In this age of production-line rock stars, there's something really great about meeting a guitarist who defies easy classification. One thing Guthrie Govan isn't, though, for all his frankly astonishing fretboard skills, is a shredder.
Watching Guthrie idly noodle on the guitar is the musical equivalent of watching someone channel-surfing on TV. One moment he's playing face-melting metal; a heartbeat later he's playing warped country licks - then rounding things off with a bar or two of straight jazz – all played with great feel and not a little wry humour.
"I want the pickup to hear every subtlety, even if it's a mistake, and also transmit the natural sound of the wood."
It's no surprise then that his new Charvel prototype (it's not currently a production model, sadly) is a deceptively versatile design that departs from his first koa Charvel in some important respects. Firstly, it's got a maple-capped basswood body – moving the game on even further from mahogany guitars Guthrie has favoured in the past.
"Mahogany is great for the barking rock, but it doesn't clean up quite as well as you want it to sometimes," he says.
Meanwhile, the new prototype has custom pickups in an H/S/H configuration made by Michael Frank-Braun, who designed the pickups on the Eric Johnson signature Stratocaster. They're designed for flexibility not out-and-out mayhem, Guthrie explains.
"I just told him I want a certain kind of honesty in the pickups. I want them to reflect all the different ways you can hit a note, which is the opposite of the flattering pickup. I want the pickup to hear every subtlety, even if it's a mistake, and also transmit the natural sound of the wood. They're not ultra-high output."
For the complete lowdown on Guthrie's latest Charvel prototype and an in-depth look at the rest of the gear he relies on – plus insider insights into his forthcoming Aristocrats album–check out our interview in issue 367 of Guitarist on sale 5 April.