"For a while, when I was with Hiseman, I got into 335’s very much. Once I’d got used to them, though, I found it very hard to get back into anything else solid, they seemed so unresponsive next to the semi-acoustic 335. Strangely, now I’m back with solids I can hardly play the semi-acoustics at all."
You’ve used solidbody after solidbody and yet you strive for a more resonant instrument. Have you ever considered a semi-hollowbody such as an ES-335?
I used a 335 years and years ago. After the SG, I used one for a while. And I found it very difficult indeed to play a solidbody after playing that 335. I got so used to that hollow, wet response -- that sort of spring where the tone sort of goes into the guitar and then it goes "whack" out through the amp. It seemed that on a solid guitar the note would come out through the speakers almost before you even played it, and I had difficulty adjusting to that. But that appears to be over since I found these lighter woods for my solidbodies. They respond almost like the 335.
How was the feel of the 335?
I loved the feel of 335s; they were pretty nasty to play sitting down, but the way they hung on a strap made them about the most comfortable guitars to play. The balance was perfect. My 335 didn’t hang neckheavy like the SG and didn’t lean toward the body. And 335s were a reasonable weight, so you didn’t get dents in your shoulder. Unfortunately, the sound was a little bit honky for me -- hollow in the middle, frequency-wise.
In Allan Holdsworth’s career, which spans 15 years, he’s gone from cello guitar, to Fender Stratocaster, to Gibson SGs, and today he plays Charvel guitars.
‘When I first played the SG I fell in love with it instantly and I took the Fender which I’d bought on HP back to the shop, and traded it for the Gibson SG Standard they had. I stuck with that for a couple of years while I was a semi-pro, and then I got a job in a Mecca houseband, and that’s when I started messing about with guitars and experimenting with 335s and whatever. That was a real experimental thing, I changed the lot, different amps, different strings, different guitars. I still like trying everything and each one of these Charvel guitars I have is an experiment, but they’re getting closer and closer to what I want. All the necks are 2 ¼" wide at the top of the fretboard which is a lot wider than a Fender, and I really like that. I’ve always been anti heavy guitars, and all of these guitars are light. They’re made of spruce or Bass (as in ass) wood. Most of the older Strats were light.’ Allan Holdsworth had, at the date of our meeting, four Stratocaster type Charvels which included a blonde one w ith a pair of custom wound Dimarzio humbuckers, a red one with a single custom wound Seymour Duncan humbucker, and a white one with two more custom wound Seymour Duncan humbuckers in the middle and rear positions for a certain sound Allan was after. The fourth one is blue, also with a pair of custom wound Seymour Duncan pickups. All of these guitars feature one tone and one volume control plus pickup selector and brightness switches. Another guitar of Allan’s is a Charvel prototype that looks not a million miles from an Ovation Viper, also with Seymour Duncan pickups.
One of these instruments carries a Dave Storey (Kahler) tremelo (sic) which loads from the top, with no tremolo block in sight. Before he emigrated to the USA, Dave was England’s answer to Floyd Rose, and his unique tremolo system. Ah well, England’s loss, America’s gain.
MP: Did you ever try any semi-hollow bodies like the 335.
AH: Yeah I did, I had a period of that, a short one, when I was working with Tempest because Paul Williams, the singer, he had a 335 and I tried it and I really liked it and then it started me off on this hollow thing so I played a 175 for awhile. I even played some tunes with Tempest on a 175 which is kind of funny!
TCG: Tell us about your guitar evolution.
AH: I started out with a regular steel string flat top at a young age. Then I got a Hofner. I think it was called a "President." Later I put a pickup on it. My father’s friend built me my first amplifier. I used to love going to his place and watch him solder and such. This got me started in my interest in electronics. When someone lent me a Stratocaster, that was it. I couldn’t believe it. It sounded like the Shadows, or Hank Marvin who was a huge hero to me. I bought a Strat and used it enthusiastically for about six months till I tried a Gibson SG. It changed me again. I sold my Strat and played SGs for about a decade. Later, I did experiment with Strats again but with humbucker replacement pickups. I liked that sound. In 1972, I recorded with a trio called Tempest using an ES-335. I later used the SG with Tony Williams’ Lifetime Band.