The Sound Starts in Your Head (Gitarre & Bass 2017)

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This is machine translated version of Der Sound startet in deinem Kopf (Gitarre & Bass 2017)

In Memory of Jazz Legend Allan Holdsworth:

The Sound Starts in Your Head

By Editors, April 19, 2017

Allan Holdsworth died in San Diego California at the age of 70 at Easter 2017. A few years ago we talked to the jazz pioneer about the perfect legato sound, idols and stage fright.

Allan Holdsworth

Briton Allan Holdsworth began his career in London in the 1960s, first playing with trumpeter Ian Carr's band Nucleus and then with Jon Hiseman's Colosseum successor Tempest. He enriched the Art Rock pioneer soft machine from 1973 to 1975, at the same time he began to participate in the epochal band Lifetime of American drummer Tony Williams.

In the early 1980s, Allan Holdsworth moved to America and began his solo career. Holdsworth's legato sound is unique. Its powerful fusion lines with intelligent to barely comprehensible voicings and melody lines inspired countless guitarists - but any attempt to copy this style is superfluous. Because this musician is unique.

Allan Holdsworth was known outside of his musical work as a passionate racing cyclist and beer connoisseur; his own patent for a beer dispenser is an important point in his biography.

Your sound and legato playing is admired and copied by many guitarists. How do you work on your sound ideas?

Allan Holdsworth: Basically, the sound starts in your head and you work on your instrument and your equipment to get as close to the sound you've heard. You never quite manage, but as long as you know you do not know anything, that's OK for me. It does not depress me anymore. You seek and try to improve your sound and music. [Machine back translated.]

How many of your sounds have been recorded at the improvised concerts before, and how many of them have been freely improvised?

Allan Holdsworth: Some of the sounds I've already tried in my own bands, but with this band I needed other stuff. And I really wanted to come up with new ideas. I have three Yamaha Magicstomps with me (ground effect devices with amp modeling and multi-effects capabilities) and a program for the computer I took with me. I experimented with that to find a way to creatively deal with sounds. New sounds make you play differently because you hear different ideas. [Machine back translated.]

I read in an old interview that you are suffering from stage fright, which you can not imagine. Is it still like that?

Allan Holdsworth: It's gotten worse over the years. When I was around 20 and playing with Tony Williams, I was already nervous, but it was different. I had nothing to lose because no one knew me and had no expectations of me. [Machine back translated.]

That did not matter as much as it does today. Today, people have so many expectations, and I always think, "Oh man, maybe I'll disappoint all these people today!" - and that really makes me nervous! I like talking to people after the gig, before that it makes me extremely nervous. [Machine back translated.]

After the soundcheck I have to get away to a place where it is completely silent and I get my head empty. I do not want to think about music or asked questions. Being a little bit nervous is good, I think. [Machine back translated.]

The German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff always said that if he was not nervous then it would be a bad concert.

This is definitely true, because this nervousness keeps you attentive.But only if you can keep it under control ... And that's hard for me. Usually I go away after the soundcheck and do not even stay with my musicians. Otherwise they only make me think about the music. [Machine back translated.]

I go to a restaurant, come back at the last minute and dip my hands in warm water. I only move my hands in the warm water. When the moisture is in my fingertips, the guitar feels better. So before the gig, I do not play anymore, because I want to be open to spontaneous ideas. [Machine back translated.]

A completely different question: Django Reinhardt was born 100 years ago. What kind of influence did he have on your way of playing the guitar?

Allan Holdsworth: He had a great influence! I never tried to copy it because I spent more time studying Charlie Christian, yet Django was important to me. I have all Django Reinhardt records and every guitarist should have a large collection of his music. Everything was great about him: great music, strong character ... [Machine back translated.]

Who else influenced you? Are there any guitarists or other instrumentalists who inspire you today?

Allan Holdsworth: Actually, everything inspires me. I try to pick the things I like, no matter if jazz, classical or rock. Sometimes I listen to my old classic records, Ravel, Debussy and Aaron Copland. Sometimes that really annihilates me, then my eyes go out because it's so great ... But I also like that kind of inspiration. I like things that make you feel something no matter what. [Machine back translated.]

Who makes good music today?

Allan Holdsworth: There are so many great musicians, I'm always embarrassed when I call one and forget the other .... I like Tim Miller, I like James Moore when he does his own stuff, more jazz stuff, not so much fusion stuff. I like Kurt Rosenwinkel, he's amazing. I appreciate Django Bates, I like Gary Husband at the piano. Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, and one I always forget because you no longer see him primarily as a guitarist: George Benson! It's incredible ... It's like Nat King Cole, George Benson thinks more of the singer than the instrumentalist. [Machine back translated.]