CH: Alright. Here's an obscure one: rumor has it you worked with a guy named Jamie Muir, a musician I know of and respect.
AH: Yeah, a drummer.
CH: A drummer and percussionist. Is there a story there? How did that come about?
AH: Well, it came about with Jamie Muir and Alan Gowen and a couple other people were involved in just a band that was trying to get together, and I used to go ‘round to their house-Jamie's house I think it was, actually-to rehearse.
But we never did anything... we never recorded anything and we never went anywhere. It never...
CH: Do you remember anything about working with him, in particular?
AH: Well, I remember I enjoyed it... you know, I enjoyed working with him, and I really enjoyed working with Alan Gowen, and everything, but then, you know Alan Gowen died a few years later... of leukemia, I think. And I just went off in this other direction.
CH: It was just interesting because, like, he was another member of King Crimson you worked with-which you've worked with a lot of other members-or at least two of the major ones.
AH: Well, what happened was I worked with... we were just rehearsing with that band, and then I got the gig working with Jon Hiseman of Tempest. So, it took me away from that, you know. I don't know if we would have still carried on like that, but I enjoyed it. It was a pretty loose, open kind of band. You know, maybe too loose! But, from an organization point-of-view.
Here's one you probably didn't expect: Sunship.
That's a band you were in with Jamie Muir, Alan Gowen and Laurie Baker—back in 1971.
Oh, is that what it was called?
You didn't know the name?
No! [laughs] Oh yeah! That was good fun too. It was really different than what I was wanting to do at the time. But as far as I remember, it was pretty open. It was very spontaneous music. It was a combination of those people improvising really. It wasn't like anything else.
Did you guys record anything?
Not that I know of. [laughs] Who knows, that might be the next album—the bootleg! [laughs] We might have done a couple of gigs. The most I remember about that band was just rehearsing. Even though I didn't stay in touch with him, I like Alan Gowen a lot. He died from leukemia quite awhile ago. That was really sad. That's thing I remember most unfortunately—that's he's not around anymore.
Around about this time also was the fabled but short-lived band called Sunship, featuring Holdsworth alongside Alan Gowen ... “…that's right, and Jamie Muir" (Lyn Dobson and Laurie Baker were also band members). "Yeah, well, he (Alan Gowen) was great, a lovely guy. Yeah, that was one of the examples of where we did get together and rehearse without any real prospects. And it was good - I enjoyed it. I liked it a lot although I can't remember if we ever did a gig. But it was good." Allan also recalls similar projects recorded on reel to reel including a singer who later turned up on television some years later as a maker of mazes (!). It conjures up an image of a pool of players based in and around London who interacted in much the same way as the jazz scene traditionally works, with some crossover: "... most musicians were just slightly outside that - they weren't what I would consider to be the real jazz bore guys, but we did work together."
So to Soft Machine and Gong. Given Allan Holdsworth's links with Nucleus, with the musicians in Sunship, and later with Bruford, I long ago came to the conclusion that here was a musician very much aware of the dynasty of bands and musicians which can be traced right back to the mid-Sixties with the Wilde Flowers. Surely it wasn't a coincidence that Allan Holdsworth first played in the Soft Machine and then Gong. And yet: "In both cases I had no prior knowledge of the bands. In Gong I knew nothing about Daevid Allen or anything else that had gone before. I don't mean that in a bad way - I'd never heard it. Same with Soft Machine - I hadn't heard what had happened before, which may be a good thing, because then you're not trying to keep something alive. But there was a guy who was also a huge help to me starting out called Brian Blain, who works for the Musicians Union. He was absolutely wonderful - he helped me a lot. I think he really liked me and tried to put me in different situations. I remember we did some clinics - that's how I met John Marshall. I guess John told the rest of the band about me, and then Brian Blain hooked up a couple of clinics with the Soft Machine, but they added a guitar player because at that time they didn't have a guitar player.
Interview with Jamie Muir in Ptloemaic Terrascope
PT: And then you went on to form the provisionally titled 'Sunship' which included Alan Gowen and Allan Holdsworth?
JM: Alan Gowen was the keyboard player in Assagai actually, that's how I met him. He was a really nice guy and a good keyboard player. There wasn't much work around at the time, I think I found a bit in Germany or something, but we played together and somehow the bassist Laurie Baker got involved as well - I can't remember exactly how Allan Holdsworth had just come down from the North where he'd been doing commercial work. We had a rehearsal group in my house. I remember, that was the year of the electricity strikes. Laurie's wife would be making great vegetarian concoctions in the kitchen downstairs by candlelight, while we'd be upstairs rehearsing. Allan had come down wanting to do some sort of crucial music and I'd been involved in so-called Art Music and wanted to explore other areas - we were approaching it in some quite tongue-in-cheek ways and we had a lot of fun - we spent more time laughing than playing music. Laurie Baker was very much into art music on the intellectual side but in the right mood he could play some monstrous bass.