Rigged: Guitarist Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Himself)


Guthrie Govan Rigged

The Aristocrats — the funky, jazz, oftentimes metallic three-piece comprised of Guthrie Govan, Bryan Beller and Marco Minnemann — released their sophomore full-length Culture Clash in July (check out a clip from the album here). Bassist Bryan Beller shared his rig with us last week, and now it’s time we hear from the band’s guitarist, the legendary Guthrie Govan, who has played with Steven Wilson and Asia, among others, but is most notable for being a general guitar badass all on his own. Follow along today as Govan breaks down the rig he’s using on The Aristocrats current tour.

Greetings, noble readers! Guthrie Govan here, with a quick rundown of the gear I’m using for the current Aristocrats tour of the U.S.

I thought it might be fun to start with a quick game of “spot the difference” — here are two uncannily similar-looking prototype guitars, made by the good people at Charvel:

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

Each of these guitars features a caramelized/baked/roasted maple neck (with graphite reinforcement rods for added stability) and a basswood body with a birdseye maple top. The pickups were custom designed by Michael Frank Braun at the Fender Custom Shop and, unusually, they’re brown: this makes me very happy.

The significant difference is, of course, the bridge: the earlier prototype has a Gotoh 510 non-locking bridge with vintage-style bent steel saddles, and the newer one is equipped with one of the original Floyd Rose systems. I’ve always had two main objections to the typical double-locking design: the fine tuners often get in the way of what my picking hand is trying to do, and the locking nut won’t let me bend behind the nut or detune to Drop D. Consequently, I’m currently experimenting with this compromise, whereby the string is locked at the bridge end but the nut is a traditional non-locking bone affair. So far, so good – the tuning really does seem more stable with this design, and although the two bridges do sound quite different, the tone of this primitive mini-Floyd is growing on me.

Here’s a close-up, for those of a curious disposition. (I rather like this bridge, and it puzzles me that they’re so seldom seen these days…)

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

Here’s what’s going on in Spring World, at the back of the guitar. The odd-looking piece of extra metalwork here is a Tremol-No: the bridge is set up to be floating during normal use (i.e. you can pull up on it) but tightening those two little black screws on the Tremol-no essentially turns it into a fixed bridge – which makes those Drop D moments much easier to handle…

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

A couple of extra details: the tuners are locking Sperzels…

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

… and the neck joint looks like this. (It works – when I’m up in the highest registers of the neck, I’m blissfully unaware that this joint is even there…)

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

For strings, I’m using Rotosound Yellows, .010-.046 gauge. Shamefully, I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to take a picture of these strings, but if you really want to admire the packaging, I have every bit of confidence that the Rotosound website will be happy to enlighten you ;-)

My picks are made by a company called Red Bear: they use some kind of weird protein-based compound which sounds very similar to turtleshell. Two or three of these will last me a year if I take care of them, which basically entails sanding the edges occasionally and trying not to get them wet!

A lot of people I meet after gigs these days ask me if I have a spare pick for them, and I always direct them to the price list page on the Red Bear website with an apologetic smile: this seems to work in English-speaking countries, but I’m sure I’ve inadvertently offended a few souvenir-hunters in places like South America. Unfortunately I simply don’t have a crate full of these picks, so… what can you do?!

Here’s a Red Bear pick for your perusal: for the benefit of non-U.S. readers who don’t recognize the dime which I provided as a reference point, it’s about the same size as a Dunlop Jazz III XL:

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

Having run out of interesting things to tell you about my guitar(s), I shall now direct your attention towards the floor. The freaky-looking carpet, incidentally, is property of the Atlanta Institute of Music. Meet my humble pedal board:

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

The signal path goes like this: the guitar plugs into the TC Electronic Polytune Mini at the top right, then into a Suhr Koko Boost (a clean boost and a mid boost, with a built-in buffer). After that, the signal goes into a Providence Anadime Chorus, a Guyatone Wah Rocker 5, a Dunlop Jerry Cantrell signature CryBaby wah and finally a Dunlop Volume X.

The other stuff at the top of the board is in the FX loop of the amp: you’ll see a Flashback delay, a Hall Of Fame reverb and a Spark Mini Booster, all by TC Electronic. I may switch the order of these pedals around at some point soon: I’m currently experimenting with the Mini Booster as a way to boost the overall signal when I’m going for a “volume knob backed down” kind of clean tone, but I haven’t yet figured out the best place to put it.

The whole concept of this board is that it should offer all the bare essentials to get me through a gig whilst fitting comfortably into my suitcase. The board I use for the Steven Wilson tour utterly dwarfs this one and of course offers much more sonic flexibility, but I’ve learned to travel light when I’m gigging with the Aristocrats, and this board does everything I need it to do!

Time to pay a quick visit to Amp Corner, where this resides:

Guthrie Govan Aristocrats Rigged

It’s a Suhr Badger 30 head and a 2×12 cabinet loaded with Warehouse Veteran 30 speakers (which would sound very familiar to anyone who knows the Celestion Vintage 30 speaker).

This is a single-channel head but it responds very well to dynamics and volume knob tweaks so it can produce a surprisingly wide range of noises. The relatively low power rating allows me to crank the master volume all (or at least most) of the way up, which has a certain therapeutic value for yours truly.

That’s about it: the rig you’ve just seen somehow manages to get me through my nightly Aristocratic duties. Cheers!

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