- 1 Allan Holdsworth: One Of A Kind (Guitar Shop 1995)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth Interview (richardhallebeek.com 1996)
- 3 Legato Land (Guitar Techniques 1996)
- 4 Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)
- 5 Strong stuff from the brewery (EQ magazine 1997)
- 6 Allan Holdsworth Remembers:"In The Dead Of Night" (Guitar and guitar shop 1999)
- 7 Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview (tlms.co.uk 2000)
- 8 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 100 Guitar Heroes 2000)
- 9 Allan Holdsworth (steveadelson.com 2000)
- 10 One Man Of 'Trane (Jazz Times 2000)
- 11 Pickups (Guitar Player 2000)
- 12 Whisky Galore (Guitarist 2000)
- 13 Patron Saint (Guitar Player 2004)
- 14 A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)
- 15 The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)
- 16 No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)
- 17 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 18 The Final Interview: Allan Holdsworth Talks SynthAxes, Jaw-Dropping Solos and More (Guitar World 2017)
- 19 In Memoriam: DownBeat’s Final Interview with Allan Holdsworth (Downbeat 2017)
Although Holdsworth is back to conventional electrics, one listen to Hard Hat Area precludes the notion that he’s jumping onboard the “just plug in ‘n’ crank it” school that is blossoming today. The richness of his lead tone and shimmering layers of chordal texture all point out the extensive use of delays and chorus, two effects that are essential to the “Allan Holdsworth Sound”. Not surprisingly, he’s had a hand in designing some of his outboard gear, as he explains while describing his studio and live rigs: “In the studio I don’t use a clean amp – I just DI out through the mixer in my rack and go right into the tape machine, which I feel gives a truer tone. My real rack is in England now. I left it there to save money and so I’d have it when we toured Europe, but unfortunately, I never put another one together, so my effects in the U.S. aren’t nearly as good as when we play over there. But I’m working with a guy from Carvin named Gary Johnson on a processor that will be ready in about a month, and it will make my rack only about two spaces high. Each unit will have eight delay lines, which I can use for chorus. To me, a good chorus is really just a bunch of single mono delay lines, but it takes a lot of them chained together to get that effect. So this is eight delays in one box.
-Maybe you can tell us something about your design for a Carvin guitar.
I have a few prototypes here, it should be released shortly. On the outside the guitar resembles a telecaster, but that’s just the appearance. I came up with a body shape that Carvin did not want to use. They liked to keep things more traditional. The body is alder, with a maple neck and an ebony fingerboard. They are incredibly light, because they’re hollow and they have a lot of sustain. I use just one pick up in the bridge position. Carvin will release the guitar with different pick up configurations to make them attrictive to a wider audience. The deal is that every guitar should have the same quality. I have to be able to go out to a shop and buy the same guitar that I’m using. I’ve wanted to develop an instrument that sounds good, is not too expensive and that has something from my experience when it comes to develop an instrument with a good sound.
Allan has got through a number of guitars and amps during his long career. What equipment was used on ‘None Too Soon’ and what gear does he currently use?
"I was mainly playing my Steinbergers through a couple of Mesa Boogies, one of which is a Dual Rectifier, although I’ve actually switched to Carvin guitars just recently. Bunny Brunel (bass player, ex-Chick Corea) came over with this amazing Carvin bass guitar. I know they always had this reputation of doing high quality guitars at a lower price and all that stuff, but this guitar was really pretty amazing. Bunny suggested that I talk to them and see if they would make me an instrument. It turned out that they were interested in doing a special one-off custom guitar, but the bottom line was that if they weren’t able to make a guitar that I was going to play, then it was no deal. So they came up with several prototypes and they kept changing them and modifying them. I got two of the 1 advanced prototypes just a few days ago and they’re absolutely amazing. I’m really happy with them, so that’s what I’m going to be playing from now on. I used one for a recording yesterday and it sounded great!"
He has worked with Charvel, Steinberger, DeLap Guitars and most recently with Carvin.
- These people have been very helpful, but usually something has come in the way. Grover Jackson was the one who took care of the band when we first came to the United States. He let us rehearse in his factory, and built a red Charvel that I had for a long time.
- Something that has always been a problem is that [factory made] guitars vary in quality so much from one to the next [in the production line]. I do not like to rely on a (single) guitar and Steinberger came to the rescue. Their guitars sounded amazing and because the material was plastic, the copies were almost identical. I ordered custom-built guitars with a flatter neck. My communication with Ned Steinberger was very good, and we had a constant dialogue where I made suggestions regarding product development. At first, there were only a few parameters to control, but it developed. Unfortunately, it went as it always does when Gibson buys something - downhill. I received no help and they did not even bother to call me back.
- Now I’m playing a Carvin model that I designed with the company. It’s a Holdsworth Signature Series that sounds really good. With this I have made use of and benefited from all of my collected experience, and I am very pleased with the result. The body is semi hollow and made of alder, a medium heavy and nice sounding wood. You can choose from a number of tops but I prefer alder, and the same is true for the neck. My guitar has an ebony fretboard with a 25-inch scale. The frets are tall Jim Dunlop’s and the pickups are Carvin custom wounds that are very close to the sound of old PAF pickups.
A good, old-fashioned "one guitar man," Holdsworth records with essentially the same equipment he uses for live gigs. The only difference is that he adds effects processing live, but prints his signals dry in the studio, preferring to add effects in the mix. The current axe in Allan’s life is a custom Carvin that he designed himself: a set-neck instrument with an ebony fingerboard, 20-inch radius neck, a semi-hollow alder body, and a single custom-wound Carvin humbucker. His guitar signal is split out to two stereo amp rigs: a pair of Mesa Boogie Mark III’s for clean sounds and a pair of Boogie Dual Rectifier amps with single 12-inch cabinets for distorted leads. He uses Rocktron Intellifexes and a Roland WG-8 guitar system to process his guitar signals.
And it’s the same today-the sound comes from whatever amp and guitar I’m using. I used really nice-sounding, low-output pickups, because very old pickups have very weak magnets and very little pull on the strings, which creates a nice tone. A lot of guys like to use really high-output pickups, but that sucks the strings and kills your sustain because it stops the strings from vibrating. The new Carvin pickup that I helped to design for our new Allan Holdsworth Model uses that old enameled wire, and it has a lower magnetic pull so it doesn’t suck on the strings."
MRJ: Are you still using Steinberger guitars?
AH: Yeah I still have an original Stenberger. I’ve been using a Bill De Lap guitar. I also use a custom Carvin. The only difference between that and the Steinberger is that it has a headstock.
In the past we’ve seen Allan play a number of different guitars. Is he still playing the Carvin Allan Holdsworth signature instrument?
"I’ve been using the Carvin guitar for the past 18 months or so, but it has been through some changes during that time. They’re a really great company, because if ever I’ve wanted it modified in any way whatsoever, they’ve just done it. It’s a two-octave guitar with a humbucker. I told them that I was unhappy about putting my name on something I wasn’t going to use, but they came up with something that I still want to play!"
TCG: When did synthesizers enter the picture?
AH: I tried the early Roland synth and loved the idea of the sounds, but it didn’t really work for me. Tom Mulhern at Guitar Player magazine recommended the Synthaxe and that was where that relationship started. Also guitar-wise, I played Charvels for a while, and later discovered the Steinberger. That was it. I just thought it was amazing. It was real hard to switch back to any other guitar. I became friendly with Ned Steinberger. He would send me the guitars without any frets, and then I would send them to a luthier by the name of Bill DeLap and he would flatten the fingerboard, and take out the relief. I like the neck to be absolutely straight. We would put Jim Dunlop 6000 fret wire in it. I had quite a few of these. Also, Bill built me a few baritone guitars. He made me a regular length wooden Steinberger and basically I’ve been playing that till I hooked up with Carvin for this new custom guitar. I play about 80% of the time now on the Carvin and 20% on the Steinberger. It’s still nice to switch back and forth. I love headless guitars. I think the new Carvin is an excellent guitar.
Holdsworth plays a hollow body custom guitar that he helped design for Carvin. "It’s kind of like a closed semi-acoustic," he explains. "The top and the back don’t touch any part of the wood on the inside except at the bridge. So it feels a lot like an acoustic guitar except that it’s closed, there’s no holes. You can squeeze a little bit more dynamics out of that kind of an instrument than with a solid body. It’s what I needed for the direction that I wanted to take on this new record."
Holdsworth also turned to modeling amps to reproduce his unmistakable tone - employing a Yamaha DG8O 1x12 and a 1x12 cabinet. While the lead tones hammered out by his chambered Carvin signature guitar were miked, he used a Simon Systems D.I. to record his clean rhythm sounds direct. "I’ve never liked distortion," he admits, "but I need it to get sustain. Some amps sound so hairy that I want to give them a shave."
How has the Carvin guitar helped in this never-ending quest?
"The first ones were good, but they weren’t quite complete for me. But then I designed another one, called the Fat Boy. The top and the back don’t touch any wood on the inside, except the edges. So in that respect it’s like an acoustic guitar but with no holes. That one turned out really good. You can’t put a tremolo on it and that’s something I’m really pleased about too. But I’m still really fond of Steinbergers, so that’s never going to go away.
Although Holdsworth is pictured in All Night Wrong with his custom headless guitar built by luthier Bill DeLap, he still relies on his signature model Carvin Fatboy. "When we travel to Japan, I often take the headless guitar because of size limitations. Now, Carvin and I are in the process of making a headless version of my signature model, because I really like the way the headless guitar hangs on me. It’s so balanced." Holdsworth strings the DeLap with a LaBella .008 set, and his Carvin with a .009 set. His pick is a 1mm Dunlop.
Bill: But the one that you played last night was...
Allan: Just a regular DeLap. You know, I designed a couple of guitars with Carvin and was on the road with those for a number of years, and I always had a few custom made headless guitars too. I was really fond of headless guitars. It’s such a struggle for me to jump and forth from a headless guitar to a regular guitar. If you get used to playing a (headless) Steinberger, it’s really hard to go back to a headstock. I can’t really describe it, it just feels awkward.
MM: You mentioned the Carvin guitars. Do you play production models or are yours custom made for you?
AH: NO. That was a stipulation that I insisted on that I be able to walk into any Carvin store and pick up an instrument and it be exactly the same. Some of the prototypes are one-offs because they weren’t production models, obviously, but the ones I play now I got from Carvin stores. The production models are not different than the ones I play, not in any way.
MM: So there you go fellows, the guitars he plays are EXACTLY like the ones you can buy. He doesn’t sell out.
AH: Well, I did do a deal with Ibanez a long time ago where my guitar was built by someone else and the production models were hit and miss, but that’s the last time I did something like that and my deal with Carvin stipulated that they all be up to my standards—so I could go in and get one from a store and it be exactly the same. Carvin and I agreed to do a guitar based on my specs and they asked if I liked it if they could produce it…if I didn’t like it I would just keep the one guitar, but if I did like it, they would produce it. It’s worked out pretty well, really. As a matter of fact, I’ve got some ideas for a new one with a tremolo cause I miss having a tremolo sometimes.
MM: What amps are you playing currently?
AH: I was playing the DG80’s but they discontinued them…and again I’m using defunct discontinued equipment(laughter). Now I’ve been using a Carvin tube amp. I’ve been using that and really like it with 2 4x12 cabinets but most places we play are too small to get that stuff on, so I usually use the Yamaha rig in those situations. I’m still using the Yamaha UD tap delays…Rick Kurioki(sp) helped me build this unit that is 8 delay lines in one box. It became logistically impossible to move that kind of gear around and have any money left at the end of the gigs. Ha!
MM: Just so everyone can understand this, when you help design something do you get a buyout(basically cash up front and then nothing afterwards) or do you get a piece of the action?
AH: Usually you get a small percentage. It’s good with some companies and not so good with others. Carvin is treating my pretty well. Yahama helped me out with the delay box because I couldn’t get anyone to make one. I was grateful that they even made it since the piece of gear wasn’t even in existence but it’s now discontinued.
TCG: Are you still playing the Carvins?
AH: Yeah, oh yeah. I’ve been playing them a lot over the last year and I’ve rediscovered my headless guitars and I’ve been playing that quite a bit, too.
Which guitars are you currently playing?
I played the Carvins for the past 15 years, though for the past two years I’ve been drifting back to the DeLap headless guitars, because there’s just something about the way that they feel. But, I kind of wish that I hadn’t; I picked up the headless and thought, “Oh no, what have I done?”
The Final Interview: Allan Holdsworth Talks SynthAxes, Jaw-Dropping Solos and More (Guitar World 2017)
You’ve played Carvin guitars for many years, and often play a Carvin Allan Holdsworth Signature HH2 headless guitar. How did it come about, and why do you like headless guitars? —Ed Simon
The first headless guitar that I played was a Steinberger—I fell in love with the design. They are extremely comfortable and make perfect sense. They are very stable and sound great, and it’s easier to change strings. Once you play a headless guitar, you get used to the fact that there is no headstock, and you’ll never want to play a regular guitar again. A number of years ago I talked to Carvin guitars, which is now Kiesel, about making me a headless guitar, and I loved it. I’ve been playing headless guitars ever since.
You do a lot of research and development with the Carvin guitar and amplifier company, don’t you?
I’ve worked with Carvin for decades, actually. They’re a wonderful company. They branched into two parts now as Carvin, which is the electronic stuff, and family name Kiesel, which is the guitar side now. And I have a wonderful relationship with them. Whenever I have a new idea or something I want to change on my instrument they’re always ready to help me out.