By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
Society is obsessed with culture clash. Stories of different countries making love and starting wars, cuisine fusions and foreign customs — people eat it up, day after day. But what else society is craving nowadays? A rowdy new democracy.
And the music industry wants the same.
Enter The Aristocrats, three musicians who craft intricate, layered music with the unpredictable walk of jazz and the energy of classic rock, along with a peppering of fusion metal and a twinge of the blues, inspired by a love of their influences: Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, and Led Zeppelin.
When asked what three words he would use to describe the band, though, bassist Bryan Beller uses those three words: "Rowdy new democracy." Beller, known for his work with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, James LaBrie of Dream Theater, Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa), and Dethklok, garners influence from bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and one of music's most controversial acts, Rage Against the Machine, so his statement makes sense. He chose the most obnoxious instrument he could find — the upright bass — when his parents wanted him to be in orchestra as a child.
The Aristocrats are rounded out by two other highly esteemed artists: Guthrie Govan, one of the most in-demand guitar educators today (his 2006 solo album, Erotic Cakes, was an instant classic), and Marco Minnemann, one of the most innovative drummers in the world and performer with such artists as Steven Wilson, Satriani, and Necrophagist.
The term "supergroup" shouldn't be used anymore within the world of music — especially when it comes to The Aristocrats. This band wasn't the result of a label-packaged virtuoso meetup or a late-night drunken jam session among famous friends. They came together at the 2011 Winter NAMM show, when Beller and Minnemann had a trio slot scheduled and their guitarist suddenly canceled.
"Someone on Facebook wrote me saying that I needed to play with this guy, Guthrie Govan," Beller says. "I watched the videos and was like, 'Holy shit!' I couldn't believe I had never heard of him, so Marco and I e-mailed Guthrie out of the blue, and that's where it started. He came to play at NAMM, and we met him for the first time."
On stage, the electricity was obvious. The Aristocrats practically formed on the spot, deriving their name derived from the infamous movie and dirty joke as well as the band's penchant for R-rated song titles off their 2011 self-titled debut album — like "Blues Fuckers," in which the blues form is violated in every way imaginable.
The album, tracked in just eight days, appeared on many of that year's top 10 lists. Each member wrote three songs on the premise that each track would challenge another member (i.e., Beller wrote "Sweaty Knockers" for Guthrie to have fun with).
The band released Culture Clash in 2013, the title calling to the band's multi-national makeup — Govan is British, Beller is American, and Minnemann is German. Again, each member wrote three songs, but the result was more aggressive and adventurous, since the members had gotten to know each other over an 18-month touring period.
"After being on the road with those two guys, I knew little tricks about Marco and Guthrie," Beller says. "Everyone had a mission, from myself trying different styles to Guthrie creating elaborate arrangements built for three people."
There's rockabilly (Beller's "Louisville Stomp"), techno (Minnemann's "Dance of the Aristocrats"), intricate rhythmic rock (Govan's "Culture Clash"), jazz tunes, and metal jams.
Their last tour traveled just about everywhere but the West Coast on a six-week run. Now they're back on the road, hitting uncovered territory and excited to stop in Phoenix.
"Pub Rock is such a small venue, which we love, because we want people to get up close and feel the energy in the room," says Beller.
"We play most of the new record and then the majority of the first. If you come to an Aristocrats show, you get a lot of music."