Guthrie Govan (born 27 December 1971 in Chelmsford, Essex, England) is an English guitarist and instructor, known for his work with the bands The Aristocrats, Asia (2001–2006), GPS, The Young Punx and The Fellowship, as well as Erotic Cakes (a vehicle for his own music) and Steven Wilson more recently. He is a noted guitar instructor through his work with the UK magazine Guitar Techniques, Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music, Lick Library and formerly the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. He is the 1993 winner of Guitaristmagazine’s “Guitarist of the Year” competition.
Govan began playing guitar at age three, encouraged by his father but initially learning mainly by ear. His father taught him five chords and introduced him to his extensive record collection. He began by listening to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, followed by The Beatles, Cream and Jimi Hendrix, and then Frank Zappa andAC/DC etc., working out chords and solos from listening to the records. Half-Scottish, Govan was also heavily influenced by Zal Cleminson of the Alex Harvey Band who he considers to have been “his Jimmy Page”. At the age of nine he and his brother Seth Govan played guitar on a Thames Television programme called Ace Reports. At secondary school he was exposed, via older classmates, to “shred” guitarists of the time.His first electric guitar was a Gibson SG which he now keeps at home.
After leaving school, Govan studied English at the University of Oxford, though he left after a year to pursue a career in music. Govan states that he was torn between becoming an intellectual or a musician and decided to concentrate on the latter. Around this time (by Govan’s own estimation, 1991) he sent demos of his work to Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records. Varney was impressed and offered him a record deal; ultimately however, Govan declined. Regarding his reasons he has explained: “it was as though all I really wanted to know was that I was good enough […] I found I was getting a bit wary of the shred movement.”
In 1993, he won Guitarist magazine’s “Guitarist of the Year” competition with his instrumental piece Wonderful Slippery Thing (a version of which would eventually appear on his debut solo album); the demo of the track earned him a place amongst several other entrants in the live final, which he then won. Govan hit upon the idea of transcribing music from records professionally, and submitted the most technically difficult piece he could think of (a Shawn Lanetranscription) to Guitar Techniques magazine. This earned him a job as a contributor to the magazine, ending a spell working in fast food.