Metal Fatigue (album)
Most of Metal Fatigue was actually recorded as a demo for Warner Brothers, so there came something good out of the "Road Games" experience for Allan. This album manifests Allan’s position as a genius. “Devil Take The Hindmost” is one of Allan’s best known guitar solos. Jimmy Johnson, Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman are the key players throughout.
- 1 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth: Synthaxe (Guitar Player 1985)
- 3 "...Where No Guitarist Has Gone Before..." (Cymbiosis 1986)
- 4 Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)
- 5 Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)
- 6 Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)
- 7 Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)
- 8 No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)
What are you doing at the moment?
Well, we’ve got a new album coming out soon in the States, called ‘Metal Fatigue’, on the Enigma label. I understand it’s going to be released over here, unlike the last one, Road Games’, which was on Warner Brothers, but I don’t know which label it will be on. Warner Brothers took an awful tong time to decide whether they wanted us to do another album or not, which is why this one’s taken such a long time to come out. The majority of the recording was actually done quite a while ago, and there are two different sets of personnel. On side one it was Chad Wackerman on drums, Jimmy Johnson on bass, Paul Williams on vocals and myself on guitar. On side two Gary Husband, (an original member of the IOU band) played drums, Gary Willis was on bass and Alan Pasqua played some keyboards. The first line up is the one we’re touring with at the moment, and we’re just off to Japan. Hopefully, we’re going back to the States to record the next album, which I’m really hoping will feature the SynthAxe.
WHEN WE WERE recording Metal Fatigue [Enigma, 72002-1], a friend let me try his Roland synth. It was interesting because you could get some different sounds, but it was hopeless, as far as I was concerned, because everything else that you had ever learned about the guitar went out the window. It’s like the instrument was playing you, instead of the other way around, and I hate that kind of situation. However, I got kind of stoked up about synthesis anyway.
Cymbiosis: Well, your new album, Atavachron, because of the SynthAxe, has a distinctly different sound from Metal Fatigue, the one prior.
Holdsworth: Yeah, I think there’s two reasons for that. One is because I’ve been thinking over the last couple of years that when I reviewed all the albums, I’d never feel quite so happy with the vocal tracks. Not because of the vocals, because Paul [Williams] sings great. It wasn’t that. It’s just because, musically, they seem to be more watered down or more fickle. They just didn’t seem to be what I wanted. And I wanted to do an instrumental thing, so when I got the SynthAxe, I was thinking in those terms. So when I started to write the music, it just came out more instrumental. And, second, because I was playing some of the synth parts and playing guitar, I realized we should definitely get a keyboard player in the band.
Cymbiosis: You’ve gone away from keyboards in the past, especially after your U.K. and Bruford days.
Holdsworth: They were basically keyboard dominated situations, and I wanted to reverse the roles and use the guitar. For example, with Bill [Bruford], he’d always use the synthesizer above the guitar for a chordal section, just because he thought the synthesizer sounded better than the guitar. I needed to get that out of my system and escape from all the synth things. So we did the I.O.U., Road Games, and Metal Fatigue—three trio albums. So I’ve had four or five years of trio and I really felt that I wanted to do something else.
Cymbiosis: And so you recruited Billy Childs.
Holdsworth: Yeah. Originally, Alan Pasqua was the guy I first thought of in the band, because I just love the guy. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s an incredible musician.
Cymbiosis: You’ve worked with him quite a bit in the past?
Holdsworth: No, I worked with him with Tony Williams, which is the only time. (I was definitely suffering from novice behavior in those days). And it was nice to get back together to play with him again. So I asked him to play on Metal Fatigue. He played a solo on " The Un-Merry- Go-Round". On "Atavachron", because I’d written and recorded most of the music on synthesizer, I wanted to get somebody else to come and play solos. So Gary Willis, the bass player on "The Un-Merry-Go- Round”, introduced me to the piano player, Billy Childs, and he sounded great. And through working Bunny Brunei, I met Kei Akagi, who’s fantastic. He’s the guy who’s in the band now.
Cymbiosis: He’s the one we saw you with at the Roxy [L.A., 14 March 1986].
Holdsworth: That’s right, and Kei was actually going to play on some of the album, but he wasn’t available at the time. We couldn’t coordinate it, and so I asked Alan and he played on two tracks, "Atavachron" and "Mr. Berwell". Billy Childs played on "Funnels."
Cymbiosis: The very last track on the album, "All Our Yesterdays", is very different from the rest of the album. According to the title sheet, it’s the only song in which there’s any improvisation going on. . .
Holdsworth: There’s improvisation on all of the tracks. I mean, all the solos are improvised. The only reason I wrote that down—the improvisation was it was total. We didn’t have anything fixed. It was just absolutely, totally free.
Cymbiosis: And on vocals...
Holdsworth: Rowanne Mark.
Cymbiosis: Right. That’s the first time you ever recorded with a female vocalist on arty of your songs.
Holdsworth: No, she sang on "Home" [from Metal Fatigue] originally, but I chose not to use it. Not because of her, I love the way she sings. She sang it beautifully and with no lyrics. But it started to remind me a little bit of too much of a Star Trek thing; because of the sound and the way that it worked out. But I always had in mind to use her because she’s so talented. So when I wrote the melody for "All Our Yesterdays", I tried it on guitar, then tried it on synth, and I went, "Wait a minute, this is perfect for vocals, perfect for Rowanne," so I called her and she asked me how I wanted to do it. I told her to have a go and write some [lyrics]. I told her what I felt the music was about, and she phoned me back a few days later, sang these lyrics over the phone and knocked me out. They were perfect. It was exactly what I had in mind for the song. I was really pleased with the way that turned out.
But no company’s interested?
No! In fact we can never get anybody - even in the States - to be interested in the music. I know people at various record companies and they’ll actually say to my manager ‘Let me know when Allan decides to do something we can sell . . .’, so it’s sad. The only way anything’s happening at all now is that when I was signed to Warner Brothers for that short, sad excursion with them and the ‘Road Games’ episode, I had a kind of a run-in with Ted Templeman who is their senior vice president - might even be vice president - might even be president. I guess we just didn’t hit it off. I mean, I like the guy but he wanted me to do something I just didn’t want to do and it seemed ridiculous to have been trying to do something I wanted to do musically, and then be signed to a label that wanted me to do something else.
It was a guaranteed two album deal. We only did one album and Ted wanted us off the label, so they sacked us off the label. But fortunately, because the contract was good, they had to pay me to get rid of me, so I took the money and put it towards ‘Metal Fatigue’ which put us at a point where we could license the album instead of going to a label and signing away everything. Otherwise you never see any money from it at all.
Despite the success of Road Games, Holdsworth’s recording career lurched into a holding pattern, his projected two LP deal circling endlessly with no place to land. "I didn’t record for a while after that," he explained. "Warner Brothers couldn’t decide what they wanted to do. When. I went in with album ideas, I was met with a lot of opposition because of the problems that they saw in ‘Road Games.’ Finally, they gave us some money to do a demo of the material that I was proposing for the next album. But when they heard the demo, they refused to let me make another album. It was not exactly a wonderful experience.
His Warner Brothers connection severed, Holdsworth took the demo tracks, finished them into an album which eventually became Metal Fatigue. and was released on Enigma Records. It was followed by Atavachron, on which he introduced the Synthe-Axe [sic] and featured Billy Childs and Tony Williams. When Enigma hesitated with a contract pickup, Holdsworth moved to Relativity for the release of Sand, but his current release is once again back on Enigma.
MP: We’re back with Allan Holdsworth. Let’s talk about the Metal Fatigue album (like we’ve done this once haha). It seems to distinguish you as a force to be reckoned with. How is it accepted by the fans?
AH: Well I think it was pretty good because Enigma was a new, well Enigma was going through a particularly good period for us with them, because they did a lot of promotion. Later on we became a small fish in a big pond but… but the interesting thing about that album was that, that album was actually a demo for Warner Brothers after Road Games. When we were dropped for Road Games we did Metal Fatigue and it was a demo for Warner Brothers and they didn’t like it, so we gave it to Enigma, happily, and my relationship with Enigma has been really good, they just let me do what I want, so…I’m a happy guy.
MP: There’s some amazing tunes on there, I always thought that if Metal Fatigue if it got airplay it could have been a great FM crossover hit. There was Devil Take the Hindmost, all I can say about that is “whew!” and then the tune I was REALLY interested in is The Un-Merry-Go-Round. Where’d that come from?
AH: Well it’s kind of a… basically I wrote that for my Dad, you know, because my Dad died during that year that I was doing the album. He used to have all these… he was a really great artist, he used to draw this merry go round with all these famous English politicians on it, like you’d have Ronald Reagan and all these guys on it, and he’d have them with their slogans, and he used to call it the UN Merry go round, so I got the title from him.
MP: The solo in there, which by the way is Phil Keaggy’s all-time favorite electric guitar solo, the soprano – which is quite a compliment in itself – the soprano sax solo that you sort of do – how, where’s that coming from, I mean what’s the inspiration, it sounds nearly exactly like a soprano!
(laughs) For a period of time I guess I was – I go through these periods that change and I was really trying to get like that soprano kind of tone. I guess that was about as close I got. I couldn’t get any closer so I gave up, started on something else.
In the end, there were only enough songs for an EP, and Warners were not keen on releasing it. Allan fought for the rights, and finally, Road Games was released [ed. note: Again, this account differs from others. The only thing certain is that there was a big conflict between Allan and Warners…]
- Fortunately, the contract was written so that they had to give us a demo recording after doing the album. We did the recording and they obviously replied that they did not like it, so then we turned to a small company called Enigma. We signed with them, and padded out the recordings that were to become Metal Fatigue.
TCG: Did you like playing with some of the Tribal Tech people on the Metal Fatigue album, like Gary Willis?
AH: Oh sure! I enjoyed that record. Actually that was a funny thing because the Road Games thing wasn’t going very well and I was signed to Warner Brothers and they were trying to get me to do a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to do. They never told me before they signed me, but after the fact, because the way that the contract was written, they had to, in order to get rid of me, they had to give me the opportunity to make another demo so that they could refuse it, so they knew that they were going to refuse it, but the contract stated they had to pay for the demos the demo was Metal Fatigue, and they turned it down.