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.
Well, Tom Scholtz has probably made more money out of the Rockman than out of Boston.
He probably did, yeah! He’s a bit of a genius that guy. I mean, that’s a pretty amazing machine. The sad thing about them to me - I’ve obviously used them and they’re handy and everything - but unless you’re really clever with the eq they’re kind of hard to disguise. And they cover up a multitude of sins! There’s a few guys I know that have used them for some time; they get plugged into an amp and it’s like they can’t live without it. They get hooked! So I don’t use it too much!
The distortion splashes near the beginning and end were the SynthAxe through a Rockman. For the rhythm guitar I ran the Boogie Quad Preamp straight onto the tape machine, without a microphone. I’d never done that before. At home, I have a couple of good mike preamps and line amplifiers, so I don’t have to run anything through the console. That way, I’m only monitoring on the console, and I can bypass all the electronics. I try a couple of different mike preamps or line amps to see which one best reproduces that particular sound. That gives you more coloration flexibility when you’re mixing, because I don’t think the best results come from mixing and recording on the same console. It’s quite often preferable to record on one thing and play back on another.
-So you didn’t even play along while recording the basic tracks? What about the interaction between guitar and the rest of the band during solos?
It was not possible because there was just no space to place my guitar set up. Kirk hits the drums pretty loud and it appeared impossible for me to set up my stuff without getting serious signal bleed. I could have played straight in the mixing board through a Rock Man, I did that in the past. But it happens too often in a studio situation that I’m happy with a live guitar solo and then we cannot keep the take because the drummer is not happy. Or vice-versa. That’s why I quit a long time ago to work like this. In the past, I had the opinion that if a solo was not recorded live, it’s not worth listening to. But it is nearly impossible for everybody to be happy with the same take as a band in a studio situation. While recording the basic tracks, the drummer was the point of reference. If he was happy, we kept the take. Gary Willis did some overdubs here and there, at home, on his ADAT. That took approximately two days.All in all the basic tracks were finished in three to four days. If I overdub the guitar so lo I try to lock in with the music I’m hearing. In the past, the endresult sometimes sounded as if I was just not there. Lately things have been going better and better. It’s still improvisation, and that’s what’s important for me.