Alan Pasqua is an American keyboardist. He has appeared with Allan on numerous albums. As a band member, he performed on the Tony Williams albums "Believe It" and "Million Dollar Legs". He also toured and made a live recording with Holdsworth, Haslip and Wackerman on the "Live At The Catalina" DVD and the "Blues For Tony" CD. Pasqua appeared as a guest on several Holdsworth albums, including "Metal Fatigue", "Atavachron", "Sand", and "Secrets".
- 1 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)
- 3 "...Where No Guitarist Has Gone Before..." (Cymbiosis 1986)
- 4 Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)
- 5 The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)
- 6 Allan Holdsworth’s Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)
- 7 Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)
- 8 No Secrets (Facelift 1994)
- 9 The Outter Limits: Allan Holdsworth's Out of Bounds Existence (guitar.com 1999)
- 10 The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)
- 11 Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)
- 12 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 13 Once Upon a Lifetime (Jazz Times 2010)
- 14 Allan Holdsworth (Sound Waves 2012)
- 15 Allan Holdsworth - Jazz/Fusion Guitarist (Musicguy247 2017)
Along with Williams, bassist Tony Newton and keyboardist Alan Pasqua, he recorded two albums - Believe It and Million Dollar Legs - and toured in 1975 and ‘76. After bad management drove him away from that ensemble (at one point during a tour he ended up stranded in San Francisco with neither money nor a place to stay and had to pawn his guitar to get back to England), Allan recorded his first solo album, Velvet Darkness.
What are you doing at the moment? Well, we’ve got a new album coming out soon in the States, called ‘Metal Fatigue’, on the Enigma label. I understand it’s going to be released over here, unlike the last one, Road Games’, which was on Warner Brothers, but I don’t know which label it will be on. Warner Brothers took an awful tong time to decide whether they wanted us to do another album or not, which is why this one’s taken such a long time to come out. The majority of the recording was actually done quite a while ago, and there are two different sets of personnel. On side one it was Chad Wackerman on drums, Jimmy Johnson on bass, Paul Williams on vocals and myself on guitar. On side two Gary Husband, (an original member of the IOU band) played drums, Gary Willis was on bass and Alan Pasqua played some keyboards. The first line up is the one we’re touring with at the moment, and we’re just off to Japan. Hopefully, we’re going back to the States to record the next album, which I’m really hoping will feature the SynthAxe.
Cymbiosis: You’ve gone away from keyboards in the past, especially after your U.K. and Bruford days. Holdsworth: They were basically keyboard dominated situations, and I wanted to reverse the roles and use the guitar. For example, with Bill [Bruford], he’d always use the synthesizer above the guitar for a chordal section, just because he thought the synthesizer sounded better than the guitar. I needed to get that out of my system and escape from all the synth things. So we did the I.O.U., Road Games, and Metal Fatigue—three trio albums. So I’ve had four or five years of trio and I really felt that I wanted to do something else. Cymbiosis: And so you recruited Billy Childs. Holdsworth: Yeah. Originally, Alan Pasqua was the guy I first thought of in the band, because I just love the guy. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s an incredible musician. Cymbiosis: You’ve worked with him quite a bit in the past? Holdsworth: No, I worked with him with Tony Williams, which is the only time. (I was definitely suffering from novice behavior in those days). And it was nice to get back together to play with him again. So I asked him to play on Metal Fatigue. He played a solo on " The Un-Merry- Go-Round". On "Atavachron", because I’d written and recorded most of the music on synthesizer, I wanted to get somebody else to come and play solos. So Gary Willis, the bass player on "The Un-Merry-Go- Round”, introduced me to the piano player, Billy Childs, and he sounded great. And through working Bunny Brunei, I met Kei Akagi, who’s fantastic. He’s the guy who’s in the band now. Cymbiosis: He’s the one we saw you with at the Roxy [L.A., 14 March 1986]. Holdsworth: That’s right, and Kei was actually going to play on some of the album, but he wasn’t available at the time. We couldn’t coordinate it, and so I asked Alan and he played on two tracks, "Atavachron" and "Mr. Berwell". Billy Childs played on "Funnels."
"The line-up on this album is a trio. Jimmy Johnson played bass on the whole album, Chad Wackerman played drums on one side, and Gary Husband played on the other side. So it’s basically a trio. We did have a guest soloist, Alan Pasqua, who is my favorite piano player. He always has been since we worked together in the Tony Williams band. I really like to work with him... He’s great, a lovely guy. He played a solo on one cut. That’s the only keyboard-controlled racket on the album. I’d love to get him to go on the road; he’s a very busy chap, and it’s difficult to get him away for any length of time. But if we did some local gigs, or some short tours, two week spans, we’d hook him up, somehow. When I work with Alan, he always seems incredibly focused. The music never changes, it grows. He always manages to take something I’ve written and make more of it in a way in which I would hear it. That to me is a magic thing, it rarely happens. I’m sure other people have that rapport with other, different musicians. It’s almost like I want to stay as a trio unless I can get Alan to go out with us...
Another new tune, "54 Duncan Terrace," is named for an address of a friend of mine who died a few years ago, Pat Smythe. He was a great piano player, and he had this old Bluthner piano in his house. That piano just sounded so nice, man. It had a beautiful sound, and those particular chords in that type of sequence reminded me of him. It’s a very quiet piece, and I think I might even do another solo on that one, maybe an acoustic guitar solo. Alan Pasqua plays an acoustic piano solo on it that turned out great.
GW: When Jimmy Johnson remarked that he was listening to Believe It on the way down to yesterday’s session, you winced. That album is really something of a landmark, and your playing is a great part of what distinguishes it. HOLDSWORTH:: Well, it was a great period for me in terms of being introduced to some really unbelievable musicians; that’s when I met Tony [Williams] and Alan Pasqua and Tony Newton, and hanging out and just being given a chance to play with them was really amazing. Alan is a truly astounding musician and I’ve always loved the way he plays. It’s also only in the last five years that I realized what kind of a genius the guy is. Same with Gary Husband. But getting back to that particular period, I hated what I did on that record. I can’t listen to it, but I thought everybody else sounded great. But I did the best I could at the time, so, that’s all you can do, unfortunately I wish I could go back and do ‘em all again [laughs].
I was considering an acoustic solo on this one. I tried recording it in my room, and it was just too noisy. If a car drove by, you’d hear it, because I’d have to have the mike really cranked. I guess I don’t really have any technique on the acoustic anymore; I was getting all these noises with my hands, so I just bailed on it and went for something unusually percussive with the SynthAxe: a sampled mixture of steel-string guitar, harp, and synthesized guitar. Jimmy Johnson plays a great, really beautiful solo after Pasqua’s solo, and then I do the short solo at the end. It was kind of a strange feeling, playing with that sound.
MP: You went on to work with Tony Williams in his New Lifetime, you did an album Million Dollar Legs, any recollections of that? AH: Yeah it was wonderful, apart from some of the financial hazards. It was a wonderful experience obviously such an amazing musician. I learned such a lot from him I know all of the guys in the band that’s how I got to meet Alan Pasqua who’s still one of my favorite musicians on the planet. He was great…
MP: You did some things with CTI you mentioned, the Velvet Darkness album… AH: Yeah that was a big rip off, a big disaster in my whole – and it haunts me to this day – the guy basically said I could record with whoever I wanted to and I got Alan Pasqua, Alphonso Johnson, Michael Walden and I thought wow, this going to be great, but we were rehearsing in this studio and they just recorded the rehearsing, we never actually got to record the tracks – they just recorded the rehearsals and that was it. When we said like, Isn’t it time we did those tracks? Again, you know? No that was it. So it was a real disaster album then and it’s an even bigger disaster now because the new album Secrets, the last album, was on Enigma, which was bought by Capitol, and now that album is no longer available, but- ! Of course you can find the old CTI album on Sony CBS which is, makes me want to give it, just quit on the spot. How do you deal with that?
So, how did the Gong projects come about? Well, it’s funny because it kind of intertwined. I then went to do the thing with Tony Williams and stayed there in New York and then we had some real problems. Not with Tony or the band, because that was the other thing - I loved that band - enjoyed every minute of it - but it was really rough financially. I stayed at Tony’s house which was fine. I didn’t need any money and he took really good care of me. But when we were on tour, we had got back to New York and I’d scraped together enough money to get a plane ticket back to see my girlfriend. So I was there, hanging out, and then I phoned back to see what was happening, and then I found out that the tour manager didn’t get paid and he was in charge of my guitar and he sold it! "That was the first and only time that I ever got that attached to an instrument. I was mortified! I only had one - I carried it everywhere - I used to buy a ticket for it on the plane... I’d had a lot of SG’s - but instruments are like that - you can make 50 of them but there’ll only be one of them that’s any good - some of them might be OK, but only one of them will be magic and so it was sold and I was completely bombed out. So then I went back to New York and had to buy a new guitar and there in the window was hanging my guitar! But I couldn’t prove it was my guitar and it was more money than I could afford, so I had to buy something else! So I bought another one and then we did another tour and ended up on the West Coast, ended up in San Francisco. And then the band ran out of money. Tony went back to New York to find out why there was no more money and both me and Alan Pasqua had no hotel - we were absolutely out on the street with a suitcase and a guitar. So we went down to the club where we’d been playing and the waitresses there gave us free drinks. We found the guy who had put us up for the night and we get back to this guy’s house in the evening and he said, ‘yeah, you can stay in this bed and you stay in that bed’. And we get back after the club had closed and there were two other guys in those beds! So this went on for three nights, and after the third night I said, ‘Man, I can’t hack this anymore’, so I took my guitar to the pawn shop and sold it. Alan Pasqua lent me the money (he lived in New Jersey at the time) to get from San Francisco to New Jersey and bought the ticket with my guitar from New York to London. I didn’t have anything! Just a suitcase. "Tony Newton was OK, because he lived in Los Angeles, so a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles wasn’t really expensive. So that’s when this thing came about with Gong. I got this call from Nicholas Powell, who actually managed me for a while. He split from Virgin Records and wanted to get involved in the video stuff. He really helped me out. In fact, it was Nicholas Powell who gave me the free studio time on the barge to record the IOU album.
Guitar.com: Speaking of drummers, you included a wonderful tribute to Tony Williams on this record ("The Drums Were Yellow"). I’m sure his passing must’ve hit you pretty hard. Holdsworth: Yeah, it was a shock. I remember when it [happened] because we were just loading into Catalina’s Bar & Grill in Hollywood and I remember Catalina coming out with this look on her face and saying, "You’ll never believe what I just heard." We were all kind of horrified. We played there three nights with the trio and two nights as a quartet with (keyboardist and former Lifetime bandmate) Alan Pasqua. The last time that Alan and I had worked together in a group situation was when we played together with Tony. So we played a few things that we used to play with Tony, in his honor. It was really sad.
MM: Tell me about the Jimmy Haslip, Alan Pasqua, Chad Wackerman “Lifetime Tribute” dates in Europe coming up soon. AH: It’s actually some old stuff and new stuff. We doing it very similar to the way we did it in “Lifetime”. We’re coming in with music that’s not quite finished pieces and experimenting with it as we go. I haven’t done it that way in a long time and it’s great. It’s challenging getting my butt kicked, it’s great.
You’ve recently been touring with Alan Pasqua as part of a tribute to Tony Williams project. What inspired you guys to make this happen? Alan was on the road in Europe and a promoter suggested the idea. He said “Why don’t you get back together with Allan?” That planted a seed and we spoke to each other to see if it could work. I used to call Alan once in awhile, usually because I was listening to one of his albums. I really love his playing. So, we thought “Let’s do a little tribute to Tony.” We had a rehearsal and it was going well. We tried it as an experiment and we’ll see what happens. We’re talking about doing a studio record with new material as a tribute to Tony. It’s been 30 years since I last played with Tony. It makes you realize how old you are.
Are there any things from that early period before you really got into your full-blown solo career—when you were kind of a hired gun—anything you look back on fondly and think, “Damn, that was pretty good”? Not usually [laughs]. Sometimes, if I ever have the courage to listen to anything, which I don’t usually have, there are some times … a friend of mine actually played me some of that first Gong record, and some of the stuff on that I actually liked. I can’t think of exactly what it was, but there were moments that went by and I went, “Oh, I wonder what happened to that?” You could hear something that I was thinking about, but then somehow, some way, I must have deviated and went slightly left or right of whatever that was. And I kind of liked some of the sounds on that record. And, of course, with Tony Williams, that was mostly because of Tony and Allen, and just recently I’ve had the opportunity to play with Allen Pasqua again, which has been a really, really wonderful thing for me, because he’s such an amazing musician.
Williams and Holdsworth went together to check out Newton on a big-band gig at Carnegie Hall. The pianist in the group happened to be Alan Pasqua, who made a favorable impression on both of them. Williams called a rehearsal at S.I.R. Studios in Manhattan, and a band was born. “We started rehearsing new tunes and then a few weeks later we were playing at the Bottom Line,” says Holdsworth. “Shortly after, we did Believe It, then did a couple of tours and followed up with Million Dollar Legs.”
Since we’re talking about great drummers, the most recent Allan Holdsworth release is the live record “Blues for Tony.” What made you want to revisit the music that you played with Tony Williams? It wasn’t so much that, as I simply just got back together with Alan Pasqua. We hadn’t performed together since those days when we were in Tony’s group. We just thought that would be a great place to start. Even though Alan has played keyboards on some of my records as a guest soloist, we never did any live playing since then. “Blues for Tony” was originally a bootleg, and it wasn’t something that we really planned to do. But somebody else had already made a bootleg copy, and most of that was from one concert in Germany. We just decided to release the same record on our own, kind of like what Frank Zappa did with his “Beat the Boots” series of records.
What are some of your memories of the time you spent with that band? Well, I loved it. Obviously, we had some hard times with the money. That’s just the way it was, and that’s kind of the way it still is. If you want to play music that’s not mainstream, you’ve got to expect that not so many people are going to want to hear it. There are lots of things people can do, but once you choose to take that path, you have to be prepared to do it because you love it as opposed to doing it because you’re going to make a ton of money, because you’re not. The thing is, we struggled in that band financially, but musically it was great for me. To be on the same stage with those guys, especially Tony, was something really special. It was a great honor for me. And Alan Pasqua as well. That guy was a very inspiring player, and he still is to this day. Tony Newton as well. We all brought something different to that band,
R.V.B. - How often do you practice these days? A.H. - Sometimes I’ll go months at a time where I don’t do anything. Typically I play every day now. Every once in a while I go into a thinking mode, where I’m thinking about it and not necessarily playing it. When you go back to the instrument, it feels a lot fresher that it did before... even though it takes a while to get the connection between your head and your hands together again. Alan Pasqua used to do the same thing. It’s good to think about it.