left out at all – sometimes it’s Marco and I running around with Joe Satriani, so it all evens out. I dig the new Steven Wilson album, by the way – “3 Years Older” and “Home Invasion/Regret #9” are very nice pieces, and I think my Aristocratic brethren sound great on them.