Jon Hiseman is a British drummer. He produced the album Belladonna by Ian Carr, and then recruited Allan for his own band, Tempest. They recorded Tempest's eponymous debut album together, as well as a BBC session released on Under The Blossom: The Anthology (album). Jon later recorded a demo often referred as The Sherwood Forest Tapes with Allan and Jack Bruce.
- 1 Allan Holdsworth (Beat Instrumental 1979)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth (English Tour Program 1989)
- 3 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)
- 4 Allan Holdsworth (International Musician 1981)
- 5 Any Key In The U.K. (Unknown publication 1978)
- 6 Holdsworth & Co. A New Side Of Allan's Music. (Guitar 1980)
- 7 No Secrets (Facelift 1994)
- 8 Player Of The Month (Beat Instrumental 1978)
- 9 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 10 The Reluctant Virtuoso (Guitar World 1981)
- 11 The Silent Man In Tempest (disc 1973)
- 12 A Different View (Modern Drummer 1996)
Eventually an introduction to Jon Hiseman followed and the rest, if not history, is fairly well known.
"Then I joined Hiseman and started going mad with guitars. It's funny, almost every guitar player, every musician in fact, that I know has gone through a phase like that. You just keep going out selling your guitar, chopping it in for something else then chopping that one in for yet another. Of course, all the time you do that you're losing money but maybe it's not such a bad thing because it does give you a chance to really suss out what instrument suits you best.
His next big step was when drummer John Marshall got him his first major gig, with Soft Machine: "It was all down to playing; if I hadn't just kept playing I wouldn't have got half the gigs I did. Derek Wadsworth, the trombone player, told John Hiseman about me and that got me the gig with Tempest. Another time I had to sit in for Chuck Mangione at Ronnie Scott's - Chuck was ill; it was after I'd come back from my first stint in America - and Alphonso Johnson was on bass. Alphonse new [sic] that Tony Williams was looking for a guitarist for his band Lifetime, and because of that stand-in session he put my name forward and Tony asked if I'd like to go back to the States and join his band." Allan moved to California in the early eighties and has remained a resident since.
Holdsworth quickly tired of playing other guitarists' solos, and early in his musical development, he began to concentrate on defining a style of his own. In 1971 he moved to London and met up with drummer Jon Hiseman who was putting together a heavy-metal rock quartet called Tempest. After recording one album with that band called Tempest (out of print) for Bronze Records in 1972, he left the group because of a dispute with Hiseman over their musical direction. "I had envisioned it as something that would progress," Allan recalls, adding, "I believed that there was room for the music to grow, but Jon wanted it to go the other way."
Can you give me a career résumé so far?
ALAN: 1971 I was still in Bradford; 1972 I had an invite from Ray Warleigh to come to London and a place to stay. Later that year I played with, Jon Hiseman in Tempest but I left in ‘73. He thought I played too many notes, I don't like being told what to do, I'd rather find out for myself. Anyway I was on the dole for six months and in ‘74 I made some guest appearances with Soft Machine. In ‘75 I did two albums with Tony Williams in New York City. I like that place.
I was lucky really because I hadn't been down very long and somebody told Jon Hiseman about me and he called and asked me to play and that brought about Tempest. That was my first pro band. I left Tempest in about 1972 and a couple of months later, joined Soft Machine. That was an accident, it was through a Musicians' Union clinic. They wanted Soft Machine to do a clinic but they also wanted a guitarist so they called me separately and told me we could rehearse a few things before the clinic. I just learnt a couple of their simpler numbers and we did them. Afterwards, they asked me to play a few gigs with them, as a guest. That's how that started and I just gradually sort of... stayed.
Although he is known to most electric guitar fans, and regarded by many as one of the world's best and most distinctive guitarists, Allan Holdsworth has never achieved a widespread popularity or success. The main reason is that apart from occasional gigs with the nebulous Allan Holdsworth Quartet, he has always played in other people's bands, notably UK, Tony William's Lifetime, the Bill Bruford Band and Soft Machine. This year sees the beginning of a new project which may do much to change that - a trio called Holdsworth & Co in which Allan will play guitar and sing, Gary Husband will play drums and piano, and the bassist will be a player whose name we cannot divulge for contractual reasons, but who is at present playing in another well known band. Allan is very excited about Holdsworth & Co, as he feels it will enable him to show a hitherto unknown side of his playing and music. He played us a demo tape recorded with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman of tunes the band will perform, numbers in which the balance of strong melody and instrumental ability is well maintained, and featuring some beautiful chordal work from Allan, as well as his unique ability to play fast legato passages. He says that Holdsworth & Co will sound different but certainly as good, and they commence a European and British tour in Hamburg on April 8. They will release an album later in the year, perhaps on ECM.
There's more space in this music because it's a three-piece, but I'm also working a lot harder than normal. It came about when I had a blow with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman, and we were toying with the idea of trying to get that team together, but it came unstuck because we all had different problems at the same time. We made a demo at a studio during a couple of evenings and turned out half an album. I enjoyed it so much, it triggered the idea of a three-piece, and I knew that's what I'd like to do. It's taken a long time to sort out, and we're off now, hopefully.
"And then just after that I hooked up with lan Carr, probably through the same thing - there were similar musicians working with lan Carr. The Jon Hiseman/Tempest thing came about in the same way, because someone, maybe Derek Wadsworth, had told him that they'd seen this guitar player and he wanted to know if I'd go along to his house for a play."
"All I'd ever done was play guitar for other people and I just wanted to do my own thing. And then I met Gary Husband at the same time and started to do that. And we tried really hard when I was in England - in fact I had a little band together before IOU, with Jon Hiseman and Jack Bruce. And we did a couple of demos. And we couldn't get anyone interested at all. Just shortly after that was when I met Gary and we were just banging our heads against the Wall but we kept going. And there was a club in France called Riverbop and there was a really nice lady there called Jacqueline Ferrari. She liked us and she would bring us over there for like two weeks at a time, playing this little jazz club. It was great, but she was the only person who really gave us a chance.
The Big Time had arrived very suddenly. It only lasted nine months, however. Holdsworth, according to everyone who knows him, learns at a frightening rate, and soon got a little bored with the traditional rock format of Tempest. It was also very much Hiseman's band. There wasn't a great deal of room for the new ideas that kept bubbling up in Holdsworth's mind, so he quit, along with singer Paul Williams, and Ollie Halsall took over, Tempest continuing as a three-piece for a while before plummeting into oblivion.
On Tempest, you alternate between very original-sounding phrasing and note choices and Clapton-like playing. Were you going through an EC phase, or merely accommodating the bandleader?
I always liked Eric Clapton, especially in the early days. But in Tempest, Jon Hiseman, who is a wonderful musician and a really great guy, wanted that band to be a power-trio kind of thing, so I felt obliged to do what I was told to some extent. But I'd disobey orders and do what I wanted once in a while. He also used to point his finger at me and say, “Too many notes,” but all you'd have to do is wind forward 20 years to see about too many notes!
Putting this rather dispiriting state of events aside for the moment, we make a desultory stab at the past. Was his first professional band, Tempest (Warner Brothers, now deleted from catalog), an attempt by British drummer Jon Hiseman to recreate his own version of Cream?
Holdsworth, by now was a hunted man. Word of his talent reached several ears and various band leaders crouched cat-fashion, ready to stuff pound notes into his pockets and seduce his senses with enticing and lurid offers. Jon Hiseman leapt in first. "I got word that he was in London and he came round to my place. After he'd played for ten minutes I knew he was right."
Hiseman is well known to anyone intimate with the heroic circle of musicians encompassing people like Graham Bond, Georgie Fame, John Mayall and Hexstall-Smith and so on. They represent a wildly divergent corner of contemporary British sounds but are more often than not bracketed as "jazz/ rockers" - a tag with which Hiseman is uncomfortable. He was drummer and founding father of the many-headed Colosseum - born in the autumn of 1968 and put to rest October ‘71. The death knell was finally sounded by guitarist Dave "Clem" Clempson who left the band for Humble Pie.
"I began thinking of forming a four-piece," said Jon, "and if Dave hadn't joined Pie he would have been a natural choice for lead guitar. The problem was finding someone who was pretty ridiculous but not too well known because, to be realistic, I couldn't see a biggie from a top-flight band dropping everything to join us. It was an almost insoluble problem and then I began hearing rumours about this lunatic guitarist who was just unbelievable."
Hiseman's new line-up have already cut a debut album and on January 12 begin a series of European dates. By March they plan to hit the English university circuit. Tempest will probably be compared to early Cream, since the line-up and emphasis are often similar, yet Hiseman, as always, is reluctant to categorise his work.
"We're a new band that plays the music of today and not yesterday," he says, "But if people want to compare us with Cream that suits me down to the ground."
RF: Who was the first notable drummer with whom you worked?
AH: There were actually two drummers I played with in London who were really influential to me as a musician. One was Jon Hiseman, with whom I played in Tempest in the early '70s. Jon was an absolutely brilliant drummer, especially at that time. He didn't sound like anybody I had ever heard. When I go back to listen to that album, everything sounds good to me except the guitar. The vocals are amazing and the drums are great. That was my first experience of working with someone of that caliber. I came from playing in a Top-40 band with local guys. Then to get a chance to play with somebody like that! The other thing that knocked me out about Jon's playing was that his power just grabbed hold of you. When you played with him, it was like he put his hands on your shoulders and just held you. It was a pretty amazing experience for a guy just arriving in London.
Right after that, Jon wanted the band to stay like a Cream kind of thing, while I felt that the band had a lot more potential, so we split. That's when I joined Soft Machine. John Marshall was the drummer. He was the jazz guy in London around that time. That was a great experience for me. When I look back on my past, I think playing in that band was some of the most fun I ever had in my life. They were great guys and great musicians. I was learning all the time.