Bill Aitken

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Allan Holdsworth (English Tour Program 1989)

Thinking of himself as a musician, rather than just a guitarist, Allan was a natural candidate for the guitar synthesiser. But the problems associated with such devices - inaccurate and delayed tracking, spurious or missing notes, etc. - meant nothing but frustration... until he met Bill Aitken and his new invention - the SynthAxe. Aitken had himself been frustrated by the inadequacy of the systems available in the late seventies and so had set about designing one himself.

The Final Interview: Allan Holdsworth Talks SynthAxes, Jaw-Dropping Solos and More (Guitar World 2017)

An interesting phase of your career was your use of the SynthAxe. Do you still play it? —Galen Peterson

Yes. It's an exquisitely unique instrument. The SynthAxe enables you to achieve a whole world of sonic textures that you cannot get with a guitar. There was nothing like it before and nothing like it since. I've been playing it pretty regularly since Atavachron [1986]. Bill Aitken from Solid State Logic was the primary inventor. He was a guitarist but he wanted to be able to play synthesizer, so he came up with the idea of making this unusual-looking machine. I played one of the first ones and loved it. It makes no sound of its own because it's essentially just a MIDI controller.

People used to write notes on my amp, asking me to stop playing the SynthAxe and play the guitar instead. But now people often ask me, “We'd love to hear you play the SynthAxe—did you bring it?” I rarely play it onstage anymore because it's too costly to take on the road and it requires a lot of equipment.

Allan Holdsworth's New Horizons (Downbeat 1985)

"They" are British inventors Bill Aitken, Mike Dixon, and Tony Sedivy, who began developing this revolutionary machine around 1980. Along the way they were aided in the design of the SynthAxe by Ian Dampney and Ken Steel. Take a bow, gentlemen.