Road Games (album)
- 1 A Different kind of Guitar Hero (BAM 1983)
- 2 Guitar Phenom Allan Holdsworth Says He’s Not That Impressed By Flash (The Georgia Straight 1983)
- 3 The Innocent Abroad (Musician 1984)
- 4 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)
- 5 Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)
- 6 Guitar Like A Saxophone (Guitar World 1987)
- 7 The Open End (Boston Sound Report 1988)
- 8 The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)
- 9 Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)
- 10 Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)
- 11 Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)
- 12 A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)
- 13 A beginners guide to (Classic Rock 2000)
- 14 Untitled (Guitar Magazine? 2001)
- 15 The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)
- 16 No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)
- 17 FUSION, ROCK AND SOMETHING ELSE (The Jerusalem Post 2017)
- 18 Allan Holdsworth (Sound Waves 2012)
- 19 Allan Holdsworth - Jazz/Fusion Guitarist (Musicguy247 2017)
- 20 The Final Interview: Allan Holdsworth Talks SynthAxes, Jaw-Dropping Solos and More (Guitar World 2017)
BAM: How did you meet Edward Van Halen?
AH: I first met Edward while I was working in U.K. We were the support band to Van Halen on a couple of gigs. Then he said a lot of nice things about me in magazines, which is really nice. Then he came and played with me at the Roxy.
BAM: Where do your two styles meet?
AH: I think of Edward as being a real innovator – because of the way he plays the guitar, not in the way of the context of the music so much. What he’s doing with the guitar is definitely different from what was happening before. So, he did something different. I guess that’s a similarity.
BAM: Why did you and Edward decode to work together?
AH: I guess it started when he brought Ted Templeman to see the band at the Roxy. It’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened had we just done it on our own – if we’d just said “well, let’s play at such a gig and come along”. But I suppose Ted listened to Edward and decided to check it out, and I think he liked it. At least I think he saw some potential there, because he offered us a deal with Warner Brothers.
BAM: How do you feel about working with Edward and Ted Templeman as producers?
AH: All right. I think they [Warner Bros.] are hoping that they’ll make sure we don’t go over the top in the wrong way, suppose. Some outside ears, basically. So, I hope we'll still be friends at the end.
Why did you record Road Games as a mini-album rather than a full-size one?
That was the record company’s idea. I was pushed around a lot by them. They gave me a hard time, basically. Ted Templeman [the producer] gave us the run-around, because originally Eddie Van Halen and he were supposed to coproduce the album. But because of their schedules, Eddie’s always working and Ted is a real pain to pin down.
I would have been a hundred years old before I’d have done the album. So I just said, “No, I’m not gonna wait,” and they said, “Okay, go ahead and do it on your own.” But they didn’t really want me to do that, and they just harassed me the whole time. It made it very difficult.
I’ve noticed on the back cover of Road Games there’s a “special thanks” to Eddie Van Halen.
Well he was there when the first demos of the songs that we were going to record for Warner Brothers were done. And also he brought Ted Templeman to see I.O.U. in the first place.
He’s quoted as saying, “Holdsworth is the best in my books.” What do you think of his playing?
Oh, he’s great!
How did you come to get Jack Bruce to sing on “Was There?” and “Material Real” on Road Games?
That was at the request of the record company. They didn’t want me to use Paul, the original singer, ’cause they said they didn’t like him. And they weren’t going to let me put the album out at all if I didn’t use a famous singer. So I said that I wanted to use Jack, ’cause he was the only famous singer that I liked out of the guys that they were talking about.
The new Road Games album was the opposite. We had plenty of time to record it, but we just got shoved around so much by the record company. Which is why it says “produced by circumstance”, because for three of the tracks I was forced to mix at a studio that stinks in my opinion. They had a Harrison console in there, and I just don’t like the way they sound. Some people like them and some people don’t and I don’t.
Warner Brothers wouldn’t let me mix it anywhere else, so I had to spend my own I.O.U money in order to remix three tracks and make it liveable with. But there is some good playing on it; Chad and Jeff play great on it.
I.O.U. then made their tabled emigration and Americans greeted the band as long-lost old friends, which at that point they were starting to feel like. Still, for all the buzz, they were unable to interest anyone in the LP so they decided to put it out themselves, pressed it and worked it as best they could. It was then that Holdsworth was "discovered" by Eddie Van Halen. Edward had actually met Allan in the U.K. era, so he came down to the Roxy to catch I.O.U. After a post-gig chat, Van Halen was invited to come to sound-check the next afternoon and they had "a bit of a blow." For an encore that night, they worked up one of Eddie’s tunes, which went over big; very big. Van Halen immediately began working on his producer, Ted Templeman, and his label, Warners, to sign Holdsworth. What exactly was understood between Holdsworth and Van Halen was never pinned down, however. Allan logically assumed that Warners wanted the I.O.U. band. Paul Williams maintains that during all the negotiations for the deal, no one at Warners corrected that impression:
"When Allan signed the contract, we had a band. Then they turned around and said to him, ‘Well, we don’t want the band.’ But as it happened, the band changed."
Indeed, Paul Carmichael and especially Gary Husband were unable to get used to living in a very foreign land. As Williams relates, "Gary was having trouble dealing with his own head, so to speak. He wasn’t very well; his father died and he was suffering a lot, so it was affecting us. So he went back to England." Holdsworth filled their chairs with journeyman bassist Jeff Berlin and Zappa alumnus Chad Wackerman (great name for a drummer, eh?).
Meanwhile, Ted Templeman and Van Halen had very different plans for the upcoming album. Williams reports, "They wanted to put all stars on it, change the music completely, do a guest artist trip. It was like an arm-twisting situation, as far as I could see. Eddie really admired Allan, had gotten him on the label, and said, ‘I want to play with Allan!’ And Allan said, ‘Well no, not on this record, because I’ll just be selling Eddie Van Halen and I want to do my own thing. Maybe on the second record....’ So of course Eddie got very upset, basically sulked, I suppose, and that’s when it started falling apart, immediately after that. Well, you know, Allan’s an artist. He doesn’t like to be told which way to do it, and I think they would’ve torn the whole concept to pieces."
What began then was a determined war of nerves. The plan called for Van Halen and Templeman to co-produce, but scheduling a time when both were free became insurmountable; for month after month, Allan was left hanging. "They were obviously busy people. First of all it’s really difficult to get hold of either of them; I can spend weeks just trying to reach one of them on the phone. That gets to be a nightmare!" Finally it seemed Christmas of ‘82 was it, but it got postponed again. Then an April date was set, but two days before, Templeman had to cancel. Says Allan, "That was it for me, the old steam whistle, with the lid open at the top of my head. I couldn’t cope with that; I just said, ‘Forget it, let’s not even bother.’ Then, after a bit of hemming and hawing, they called back and said, ‘Okay, do it on your own.’ As far as I was concerned, I would’ve had a walking stick and crutches before the album came out!"
Holdsworth must have by this point been regarded as the trouble-making type ... "I’ m not a trouble-maker!" cries Allan. "I just want to be left alone. But you’re right, that’s probably how I’m visualized."
With Holdsworth in command, a whole new set of problems began: "As soon as the record company found out they weren’t involved, it turned into as (sic) little story-’oh shit, shall we let this guy do this, is he going to hang himself or what?’" Paul Williams continues, "It was a constant hassle; everything had to be approved, everything was going along in steps. Ted would pull us out of the studio and say, ‘You can’t have any more time until I’ve heard the material,’ and then they’d put us back in again. It was driving Allan crazy!"
Despite Holdsworth’s victory in keeping his band and the material, Templeman insisted Williams could not sing on the album, surprising since Paul had not only written the words, but the melody lines of the songs, making him one of Allan’s first real collaborators. "Ted didn’t want me. He never gave Allan a reason for it. It got really ridiculous, down to the fact that he told Allan he hopes he never sees me in the street. It’s a bit sad; it just made me sick."
Thus began the search for a Famous Person to sing Paul’s songs. Says Allan, "The famous people they were suggesting I just didn’t want. It would’ve made us sound more like anybody else. I hate fashion, so I said I knew someone who just might fit the bill, who also happened to be someone that I loved: Jack Bruce."
Considering how it came about, it is nothing short of a miracle that Road Games sounds as good as it does. A fine variety of jazz-rock styles make up the six-song "Maxi-EP" (a way for Warners to cut its losses?), from the Methenyesque impressionism of "Three Sheets To The Wind" to the metal of the title cut to the cinematic, street-scene textures of "Tokyo Dream." The three vocal tunes lend an accessibility to the record, with Bruce’s familiar passion articulating ambitious, soaring melodies.
Still, the breathtaking quality and economy of Holdsworth’s solos are more compelling to the "blow me away" psychology of the pop audience than the subtlety and chordal sophistication of Holdsworth’s compositions. Holdsworth himself is well aware of the blow-me-away factor: "Those are the kind of things I like, three triads at once over a given chord, unusual harmonic things heard as a color when they’re played very fast. That way it’s a striking kind of thing, like ‘Wow, what was that???!’ I like the idea of making people want to pick up the needle and put it back to the solo."
Holdsworth’s current lead work is especially unusual because although his tone is as fluid and nimble as a synthesizer, he uses virtually no signal processing at all (he did use a Scholz Rockman for the sax-like bite of "Three Sheets To The Wind"). "I’ve noticed for a long time that lighter bodied guitars always seemed to sound better. [Charvel’s] Grover Jackson was unbelievable, going to all lengths experimenting with different woods. We finished up using bass wood; it’s a little bit like alder, but it’s lighter, very resonant. Grover made four Charvel guitars for me. He also widened the neck dimensions, more like a Gibson. The bridge is an aluminium DiMarzio and the pickups are Seymour Duncans, similar to a PAF but with two rows of pole pieces so that both bobbins are absolutely symmetrical; it makes the magnetic field more uniform." For strings, Allan uses .009 Kaman Performers. His favorite amp for lead playing has been a Hartley-Thompson with an occasional Fender.
On his chordal accompaniments, Allan has been striving for a more "orchestral" sound, using layers of delays to get shimmering, pulsating textures from his sophisticated fingerings. "For my rhythm sound, I’ve designed a setup where all the signal processing is driven from one master board; I put each effect into one fader." His digital delays are two ADA STD-1s, two AMS units and a Yamaha E1010. The whole rhythm setup is run through a Yamaha PG-1 instrument pre-amp, some P2200 power amps and S412 speakers. The mixers are a Yamaha M406 and a M516. Allan also has an Ovation ‘83 Collector’s Series acoustic and a Chapman Stick.
Will Road Games rekindle Holdsworth’s legend, or will his insistence on pushing his own compositions to the forefront invite a whole second generation of self-deputized advisors to counsel, "Stick to soloing and leave the writing to hitmakers and geniuses." Allan doesn’t really care at this point. He’s not going to take the advice in any case. After all, he’s given the whole knotty problem a good deal of thought:
"You make decisions at certain points in your life as to what you want to do. Things have been offered me where I could’ve done something commercial and and (sic) earned a lot more money - and been really miserable. I’d rather be broke and happy than miserable and rich. So all I’m trying to do is get by, just the musician’s dream really: to be able to play what I’d like to play and be able to survive. That’s my dream."
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.
Have you got a record deal over here this time?
No. As usual, for anything I’ve ever done in my life, England has been just a waste of time - never been able to get anything happening at all. Even though we’ve got four albums out in the States - five, if you include that sad Warner Brothers album ‘Road Games’ -none of them are out over here. They’re just imports and I’m trying to do something about that, actually. I’m trying to get the company who took the rights to Europe, to make England separate so I can work on a deal releasing albums over here. It wouldn’t be like we’d need any money; it would just be a licensing deal. We’re not looking for an advance, as such, just an outlet for the album because I know there’s a market for it. For instance I went up to see my family in Bradford and there were some guys up there at some record place selling six quid, bootleg cassettes of a gig we did in London, which I was really sick about. Number one it’s a sad thing to bootleg things, and number two I think of the music as being for that particular point in time so you go away with whatever feeling you got from it, rather than analysing some cassette or whatever. Apart from the fact that the recording was absolutely abysmal, it made me think that if people are buying these then surely they’d buy a real record, that the people involved in the music would be happy to put out, rather than a recording of some sad gig somewhere.
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.
Why was it so bad; did you hate the album itself?
I hated the album. I hated the way it was done because they wouldn’t let me mix it where I wanted to. I had a guy who was engineering it who was under direct control of Ted Templeman. He wasn’t like a guy who was working for the band, he was working for the producer - who wasn’t there. The other sad thing was that he wanted to change the personnel of the band which caused terrible problems, and I put myself in a lot of trouble because of it, by trying to keep it the way it was originally. For example, they wanted to use a different drummer and a different singer - Geddy Lee or someone - and I wanted to use Paul Williams. But they said there was no way -
they weren’t putting the album out if we used Paul. So I went ahead and used him anyway and we remixed some of the tracks ourselves with the money that we’d made selling the first IOU album, by mail order.
Then Ted said ‘Go ahead and approve the album yourself’. He was never there; he used to listen to singers over the telephone and never came in the studio, never heard a note. But listening to guys over the phone is pretty hilarious! So he told me to approve it myself- so I did - and Paul was on one of the tracks. I made a personal decision at that point that I couldn’t afford to just put Paul on all the tracks and have the album never come out, so I stuck him on just the title track. Then Templeman spotted it and said ‘We’re not putting the album out’. So I called him and talked to him and he said ‘Do you really want this thing out?’ and the reason I did was that we’d put so much work into it, so much aggravation. I still liked some of the music even though it hadn’t been recorded properly and could have been done a lot better, but he said ‘If you really want it out, we’ll just let it go’.
So that was the last conversation I had with Ted Templeman and he let the album go. Apparently he told my manager that he felt sorry for me and just put it out because of that. So when they paid me off, I was very happy to be able to make a record how I wanted to make it and that’s what started me off on engineering.
I’d always been interested in engineering, I’ve learnt a lot from it and I try to make each album sound better, through what I’ve learnt each time.
Perhaps after his disappointment with Enigma Records and the debacle that happened at Warner Bros. with his Road Games album, Holdswor th is ready to check back into the sideman situation. His brief stint with Warner Bros. was especially disheartening ... almost enough to make the beleaguered Brit chuck the whole music game and open a pub back home somewhere.
As Allan recalls, "That was a situation brought about by Edward Van Halen, who really was responsible for me being signed to Warner Bros. He got Ted Templeman to hear the band and sign us up. But I think most of it was just because they wanted to keep Eddie happy. And when they finally signed us, they wanted me to do something that I didn’t want to. Then, they were really lame about it in the end. See, I kind of put my life on the line by sneaking Paul Williams on a couple of tracks to sing. They didn’t want Paul Williams on any of the record. They didn’t like him, they wanted me to use somebody else. But I snuck Paul on two tracks without them knowing it. And then, right before the album came out, they spotted it and were going to pull the album. It was like, ‘You’ve done this… you’ve been a naughty boy.’ I mean, it’s nothing to Warner Bros. to shelve a record like that. But they finally put it out, then dropped us. That was it.
"But to me, it just seemed really sick to finally be signed to a major label after trying for 15 years, and then when the chance comes along they want me to do something that I don’t do. It’s silly. They wanted me to do something more commercial and I didn’t want to do that.
‘They should’ve asked me that before I signed the deal. They should’ve told me what they wanted. As far as I know, they might’ve wanted me to wear spray-on trousers and a wig."
BSR: Do you feel there has been a change in tone or intention from Road Games to Sand?
AH: I think that my playing is continuously changing; it has been since I can remember. I don’t feel any differently about the way I play; I’m still as disappointed with what I do now as I was when I started. That never changes. But I think that what I am doing continually changes. Like living - or being a musician - it is continually a learning process. If I thought that it was staying the same, I wouldn’t play any more. I would give up. I’m scared of getting to a point where I won’t be able to absorb anymore. People can only absorb so much. Music is a cumulative knowledge. It’s actually handed down from generation to generation. If you put every person on a deserted island, you would soon find out who the geniuses were, but music is not like that. Things are handed down and passed on. You might hear something that you think sounds dated. I’d always give them a lot of credit, because they had nothing else, it came from them. That’s a great thing. But it is definitely accumulated.
One label did sort of like "Tokyo Dream" [Road Games ], but they just rabbited on about who they could get me to use in the band, you know: "It’d be really great if you could use this guy on drums and that guy on bass, and do it in this guy’s studio with this guy engineering and play these kind of tunes and those kind of solos." God, man, that was back to square one.
Holdsworth arrived in the United States without guitars, but with a promise of a record contract with Warner Brothers [ed. note: This claim is contradicted by other accounts, which state that Allan got his deal after arriving in the U.S. Given that it took three years for the album to come out, the claim that Allan arrived without guitars also seems contentious]. Eddie van Halen had succeeded in getting the interest of (producer) Ted Templeman and Warners, for a recording with his idol.
- Total disaster! Templeman never intended to let me do my thing, and he immediately wanted to get rid of the rest of the band. Sometimes he was not even there, and it even happened that he would listen to takes on the phone ... We had to record the material twice because he disliked something about the drums. CHAOS.
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.
When Eddie Van Halen joined Holdsworth on stage at the Roxy gig and promised to ask Warner Brothers to sign him, it seemed as though the guitarist was well on the way toward a real American success story. But success stories can have a way of getting sidetracked.
"Edward Van Halen was a great guy," said Holdsworth, and he tried to help. That’s all he had in mind. He brought a Warner Brothers producer named Ted Templeman to my gig, I started talking with Ted and he said they were interested in doing something, I thought, ‘Oh, this is wonderful. Now I’ll finally get a chance to do what I really want to do, and get some major label assistance. But in actual fact, it was the absolute 6ppe-site. I think Ted Templeton [sic] didn’t really want to sign us at all. I think he was doing it because of Eddie. And also, I think that they really wanted to change my music. They signed me, and then decided they didn’t like what I did. I couldn’t believe the way the whole album was made - with Ted listening to different vocalists singing over the telephone - with them eventually saying that if I didn’t get somebody famous they wouldn’t even release the album.
"The whole thing was a real disaster, and the music suffered from it. With the material we had at the time, as well its some of the things that were on the EP, we could have made a much better album than it was. But I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to. I had to mix it at Warner Studios with Warner engineers, as opposed to being able to take it where I wanted to take it to get the sound I wanted But that choice was taken away, too.
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.
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.
Bill: I was also interested to hear that medley of tunes that you put together last night. Is that something that you’ve been doing for a while now?
Allan: We started doing that not too long ago, actually. It was just something that came out of one of the pieces of music that ends while I’m doing a volume pedal swell thing, and I thought, ‘This would be a nice way to go into ‘Above And Below,’ the ballad from The Sixteen Men of Tain (2000).’ Then from there we go into the solo section from "The Things You See’ (from The Things You See, 1979). And then we end with that little cycle of fourths at the end of Road Games (1983), which is a little drum feature at the end. Yeah, it works pretty good.
"Eddie (Van Halen) brought the President of the company along to hear me and essentially got us signed," he says. "Then it all went wrong because they wanted a different drummer and singer. But I’d already hired the band with Paul Williams on vocals. Ted Templeman, the producer, listened to shit over the phone - I mean, how can you listen to shit over the phone? - and said he wanted a different singer.
"So I offered him Jack Bruce, an old mate of mine, and Ted, who never came near the studio, said ‘Yeah, great, gold record.’ But at the last minute I switched the mixes on ‘Road Games’, the title track, not because Jack wasn’t good, he was, but because of my friendship with Paul. And then I got a phone call from Templeman while we were on the road, saying ‘That’s it, you’re fired, you’re off the label’ I sacrificed my record deal because of him (Williams). A fucking miserable experience for both of us."
Q: Tell me about the story of Eddie Van Halen with you who admires you the most as a guitarist.
A: I met him at the band U.K. tour at the first time, I played with Van Halen when he was not so popular. He was a good guy, he treated me nicely. He helped me to contract Warner Brothers for ìRoad Gamesî. He pursuade the WBS. A problem was that the company didnít let me free. It was the big matter and I had a quarrel with them. It seems that all of ìRoad Gamesî were war. Therefore the album was not the work I intend.
MM: With all the bootlegs of Road Games what were the sales like for the recent re-issue?
AH: Actually I never owned any of it. Warner bros owned it…I don’t see any of it at all…the record had a big budget by the end of it, there were tons of engineers and Ted Templeman produced it, and the money was blown thru. It turned into a joke and a bunch of money was stolen and because it was a cheap album, an EP, the percentages paid to me were very small and the debt incurred doing the album just kept rising because they were charging interest on the money that the project owed them. It would take millions of sales to pay back even the debt and interest they are still charging me. I have no connection to the album at all. Gnarly Geezer records were really the guys who made the whole re-release happen. I don’t think the sales were anything spectacular but I know a lot of people were interested.
TCG: I mean, like the Road Games solo
AH: Oh no, that album I hated! That record was a disaster. That record. I was disappointed when it was reissued. I mean. I wished it had just stayed buried. I really didn’t like it at all. It was a disaster on wheels, you know, it was not good.
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.
“I see it as one of the worst records I ever made, I don’t like anything about it,” he said, while defending Van Halen to the hilt. “He’s a fantastic guy, lovely, very generous Anything that went wrong was nothing to do with him, he was just trying to help.”
“On the one hand, it was Warner Brothers trying to mold me into something I’m not, but on the other hand, it was sonically awful. I had a run in with Ted Templeman, who was never around but still dictating to everyone what was going to be on it, where it was going to be recorded, how it was going to sound. And he made it an EP – there were only six songs on it and they sounded like shit. It was just screwed.”
“I was trying to find a drummer and I crossed paths with Frank Zappa who told me, ‘oh, you should check out this guy.’ So when I held some auditions, I invited Chad. We just improvised, just me and the drummer, we didn’t play any songs at all.
I know that people can learn to play certain music, you can learn anything, but I wanted a guy I could feel comfortable playing with. And with Chad, it was like, ok, you can stay. Even today, there’s always surprises when we play together, which is great.”
Is it true that Eddie Van Halen helped get you signed to a major record label for the “Road Games” album?
Yeah, he did. Absolutely, it was Eddie. The album was a total disaster, the whole process of recording and dealing with the producer. The whole thing was a nightmare. That was no fault of Eddie’s. He was just trying to help, and he’s a sweet guy and a tremendous guitar player as well. He got us signed to Warner Bros. It was a failed attempt, because they didn’t realize that I can be a bit stubborn. I didn’t want to do what they wanted me to do, and that was the end of that.
R.V.B. - That was a nice project to be a part of. Jack Bruce and Jeff Berlin was a part of that project. Allan holdsworth Road Games
A.H. - Jeff played on Road Games. That was an album I did for Warner Brothers. Playing with Jeff was awesome. He was terrific.
industry. Getting an endorsement from Eddie Van Halen had to be helpful for you.
A.H. - Of course. He’s a great guitar player and he’s also a very sweet man. He was kind to me. He introduced me to Ted Templeman - the record producer for Warner Brothers. The whole thing didn’t work out, and it was a disaster, but that’s beside the point. The real point was that he was trying to help me. He said nice things about me.
The Final Interview: Allan Holdsworth Talks SynthAxes, Jaw-Dropping Solos and More (Guitar World 2017)
Your guitar playing leaps through the mix on Road Games, yet on Wikipedia it states that it’s one of your least-favorite records. Why? —Anthony Fragnito
I had no control of that record whatsoever. It was a clusterfuck. [Executive producer] Ted Templeman took everything out of my hands. Eddie Van Halen got me the record deal with Warner Bros. The problem was the record company didn’t let me do what I intended.
I think they wanted to push my music in a more commercial direction, but I was too stubborn to listen to them so they dropped me after that record. There are only six tracks on it because the record was never finished. It was a miserable period for me. I thought it was going to be great to be signed to a major label, but it turned out to be the exact opposite of what I expected.