How important is the presence of the audience? Are you equally aware of their reactions? Oh, very important. We're always aware of the audience as well as aware of each other. Last week we played a gig in Crewe and the audience were really terrible. They were so noisy we kept thinking we should stop and listen to them. And that had an effect on the band: you feel that you're wasting your time, your mind starts wandering and you don't play so well. But the opposite happens of course: it's a nice feeling to know that everybody is enjoying what's going on, and it helps you to concentrate and play better. You do get some odd occasions when, however great the audience is, the band just isn’t going to play well, or the reverse, when it's a duff audience but for some reason the band wails like nobody's business. But in general those things are automatic: if the people are into the music, it gives a nice feeling that spreads all around.
It's okay that there are a lot of guitar players in my audience, I expect that if I played bass, I'd want to go see Jimmy, or if I played drums, I'd want to see Gary. That's healthy. But I'd just love it if there were more people at our gigs who weren't involved with music. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, because the music doesn't get to them. It's only the people who are involved in it that find out about it, because they're in a different kind of circle. And that's one of the things that really disappoints me, especially as I've gotten older, because now I realize that I'm never going to reach anybody. We're never really going to find out who would have liked it or who would have hated it, because they're never gonna hear it to know. But what can you do? We live at a time when this is happening, and it's not just happening to me; it's happening to millions of struggling musicians. We're getting more and more into this monopolies kind of thing; this record company buys out that record compa ny, and then you realize that if Sony had bought CBS before, for example, they could have killed vinyl immediately, because they owned all the technology for the DAT machine, and then the DAT machine and the CD would have been out. It's all money. That's what it is. It's the same in everything: the little guy is struggling to make it without the big bucks to even make people aware of the fact that there's something out there they might be interested in. Now unfortunately, the music business is ahead of the music. Everything's ass-about-face. But it's cool. The little guys have to fight it, and that's what we're doing. We just have to keep going.
GW: What do you think it was about the last two records that forced the record companies into a corner?
HOLDSWORTH: Well, some of it is overconcern with what they consider to be my audience. They think that the majority of people who come to see the band are probably musicians. They're probably right, but to me that's really a drag, because then they'll turn around and say "Well, guitar players aren't going to come and see you play the SynthAxe, because they can't relate to it anymore." which is a terrible thing to say, because it implies that guitar players are not musicians, in a sense, because they listen with their eyes rather than their ears. I find that people who didn't like my music when I was playing guitar - non-musicians - really like what we're doing now with the SynthAxe. So it's taken on this new life, but they don't seem to be prepared to try and reach a different audience with the music.
I also saw the vocal thing sitting me on the fence really hard, and that people who like instrumental or "jazz" music were kind of perturbed by the vocal aspect of my music. I never was, but I thought that they were, and I also felt that there were people who liked the vocal aspect of t he songs but didn't like the rest of it. It was like stretching both sides, and, like I said, when I got the SynthAxe I decided that that was what I wanted to do, so I just continued to sit on the fence in a different way.
GW: And now?
HOLDSWORTH: Now I'm sitting on the fence between what the record companies see as my audience and what I'd like to see as the audience. I don't know if there are piano players who wouldn't buy a Chick Corea album because he was playing synthesizers and not piano, because he's the same musician, with the same kind of quality of performance. But there's this little thing in the back of people's minds that relates keyboards with synthesizers, and it's actually horseshit, because there's nothing - other than the fact that it was once easier to control a synthesizer with a keyboard - to relate a keyboard to a synthesizer, any more than there is to relate a Jew's harp to a synthesizer. So it really tells me something. It tells me that guitar players don't listen with their ears. They don't relate to the music or to the notes; they're only relating to something physical.
HOLDSWORTH:: It must be the fact that people are conditioned to combine in their minds things like keyboards and synthesizers. They say, "Oh, it sounds like a keyboard," and they've already spoken an untruth. It doesn't sound like a keyboard; it sounds like a synthesizer. That's the truth.