From famine in England to waiting cult in California (Daily Bruin 1982)
Allen [sic] Holdsworth’s IOU; from famine in England to waiting cult in California
The Daily Bruin, May 11, 1982
By Chris Hoard
Guitarist Allan Holdsworth is surprised, to say the least. At present Holdsworth's band, IOU, has sold out all their gigs - three at the Roxy and two at the Golden Bear, and the crowds have been rowdy, responsive, and wildly enthusiastic. For such a gentle and unassuming fellow, this sort of thing is slightly unfamiliar territory. Holdsworth said of the response to his opening Roxy gig:
"It's overwhelming - I was really shocked. I had no idea ... I'm happy - I like it, but I'm really terrified at the same time. I didn't have such a good gig that night at the Roxy - I was too nervous to play anything - shit all those people! There was just so much going on. I didn’t have time to collect myself for it. The monitors were so bad - I mean it was fucked up during the soundcheck, but it was terrible during the gig. I'm hoping to make up for it during the coming shows..."
For the last two years, Holdsworth has been out of work as a guitarist; he could not find anyone in his native England to finance his band IOU, and a year ago they cut an album on borrowed money, hence Holdsworth's idea for the band's name. A few months back, a mutual acquaintance offered Holdsworth a ray of hope he was introduced long distance to Sharon Sudall, who currently lives in Orange County. Sudall agreed to manage the band and try to set up some gigs for them on the West Coast.
Holdsworth seemed to have only a vague awareness that he had fostered a reputation as one of the most brilliant and innovative avant-garde guitarists living today. Music lovers who have acquired a taste for some of the obscure and less obscure progressive rock and jazz/rock groups of the seventies will find it nearly impossible to avoid Holdsworth's many enchanting contributions to this most nebulous of contemporary music genres. As one fan assured him before his Roxy gig last Tuesday, April 27, “Man, you're like religion to some of these guys." Holdsworth's fans seem to have no doubts that he is the most exciting, awe-inspiring player since ... Hendrix, McLaughlin, Howe?
One can draw from a remarkably diverse assortment of recordings that support the argument for Holdsworth. Over the past decade Holdsworth gravitated between many obscure bands of great renown - from the raw, loose, hammering energy of Tony Williams' New Lifetime to the grandiose, ultra-refined textures of UK's first album. Since his early twenties, Holdsworth joined and recorded with an exclusive set of international avant-garde bands -Tempest, Soft Machine, Jean-Luc Ponty, Gong, Bruford, Tony Williams, and U.K. Many fellow musicians and critics alike have found Holdsworth's playing wholly original - his supporting guitar and solos stand as the musical highlights of many of these band's best recordings.
In England a young Holdsworth had originally aspired to become a professional jazz saxophonist, but through his family it was a guitar that first fell into his hands when he was seventeen. His career from a practical standpoint has been rough, plodding and non-committal. In past interviews Holdsworth has described at length the adverse effects on his career due to dissatisfying bands, greedy producers, and alcohol abuse. He left a promising involvement with Jean-Luc Ponty because of his interest in Bill Bruford's first solo project. Both he and Bruford later decided to join UK and then left because of artistic qualms with the band's other members. A year later Holdsworth left Bruford because he was not into their music. Finally Holdsworth formed his own band, a trio dubbed “False Alarm." The name was later changed and vocalist Paul Williams (with whom Holdsworth had been an original member of Tempest) joined. Bassist Paul Carmichael and drummer Gary Husband make up the other two apexes of the instrumental trio.
Holdsworth is continuing to regard a highly appreciative Southern California cult following with those familiar, phenomenally fast and manic improvisations - and a few newer Holdsworth nuances. At his Thursday night Roxy shows, Holdsworth played host to some spontaneous jamming with fellow former Bruford member, bassist Jeff Berlin and a local avid Holdsworth fan of note - Eddie Van Halen. Berlin's band will be opening for IOU tonight at Reseda's Country Club. Just after Holdsworth's first L.A. concert appearance in four years (UK at the Santa Monica Civic in 1978) he granted the Bruin an interview.
CH: What have you been doing since recording "One Of A Kind with Bruford? Why did you leave the band?
AH: Well, I just didn't want to play in the band anymore - I was just fed up with the music - it was too sterile. I just wanted to do something else. Basically since then I've been doing nothing, absolutely nothing. I wasn't playing or anything - I was just trying to get this band off the ground, and I couldn't. We couldn't get anybody interested in it at all in England. So I borrowed the money to make the album - that's why it's called the IOU thing. The name was so perfect for it. No one got paid to make the album. We haven't played together for a year until four gigs ago. We did three gigs up in San Francisco at Keystone and one in Monterey. So to go from two years of absolutely nothing - banging your head against the wall -- it's just overwhelming; it's really unexpected.
CH: Bill Bruford gave me the impression that you were adverse to touring in America ...
AH: No that was just Bill's bullshit way of telling people I'd left the band. A lot of people said that to me, but that's bullshit! I love it here, man. It's fantastic - the only thing I didn't like before was touring with a band I didn't want to be with. The UK thing was such a depressing thing for me it took so much out of me physically and emotionally - because I was unhappy with the music and Bill's music was so close to it in essence! I called it "glued together" music. Much as I loved working on the album - it just didn't work for me live. I wanted to get back to something more like what was happening when I was working with Tony (Williams). And the reason it's a trio is because I want to experiment with certain other aspects of my playing that I've not had a chance to develop before. UK and Bruford were what I call "album" bands. They go out and make an album, and they do it in little bits and pieces - which is fine, and then they go out and try to reproduce the album live - that's not what I want to do. I want to make albums — but I want to make an album a token of the gig, rather than a gig being a token of the album
AH: When I've cleared my head of keyboard ideas, I hope maybe to add another guy and change the music again and do something different - I wanted to do the trio thing to satisfy myself - but it's really hard sometimes - especially when you get into a situation like last night where you're totally panic stricken! There's so much responsibility on me to get everything right.
CH: Do you feel you've established a strong musical identity of your own?
AH: I feel like I've established a certain kind of (identity) but I don't want it to stay like it is. I just want to try as hard as I can to keep it moving.
CH: You've always spoken favorably of your experience with Tony Williams - do you keep in touch?
AH: Well, I talked to him again, and it was a bit of a disappointment for me - I don't know if it was for him. The guy I did a duo album for (with Gordon Beck) asked me if I'd like to do a record for him, and I said yes. He asked me who I'd like to do it with and I said I wanted Tony to do it. So the guy agreed to it and I phoned up Tony and asked him if he'd do it, and he said "yeah, great!" But the guy phoned me two weeks later and said, "I'm sorry, I can't afford to do it." It never happened and it was a real drag. I've tried to get a hold of Tony since, but haven't managed to talk with him -- 1'd love to see him again.
CH: You were spending some time with Eddie Van Halen today - I hear he's a big fan of yours...
AH: Yeah. I've met him before today... when I was working with UK we did a couple of gigs with them. But really today was the first chance I'd gotten to speak with him - he's great. He's really innovative. It was a real nice experience because there are not many people who are like him. Whenever you think about different idioms of music, the only thing that's really important to me is the inner music. He's a natural musician - some people learn things and do them in a learned manner this guy is doing it for himself, so I relate to him as a person. I've really enjoyed it - there's not that many musicians I've felt that way about whatever the idiom.
CH: Did you have any particular influences?
AH: No, not really. I like to listen to everybody. Hendrix wasn't really one of my influences - more so Charlie Christian and Eric Clapton really. Tony was the most influential.
CH: When you weren't playing in England, what were you doing?
AH: I was repairing bad amplifiers and stuff, and fixing people's guitars -- and selling my own guitars. I bought a lot of guitars from time to time, and I bought a lot of amplifiers and stuff when I was with UK, and I just lived off that.. The last two years in England have just been hell ... one thing that happened just before I left. Grover Jackson with Charvel Guitars here phoned me up just before I left England and asked me what I liked about guitars. When I got here he made me three unbelievable guitars. I mean there were things I'd been trying to get people in England to do experiments with for years - like experimenting with different woods. It was like I had sold my Strat to pay for the album mix thinking, praying ... and it was just absolute luck! I'm overjoyed ....
Allan Holdsworth is returning home to England for a brief visit this week and IOU will be resuming a tour of the East Coast in June. A recording contract is presently in the works for the band - all of whom have been encouraged strongly by the response they have received in the U.S. so far. It used to be that some of America's best musicians had to go to England to get their careers off the ground.
Holdsworth & Berlin scale musical walls (Daily Bruin 1982)
By C.L. Hoard
UCLA Daily Bruin, June 2, 1982
The progressive rock/jazz fusion band Bruford, named for its leader and well known drummer, broke up over a year ago. Bill Bruford currently bashes in a renewed King Crimson; bassist Jeff Berlin alternates between L.A. and New York, teaching classes at B.I.T. in Hollywood and gigging occasionally at Donte's in the Val; keyboardist Dave Stewart is alive, well, and no doubt up to mischief in the U.K.. and guitar phenomenon Allan Holdsworth is currently touring the U.S. with his own group after a dry spell in England. Bruford's group consolidated four of the most talented (primarily electric) intrumentalists of the 70s and produced two masterful recordings - Feels Good To Me and One Of A Kind.
Earlier last month, bands led by Berlin and Holdsworth performed at Reseda's Country Club - fortunately the sound system proved far superior to the one Holdsworth's IOU employed at the Roxy a week earlier. Many fans were expecting at some point to see Berlin and Holdsworth perform together like they did at one of Holdsworth's three earlier Roxy gigs - and possibly to see Eddie Van Halen join Holdsworth on stage - which also happened. Though neither of these rumored hopes came to pass, the concert proved to be perhaps the finest fusion bill to hit L.A. in the past twelve months.
Berlin's instrumental quartet took immediate command of an adoring audience with a rousing. manic version of Bach's Prelude No. 2 (from "The Well-Tempered Clavier"). With a fascinating electric arrangement that used exacting double parts on bass, drums, electric guitar, and synthesizer, Berlin's band left no doubt as to how hip old J.S. really was. Berlin's exceptionally versatile band displayed a wide range of influences in their refreshingly original compositions - most predominantly Bruford, along with a large dose of Jeff Beck and Weather Report. The result is perhaps the most worthy and exciting hybrid to perform on the local scene in several years.
The star instrumentalist in the band is drummer Vinny Coliauta (a Zappa alumnus) who never failed to deliver a consistently inspired (and almost obsessed) performance. Berlin's (admittedly unnamed - yeah, reviewers take drugs too) guitarist, an upcoming major talent, flamboyantly lashed out sinewy lines that rang with the predominant influence of Holdsworth. Keyboardist saxophonist Larry Williams (better known as a Seawind horn player showed the necessary technical expertise and seemed much more content in this more radical musical environment. Berlin's band represents the clear successor to Bruford in this enjoyable. although too often overly technical, realm of contemporary jazz.
Berlin, though not necessarily an innovator on the electric bass, has certainly fostered a wealth of instrumental charisma and virtuosity. Contrary to some of his critics, he is far from a topy of Jaco Pastorius on fretted bass. The quality of his solos vary greatly, but Berlin is one of those rare bassists who is in no way limited by the instrument he plays. His band closed with a well-deserved encore of a Bruford favorite - a piece that was requested aloud many times by the audience, and one of Berlin's best compositions, "Joe Frazier." In terms of an original sounding rock and jazz fusion band, Allan Holdsworth's IOU, an instrumental trio with the intermittent presence of singer Paul Williams (who sang in Holdsworth's first band Tempest), has accomplished an extremely precarious cohesion. When this band hits, they can be considered (except for King Crimson) as one of the most provocative post-70s progressive rock bands on stage. When they miss, as was the case at their unfortunate first gig at the Roxy, they seem little more than a sore vehicle to support Holdsworth's wonderfully manic solos.
Fortunately at this gig, IOU remained entirely on target throughout - and Holdsworth, like a Coltrane on guitar, soloed far into the outer limits, and despite obvious excess, what was excessive always became nullified by Holdsworth's deepset inspiration. Holdsworth is a non-stop traveller on his guitar - his technical flamboyance and speed is rarely contrived, and stands completely contrary to the sort of frivolous calculations that Di Meola spews forth repeatedly: Holdsworth is faster anyway.
Holdsworth has garnered a trio that is capable of a full and distinctive sound. Bassist Paul Carmichael leans toward a conservative, solid bottom while drummer Gary Husband strays toward the outer boundaries. Paul Williams, a veteran singer, has developed a compelling original style which draws comparisons to both John Wetton during his U.K. years and the Bruford vocal style that was ineptly attempted by Jeff Berlin, Williams, however, was probably doing his thing before any of this, and could well prove to be the group's most accessible strength if IOU's music continues to grow.