- 1 Allan Holdsworth interview (Music Maker 2003)
- 2 Don’t you know - The Lost Words (Oneiric Moor 2003)
- 3 Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)
- 4 Strong stuff from the brewery (EQ magazine 1997)
- 5 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 6 The Open End (Boston Sound Report 1988)
- 7 Untitled (Guitar Magazine 2001)
You use an old Atari for sequencing stuff, right?
Yeah (laughs) I have an ancient old Atari 1040 Ste. And it still works? No, mine broke. It took me forever to find another one. My friend Eddie searched the internet forever and ever and he found two. I have two now. One is an old STe and the other ones an S...there's one that has an extra letter on it that's got more memory. That's the one I needed. So I do have a new one. Well, a new old one you know, it's a thousand years old. It works good for many because I like the Steinberg software, it was good. It was very stable. More stable then most PC's. Yeah. I just used it because I started with the PRO 24 which worked just like a tape recorder.That's the way I like to use it. And Cubase was really easy to do that. Even though it took me a while to switch from SP24 to Cubase. But when I switched to Cubase, I was using the 1.05 the oldest software. 2.0 actually. But the new ones are good because they always change the software, there's always something that the old one does that the new one doesn't. I like to use the old one, 'cause that was the one I was most familiair with
OF: In general, do you work a lot with computers ? What comp/softs did you use for the arrangements on Flat Tire? AH: In general I do not work allot with computers. I do have a collection of old Atari Computers because at the time the Synthaxe came out, it was the only soft where that would record the thing, because it puts out so much information, that if I used a regular sequencer I would play half way through a tune, and it would be full, and half of what I played wouldn't play back. I then got turned on to the Steinberg softare, the Pro 24 which is really old, then I switched to Steinberg Qbase, which is what I still use, so I basically have an ancient set up.
As it turns out, one of the tracks I heard, entitled 'Mac Man', featured some stunning sequences created using Mark of the Unicorn's Performer program and a Roland digital piano. Allan points out that he used the SynthAxe's Poly mode 3 rather than Poly mode 1. From there, Macintosh ace John England (MacMan, himself) edited the sequenced track with Performer. Chad Wackerman played live to the track, and his performance was recorded as MIDI data into the sequencer, leaving the leadline the only part not sequenced. Allan says he's looking forward to getting into an Atari ST to run the Steinberg sequencer program, which is apparently ideally suited for recording MIDI data output by the SynthAxe in Poly mode 3.
Another item not in use at the Brewery is a patchbay. "I don't believe in them," Holdsworth declares. "Every time you run a signal through a connector, you screw up the sound. All the pieces of equipment in my studio are very mobile, so if I want to put an EQ or limiter on something, I can take it right to the source." Tape machines are also rented in for recording projects. "I'm a big fan of Mitsubishi 880's," says Holdsworth, "and, of course, analog machines. I'll sometimes rent an Otari. It depends on what the budget can go for." The guitarist owns a pair of Alesis ADAT machines, which he keeps in the studio mainly for writing purposes. The same goes for his modest MIDI rig, which is driven by Cubase software running on an old Atari ST computer, Holdsworth's Synth Axe MIDI controller, which was his main axe a few years ago, is now principally used to input data to the sequencer for writing applications or to trigger the occasional synth pad on records. While Allan was once mad for MIDI, the M-word now plays a fairly minor role in his music. "I quit on the MIDI stuff completely for a while, but I just got back into it recently. I don't do it a lot, though, and I don't want to do it a lot anymore; although it's cool for writing."
Can you imagine yourself ever playing through a laptop, using software to get your tones, at least when touring? I thought about it for convenience sake, especially nowadays, because the traveling and customs hassles at airports are a nightmare. It’s nothing like what it used to be. So, from that point of view, it’s crossed my mind, but then I’m not sure that I’d want to give up … but maybe I wouldn’t be giving up anything at all … but I never did move in the computer direction. I don’t even have a computer recording setup at all. Pretty much everything I’ve got is analog, except for two Alesis high-resolution hard disc recorders, which I really like the sound of. It’s like the same as it was 20 years ago, except instead of having a Studer 24-track, I’ve just got two 24-track digital recorders. And every time I’ve tried to do things with a computer, it’s like something doesn’t happen, so I’ve never been really enthused about that. And I know that there are lots of things that you can do in terms of editing, and I’m afraid that if I did that, the next record I’d do would take me … they’d be shoving me in a pine box while I was still working on it. I don’t have that, and I’m okay with it. And H&K have been really gracious in helping us out with gear when we travel, so I don’t have to carry that stuff with me, unless we’re doing a local tour, when I take my own gear. But usually I just take a couple cases of accessories and cables, and they provide us with the backline wherever we go. And I don’t know that I’d trust a computer that much with everything that I had. You get all these great sounds and stuff and then something happens to your computer. I have mixed feelings about it. But one of the funniest things is that Bill Hine (?) who was my head guy Enigma, he always used to see me as a guy who was always pushing the techno thing using the old Atari computers back in the ’80s and the SynthAxe. He was amazed that I didn’t go any further than that. It just kind of stopped. Because at that time, most of the guitar players would pick up the SA and try to play guitar on it. They’d pick it up and start trying to play blues licks on it, and I’d say, “Oh, that’s not what this is for. You can go out and buy a $500 Strat, why do you want to spend $10,000 on a machine and then try to make it sound like a Strat?” Because I used to do clinics and guys would come up and ask if it could that.
BSR: One of your new directions seems to be using the Macintosh.
AH: Well, actually, I only used the Macintosh once, and that was on "MacMan." It wasn't even my computer, the Macintosh doesn't work very well with the Synth-Axe. I have an Atari computer with Steinberg software, because at the moment, the Mac with the Unicorn software doesn't record all the midi channels simultaneously - it records them one at a time. The Synth-Axe puts out information on all six midi channels simultaneously, so you would have to play one string at a time, and that would be a total pain in the ass. (Laughs)
Q: Please tell us about studio materials. What about computers?
A: I have old ATARI STACY. The format is the same with ATARI 1040, but its version is lower, laptop type. Itís really old one! About 20 years before.