What kind of mikes did you select for your amps?
I'm always experimenting, but for the most part I used Neumann U-87s, because they "hear" the way I hear. You know sometimes you put a certain microphone on a guitar, and when you hear it in the control room, it's got every single part of the sound that you didn't want to hear and none of the part you did. Now, that would be different for every person, because everybody's ears are different. But I quite like those microphones. I've tired a lot of other ones, but the Neumann gives the sound that's close to what I'm doing. And that's important, because the idea is to try to capture the sound you're actually making.
Did you use mikes to capture all of the guitar parts on the I.O.U. album?
Well, actually I went DI direct input into the mixing console on one song, "Temporary Fault." I did that one DI just to see how it would come out, and I was quite pleased with the results. I could have probably gone DI on more. The Hartley Thompson works well for miking and DI. It does everything. The reason I didn't use DI more in the studio was that chords and the solos would have been coming down on the same track. At that time I didn't own enough Hartley Thompsons to set them up like one for the solo and one for the chords.
But when you mixed the album, didn't you have to add reverb to give everything more space?
I guess so, but I always had good results with one mike before. The way my amp setup is now, I can make the mike hear something that it thinks sounds ambient.
In true Holdsworthian attention to detail, Allan gets his sound through a methodical approach to mic positioning. There are no quick fixes in his method, which involves setting the mic in front of the speaker in the live room, going back into the control room and listening, then going back into the studio to make position tweaks. "I always use close-miking, and I very rarely use more than one mic because of all the potential phase problems that exist,” he explains. "I think of the speaker as being divided in half, so there's the center line and then you can move the mic off to the left, toward the edge. Usually the mic is placed about halfway between the center of the cone and the edge. Sometimes I'll angle the mic slightly downward into the speaker, toward the speaker cabinet, ever so slightly. But that's what takes the longest, that positioning. I don't use headphones, they're too confining, so I go in there, put the mic up, and walk back and forth from the studio to the control room, moving the mic one centimeter at a time."