It is a rare honor indeed to hear from guitarist extraordinaire Allan Holdsworth. In fact, it has been a long time since he gave an interview. Recently, however, Allan agreed to answer questions from his fans. He graciously agreed to share his answers with Abstract Logix. In fact, we even asked the first few questions.
AL: Do you have any thoughts about the late Shawn Lane?
Allan Holdsworth: I thought he was an amazing guitarist and musician. He was also a very nice man with a passion for Belgian ales (OK by me!). He is greatly missed.
AL: You are working on a new record. Your last studio album was the magnificent “Sixteen Men of Tain”. Is your new album going to be conceptual in nature?
AH: It’s essentially a trio record featuring Joel Taylor and Ernest Tibbs. The working title is “Snakes and Ladders”. I’m working on recording it at present. No, there’s no particular concept as such. I would say its closer in terms of the music to 16 Men than “Hard Hat Area”. Beyond that, when it’s done I guess you can tell me.
AL: Rumors are that previous collaborators Eddie Jobson and Bill Bruford are interested in a project. Would you consider going back to the future?
AH: Possibly, if the circumstances were right.
Fan: You have pioneered a voice in music and influenced your peers and your fans. Who are some of your favorite guitar pioneers?
AH:Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Jimmy Raney, Wes Montgomery in fact most of the great guitar players; I loved them all. The newer guys: John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Scott Henderson and Frank Gambale… They’re all amazing with very different musical personalities. Of course there’s Michael Brecker and Keith Jarrett, but they don’t play the guitar (thank God!). I think I’ve been influenced by all instruments. I was influenced a lot by horn players, from Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane on to Michael Brecker. There’s many, many more that you could fill this whole page with people that have brought great gifts to the world of music.
Fan: Some of your fans are wondering what you would sound like doing the Eastern thing that McLaughlin and Lane have been doing. Do you have any thoughts of traveling to other musical horizons?
AH: Yes I do, very much so. As to exactly what it’s going to be I’m not quite sure, because there’s a lot of logistics involved. I always wanted to record with a pedal steel guitar player; I think pedal steel guitar and guitar in place of a keyboard is a very interesting sound to me. I always wanted to do something with a string quartet, French horns, with an acoustic rhythm section. I absolutely would love to work with some of these unbelievable Indian musicians, but I’m not sure I’d be able to hang with them on a raga. (Laughs).
Fan: Since you keep touring with Soft Works is there a possibility that there will be another studio-album with this band?
AH: It’s a possibility. I like working with those guys. I think all the members of Softworks would like to delve into some new music together. We’ve worked so sporadically and we live far apart, so it’s made it a little more difficult than it would be if I was living over in England.
Fan: What are your thoughts on the potential the Internet has to offer for non-mainstream artists both now and in the future?
AH: Well actually I have to be brutally honest and say I have no idea. I’m not a computer guy, or an internet guy. I hope it will help. I usually take advice on this from my friends and associates who are more familiar with the medium.
Fan: Do you have any particular fond memories of the first UK album? For example, how did the song ‘Nevermore’ come about?
AH: I already had that song written, but it was an instrumental. I think John Wetton wrote the lyrics. I was doing some layered guitar things in those days and we just took the guitar parts and he sang them as opposed to me playing them. I used a distorted sound, all recorded on separate tracks. I wouldn’t need to take that approach if I was to harmonize or write vocal melodies. It was just something we tried. I think that song turned out OK.
Fan: How is Bill (Bruford) doing and are there any chances of doing something with him in the near future (solo or group project)?
AH: I assume Bill is doing well. Again if the circumstances were right, I’d definitely consider it.
Fan: I heard in an interview that when you were with Tony Williams, there was an audition for bass players and Jaco Pastorius performed. Do you have any particular memories about that meeting? Did you ever run into him again afterwards?
AH: I remember that whole day when he came over very well. He was a very, very sweet man. Completely blew us away with his talent. I loved everything he did. It was a great tragedy. Unfortunately we never crossed paths after that.
Fan: What is your favorite album and / or song that you’ve recorded (both solo and group setting)?
AH: I don’t actually have one. Some of the albums just turn out a little better than the others for no real reason, but they’re all so different to me–because a lot of people think my shit sounds all the same).. I couldn’t choose between say “Hard Hat Area”, “Secrets”, or “The 16 Men”
Fan: What are your thoughts about Wes Montgomery?
AH: I love Wes Montgomery. My dad bought an album, an EP on riverside records, and Melvin Rhine was playing organ and bass with his feet. I listened to him a great deal, especially from this era. He was just a completely different kind of player.
Fan: What type of hobbies or outside interests do you have when you aren’t playing the guitar?
AH: Cycling, but I don’t do enough of it anymore. I have to get back on it big time. I like to pound an ale, or two (or three)… I like dabbling with electronics too. Although, I don’t like getting electrocuted. It doesn’t feel too good to behave like a fuse… (Laughs)
Fan: What projects have you been working on recently aside from your own music?
AH: I’ve recorded on a couple tracks with bassist Dave Hines. Steve Hunt plays on that project. There are other projects in the works, but I’ll talk about it when they’re finished.
Fan: Are there any guitarists and or musicians that you would like to record with?
AH: There are many, many musicians that I’ve wanted to work with, but I’m too afraid!
Fan: : If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what ten albums would you bring with you?
AH: I wouldn’t take any. (Laughs) I’d just hang out on the beach and drink Bohemia. I’d take more the ten albums in my head… But I might just sneak along a copy of “Coltrane’s Sound”.
Fan: If you could tap into a worm hole and travel through time, where would you go and why?
AH: I’d set the time machine for today I’d prefer to stay where I am.
Fan: Would you ever consider playing an 8-string guitar?
AH: No. I have enough problems with six!
Fan: Allan being that in terms of equipment you are an innovator and when you have the time to you sometimes sell things like the “Harness” and the “Harness II”. Since you don’t have time with all your musical endeavors to make them and there are so precious few have you ever thought about selling copyrighted schematics to those interested so you could make a profit yet not waste your time making needless units?
AH: I have. In fact I have a couple of people right now interested in manufacturing them for me. They took a long time for me to make by hand, but there’s still some interest in various versions of “The Harness”, and it’s an ongoing project.
Fan: Allan, if you were asked to open a brewery, what kind of beer would you brew?
AH: I would only brew Northern English style ales in open fermenters. They’re called Yorkshire squares. This would cover all the ales like pale milds, best bitter, extra special bitter, IPA, and a dry stout- all with relatively low gravities.
Fan: If there was an amp you had used in the past that you would use again, what would it be?
AH: The original Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. It’s probably one of the best sounding amps I’ve ever used.
Fan: What kind of places would you like to perform in, in terms of those where you’ve never played?
AH: I’d like to go to New Zealand actually. We almost made it one trip when we went to Australia (which I also love). I am also looking forward very much to going to Russia.
Many thanks to the Allan Holdsworth for spending the time to answer the questions. Thanks to Chris Hoard and everyone at Allan Holdsworth Forum that contributed.