Akai

From Allan Holdsworth Information Center
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Axes Of God (Guitar World 1989)

One of the least constant factors in the equation has been Allan's preference in the characteristics of the guitar itself. Since the early seventies, when he acquired his first Fender Stratocaster, he persistently sought to break the instrument down to an elemental form - moving on to the thinner Gibson SG, another chiselled Strat, several hollowed-out Charvel and Ibanez solidbodies and, most recently, to the deceptively resonant, stripped down plastic Steinbergers - ultimately using MIDI as the basis for its restructure. With two SynthAxes and their corresponding analog Oberheim Matrix 12 and X5B synth modules and disk player, some Yamaha DX 7's and an Akai S-900 sampler, Allan feels that the dream has been finally realized. "For years, I've been trying to get the guitar to do things it simply didn't want to do," he explains. "I never have to fight the SynthAxe to make it respond, and, in a surprising sense, it's really the most expressive instrument I've ever played through"

Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)

I also built a room inside my garage so there's like the outside garage and the inside garage - just made of two-by-fours and hardboard - just basic but it is a room and it's the first time in my life I've actually had somewhere I could work, let alone record.

What happened was, with each consecutive record I got further and further in debt with the studio, so I decided that I needed to do some recording at home. When we do the basic tracks in the studio they're always done really fast because the guys - Jimmy Johnson, Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman are so fast - and the basic tracks are done in just two or three days. So I checked around and tried a few machines and decided to get the Akai 1214. Actually it's called the 14D, I think! It's the rack mount version with no board. What we did was mix the basic studio tracks down to two tracks on the Akai and then did the rest of the overdubs at home. It worked out great because even though I couldn't get the same quality on the Akai as using a 24 track Studer, I could make up for the difference by the fact that I was able to spend more time on it - more time fine tuning the sound, rather than just having to go in there and record it because we were out of time. Everybody knows what that's like! So that worke d out pretty good with both the guitar and the synth.


Oh, the other interesting thing which I must tell you is that, you know people always come up and ask about the SynthAxe 'Can It sound like a guitar?', and I thought well, let's have a go. I mean it's pretty stupid really to want to control a synthesiser and make it sound like a two hundred and fifty buck Strat plugged into an old Marshall or something. It's kind of weird and I can't imagine anyone wanting the SynthAxe to do that but I thought I'd have a go. So I waffled about on the Matrix 12 and came up with this patch, stuck it through a fifty watt Marshall and recorded it just like you would a guitar. It's really clean and controllable and even though the

sound's distorted, there are no sounds of your hands on the fretboard, like you have on a guitar. So the notes stop in a really neat way; they're not cluttered with all this white noise crud of your hand moving around, which I hate and try and control on the guitar. But it's pretty much eliminated with this. Also that track Mac Man was recorded on a sequencer, using the Mackintosh, except for the solo, which I had to record on my Akai, at home. The rest of it, including Chad's percussion parts, the drum machine and bass, were recorded on the sequencer down at the studio. Mac Man is this chap who has more command of the computer than I've seen from most anybody and he was manipulating it while we were waffling.

The melody part is played with the SynthAxe through a Roland digital piano. It's funny because the first part is like a pseudo acoustic piano and the solo's like pseudo electric guitar. It's an interesting track - a fun track. There are no keyboard controlled synthesisers on the album whatsoever, except for the solo on Pud Wud which is Alan Pasqua. The rest of the sounds - the accompaniment sounds behind the guitar - are just the SynthAxe.

Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)

Running a home studio obviously affords Allan the luxury of such experimentation. What is his home studio like?

“I have a place where I can work, but I don't have a board as such. You really don't need one except for monitoring. I use an Akai 1214, and I recently started using the 14D, which is the rack-mount Akai tape deck. It's a nice-sounding machine and it really worked out well. I did all of the solos on it. I didn't do any of the solos in the studio.


“That was my first attempt, and I did that solo really fast. Usually, I'll spend time making a solo, getting a sound. I might spend five or six hours on a sound. At home, that is - I wouldn't do that in the studio. At home it's great, because I just say, oh, this sounds pretty good, go out and have a beer, and comeback next day and listen to it. And if it doesn't sound good to me, I can change it until it does. If that was studio time, I'd be paying a lot of money for experimenting, and I'm such an experimenter, really. So using the Akai has just been fantastic, because with the noise-reduction system on it, it hasn't impaired the guitar sound at all, and I think I've been able to achieve as good a sound, if not the best sound, as I've had so far.

Makin’ Trax (Guitar 1994)

How long have you been using the system where you record at a studio and mix at home?

About five years. I started with a little 12-track Akai. Do you know it?

Sure, the one that takes its own cassettes.

That's the one. And I used to take care of any overdubbing-guitar solos, keyboard solos, bass solos, whatever. Then I would take the tape back to the studio and mix it there. But I sold that unit and bought a board. Secrets [1990] was the first album I recorded entirely at home.