Individualist & Musician (Gitarre & Bass 1994)
THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE CAN BE DOWNLOAD FOR FREE AT https://www.gitarrebass.de/heftarchiv/1994-11/holdsworth-allan/
This is a machine translated version of the German article Individualist & Musiker (Gitarre & Bass 1994). The translation has been only lightly edited. Some obvious errors have been corrected. The text is by and large highly intelligible, but in some places there are problems with the quality of the underlying OCR source material. Where I found this, I marked it in brackets. You will note that the syntax is odd in many places. Because this article is so long, and the admin is not a native German nor English speaker, most of these oddities have not been changed. If someone would like to volunteer a full blown human translation, please send a message to the Allan Holdsworth Archives on Facebook.
Allan Holdsworth, Individualist & musician
Guitar & Bass, June 1997
By Lothar Trampert
If you were to create a top ten of the most innovative electric guitarists since the development of this instrument, then Allan Holdsworth would certainly have earned one of the top chart positions. Because, to be honest, so many musicians have not been there, which could realize their own six strings at the same time an individual style, new sound concepts and clear recognition value.
A. Holdsworth was born on August 6, 1948 in Yorkshire, England, and grew up in Bradford, an industrial city in the north. His father Sam was a pianist, but earned his money predominantly as a seller in a department store. Allan himself never had a formal musical education, his later development was characterized mainly by the music he heard in his parents' house: big-band jazz by Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, but also records by trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke or saxophonist and Bebop giants Charlie Parker belonged to his father's collection. Besides other horn players - u.a. John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - at first it was just a guitarist who interested Allan: Charlie Christian. Due to his preference for saxophonists Allan then only relatively late, at the age of 17 years, to the guitar. More about his further artistic development in the following interview.
Allan Holdsworth lives today with his wife and three children in what is known to be the rain-poor south of California. In addition to his house, he has set up a small studio in a garage, which, according to his own information, has been under construction for years - good equipment is known to cost a lot, and Allan, despite his high reputation in music circles, has never been one of those earned more than they needed to live.
Holdsworth is on the one hand a very reserved man, but full of friendliness and helpfulness. "Call me before you leave," he said on the phone. "I'll pick you up at the station." That's what he said - and two hours later we sat in his studio between guitars, amps, and effects. It could start.
G & B: How did it happen that you emigrated to the United States a few years ago?
A.H .: After working with Bill Bruford, which was around the end of the 70s, I finally wanted to put together my own band. I was always only a member of bands of other musicians and now I just wanted to realize my ideas, because I already had a number of compositions in the drawer. At that time, I met drummer Gary Husband, and we got along great. We searched for a bassist for a long time and finally found Paul Carmichael. Then we had the problem of not getting any real gigs and usually played only in some London pubs, in front of fifteen people. A friend of mine, singer Paul Williams, was living in California at the time, and he had given us three gigs via Mike Varney (now head of Shrapnel Records, d.) Mike was such a fan of ours, and he had persuaded a club owner in San Francisco to book us. It was an incredible thing for me and the band because the place was full! Every night more than 500 people passed by, and in London, only 15 had actually been there before. At first I did not understand that at all, but I realized that despite everything, there was an audience for our music. And since I had occasionally read my name in American magazines, I decided to stay in the USA. In England, I saw no way to survive as a musician; If I had stayed, I would surely have given up this job. Sure, I would have continued to play guitar, but not as a professional. So that was the reason for my move.
G & B: In recent years, you have barely accepted studio jobs alongside your own productions.
A.H .: No, even at the time I am not interested in this direction.
G & B: Is that basically not the case or is there a lack of offers?
A.H .: No, I do not want that. I'm not good at doing something other people want me to do write. I would not be a good soldier either. It's more about doing my own things. Of course, that's not easy, because I can not make money from it, when I'm just working on my music. If we can go on tour for a while, that's okay. But in the months that I spend here at home, sometimes it looks a bit tough financially. But that's fine. In all these years I've gotten a lot of equipment, maybe I have enough stuff in ten years, that I can produce my own music completely and no longer rely on record companies. Then everything would look quite different.
G & B: Michael Landau told me that for him there is a very clear separation between his own music and the studio jobs. So you could not imagine such an ambiguous life.
A.H .: I do not think so. Often, when I used to play for other people, they did not use my recording at all, but later moved it to someone else. They always called and said, "We like the way you play and want you to do your thing for this song. Do exactly what you imagine. "Afterwards Then they realized that they did not like it. Actually, they mostly want you to do something that you do not want to do yourself. For another important reason, I am also not interested in such work: I have met a lot of people, great musicians who came into this studio scene, but afterwards did not find their way. Because if you make a lot of money with it, it is not so easy to get back from this lifestyle path, if you want to realize your own music. And since I never had much money, I just got used to it. Of course it has gradually improved over time; and I like that more than if I suddenly became rich with a thing that I do not like, and then I can not get away from it. All I want to do is play, and such studio jobs are not always necessarily music for me. Sure, I also do occasional jobs, when I make certain electronic devices for people, that always earns me some money if we are not on tour, as in the past few months. But I'd rather build some kind of device for someone than play something I do not like in the studio for other people.
G & B: But you were on the penultimate album from level 42. How could you do this?
A.H .: That was a few years ago. Gary Husband was at level 42, and their guitarist died suddenly. They asked me if I could not come to England to play some solos. I knew they were all very nice guys, so I did that. I helped them out while looking for a new guitarist - that was an exceptional situation. And there was really no typical session atmosphere, I felt already integrated into the band context.
G & B: Tempest, Soft Machine, Lifetime, Jean-Luc Ponty, UK, Gong, Bill Bruford - these are probably the most important formations and musicians you've worked with. Which phase was the most important for you in retrospect?
A.H .: They were all important, every band in their time. It was all the same to me, and all the bands were fun for a variety of reasons. U.K. maybe least. I really liked working with Bill (Bruford, the drummer of UK): on his solo albums, especially on the second, One Of A Kind, "I felt most in a band. Before that, it was always rather sessions.
G & B: But at U.K. itself was the cooperation less good?
AH. No, that was not great. They are all very nice people, I still like them and I'm happy when I see them, but that was kind of a musical incompatibility, together we never wanted to do what each one wanted to do. It was actually Eddie's (violinist / keyboardist Eddie Jobson, dV) band, and he and (singer / bassist) John Wetton saw things in their own way, Bill stood in the middle and me at the very other end. (Grins). I really was not a good guy for this band, I think today. I could change things, play everything differently, but that never had any effect on the other musicians. It was like playing with a machine, and that drove me crazy. Playing with Gary Husband gives me a reaction to every little thing I do. I like this organic thing, but in the UK there was no life in that respect - it was dead, it was pasteurized music. There was no room for improvisation, and they asked me to perform the same solos live as on the record. I can not do that, because that contradicts everything that I believe in. (Laughs). It is not a solo if it is not improvised!
G & B: Was that different in the band of Jean-Luc Ponty?
A.H .: Oh yes, there I could play my solos as I wanted. Of course I had to learn the compositions, but I always had my freedom.
G & B: Jean-Luc Ponty is probably more jazz musician than his late seventies fusion albums suggest.
A.H .: I think he's great, and he's also underestimated by many people. I experienced him on stage, and that was fascinating. This time I enjoyed a lot, also becaus I see him as a human Very Imag
G & B: Have you ever worked with Miles Davis or Frank Zappa? I would have imagined the combination with you interesting.
Ah no. I met Frank through Chad Wackerman, who worked with him. Frank was very good to me, he helped me a lot. He always supported me generously, and I really miss him. What I loved about him was that in many ways he was a person to look up to, not just as a musician. He was an organizer of his life, beating record companies and getting the best out of everything. I thought that was great. He was a guy like Clint Eastwood, someone who did everything in his own way without being deeply involved in the business - and successfully, Frank Zappa was successful with what he did, and all that was just his own merit. I admire something like that, although I do not succeed myself; I think differently. But I would like to get to the point of being able to live well in my own world, without ever having to get out of it. My own little Disneyland, that would be great (laughs).
G & B: I just mentioned Miles Davis, who admired you very much as a guitarist.
A.H .: I did not know that then. Then at some point I got a call from his manager or one of his musicians, and they asked me if I wanted to play with him. And of course I wanted that! But just at that time already a tour with my own band, and I was in a total conflict. I could not possibly cancel this tour because I did not want to abandon my musicians. Yes, and I think he did not call me again (laughs). But that would have been a great thing.
G & B: Who is your favorite among the [Milosavas] guitarists?
A.H .: Oh, I like them all, I think each one of them was great: John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, John Scofield - they are all more than fantastic.
G & B: Is there any guitarist you feel influenced by?
A.H .: I think everyone influenced me. There are many musicians, not just guitarists, who I like. In a way, everything influences me, which I like. As I heard John Scofield and John McLaughlin, I found them both very inspiring, in different ways. But I never wanted to analyze anything or go deeper. I accept it as it is: as something I hear and like. This is also my measure of quality. I accept the high standards of these musicians and try to reach a high level without doing anything that other people already do. To achieve this kind of quality level, I try in my music. Whether I reach so close to these people, to musicians that I find really impressive, I do not know. Time will tell.
G & B: You once said in an interview that there were a lot of recordings you were involved in that you are ashamed of, John Scofield told me the same thing a short time ago.
AH. Yes, that is a disgusting feeling, the worst feeling in the world. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do not care what the artist says and wants - bootleggers, producers who just want to do some lousy record. A good example of this is my album Velvet Darkness ", which is and has always been horrible: just how it was done, no one had the fair chance to listen to the recordings in the control room, etc. Plus it was a big financial rip-off on all involved musicians , At first I was told that the album would not be released, and I just thought, great, you're worried. Then suddenly different bootleggers came out with these recordings, and then the worst thing ever happened: a big major company, Epic Records, brought out those recordings, at a time when all seven albums I had recorded and I was really proud of that, just not available anymore! I went to the shops, and the only record I found out about it was Velvet Darkness "You know, when such things happen, I say to myself, 'since!' And I want to fuck everything, find a job, and otherwise only ride a bicycle This aspect of the music business is so sick, it's all about money, everything is reduced to the money
G & B: And you do not receive any money on this record?
Ah no! Never, not a penny. My lawyer then hunted them and the album was taken out of the bargain. And that's why I can do people too as John Scofield understand, when they just do not want to listen to some recordings. Of course, there are things that I do not like so much today, after a long time, as well as the point when I took them - that's different. But as far as Velvet Darkness is concerned, it's absolutely impossible to listen to it today.
G & B: Similarly negative have you ever commented on your recordings with the drummer John Stevens.
A.H .: No, I really do not like them. Because in this case, he himself was also the wound point in the matter. We just wanted to make an album, Touching On said that I believe, and he does not play any real compositions, but we have all spontaneously improvised. Anyone who has ever tried this, knows that sometimes it can be very good, but sometimes extremely bad. After we had recorded some of these improvisations, all the musicians involved decided together which passages should come on the album and which not - we were also very schnelliner opinion. And what did John Stevens do? He made some deal and used everything, including all the shit we never wanted published! And that's something, you know, that's easy not to apologize, because he was one of us after all, it was a musician who did that! If it was someone from the record company, I might have been able to swallow it, but he was one of the band. I hope I will never have anything to do with him again, I do not want to meet him anymore. (laughs) At least not in the next few years.
G & B: Let's talk about pleasing matters. Joe Satriani, in a conversation for a workshop series in this magazine, once mentioned how important you were to his musical development.
A.H .: Oh, really?
G & B: He related, among other things, how crucial "Believe It of the Tony Williams Lifetime, with you as a guitarist, influenced him (G & B, Issue 2/94, d. WBB). A key message was that he found in your style the model for the elaboration and realization of his own ideas.
A.H .: Oh, that's great. I am very happy to hear that. We met only a few times very briefly.
G & B: Let's get back to your beginnings: Before you exclusively earned your money as a musician, you were a normal worker.
A.H .: I have a lot of jobs behind me, and even after focusing on the music, I often worked casually. (Laughing). These great eight-hour jobs
G & B: Can you still remember from when your guitar playing showed that typical flowing character that is your trademark today?
AH. Something like that. I did not start playing too early. I always loved the music, I grew up in a very musical environment, too, because my father played constantly records of excellent musicians, which I always listened to. I love the music since I was three or four years old, since I always sat in front of this old turntable exploring my father's collection. On the other hand, I never had much interest in becoming a musician, it was more by accident. I always nibbled a bit on a guitar we had at home. Actually, I wanted to play saxophone at that time, but my parents could not afford such an instrument. With [17griffich] then finally to the guitar, and when I was 19 or 20 years old, then asked me friends, if I did not want to play in their bands. Then I also began to engage more intensively with the instrument. I played in a top 40 band in England for about three years, that was my first chance to work professionally. They paid me good money, I think it was £ 25 a week, that was a lot. At the factory, I only earned 13 or 14 pounds a week, and the job in the band meant that I could practice every day and still have more money than before. And just in this phase, 1969/70, just before I played with Tempest, I heard for the first time things in my playing that I always wanted to hear. Before that, I always sounded exactly different than I wanted, it was a constant fight.
G & B: At that time you still played on a Strat or a Gibson SG.
A.H .: It was a red SG standard, then I had a White SG Custom, which Strat came later. I also had a Vox AC30, then I played a Marshall JCM 45, or whatever it was called, over a huge 8x10 "box, but I then rebuilt it into a 4x12" box that was just as big good sound. I played the SG and the Marshall for a very long time, also with Tony Williams. Shortly before I worked with Jean-Luc Ponty, I experimented with humbuckers on a Stratocaster - it worked very well, and today almost everybody does that. (Grins). That's been a thousand years, I think sometimes.
G & B: Once again, back to your "trademark": When did you first hear about the [???], distorted guitar tone?
A.H .: I do not remember exactly. Of course I've seen people like Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton playing with that sort of sound; but that was not exactly the tone I had in mind. The approach came already, I think: a lot of sustain etc. I have always been interested in amplifiers; even back in the late '68, I developed some devices that let me tune down the sound in front of the speakers, playing at a moderate volume with a [far-flung], distorting amp. Incidentally, I did not like Fender amps at the time, because they did not distort that much. This area interested me very much, I always wanted to know what was behind it. So I also worked with some people who modified the amplifiers, looked at what they were doing, read books about tube amps, learned various tricks, and finally built preamps myself, which I switched in front of my amplifiers for some more input and distortion , But very early I realized that the distortion sound came from the whole amp, including the power amp. Out
finally distortion created with the preamp was only 50% of what I wanted. Preamp [blades] very good for clean sounds, but for other stuff-I do not know. Of course, other people only do brilliant things with preamps, but I only get happy with a complete amp.
G & B: In recent years, you have also dealt with the topic of "volume reduction".
A.H .: This old load box was only used to reduce the volume of the turned-on amp. I even own the first model of that time. My new device also simulates the frequency-dependent impedance behavior of a loudspeaker. The amp signal picked up at the speaker output comes out of my device as a line level, so it simply turns a complete amp into a preamp. On this signal I can then Hall, an ES, etc. give. The top does not have to be connected to a speaker. I've been working on that for many years, and now it sounds really good.
G & B: Which amplifiers do you use to make the signal "audible" again?
A.H .: With the power amps, which then control the speakers, I experimented a lot, i.a. I use a Mesa / Boogie power amp. Of course, with my device, I do not necessarily need a tube power amp anymore; actually I would prefer a hi-fi amplifier, because the actual sound is already when it comes to the power amplifier. After all, I just want to reproduce the created sound just like you do with the monitors in a studio's listening room. My device has no speaker simulation, no equalizer function, so I can not play directly into the desk. It's just for live work, so the sound has to be taken off the speakers. This is of course possible at very low volume, with very good sound. For recordings, please proceed as follows: The loudspeaker, whose signal is picked up via microphone, is not mounted in a housing but on a rack, so it hangs practically free in the room; the recording mike is very close to the membrane. My amp setting looks like this: the bass are completely under-controlled, and the center, treble and volume controls are in the 1 o'clock position.
G & B: Which amplifiers do you currently play?
A.H .: I've been using amps from Mesa / Boogie for about four years, but when we're on tour, I often have to deal with the equipment I'm being asked. Sometimes I also play two Fender Twin Reverbs for the clean sound and two Marshalls for the distorted stuff. I used a lot of rack equipment some years ago, but I do not use that anymore. I reduced everything as much as possible. What I still use today are two Intellifexes, a Lexicon Alex and an equalizer. At home I play a boogie-top plus box for the lead sound and two combos for that Rhythm things; I like to take the satellites 60s, they are incredibly clean and I like that. Celestion Speakers are in all boogies - I've never actually used other speakers.
I used to have two racks that were really as big as refrigerators. They are still in England and I would like to bring them over. Maybe this will work out for the next tour, otherwise the freight costs are simply too high for me. But I get along well with the small setup, because it sounds easy. Many people do not want to understand that the guitar and the amp make the sound and not the other technical Equipment. I'm happy, because sounds better and I have less to tow. If we go to a concert somewhere, it just costs too much money to bring my own equipment. I always have only a small MXR compressor, which I use as a preamp for clean sounds; I then use it to control the two Intellifexes, and then the signals go into the amps, which I put on the stage. While this may not sound as good as my own amp, it does work reasonably well. Now I can put everything I need in a small toolbox (hardware store, DM 29.80, the author) and can take it everywhere. Occasionally, I also use a TC booster, but only in the clean function. The pickups on my guitars have a very low output, and the booster then brings them roughly to the level of super-distortion pickups. I do not like the sound of high-output pickups. Then I use for some time the Mesa / Boogie V-Twin, a tube preamp with which you can also go directly to the desk. (Holdsworth occasionally played on one of his guitars, without the amp, during the conversation. And it was more than amazing how authentic his sound came over, you had the feeling that even this unplugged version contained everything that made the musician's singularity unique. His secret is obviously called "solid handcraft", with a perfect mix of battered notes, subtle hammerings and slurs, where two-handed hand with its perfect attack control is just as important as the fast-paced fingerboard runs).
G & B: The interaction between head and fingers is probably more important to you than a particular guitar or amplifier.
A.H .: For some people, the equipment means way too much, I just see it as my tool. The sound really starts in the mind of a musician, and maybe even so much that it works in practice. Of course, the right tools will help you with that, but they are not the most important.
G & B: Let's still come to the guitars you play today
A.H .: They came from a Californian named Bill Delap, got them made for me. Bill lives in Monterey. I own two guitars from him, which differ only very slightly from each other. The design of his instruments is based on that of Steinberger. By the way, all the guitars I play have passive systems and custom pickups by Seymour Duncan. The hardware comes mostly from Steinberger: Trans-Trem, nut, etc. With the vibrato, however, i put on little. I especially like the sound of alder wood, [???] Necks and ebony fingerboards.
G & B: What about the Baritone guitars, do you still use them?
A.H .: I owned two of these instruments, but sold them, I exchanged. For that I got a SynthAxe; it had sold a few years ago until I missed it. I also only used the baritone guitar on some tracks, most recently at Wardenclyffe Tower. It had a 38’’ scale and was very difficult to play; but that sounded exceptionally good.
G & B: Which picks do you use?
A.H .: Big Jim Dunlop picks, 1mm thick. I think the plectrum is relatively far back and the thickness and material make it still very quiet. They produce no unwanted noise when attack
G & B: How did you adjust the string position of your guitars?
A.H .: Very low. I therefore have to work with a relatively light, careful stop technique.
G & B: Do you often switch between picking and finger picking?
A.H .: Only occasionally. The chord playing mostly with the fingers. What I never do is combine pick and fingers.
G & B: And at what position do you strike [???] strings while playing the plectrum?
A.H .: I try to strike pretty close between the two pickups; I mainly use the bridge pickup. I only use the neck pickup for chords. With the many pickups, that's a thing of the past: the more pickups on a guitar, the more the magnetic fields prevent the string from swinging in unaffected.
G & B: Do you create the fade-ins of chords with the knob on the guitar?
A.H .: No, I do not know that. For this I use a volume pedal. I need my hand on the strings.
G & B: Which strings are you using?
A.H .: Libell-Strings, 008 gauge. But that also depends on the instrument. I also played 009 and 010 strings, eg. On the Charvel, which I had some time ago. With the thin 008s, I could only make friends when I switched to the Steinberger design. These guitars I have 25.5’’ necks, I can not play short scales, a Gibson feels like a toy to me.
G & B: Your hands also look relatively large at: 18 [???]
A.H .: They are not that big. Where this rumor comes from, I do not know (laughs). Your fingers are twice as long as mine. I have very thin wrists, so hands may look bigger than they are. My palm is big, but the fingers are really not very long. However, I have learned to stretch them very far. When I started playing, I knew a classical guitarist who tuned her instrument by playing the note "E" on all strings: so she also hit on the A string, the D string and the H string, that with very small hands. At that time I realized that the size of the hands does not matter much. It's more about flexibility.
G & B: Is there any special training you can do to keep your hands moving, stretching exercises etc.?
A.H .: No, I just play every day.
G & B: And then do you only deal with your music, or do you also play purely technical exercises?
A.H .: I actually practice more. I play my compositions only when I prepare for a tour, and then I have to learn everything again and again. I practice and improvise at home. And whenever I get to the point of constantly playing the same things, I deal with scales or similar. But when I'm comfortable with what I do, I just play it.
G & B: What does it look like when you start a solo live: is this a thing that starts in the head, so it's clearly thought out?
A.H .: No, I never know exactly what will happen. Of course I know the chords, the arrangements, but I never know what I'm going to do (laughs), of course I'm thinking about chords and scales, but I always try to be as innovative as I can with what I play. I think about other, new melodic lines; maybe how I can come from one chord to another on a new path.
G & B: Does it happen that you surprise youself, that you for example discover new ways through "mistakes"?
A.H .: Not really. Do you know if a sound is wrong or right, it just depends on whether you want to play that sound at this moment too. I do not even care if a certain note fits harmoniously or not - it is only correct if you want to use it consciously. Of course, when improvising or trying to implement a certain idea, I totally miss it. But that's just the way to improvise, that's fun.
G & B: Surprising things happen more in the interaction, in the interaction of the musicians or in the friction between the soloist and the accompanist?
A.H .: Exactly, that's it. I get a lot from the other musicians.
G & B: I saw you a few years ago in Germany at a festival that included "Marc Johnson Bass Desirees" with guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell. At that time, I wondered which guitarist you could work with in a band. Have you ever had similar thoughts?
A.H .: I've thought about it several times before, but what kept turning me away from the idea of a two-guitar band was that I did not know who the second man would be. And then it often happens that a war breaks out when two guitarists are supposed to play together (laughs), and I do not like that, because that leads away from the music. I do not want to think about "war" or anything like that when I make music, you understand? Sure, with the right guitarist together, that would be an excellent thing. It's been a very long time since I even played with another guitarist in a band.
G & B: Was that Ollie Halsall at Tempest?
A.H .: No, I did not mean it now. I only played with Ollie a couple of times, I was just about to leave the band, he was new to the band. So that was just a short phase before I switched to Soft Machine. (Tempest drummer) Jon Hiseman is very magical, a great person and a drummer, but at that time I did not want to go the musical path that he had in mind. Jon tended more to rock, more towards that, like all the others sounded. I thought that Tempest was a really good band that could develop. Jon always told me not to play that much. Well, maybe I played too much back then too. But that's over-the-top subject, because in comparison I did not play anything at all during this phase (laughs). The most recent thing is that you can not squeeze more notes into a bar at all than most guitars do. That's crazy. Yes, with Ollie, that was just a short phase. The other day I read that he died. Sad.
G & B: Ollie Halsall I saw in the band of Kevin Ayers two years ago. He was also one of the guitarists who prefer very flowing lines. There was already something "related" to your way of playing.
A.H .: The amazing thing is that when I was playing in this top 40 band in the north of England back then, on Fridays a special guest from London appeared in the larger hall below our club. If they then came to check us out, we have always played some instrumentals to stand up well. At that time, some keyboarder from London came to me and said, "Last night we played together in a London club with a band whose guitarist sounded like you and he had the same guitar." This was the first time I heard of Ollie Halsall. At that time he also played with this Legato technique. And that is also a much more normal thing than people think when there are such matches. For me, there was something like that. Also between Ollie and Eddie Van Halen; I was always able to hear some kind of kinship at a certain level, even though the musical styles are certainly very different. And I do not think Eddie heard anything about Ollie Halsall in Van Halen's early days. He just had the same kind of attitude, of mindset he just played that way because he liked it without consciously thinking about it. Somehow these guys are probably more fun than me. I always hang on every note, always thinking anxiously about where everything is going. And with some of these other people, just seems to be more fun on the move. The sound then affects less sounds less affected?]. Well, Eddie has a great sound, but other guitarists I do not want to call play that fantastic and sometimes sound so bad, oaarhhh! I can not imagine how they can play well with it. That would not work for me. If I do not feel good about everything, it will be very difficult for me.
G & B: Which album did you listen to, did you have a good feeling?
A.H .: Do you mean an album by someone else? I usually do not listen to my records. Yes, (considering) I like this Japan CD by Claus Ogerman and Michael Brecker, City Scapes, this is a great album. But I really do not listen to many things. The people from my band [...]. Our bassist Skuli Sverrisson, a great young musician, is different. Skuli has headphones all day and exercises 24 hours a day - (grinning) the way I should. (Laughing). He practices while I'm having a drink. That's actually all you should know about me: I'm so lazy Skuli always has tons of CDs of other musicians, from people I do not know at all. (Drummer) Gary Husband also listens a lot. I'm more influenced by the fact that I think about music for myself, so I do not necessarily have to hear that. That's a crazy feeling, I can not describe it. Sometimes I think that so much music is just in the air. All I have to do is find a way to make something out of it. So do not get me wrong, I like listening to other people making music. But I'm more involved than many other musicians in simply playing, writing, learning - and doing my stuff I also discover new things again and again. Every time I realize that the next thing I'm working on will be more difficult than what I'm doing right now. Every year, I learn new things, and at the same time, the feeling of becoming less and less aware of what is really possible increases. And this process does not end: Even after 25 years, I know next to nothing. And that's what keeps me alive. But I can not imagine in the deepest depths of my head what it's like to be absolutely happy and content with what you're doing right now. I just can not imagine it.
G & B: But you have reason enough to be happy sometimes?
A.H .: I'm happy to be involved with music, to play music, to work with great musicians, I'm also looking forward to playing, always just playing. But that does not always work, and then I'm disappointed, then I'm looking forward to the next chance, take it true, hate what I'm doing, looking forward to the next try, etc. I just try to go my way. Maybe someday I will come to the point where I find my things bearable - I do not really like them at all. I just want to be able to say to myself. Okay, that was not so bad what you did. And then I will feel good.
G & B: On the other hand, you must also have realized that you give something positive to other people with your music?
A.H .: I know that, too, and it makes me feel a lot when people say that to me. This is the greatest thing a musician can wish to touch emotionally with his music. Although I never know how it works, because this is a very own language with an unlimited vocabulary. People hear certain notes, but each note, how it is played, etc., means something specific to a particular person. This may be a grunge guitar or an intense solo by Michael Brecker or Keith Jarrett - and on the other hand: even though a musician's musical vocabulary may be light-years away from that of another musician, it is possible that both touch people equally. You know, I like it when musicians play crazy, ridiculous things that make me laugh. Vinnie Colaiuta can do that, he plays some incredible stuff on his drums, and then I can do nothing but laugh. And that's great.
G & B: This somewhat uncertain trait is also clear in the opening credits of a "teaching video" by you. You stress that you do not understand yourself as a teacher because you are not sure if what you do is really right.
A.H .: To clarify this matter: I see some people teaching music, which in my opinion have no right to do so. They know nothing and should not teach anything. Sometimes they also teach their students things that I think are wrong. On the other hand, there are people like Peter Erskine, a fantastic drummer and teacher, where everything makes sense to me for what he says. What I do has such a strong self-reference, it is very specific, just because I want to develop myself with my own music. Therefore, I have no right to say that would be important and right for other people. Making music and teaching are two very different things. Some people can do that, but they do not. And another thing about my video: In an hour you can not summarize what you have learned in a lifetime. At that time there was also a book on this video that was supposed to clarify a lot. But when I later saw the finished tape, noticed I did, that some things came across incomprehensibly.
I just can not imagine being a teacher; I basically do not like that idea. Just because I'm convinced that I know so little, little of what is worth knowing and possible - how can I get that to someone? I can only try to show how I approach it, how I see chords and scales, and why modes do not make sense to me at all. That said, that's just my personal point of view. Also, the relationships between chords and scales are not those taught in schools. But I just think that this is wrong, because for me according to this doctrine does not always work. Perhaps all of this comes from this early period of music theory when it was said that this chord is akin to that and the chord should only come after that. But when the whole harmony evolved in a more complicated direction, it did not work that easy anymore. It's like a mathematical formula that you want to change if it does not work anymore because of certain insights or realities. At some point you realize that it can not work that way. And then you go back to the very beginning and develop a completely new formula. That's exactly what I wanted, and I did that for myself. My dad had a very traditional education, so he occasionally taught me. But after playing for a few years, I realized that these things made no sense to me. And when I went back to the very beginning, I realized that I could not use any of the rules I had learned, the same as in general musicology; they did not make sense to me anymore. If you think about Modes for example.: A conventional scale has so many sounds and a corresponding number of modes. But what do you do if you have a scale that goes over two octaves - what is the second mode, how do you deal with it, how do you call these modes? There are also many overlaps with traditional scales and modes - why is that? This is nonsense! It does not matter if two scales begin with different tones if they are structured the same way. On the guitar, you can see very well how scales are different from each other, which happens before the eyes on the fingerboard. At first, like everyone else, I played only in patterns and dress small groups of tones, but now I think differently about it, and that shows many possibilities. I'm not very good at it yet and feel at the very beginning but that's a way. If I have a Cmaj7 before me, I never think about a particular voicing or a special reversal [inversion?] to. I think about what notes might fit to this tone, which I could use to overlay it; depending on which chord came before and which follows. So I'm just trying to think melodiously. But what I wanted to say is just: I can not tell anyone what's right and what's wrong, because I'm only interested in how I see myself (laughs). So, that was a two-hour lecture.
G & B: Then We Come Back to Practice. When I heard your album "Hard Hat Area", I found that it still sounds very European, even though [???] has been living on the West Coast for a long time.
A.H .: Nothing's going to change about that, music is a very geographic issue and comes from the depths of your existence, your background. (Pianist) Joe Zawinul is e.g. I grew up in Europe, and I do not think the move to America has really changed his music. Finally, three people from my band are also Europeans (laughs). And the last thing I wanted to do was a Westcoast record. But I like California.
G & B: Do you make a note of your compositions?
A.H .: No, I never do that. What is important to me, however, are some titles that are an allusion to the images that underlie the music.
G & B: From the mood, some of the new album reminded me of the dreariness and loneliness that the Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal expresses in his music. I hear a juxtaposition of "organization" or "structure" and "loneliness".
A.H .: That's maybe true. After all, it does not really matter how many people and friends you meet, who you love and who you care about: "You come alone and you walk alone" - that's an old adage, but it also expresses something very frightening. And maybe that's something in my music, too.
G & B: For me, some of your music also has a soundtrack atmosphere, in the sense that it stimulates pictures in my head.
A.H .: I think that's good. When I listen to music, it is like seeing a picture: sometimes I get inspired by the title of the composition, but essentially the music really creates pictures in my head.
G & B: And what does the title "Ruhkukah" from your current album?
A.H.:(laughs). That's a funny thing. A good friend of mine, who died of cancer a few years ago, was such a real woman type - he was really very popular with the ladies. And ["Ruhkukah"] was one of his personal paraphrases for "making love", with a lot of emphasis on the sound, the pronunciation. He was a jolly fellow, roundly thought of him as I wrote the piece.
G & B: The frame of the album tracks is a "Prelude" and a "Postlude, What's in it?
A.H .: Both are spontaneous improvisations, without prefabricated idea or concept. Therefore, there were no titles for it.
G & B: You also recorded the other tracks mostly live in the studio. How significant was the share of over dubs?
A.H .: There were not many, but I always play a few overdubs. What we tried on this album was to play a lot of the material live before we even went to the studio, and that made a big difference. We used to come to the recording sessions with new music and had not played anything at the same time. That's why we immediately recorded everything, and only if one of us was not satisfied with his part, he could re-record it.
Above all, I always care that the bassist and the drummer are satisfied with their parts. Our keyboarder Steve (Hunt) and I can still do some messing, but with the rhythm section this is different. If I've played a good solo and they do not like their part, then we just have to record everything again; in the opposite case, you can iron it out. We have always recorded the basic tracks very fast, in three or four days. Then I start fiddling around with it and I mix the shots - that can take ages, because that's what I do at home, which is very cost effective. I do not own a tape machine myself, so I rent a device and get away with it much more cheaply than if I went to a mixing studio. And if later a keyboard or bass solo has to be recorded, we do it here as well.
G & B: Which of your records can you recommend to young musicians who want to get to know your music?
A.H .: Recommend (laughs)? Yeah, of course I like the new album very much because it sounds very organic again and has some of the spirit of the older, I.O.U. "album. I like that. Some other albums I find less closed, it involved different bands, we worked in different studios etc. On Wardencyffe Tower was some music I liked, but I do not like the whole album. My favorites would be maybe "Hard Hat Area" and Secrets "
G & B: And what about records you recorded as a guest musician? I'm thinking of "Believe It" from Lifetime ...
A.H .: Exactly in this album I recently listened to it. A friend arrived with a CD summarizing "Believe It" and Million Dollar Legs". And I could not hear that, the guitar sounded so lame, unbelievable, but you have to figure out when that was, and so I can not recommend a record to anyone today that is ten years old, and that music would have to be experienced just to make it out.
G & B: That's 18 years ago, by the way.
AH: Yes? Maybe. Clearly, that's a long time. Time is flowing!
G & B: What interests you besides the music?
A.H .: Cycling, I love that. And beer I like to drink beer.
G & B: There is a rumor that you own a brewery.
A.H .: (grinning) No, that's not true. Earlier, in England, I have tried to brew beer, but there are so many great beers whose quality you can not reach as a layman. These brewmasters have a tradition that is hundreds of years old, and when I put together a few things there will never be a good beer (laughs). It's like buying a guitar and wanting to sound like John McLaughlin in two days. That just does not work. However, I have some English vacuum hand pumps for beer beer, which I have imported myself. I do not like beer, which is carbonated, which the Americans do very much. With the hand pump tapped then disappears the carbon dioxide, and the beer tastes. These rumors are probably due to the fact that I call my studio "The Brewery" (laughing). But really no beer is produced here.
After the interview, Allan wanted to go even closer to his hobby. So we went to a pub near his house, where you could watch through a glass screen, how the in-house beer was brewed. And although Allan knew this location, there was a radiance in his eyes at the sight of the shiny brewing kettle. Holdsworth is a fanatic in the best sense of the word, someone who is in love with the matter, no matter whether it's about music or hops and malt. Because he also had a lot to tell about "beer", and then he did not hesitate to take home a few full pots, where he introduced me to the already mentioned English pump in action. And tasted great. Cheers!
Just as excited as Holdsworth is to tell about his preferences, he is so modest and reserved about his own person. Apart from very few friends, nobody around him realizes that he is one of the most important, stylistically unique guitarists of the last two decades. His neighbors consider him an occasional musician and hobbyist, in the brewery pub he is a welcome guest - nothing more. On the other hand, his name is a magic word for almost every known guitarist in the world, whose effect is stronger than that of an expensive face-lifting. Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steve Luther, Michael Landau u.v.a. Like the honey cake horses, they looked eighteen years younger when the name "Holdsworth" fell during an interview. A larger live presence of Allan in Germany has been in the past few years always stones in the way; Unfortunately, a tour scheduled for October and already booked due to strange circumstances did not arrive. It remains to be hoped that this will change in the near future. Because this musician deserves it.