From Allan Holdsworth Information Center
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Any Key In The U.K. (Unknown publication 1978)

What guitar are you using with U.K.?

Basically I’m using a Strat. It’s got DiMarzio PAF pickups now. Before that, I had Gibson pickups. It’s just got a volume and a tone instead of one volume and two tones. I also did away, with the middle pickup. The toggle switch is just an ordinary three-way. It gives you either pickup or both. I like it because it’s really simple. I like to keep the guitar as simple as possible. I chose the DiMarzio PAF’s because they’re supposed to be an authentic reproduction of the original Gibson pickup. I found with the DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups that, although they’re very loud, the sound isn’t as good. I don’t know why, I’m not really up on what you can do with pickups. I know that if you go over the top with the windings, they become self-inductive or something and I know that if the magnets are too powerful, they’ll stop the string vibrating which is your source, really. these pickups are really good. I can’t tell the difference between the PAF’s and the original Gibson ones, but I can tell the differe nce between the PAF’s and the Super Distortion pickups - they’re very different.

Are you after a Gibson sound with a Strat "feel"?

No, I’m not particularly after a Gibson sound. I feel the Strat is potentially a really great guitar but what lets them down is the pickups. The reason I like Gibson pickups or pickups like Gibsons is because’ they’re humbucking. I always use high amplifier setting. If I use a nonhumbucking pickup I get lots of problems with buzzing and things. Obviously a double-bobbin pickup is better in that respect and I think they’ have a bigger output too and obviously, if you’re going to get it from anywhere, you’ve got to get it from the source.

Have you any other guitars?

Well, I’m having another one made by Dick Knight. He did a lot of work on my Strat. It has a very wide fingerboard. It’s 1¾ inches which isn’t ridiculously wide but certainly wider than most guitars these days. The fingerboard is very flat because I like the flatter feel. The original Fender fingerboards were cambered. In fact, Dick virtually made the guitar. He’s making another that’s almost ready which is really nice. I’m still going to have two pickups on it instead of three but I’m gonna use the DiMarzio Strat pickups with the adjustable polepieces. I really like Strats though, the design is amazing. I also use the tremelo [sic] arm a lot and the Strat tremelo has got to be the best one ever. The whole thing moves so you don’t get that "sawing" effect which pulls them out of tune. I have an old Gibson Firebird with their vibrola on and, when the strings move back and forth over the bridge, even though the tension’s pulled up to where it should be. If a winding gets caught up on the bridge saddle, t hat string will be flat or sharp according to which way it gets caught. That doesn’t happen on a Strat. I’ve heard people say that they can’t keep Strats in tune with the tremelo arm but mine never goes out of tune.

Player Of The Month (Beat Instrumental 1978)

To aid him in this search for his own musical identity Allan had already bought himself a Strat, which became his first proper guitar. After that he bought an SG Standard, and kept it until he moved down to London at the invitation of sax-player Ray Warleigh, who had come across Allan in a Mecca band working in Sunderland. "About six months passed, still doing the Mecca gig, until I couldn’t stand it any more, and I called him and asked if his offer still stood. And he said yes. So that’s when I moved to London, and just a few months after that I joined Tempest."

His playing style, nevertheless, is hard to pin down in words. It veers from almost heavy metal in the chords to light and ethereal in the solos, interspersed with runs so lightning fast he makes John McLaughlin look like a sleepwalker. But he can do that, and, knowing he can do it, doesn’t feel constrained to demonstrate the ability at every opportunity, whether it’s appropriate or not. So what is it that makes him different from the legions of other jazz-rock guitarists? Again, hard to say. But a lot of it has to do with his use of the tremolo arm on his customized Fender Strat.

Allan Holdsworth (Beat Instrumental 1979)

"Eventually I went along for an audition with another local band whose guitarist was leaving. He offered to lend me his Strat for the audition. It was just love at first sight. Here was the guitar that could produce all those electric sounds I’d always wanted.

"I’d always known that I could more or less get what I wanted out of a Fender and I actually like the mechanical modular formula that Leo Fender set all those years ago. I like their strength too. I’m always very careful with my guitars but I had to be super careful with the S.G. which was quite a fragile instrument.

"Another good thing about Fenders is that 25/½"scale as opposed to the 24" and also the sound, that pure tone that they have.

"Despite all those things that attracted me to them, I’d always wondered what a Strat with Gibson pickups on would sound like so I bought one when I was with Tony Williams in an attempt to see what it was like and with a mind to change the pickups at some later date.

The new Strat was, well, it was alright but it didn’t really make it as a guitar for me, not like a good old one. The neck was pretty horrible, very narrow at the nut and the fingerboard was too cambered for me, it just felt really uncomfortable."

Not being able to find true hapiness (sic) with current Fender Strats (perhaps not an uncommon syndrome!) Allan resorted to having the basic Fender design principles re-executed for him by Dick Knight.

"I got Dick to make a decent neck for the body that I had and then I cut out a cardboard scratchplate and generally started work on turning it into the guitar that I wanted. Eventually I cut out the tone controls and reduced the Fender system to just one tone and one volume because I find simple guitars that much more effective.

"What I’ve got now is effectively a Strat with two humbuckers fitted and arranged so that I can have either pickup but not both.

"Those original pickups that I fitted were genuine Gibson P.A.F.’s which I’d taken off previous S.G’s that I’d had. The sound really came up to expectations - it was a very bright guitar, just what I’d always hoped it would be."

The first appearance of the newly refurbished Strat was on that Gazeuse album where Allan found himself experimenting with the Strat at the expense of what had previously been his main guitar, a Gibson S.G.

"I’ve got three of these ‘Fenders’ now. The oldest one is the one with the genuine Fender body with a Dick Knight neck and the newer of the two Strats also has a Dick Knight neck but with a Boogie body, a Maple one, which is excellent. They’ve both got Di Marzio’s fitted, P.A.F.’s and I honestly have to say that, having tried them with both Gibson and Di Marzio pickups I really can’t tell the difference.

"There’s a third guitar as well, which I’ve only recently got. That’s a Boogie Telecaster body made out of Ash and fitted with a Jazzmaster neck. That really is a very heavy guitar, almost too heavy to be comfortable on a long gig but the sound it makes is amazing, it really holds on!

All three guitars are fitted with extra fat frets but Allan has more or less decided to stay with genuine Fender bridges, the only deviation from the norm being his use of Might Mite saddles. Another improvement over the original is the replacement of the standard Kluson machine heads with Schallers.

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)

Allan’s second guitar was a Hofner f-hole acoustic, which he played through a 15-watt amp. In a year’s time he progressed beyond that guitar’s capabilities and talked his parents into buying him a Fender Stratocaster. Within six months he sold the Strat and bought a cherry Gibson SG Standard, which he later replaced with a SG custom played through a Vox AC-30.

Holdsworth & Co. A New Side Of Allan’s Music. (Guitar 1980)

Have you had the same struggle to get a guitar you’re really happy with?

I’ve always gone through a lot of equipment in a continual search for things, and that process has slowed me down over the years as I’ve got nearer the mark. There was a time when I tried loads of guitars, but I don’t think I’ll be changing too many things on guitars in the future. I now have one Strat with a Boogie body and a Dick Knight neck, and that’s the newest one. The other Strat is the nicest one, the dark one, and it’s older and has been played more. That’s an original Fender that I bought when I was working with Tony Williams, and I got it for 300 dollars including case, about £150. It was fairly new one with quite a narrow nut, and being so cheap and fairly nasty I decided to take the neck off and sell it. With the money from that I had Dick Knight make one for me. I had a few teething problems with that but he’s sorted them out now. I also had two Gibson humbuckers which I took off a couple of SG Customs - over the years I’ve built up quite a collection of old PAF’s from the centre position of SG’s - and they are what I put on that Strat, and I really liked the sound. I’d always fancied the idea of putting Gibson pickups on a Fender guitar because there’s something about the guitar I liked, the long scale length. It seemed that the strings rang a lot more. I also noticed that if you put the Fender pickups a long way from the strings that horrible harmonic caused by the powerful magnets disappeared. When I put the old PAF’s on the balance seemed just right between the power of the magnets, the amount of windings on the coil and the fact of being humbucking, which I liked for obvious reasons- they also didn’t affect the string movement. I’ve found that a lot of the very powerful pickups, the Super Distortions and so on, have an incredible effect on the way the guitar sounds to me acoustically, and I didn’t like that. If you use thin strings like I do these pickups practically stop them from vibrating, and when you’ve got to a point like that it’s pretty ridiculous. I think there’ll be a swing back soon to pickups that actually sound better rather than having lots of volume. With amps the way they are these days who needs hot pickups? They’ll probably find a less Mickey Mouse way of amplifying strings than bobbins and magnets anyway eventually. It’s like loudspeakers, you’ve got all these thousand [sic] of pounds of equipment and at one end you’ve got a little magnet on the guitar and at the other end you’ve got a big magnet and a piece of paper. It’s very strange. That side of it has been the same for many years and they haven’t improved on it. Like those high-output pickups: The sound of a lot of them is pretty disgusting, and I’m looking forward to the guys who are going to make the better sounding ones.

Allan Holdsworth (International Musician 1981)

ALAN: As far as guitars go I prefer the Fender tone and characteristics but I don’t like weedy, metallic sounding pickups. I think Leo Fender is a genius but I like PAF pickups. I’m trying one of his new G&L guitars at the moment and they’re very hot. The guitar I’m using is a 1970’s Fender Stratocaster that’s been modified. I enjoy experimenting with modular guitars and I do all of my own electronics. The neck of the Strat I had custom built because I like wide necks, but unfortunately it still wasn’t wide enough at the top when I got it back so I had it bound to give it extra width. The neck has an ebony fingerboard.

The pickups are DiMarzio. They’ve just sent me a pair with black tops because I complained that the cream tops didn’t match the whole scratchplate too well. Those people are very good to me. The pickups were especially wound and I’m going to put them in another Stratocaster eventually.

How have you modified your Strat?

ALAN: It only has two pots, one tone and one volume control, as like to keep these things basic. The tone affects the treble pickup only. There’s also two switches that I’ve added. One is a pickup selector, a three way giving either pickup, or out of phase. I only ever use one pickup at a time but the switch was lying around here so I used it. The other switch brings in a capacitor which gives me extra brightness at low volume. The bridge assembly is a standard Fender replacement. I don’t like brass fittings.

The Reluctant Virtuoso (Guitar World 1981)

Having exhausted the always intriguing topic of Holdsworth’s technique - a subject, by the way, that bores him to tears - we move on hurriedly to the area of guitars and related equipment. This also induces instant boredom for our protagonist and, skipping the genealogy of his guitars (which includes a Hofner acoustic, Gibson SG Standard, Gibson SG Custom and Fender Strat in roughly that order), we jump to the latest.

"I have two working Fender Strats and one that’s just being finished off. They’re all made from various combinations of necks and bodies which I can’t remember at the moment, although one’s made from all DiMarzio parts and pickups. I use DiMarzio PAF’s on everything, in fact they just sent me some nice black ones, because I have a white guitar and the cream-colored ones didn’t match. All my fingerboards are ebony [he has them flattened also] except for this last one which has a maple fingerboard. It’s different but I’m gettin’ used to it. I’ve been experimenting with different body woods and I’ve formed some definite theories about how they affect the sound but I want to check them out before I embarrass myself. I’m still using the same amps - [Norlin Lab Series for chording and Hartley-Thompson for soloing-the latter only available in U.K.] and the same basic effects [MXR Noise Gate/Line Driver, various volume pedals, discrete echo from the studio board]. It’s just that everything sounds so much better no w and I get so frustrated because I want to put some of these noises on tape."

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1982)

Why did you switch from Stratocasters to Charvel guitars?

I was really lucky, because just before I sold my Stratocaster, I met [Charvel Luthier/designer] Grover Jackson in London. We went out for a few beers and he was willing to listen to ideas I had about certain woods, whereas a lot of other people wouldn’t. They’d say "you can’t make a guitar from this wood or that wood." But Grover listened to everything, and made three Strat-style guitars from various woods. Also I had the necks made wider at the fingerboard end. I hate the Fender string spacing.

Why’s that?

Fender’s overall string spacing is wider than Gibson’s, but at the same time Gibson’s necks are wider than Fender’s. It’s absolute madness. I had Grover make the necks wide at the top [near the headstock] like Gibsons, and about 2 1/4" wide at the body end of the neck. So that means there’s a good 1/8" on either side of the outer strings, which is really nice. The strings used to really fly off the edges of the Stratocasters. I’m really happy with the guitars Grover made. They’re the best guitars I’ve ever owned.

What kinds of woods were employed in their construction?

All three are different. The red one has a maple neck with an ebony fingerboard and a basswood body. The white one has a maple neck, ebony fingerboard, and a body made of jelutong [a Malaysian and Indonesian softwood]. Then there’s the one that I was most interested in: a maple neck and fingerboard -- one piece -- and a spruce body with a clear finish. They all sound different from each other, which is really great, because I’ve learned so much about what to do about two more guitars that Grover’s going to make. He’s going to use a combination of all the best ideas in these three.

Is the spruce a lot lighter than the others?

No, actually the basswood’s the lightest. The Jelutong and the spruce are about the same, which is probably about the same as alder or something like that. The spruce one sounds stiffer, or harder. Very quick. I wanted to find a real resonant wood, and spruce is often used for the tops of acoustic guitars. I didn’t believe the normal stories that said, "the heavier the better for a solid guitar." And I’ve never believed that. Most of the old guitars I’ve ever played -- the good ones -- have been at least half the weight of their modern equivalents. If you feel the weight of an old Strat or an old Les Paul, it seems to weigh much less than a new one. The wood gives so much to the sound, just like in an acoustic guitar, whereas if the body is really heavy, it just sort of soaks the sound up, and you’re left with a string talking down to the pickup. Then you’d might as well have a concrete body or build it into the ground. I really like when a guitar feels as if it’s got some sort of acoustic thing going for it.

How does switching over from, say, an SG to a Stratocaster affect your playing?

Well, I’ve always had more difficulty playing a Strat than a Gibson: The scale length is slightly longer, and originally I didn’t have flat fingerboards on my Strats, so they just felt generally more cumbersome. Also, it seems that because the strings on the old Gibson just sort of lay on the bridge, you could have an extremely low action, and if you had string rattle it wouldn’t show up through the amp. On the Fender, though, because the bridge situation is so precise and so clean, any rattles you’ve got show up through the amps.

What made you leave the SG behind for the Strat?

The big difference for me in changing from the SG to the Start was putting humbuckers on the Strat. From then on, I couldn’t go back. I’ve tried a couple of times, because I love SGs -- they’re definitely my favorite guitars. I love the way they play and look. But there was just something in the sound that I missed after playing the Strat -- some of the heart, the upper harmonics. I think that it’s partially because of the bridge. That’s part of why I don’t like most of the new locking tremolo units like the Floyd Rose, where the strings are attached right on top. It seems that if the strings don’t actually pass through the block, they don’t sound as good. When the strings are just on top. Well, it seems that most of this mysterious Strat sound has been coming from the block, where the strings pass through the tubes in the blockpiece. I also found that the lighter the block, the better it sounds. I hate brass blocks; they just seem to absorb. It’s like if you have a practice mute on a violin. You stick a piece of brass or lead on the bridge and all the sound goes; it’s absorbed. And that’s what I think happens with brass. There’s a tremolo being designed by a guy named Dave Story in Southern California, and it’s got a totally different design than anything I’ve ever seen. It has a locking nut, but the bridge has fine-tuning adjusters.

No Record Contract, No Big Hoopla, But The Fans Have Kept The Faith For Allan Holdsworth (Guitar World 1982)

Though for Allan it’s "all in the hands", his hardware setup facilitates his playing style. His single-humbucker, Strat-like guitars are set to play easily, to offer almost no resistance with extra-super-light gauge strings and a very low action. He speaks of equipment with precise glee, and since he maintains his own guitars, he knows what he likes: "At the moment I’m using two Charvel Strats that Grover Jackson, of Charvel, did especially for me - they’re made out of slightly different wood and the neck dimensions vary slightly. They’re wider at the top of the neck, I think it’s two and a quarter inches, than at the body end, which is nice ‘cause normally Fenders are very narrow there, and the strings pop off the end. So there’s an eighth of an inch on either side of each E string all the way up the neck. I hate it when you go off the fingerboard, which is easy to do when you use thin strings."

Allan Holdsworth (Music UK 1983)

In Allan Holdsworth’s career, which spans 15 years, he’s gone from cello guitar, to Fender Stratocaster, to Gibson SGs, and today he plays Charvel guitars.

‘When I first played the SG I fell in love with it instantly and I took the Fender which I’d bought on HP back to the shop, and traded it for the Gibson SG Standard they had. I stuck with that for a couple of years while I was a semi-pro, and then I got a job in a Mecca houseband, and that’s when I started messing about with guitars and experimenting with 335s and whatever. That was a real experimental thing, I changed the lot, different amps, different strings, different guitars. I still like trying everything and each one of these Charvel guitars I have is an experiment, but they’re getting closer and closer to what I want. All the necks are 2 ¼" wide at the top of the fretboard which is a lot wider than a Fender, and I really like that. I’ve always been anti heavy guitars, and all of these guitars are light. They’re made of spruce or Bass (as in ass) wood. Most of the older Strats were light.’ Allan Holdsworth had, at the date of our meeting, four Stratocaster type Charvels which included a blonde one w ith a pair of custom wound Dimarzio humbuckers, a red one with a single custom wound Seymour Duncan humbucker, and a white one with two more custom wound Seymour Duncan humbuckers in the middle and rear positions for a certain sound Allan was after. The fourth one is blue, also with a pair of custom wound Seymour Duncan pickups. All of these guitars feature one tone and one volume control plus pickup selector and brightness switches. Another guitar of Allan’s is a Charvel prototype that looks not a million miles from an Ovation Viper, also with Seymour Duncan pickups.

One of these instruments carries a Dave Storey (Kahler) tremelo (sic) which loads from the top, with no tremolo block in sight. Before he emigrated to the USA, Dave was England’s answer to Floyd Rose, and his unique tremolo system. Ah well, England’s loss, America’s gain.

‘Dick Knight was the first guy to modify a Stratocaster type guitar for me, but what I love about the Charvels is the neck dimensions which make it an incredibly comfortable guitar for me to play. I play the Yamaha 335 type guitar over in the corner, I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s a pretty good guitar.

Reaching For The Uncommon Chord


The first good guitar I had was a Fender Stratocaster. I only had it for a short period of time, but I really loved it. The Fender was a new guitar with a great sound, although I only had that first Strat for about six months. Then one day I went down to Leeds. ...


I used to ride the bus down there, sometimes just to look in the window of a Kitchens - a big music store. And one day I saw a Gibson SG - it was the first time I'd ever seen one in my life. I went in, and they let me take it downstairs and play it. I loved it. So I managed to exchange the Strat for the SG. I played that guitar from then through the time I joined with Tony Williams. Wonderful machines. In those days there weren't that many different guitars around. There were basically two, Fender and Gibson; both had completely different sounds. With the Gibson I had found a guitar with a voice more akin to what I was looking for. Now those two sounds have merged more with a lot of people experimenting, putting Humbuckers on Strats, etc. — which I did. I was so knocked out with this little Gibson. I then read about Orville Gibson and that man's story, and I became a big fan of his. I used to read a lot of books about violin makers and instrument makers in general. I admire innovative people like Leo Fender and Orville Gibson and those who helped develop their instruments, like Bach did with the organ.


When I was with Tony Williams, I bought a Fender Stratocaster. It wasn't a very old one - about 1973. I took it back to England and had Dick Knight make me a neck. He did all my guitar work along with his son-in-law Gordon. It was a maple neck with an ebony fingerboard. They do absolutely marvelous work. I'd always come out of there with a grin from ear to ear. The neck was quite big - an inch and three quarters at the nut to two and a quarter at the body, and it was quite chunky; it transformed the sound of the guitar. Those were my chisel days. I started hacking guitars up like crazy – I put a couple of humbuckers on a Strat, and I really liked the way it sounded. I always thought it would sound good. I had to sell that guitar too, which was painful. I actually sold it just before we came out to the States to a guy who put the original pickups back on it. I was dumbfounded — he missed the point, but one man's meat is another man's poison ... I played that guitar from Gong through UK.


I met Grover Jackson in England. He was given my phone number by Steve Blucher, a friend of mine at DiMarzio. Grover and I met at a pub, and we started talking to each other about guitars, and I told him about how I felt about light wood and how I had found that really light wood worked great for me. I also told him my thoughts on neck dimensions - 11/16" to 214" (I think all Charvel necks are like that now). He told me that when I came over to the States, he was going to make me a guitar. When we came to California, I didn’t have a guitar (I had a guitar, but it was just a cricket bat). Then Grover made me two really fantastic ones - the one I preferred was made from basswood. But basswood varies in weight. Up to a point, the lighter the wood, the better the guitar sounded; but if they were too light, the sound regressed. He used the new neck dimensions - the top is actually a Fender measurement, and the bottom is a Gibson measurement. We used Gibson string spacing and Seymour Duncan pickups. Seymour Duncan worked with me on numerous custom wound pickups. I played the Charvel for about two years.

Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)

I hear you’ve got a rather interesting new guitar, would you like to tell us something about it?

Well, until about a year ago I was using a Charvel guitar, very similar to a Stratocaster, which was built for me by Graver Jackson of the Charvel manufacturing company out in California.

Then, about a year ago, Ibanez said they would be interested in making a guitar to my specific design. So, we took all the things that I’d learned over the years, including the time in England, when my ‘main man’ was Dick Knight, along with his son-in-law Gordon, and they were marvellous to me. They gave me greatly reduced bills when I wasn’t working, and Dick helped me experiment with different woods. One of the things I found was that I loved the sound of light guitars.

Grover had made me some guitars out of Basswood, which is a really lightweight, resonant wood used for making furniture - drawers and things. It’s very unaffected and doesn’t absorb moisture easily, so it’s ideal for painting. It’s a very sonorous wood and I love the sound of it.

We used a quarter-sawn Maple neck with Ebony fingerboard, an inch and eleven sixteenths at the nut to two and a quarter inches at the body, with a seventeen inch radius on the fingerboard -so it’s very flat. I’ve been using Jim Dunlop 60/J 00 frets, which are very high; I like them to go right to the very edge of the fingerboard and cut quite steeply. Ibanez made about six different guitars and each one was progressively better than the one before until, about six months ago, when they gave me a guitar which was absolutely marvellous, the best guitar I’ve ever owned.

They then decided that they were actually going to produce this guitar, which is great. The funniest thing was that at the NAMM show, when they brought one of the first production models for me to have a look at, it was so good, I managed to blag them into letting me have it. They tell me that they’re weighing the individual bodies and, if they are over or under a certain weight they are not getting through. I think it’s marvellous for such a big company to go to those extremes.

One of the original prototypes didn’t have a scratchplate and the pickup was mounted directly onto the body. We took that very same guitar, hollowed out a cavity down the middle and put a scratchplate on it, with a single humbucker. It improved the sound by at least 60%! The other great thing is that, because there’s a cavity, you can use any pickup configuration you like, mounted on a scratchplate and don’t have to do any hacking!

Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)

Oh, the other interesting thing which I must tell you is that, you know people always come up and ask about the SynthAxe ‘Can It sound like a guitar?’, and I thought well, let’s have a go. I mean it’s pretty stupid really to want to control a synthesiser and make it sound like a two hundred and fifty buck Strat plugged into an old Marshall or something. It’s kind of weird and I can’t imagine anyone wanting the SynthAxe to do that but I thought I’d have a go. So I waffled about on the Matrix 12 and came up with this patch, stuck it through a fifty watt Marshall and recorded it just like you would a guitar. It’s really clean and controllable and even though the

sound’s distorted, there are no sounds of your hands on the fretboard, like you have on a guitar. So the notes stop in a really neat way; they’re not cluttered with all this white noise crud of your hand moving around, which I hate and try and control on the guitar. But it’s pretty much eliminated with this. Also that track Mac Man was recorded on a sequencer, using the Mackintosh, except for the solo, which I had to record on my Akai, at home. The rest of it, including Chad’s percussion parts, the drum machine and bass, were recorded on the sequencer down at the studio. Mac Man is this chap who has more command of the computer than I’ve seen from most anybody and he was manipulating it while we were waffling.

The melody part is played with the SynthAxe through a Roland digital piano. It’s funny because the first part is like a pseudo acoustic piano and the solo’s like pseudo electric guitar. It’s an interesting track - a fun track. There are no keyboard controlled synthesisers on the album whatsoever, except for the solo on Pud Wud which is Alan Pasqua. The rest of the sounds - the accompaniment sounds behind the guitar - are just the SynthAxe.

Axes Of God (Guitar World 1989)

One of the least constant factors in the equation has been Allan’s preference in the characteristics of the guitar itself. Since the early seventies, when he acquired his first Fender Stratocaster, he persistently sought to break the instrument down to an elemental form - moving on to the thinner Gibson SG, another chiselled Strat, several hollowed-out Charvel and Ibanez solidbodies and, most recently, to the deceptively resonant, stripped down plastic Steinbergers - ultimately using MIDI as the basis for its restructure. With two SynthAxes and their corresponding analog Oberheim Matrix 12 and X5B synth modules and disk player, some Yamaha DX 7’s and an Akai S-900 sampler, Allan feels that the dream has been finally realized. "For years, I’ve been trying to get the guitar to do things it simply didn’t want to do," he explains. "I never have to fight the SynthAxe to make it respond, and, in a surprising sense, it’s really the most expressive instrument I’ve ever played through"

Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)

MP: Let’s talk about some of your instruments, basically. What was your first guitar then?

AH: First guitar was this old, it was kind of like an old classical guitar, but it did have steel strings on it, and then after that my Dad got me an f-hole guitar which is a guitar I played a year or so - it was a Hofner, and then I put a pickup on it and I spent it my Dad who was into building amplifiers just started getting interested in amplifiers then. He built that, then I saw this guy who had this Fender Stratocaster which I fell in love with so I tried this Fender Strat, my Dad got it – well signed for it – so I could make the payments on it. And then about 2 months later I saw, I played an SG and that was it from then on, I was completely in love with this SG. I got this SG Standard, later I traded it for an SG Custom. I basically stayed with that guitar right the way through until…Tony Williams.

MP: And before getting into that you went through a period with Charvel Strats, your chisel period, explain how that was...

AH: Well it was just basically, before I met Grover Jackson – who is an unbelievable guy, he really helped us out a lot in the beginning with IOU when I first came into the States I didn’t have a guitar or anything, he gave me 3 or 4 really great guitars, and uh, basically the chisel thing was just taking an old Strat and chiseling a hole so you could put a humbucker on it. It was before you could get humbuckers on Strats, you know. And then, like I said, I met Grover and he made these guitars for us. Those were some of the best guitars – I had a red one he made that was actually one of the best guitars I ever owned.

MP: What was the neck configuration? Was it maple or

AH: It was maple with ebony fingerboard and a basswood body

MP: And Seymour Duncan 59…

AH: Seymour Duncan, it was essentially a 59.

No Secret (Guitar Extra 1992)

Q: Let’s go back a little bit. After hearing Clapton and being a fan, did you then pursue getting equipment like that, and buy a Les Paul?

Allan: I never liked Les Pauls. After I had the semi-hollow guitar, my dad bought me a Strat, and I played that for about 6 months. Then I made the mistake of going into this music store in Leeds, and I saw a SG custom in the window, a white one with 3 pick-ups. I played that thing, and that was it. So a friend of mine took over the payments on the Strat, and I started a new payment plan on the SG. And I basically used that SG pretty much right the way through until Tony Williams. I love those guitars. That one was lost mysteriously. The tour manager of Tony’s band was owed some money and he had my guitar, and what he did is, he took my guitar down to the pawn shop and sold it. So when I came back to carry on working with Tony, my guitar was in the window of Sam Ash’s or something. And I couldn’t get it back, because I couldn’t prove that it was mine. It was there for sale, but they wanted so much money for it that I had to go buy another SG somewhere else. This was right around that time of the first albu m, Believe It. And then I got this other SG Custom, a really nice one, but it was black, and that was a beautiful guitar. Then the band got stranded in San Francisco and I had to sell that one to get home.

Interview with Allan Holdsworth (Jazz Italia 2005)

ALEX: Could you describe the qualities of your guitars starting with the legendary Charvel, right up to the current Carvin?

ALLAN: Actually, before using the first Charvel, I bought a Fender Stratocaster during the time I was working with Tony Williams. I used a white Gibson SG Custom. It really was a great guitar! I lost it ... but I bought a Stratocaster that I used for a while with a single coil but I did not like it very much, so I redid the wiring so that the tone knob worked on the treble pickup. I connected the tone knob to the rear pickup so that it sounded a bit thicker ... then I played ... hell, I did not like it at all so I took some humbucking pickups and put them in. Since I had PAFs from SG - I owned 3 or 4 SGs - from which I always eliminated the middle pickup, I used 2 on this guitar and it sounded very good. It was a light body, as if it were alder... ... [Machine back translated.]

ALEX: Do you prefer alder or ash?

ALLAN: I do not like ash. It's too hard. In my opinion, alder sounds much better. Then I realized that I did not really like the neck because it had Fender spacing. I needed the Gibson spacing and I wanted the neck to be wider ... On the Fender with the double strings [“Sulle Fender con le corde più doppie”] and the narrower neck I had the neck really bent and the strings tended to come out from both sides. So, I went to a luthier and I had a neck built, a maple neck with an inch and 11 / 16th up to 2 and ¼ ... it was practically the size of a Gibson neck ... then I got built a vibrato with Gibson spacing, and it was excellent. It sounded really good. A fantastic guitar. I used it on everything I did in England. With that guitar I made the album IOU. We had to mix the album and we did not have a penny. We had a deadline so I mixed side 1 in a day from midnight to 7 am and the next day still from midnight to 7 I mixed side 2! But I had to sell the guitar to pay for the recording so ... I did not have a guitar! When I moved to America, I contacted Grover Jackson who was the Charvel guy. He is a fantastic person. He built me 5 or 6 guitars, we talked about the type of wood to use and he took the size of the neck from inch and 11 / 16th to 2 and ¼ making it standard so that after making those guitars for me, the Charvel people liked it so much that they started doing all the Charvels with that dimension. They no longer made a guitar with the regular size neck! Jackson also introduced me to the American basswood which may be lighter than the alder. I had two or three made of this wood, a red one ... it was beautiful. I never wanted to sell it! [Machine back translated.]