Guthrie Govan says going “fully digital” on stage forces him to “think in new ways”

His weapon of choice? The Fractal Audio Systems FM9.

Guthrie Govan

Image: Steve Thorne / Getty Images

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Guitar virtuoso Guthrie Govan has spoken about how embracing the “fully digital” route on stage has forced him to “think in new ways”.

Speaking to Guitar World about his recent tour with instrumental rock supergroup The Aristocrats, Govan — who’s just played an arena tour with the legendary Hans Zimmer — shares what the transition from traditional amps to the beast that’s the Fractal FM9 at live shows feels like.

Asked if he’s got the FM9 handling pretty much everything on stage, Guthrie replies: “That’s it, plus two expression pedals.”

“It felt like going fully digital would force me to think in new ways,” he says. “I still use my Victorys in the studio. I’ll have two of my signature Charvels, one in standard and the other in dropped D, going into the Fractal and coming out of one or two monitors. That’s something I’ve learned over the last year.”

“Sometimes we’ll play and the world’s biggest guitar fan will get there three hours early, standing right by my spot where the guitar amp should be but isn’t,” Govan adds. “Now I have a wedge behind me so I can feel air being moved and another for the audience. No one should lose out just because I’m having fun in my digital playground!”

Elsewhere in the chat, the guitarist also talks about improvising on stage – something The Aristocrats are known to dabble in quite a bit during their live shows.

“That is something we’ve always strived to get right, that balance between writing songs with recognisable choruses versus extended stretches using ‘the force’,” Govan says. “If we just did the jamming thing it would get old. But if we just wrote songs and played them the same every night, the audience would miss out on what makes this trio so fun – the natural chemistry we have.”

“We can be spontaneous and fearless because we trust each other. We like to go off the rails, get lost and explore new territory, but we’re also there to help each other if it gets too bewildering.”

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