Bryan, Marco and Guthrie did it again! Progressive rock, fusion, rockabilly - whatever musical style you can point your stick at, you will hear it on THE ARISTOCRATS’ new album "Culture Clash". Released on 30 July, the band is currently on tour in the United States promoting their new album. "Culture Clash" recently cracked the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart Top 10. The album hit #8 on that chart, and also debuted at #16 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. Time for us to talk with Guthrie Govan, the band's guitarist, about the album's title, the recording process and his influences.

Following their immensiley popular debut album, THE ARISTOCRATS's second album "Culture Clash" is once again a musical tour-de-force.
GUITARMANIA interviewed Guthrie Govan, who never fails to impress with his wit.


Congratulations on your great new record “Culture Clash”. Presumably you must have been looking forward to hitting the stage with your band again?

Thanks for the kind words!  I'm glad you like the new album: everyone in the band is pretty happy with the way it came out, and we feel that it's a big step forward from what we accomplished on our debut recording...

And yes, I've been looking forward to this tour: we always have a lot of fun playing together, and it's an interesting change of pace for me to return to a loose trio format with an emphasis on spontaneity, after all the touring I've been doing lately in the much more structured/disciplined world of the Steven Wilson live show. (I should perhaps add that I find both of these musical contexts to be rewarding in their own, very different ways...)

How is the US Tour going so far (we saw Marco and Bryan just recently live on tour with JOE SATRIANI)?

We're currently about five shows into the tour, so we're feeling a distinct improvement every night! The first two or three shows were pretty intense - we were all painfully jetlagged and entirely unrehearsed at the start of this tour - but we're reaching a point now where we can relax a little more with the new material and focus more on simply having fun on stage ;-)



© The Aristocrats


How many of the new tracks of the new album are you performing live?

Most of it. We're still figuring out some arrangement details for “Desert Tornado”, but we've played everything else from the album at least once... along with some "party favourites" from the first album!

Can you please tell us why you choose this title?

It's a reference to a particular scene which we all enjoyed in the Coen Brothers film ”A Serious Man” but it also alludes to the fact that we're all from very different places (I'm half-Scottish, half-English, Bryan is from the US and Marco is a German guy living in California - hence the silly cultural stereotypes on the album cover!) and I suppose it could also have a kind of significance with reference to the juxtaposition of diverse musical styles/genres in our music.

How long did it take you to record the album?

Eight days, I think - about the same amount of studio time as we spent on the first album.

Where did you record it?

At a studio called The Sound Emporium, in Nashville. Some very cool recordings have come out of that building - the soundtrack for “O Brother Where Art Thou”, for instance, and the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album “Raising Sand” - though I suspect that those guys probably used the nice, big, expensive room, whereas we were in Studio B ;-)




What equipment did you use on the new album, and does the equipment you used in the studio differ much from what you are using live?

I did most of the record with my #1 Charvel prototype guitar, which has a koa body and a maple neck (the exceptions to this rule were the tracks “Louisville Stomp” and “Desert Tornado”, for which I hired a big hollow-body Gretsch guitar… just for fun!) As on the previous album, I used an Axess BS-2 buffer unit to split the guitar signal, so I could run through two different rigs simultaneously. This is a great way to make everything sound "bigger" and in addition it brings another degree of flexibility to the mixing process - the two different guitar tones can be blended in whatever way sounds best in the context of the finished track…

So… "Rig 1" was a Suhr Badger 30 head and a 2x12 cab fitted with Warehouse Veteran 30 speakers: "Rig 2" was a Fender SuperSonic 22W combo. Generally, I used a Suhr Koko Boost with the Badger amp and a Wampler Euphoria pedal with the Fender, though for a couple of moments I think I was probably using my AnalogMan Sun Face fuzz pedal running through both amps.

Other than that, I kept the effects to a minimum: I think I used a DLS Versa Vibe for a couple of rotary-style effects and a Providence chorus for some of the pretty chordal overdubs, but that was about it. (Oh, and you'll also hear a small army of E-Bow guitars during the bass solo in “Ohhhh Noooo!”)

Live, my setup is basically "Rig 1" - the core of my live tone comes from the Suhr Badger 30 and Koko Boost. I also use a small selection of other pedals: in front of the amp, the signal chain goes like this...

tc electronic Polytune

Suhr Koko Boost

Providence Anadime Chorus

Guyatone Wah Rocker 5

Dunlop wah (Jerry Cantrell signature model)

Dunlop Volume X

... and in the FX loop of the amp I'm running a Hall Of Fame reverb and a Flashback delay, both by tc electronic. Simple but effective ;-)


You just mentioned your Charvel prototype built to your specifications. Can we expect this guitar to turn into a signature instrument that might be bought on the market anytime soon?

At this stage, I'm still exploring some ideas with the Charvel guys. I'm more interested in perfecting my dream guitar, rather than rushing to release a signature model as soon as possible, so... it will be ready when it's ready, and not before! (I should add that I think we're getting very close now, and mostly we're working out very minor details...)




Can you please tell us what we are hearing in the title track “Dance of the Aristocrats” – is it a bass synthesizer or a loop? 

That's actually Bryan's bass! He's using an ElectroHarmonix MicroSynth pedal and a short delay to get that sound... on Marco's original demo, the bass was of course a sequenced synth part, so Bryan applied some ingenuity to coax a similarly "electronic" sound from his bass rig ;-)

We would be interested to learn more about THE ARISTOCRATS’ approach to composing new songs. For instance, who writes the songs, and do you write them at the rehearsal room/studio, do you swap files/ideas, etc?

We operate as a total democracy: when we make an album, each member writes three songs and sends a detailed mp3 demo to the other two guys: then, we do our best to learn all the material before we get to the studio. Bravely (or perhaps foolishly!) we don't rehearse prior to recording an album: we just work that stuff out in the recording studio.

Can you please tell us about your influences? What did you listen to when you grew up and who were the artists and the records that made you want become a musician?

When I started playing guitar (at the age of three, or so they tell me) my main thing was '50s rock'n'roll... early ELVIS, CHUCK BERRY, JERRY LEE LEWIS, etc. After that, my early musical tastes were mostly shaped by what I found in my parents' record collections: I remember being particularly inspired by albums like “Abbey Road”, ”Axis Bold As Love”, “Disraeli Gears” ... all the usual suspects, I guess! Also, I was still quite young when it dawned on me that everything I ever heard could potentially serve as a source of inspiration, so I started trying to work out bass parts, keyboard parts, TV themes and so on, in addition to the typical blues/rock guitar catalogue. I'm still the same way: whenever I hear a new cellphone ringtone, I want to know how to play it ;-)



© The Aristocrats/Jennifer Young


A music journalist once termed you as a “Virtuoso’s Virtuoso”  –  are you still practicing and, if yes, what are you focusing on?

I don't really spend much time practicing technique these days, but I do think about music a lot and I try to provide myself with a rich and varied listening diet: I think most of the improvements I'm chasing these days are cerebral rather than physical. For instance, I'm currently listening to quite a lot of Indian classical music, in the vague hope of absorbing some of the unique phrasing which seem to come so naturally to those guys!

Any chance of seeing THE ARISTOCRATS live on the Austrian stage soon?

Maybe next year: we're planning a big European tour in the first half of 2014, so... who knows? "Watch this space", I guess!

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We sincerely appreciate your time and answers. Best wishes for the remainder of your US tour!




Our thanks go to Natalie Camillo and Maria Ferrero from Adrenaline PR. All photographs © The Aristocrats