When did you form the group with which you are currently playing?
Early this year. It’s called False Alarm, and it’s a trio that we’re now trying to get management for. We have Gary Husband on drums - he’s also very good on piano - and Paul Carmichael on bass. Besides playing guitar, I also sing a little. We had a terrible time finding a bass player because so many of them are interested in sounding like Jaco [Pastorius]. We wanted someone who sounded like they were doing something of their own. Our music has some elements of jazz and rock, but we try not be overly tricky.
Allan Holdsworth - cult shaman to contemporary flash guitar idols like Eddie Van Halen, principal (and most interesting) soloist for U.K. Gong, Bruford, Soft Machine Tony Williams Lifetime (second edition) and Jean-Luc Ponty, and the only player to successfully fuse the ‘big guitar" timbre of seventies heavy rock with the melodic continuity and harmonic imagination of jazz - is not amused. He is sitting in his London flat with a bad cold doing yet another interview about his prodigious instrumental technique with an overawed American writer while his newish three-piece band, False Alarm goes absolutely nowhere slowly.
The transatlantic telephone conversation is punctuated with temporary pauses for some deep, basso-profundo coughing as Holdsworth relates the grinding frustration of his current situation. "Yeah, it’s still called False Alarm, that’s the name we’re using in the U.K. It’s my band but I don’t like using my own name. Same band members, Paul Carmichael on bass and Gary Husband on drums. We’re looking for management and a record label. It’s hard [getting signed] everywhere, but it’s really dreadful here. We can’t get anybody interested."
For example, he says, there’s the tape of False Alarm that is making the rounds among a small group of friends and supporters in the U.S.
"The funny thing about this band and the tape is that we do all songs. It’s three pieces and we’re going to be adding a singer. It’s the usual story with this tape though, demos are demos. It’s just bits of longer things. We didn’t know what to put on the tape and we really didn’t have the time to record it right. We’ve been doin’ quite a few live gigs but we get stuck in a corner because we don’t have a record deal which means we can’t get the right kind of gigs. Just playing for nothin’ man, we can’t make a living."
The tape IS rough. Featuring a murky mix which blunts the edge of the instrumental interplay, the unsettling combo of Allan’s tentative vocals and a female vocalist who sounds like a lower key version of Millie Small ("My Boy Lollipop’) and fragments of material which don’t add up to "songs" in the accepted form, the False Alarm demo can’t be considered a major plus at this stage of the game. The painful part is that, even with the bright shards of instrumental nirvana that bubble up through the mix from time to time, this tape literally shrieks NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL. Definitely not the kind of item that will bring record company A&R people running to his door.
"I don’t like listening to those records [Believe It, Million Dollar Legs] only from the standpoint of my own playing. I feel like my own playing’s improved so much that when I hear it, I just get depressed. But I really loved playing with Tony. The essence, the feeling. That was the best thing that ever happened to me as far as feelings and playing together. It was just such a pleasure. I’d look forward to every gig. Which is why I’m so happy about the band I’m playing with now. I get the same feeling I got when I was playing with Tony.
I like to play with a drummer who plays with you. I don’t like playing with static rhythmical things. I’d rather play along where there is spontaneity happening. These guys [False Alarm] are fantastic and they inspire me. The important thing is playing with people."
MP: In 1980 you started a trio called False Alarm, with Gary Husband and Paul Carmichael – was it time for you to become a leader?
AH: Well I – during the time that I – most of my life worked – well after I moved to London I been just another guy in someone else’s band, I just decided myself – I had a backlog of material I’d been working on and I wanted to try and play with different people and I met Gary Husband, cause I met all these musicians who had been saying Hey you should listen to this drummer friend I mean it he’s like unbelievable and I had an opportunity to play with Gary and it was like really special, the guys really an unbelievable musician. And I really liked working with him, he really understood – probably understood more where I wanted than I could understand what he was really wanted but it was the beginning of a really great kind of relationship and we just tried to get this band off to the road and we couldn’t – we had a friend worked for Virgin Records and he gave us some free studio time – a guy called Nicholas Powell, and we did some tracks -in fact we finished doing the whole album on this little boat on a canal in London.