Allan Holdsworth (NPS Radio transcript)

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Summary: In a 2000 interview with Paul Harvey, Allan Holdsworth discussed various aspects of his musical journey. He recounted his early experiences with the band Igginbottom, where they explored experimental music and faced challenges in recording studios. Holdsworth emphasized his love for jazz, particularly John Coltrane's influence on his guitar playing. He stressed the importance of finding the essence of music rather than imitating others and shared his transition from playing cover tunes to composing original music. Holdsworth also talked about his collaboration with renowned musicians like Gary Husband and the creative connections that can develop in a group. Furthermore, he touched on his encounter with legendary drummer Tony Williams, the value of real-world experience in a musician's growth, his hobbies, and influential records, highlighting "Coltrane's Sound" and "Clair de Lune."

Radio Interview with Paul Harvey

NPS Radio Amsterdam, March 4, 2000


PH: …Our paths crossed, you know, we probably met many, many years ago in Bradford, but it’s quite funny how 30 years later you come back and here you are in Amsterdam, on, you know – neutral territory. I can remember when I moved up to Bradford from London, and we talked about Manningham, which was a part of Bradford where at one stage along the way there was a Mecca dance hall where most things happened on a Saturday night. You used to be in a Mecca dance band, didn’t you, at one time?

AH: Yeah I was, for a short time, it was on Manningham Lane, I think, and it was closer to the town where I used to live, which was like taking Manningham Lane up towards a town called Shipley and left up Carlyle Road and it was up there somewhere…

PH: But musically if I remember in the 60s, you had the beginnings of the Beat-dom [Note: This word is most likely a reference to the emergence of Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat] and the local bands which were playing the hits of the day rather than your own stuff, and you were with a band called Igginbottom that played - basically you were more into Coltrane than the Beatles or the Stones.

AH: Yeah well that’s true, but I also before that, haha, I still did play with a lot of local bands in that town, Jimmy Judge and the Jurymen, they’re all like funny names, haha, Margie and the Sundowners, all these people, it’s great, I’ll have to ask them what they’re all doing. But that was more like playing in working men’s clubs and just doing the cover tunes, and then Igginbottom was really just an experiment and the unfortunate thing is that it actually got recorded when it never should have been, haha, because it was too soon, too early to be doing any recording really. It didn’t deserve it to be recording then.

PH: It’s quite amazing to think that a band that played experimental stuff would be signed by a Decca label, Deram records wasn’t it?

AH: Yeah, well that came about because of the other guitar player. There were 2 guitar players in the band, Steve Robinson and myself, and what we used to try to do - which was a very good idea, it’s just that we weren’t very good at it… but it was a good idea and we played like polychords, and I’d play 4 notes, and he would play 4 different notes and every chord was usually like an 8-note chord, which was unusual for the guitar, and we’d work on it. Some of the ideas were pretty good, it’s just that we couldn’t play, haha, but, uh, I forget where I was going with ya…

PH: But how did you get a record deal…

AH: Yeah, well, Steve Robinson was friendly with a guy, it was actually the singer in a pop band at the time called A Love Affair, Mick Jackson. Mick Jackson heard us playing and he thought he liked it so he - I don’t know how or why we ever got the opportunity to do this - but he dragged us down to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Ronnie’s had the main club and the upstairs, so we set up upstairs and we played, and all the guys who were working at Ronnie Scott’s, including Ronnie himself when he was still very much alive in those days - we played and then they disappeared, and we thought, ‘uh oh, we’re out of here, this is it’, but when we came downstairs we realized that they actually really liked it, so it was pretty interesting. But unfortunately we were dealing in a time where like, if we were using any type of distorted guitar sound, the recording studios didn’t really know what that was yet. So if I tried to go into the studio and play loud - in other words, it was loud to get the distorted guitar sound - they’d say, ‘No, no, you’re doing that all wrong – YOU turn it down, WE turn it up in the control room’, we’d go, ‘no, that’s not how it works, we play loud, you turn it DOWN in the control room’, and it was a constant struggle, it was just a major disaster.

PH: Was that recorded in London?

AH: Yeah, it was actually recorded at Abbey Road!

(Igginbottom excerpt)

AH: It was really funny…we did a couple of demos, the same band, that turned out really good, because we did one at Matthias Robinson Studio and he was the guy actually who designed the Matt Amps - which became popular or later became known as Orange amps - and he had a recording studio at his house and we played loud - and obviously it was right, but, haha, it should have never have been recorded really. It was - we were not anywhere near ready to have that happen to us.

PH: But somewhere along the line it set the seal of which you wanted to sort of pursue experimentation with like using rock rhythms and jazz basically, didn’t ya?

AH: Yeah, well because of my father, who was a jazz musician, and I grew up in a house full of classical music and jazz records… I obviously had a great love for it, you know, I started out with a classical music… I remember even before I could read I remember listening to like Debussy or something or a couple of my father’s favorite composers and actually crying, and I couldn’t figure it out – ‘this is really strange – what is this strange thing that’s happening to me’, and I didn’t understand it, and then a few years afterwards I realized how powerful music is… And then the next big major thing was John Coltrane because my father had those records that had Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane in the same band. The thing about that was, I loved Cannonball Adderley, but I could hear where it came from, you know, I could hear the connection between him and what was before - but when I heard John Coltrane, I couldn’t – he was like, somehow he’d been able to take this elec – this cable of life or cable of music and plug it directly into the source, and it wasn’t going through any pathway that had already been recreated - it like was a new circuit, like a new thing and it just… I was just really moved by it and I used to go out every Saturday morning and buy all the John Coltrane records I could find. And I’d already learned earlier that it was a very bad idea to try and copy someone, because all you did was get good at sounding like someone else, and also make you feel like you were kind of leeching off of somebody, so I didn’t want to do that. What I wanted to do was listen to the spirit of it, and the heart and the soul of the music – and the head, you know, because he was a brilliant musician – if you listen to some of those things like, I think, my favorite album, Coltrane’s Sound, and there’s a tune on there called Satellite, and I listened to that just a couple of days ago and it’s unbelievable, man it’s absolutely astounding – it’s amazing! And it never happened before – isn’t that great?

(Coltrane excerpt)

PH: The approach and the feeling – you wanted to pursue that sound, right? By hearing something which is so vital and fresh, that you wanted to kind of pursue that kind of approach?

AH: Well, what I learned from him was that it’s a really bad idea to try and do something that somebody else is already doing. What I wanted to do was, I wanted to find out what the essence of it was. In other words, if a certain kind of music has been elevated to a certain level because of the quality of it, then he made me realize that you can get to that level and beyond it without necessarily travelling the path that somebody else made to get to that level, and he made me realize that quality level, that line, can be pushed up and pushed up and pushed up and pushed up …without going through pathways that had already been gone through, and it was like a revelation and I tried constantly – well I’ve been trying ever since, just to uh… Also knowing that you can never know anything about music is a beautiful thing - like when you fall in love, and you’ve got that thing that you don’t understand before you find out who the person is – music’s like that to me, you can’t ever find out what it is, but you just want to know more and more and more – and you try to get more and more and you try and also put out more and more because you’re trying to get to it – it’s a really great thing, man, it’s like life, it’s like everything gets better except looking in the mirror, haha!

PH: Yeah well even in the mirror in between those wrinkles, there’s a life pattern somewhere isn’t it? But anyway, that whole sound - I remember the first time I heard people like Pharaoh Sanders and John Coltrane, you know. The ‘new thing’, that was probably the period where experimentation and the eastern philosophy – and also the African roots which Coltrane had really kind of got more into…but that particular sound you were doing on a guitar – as opposed to having a saxophone - and you wanted to get more or less to that same feeling…

AH: I suppose I ended up being stuck with the wrong instrument – well, I really wanted to play the saxophone, but after I’d gotten into the guitar I realized that if I had’ve(*) played the saxophone I would’ve missed a very important part of the guitar, which was being able to play chords, which became a very important thing to me – later on, you know. I think that’s as important now as everything else was, because then it takes me into the world of composing, which of course you could do if you were a horn player, but you’d probably do it from the piano. It’s nice for me to be able to do it from the same instrument, you know.

PH: But there again, composing, which is something which most bands we talked about, the local band scene where you’re playing covers and then you suddenly decide to write your own stuff - even when you were with Igginbottom you were writing your own stuff, moving down to London and having material and ideas, but having no outlet…that’s a big frustration.

AH: It is, but it seems to happen to everybody – it’s just like life, of part of being a musician. But the other thing is that when I remember how I started… I mean, a lot of young guys have gone to these music schools or whatever now – they’ve made a conscious decision that they all want to be a professional musician. Well, I never made that decision because all I wanted to do was – I wanted to love music – I had no desire to become a musician. But for some strange reason ended up being one! So the thing is, I never had that ‘this is a job’ feeling, so if nothing’s happening and it’s not happening because it’s something that I’m doing, then I don’t expect anything for it. It’s not like I’m gonna go out and play at the Holiday Inn next week so I can pay the rent or anything like that – I’d much rather go and get a job as a brewer, or work in a guitar shop, than actually play something that wasn’t important, because it’s easy for me to do that, because that’s how it was from the very beginning, because I didn’t have a desire to be a musician in the beginning, it just kind of happened.

(Bruford excerpt)

PH: You have a desire to play, and you want to meet people and kind of interchange your ideas, that’s basically being a musician…you want to feel other people out and feel their ideas out, yeah?

AH: Yeah, that’s why it’s been very important for me to work with – I’ve been very lucky cause I’ve worked with some of the greatest musicians, period, and also, since I stopped working more or less with other peoples’ bands and working in my own band, I still was lucky enough to find some of the greatest guys around. I mean when I met Gary Husband that was an unbelievable thing for me because he’s another guy from Leeds - it’s like right around the corner - and he’s – the guy is insane, an amazing musician. He’s really incredible and very instrumental to me, in bringing to light my kinds of musical ideas, because when I present pieces of music to them, he would play them in a way that would be almost as if I was playing the drums, if I could play them – at times it’s almost like one thing, which is very difficult to find, that kind of closeness in people. It seems to happen in a lot of the other groups I’ve heard, where there’s been some sort of major stuff going on, where there’s a distinct definite combination of people that are contributing to this thing. So finding the right people to play with is very important to me, and he, Gary is definitely one of those people.

PH: And obviously from one great drummer to another, Tony Williams – such an inspirational drummer through the years. How did you meet up with Tony?

AH: I met Tony by a bizarre accident. I used to play in London when I first moved there. I met a piano player called Pat Smythe who was a very, beautiful guy and a great piano player, and he used to take me on gigs with him. Sometimes he was playing at Ronnie Scott’s - he’d get me to sit in and do that, and one time he was opening up for Chuck Mangione at Ronnie Scott’s, and Alphonso Johnson was in the band, and one day Chuck Mangione was sick, and Pat Smythe sat in with that band, which is Joan La Barbara and Pat La Barbara on drums and Alphonso Johnson on bass. So I played one night, just one set with those guys, and apparently some months later Tony Williams ran into Alphonso Johnson and told him he was thinking of putting a band together and he was looking for a guitar player. So - very nice of him - Alphonso Johnson said to him I heard this guy in England and you might want to check this guy out, so that’s basically how I met Tony. Tony called me to do a project that never was released. It was a project that we, he did with Tequila, the singer, and Jack Bruce on bass, myself on guitar and… I’m gonna kill myself, but I can’t remember the organist’s name – it wasn’t Larry Young, oh man, I gotta remember…I can’t remember his name, forgive me, forgive me. But anyways, we made the album, but it never came out – I don’t know why, but – maybe it’s a good thing, ha ha - but he went back to the States, and some months later I was still playing with the Soft Machine, and he called me up and said ‘I’m gonna put this band together, would you like to be in the band’, and so I said ‘yeah, sure! No kidding!’.

PH: That was the Lifetime band.

AH: Yeah, the New Lifetime, so then he sent me a ticket and I went to New York…

(Lifetime excerpt)

PH: Well you had Tony Williams’ Lifetime with Larry Young and Jack Bruce...

AH: And John McLaughlin…

PH: Emergency, right?

AH: Yeah…

PH: We’re talkin’ like the early 70s...

AH: Yeah, maybe ‘73, ‘74, might’ve been later…

PH: What were some of the inspiration for you for Tony Williams - what was his main attributes for you, which you found so appealing?

AH: He had that same thing of like, this like - you don’t know where it’s coming from, and he would do all these things on the drums that I’d never heard before… He was amazing, man! And the other thing is, that is funny is, well, is that I got to know him quite well, because when I first moved to New York I was like kind of nervous, obviously, coming from, well, really from Bradford, quickly to London, to New York - they’ve got bars at the windows, they’re shooting at each other, it’s like haha, it was a little strange. And also the fact that Tony wasn’t really in any hurry to get anything going. I was like, ‘jeez, let’s do something’, but time would roll by and we would just play with one bass player, and then a few weeks later we’d play with another, and eventually Tony Newton sent him a tape and he really liked the guy. And then Tony went off to do a gig one night with a group, I don’t know whose group it was, but Alan Pasqua was in the band, and afterwards I said, ‘hey Tony, did you hear that piano player?’, and he said, ‘oh no, I couldn’t hear him from where I was’, and I said, ‘Man, the guy was amazing’, so he said ‘OK’. So he called up Studio Instrument Rentals which was a rental place in New York and rented some rehearsal time, and Tony Newton flew in, and Pasqua came, and we just played - and that was the birth of that band! But the thing about Tony was – for your original question – he was doing the same thing with the drums – like, most people had heard him playing in the jazz style, but when he went more over into the rock thing he was playing it in a way that had never been done before, and it’s never been done since. I mean, a lot of people have tried but... so it had that same thing - it was like coming from ‘where the hell was this coming from?’. You know, it’s unbelievable! To hear him playing every night, and sit and stand on the same stage with those guys, man, jeez…

(Lifetime excerpt)

PH: It was quite funny, because there are a lot of jazz drummers who can’t play rock, and rock drummers who can’t play jazz, so it’s kind of a gift if you can play both...

AH: Yeah, he was a magician, haha!

PH: We’re talking about geniuses, there are so many, even bass players – Jaco Pastorius, was he around at that time when you were in New York?

AH: Actually, believe it or not, he was, because he was one of the bass players that we played with, haha, and he showed up one day and it was absolutely unbelievable! I was playing with this guy and said, ‘Jesus! Who the hell is this, man, this is pretty good!’, and him and Tony, man… but the thing was, it was unbelievable and Tony liked him, but I think he was looking for a different kind of a player. I think he wanted someone who was going to be like – Gordon Beck always used to say - like the railroad tracks, so that you got the tracks, then the train and then the ticket collectors or whatever, but you got to have the tracks. It’s kind of like having Jimmy Johnson, who is one my favorite bass players in my… you know, I’ve worked with some great bass players, but Jimmy’s like that, he lays the tracks down and like, Gary’s the train. If you have a drummer that plays differently than that, you can have a bass player that plays differently. One of them has to be the tracks though… and in this case it wasn’t going to be Tony! He wanted something else, a different thing, so we didn’t actually end up with Jaco, and then Jaco, I guess, finally was deservedly discovered by somebody else... I guess the first time I heard about him after that was with Weather Report.

PH: That whole period was very much a happening period. You talked about Tony Williams and Weather Report and even our good friend from Yorkshire, John McLaughlin, that whole development of the guitar, that whole jazz rock thing – did you kind of feel at that time there was something in the air, there was a kind of new music happening, people were willing to experiment with different forms of music?

AH: I guess I didn’t know then, 'because I didn’t know it was gonna get a whole lot worse, you know. Because at the time, you’re always wanting more, so you never realized it - that in fact, when you were gonna look back at that period there, it was quite good for musicians – probably better there than now…

PH: When you compare it with what you said earlier, there’s a lot of musicians that will now kind of map out their career, they will go to Berklee School of Music - it all seems very calculated. But the period, the path you chose was very much perhaps a long path, but it was very much a path you learn a lot more from…

AH: Well I think you absolutely do learn more from, because if you learn something yourself and you find it out by sawing off a couple of fingers when you’re working in the woodshed or whatever - you learn a lot more… It’s more meaningful than it is if someone’s showing you how to do something, because they’re showing you how to do it, and depending on your state of mind, like if you’re going to be some kind of parrot, or if you’re gonna do it another way. That’s why we get asked all the time to do clinics, and those kind of things, and asked to do demonstrations and stuff, and I really don’t want to go there because it has no – first of all, I don’t believe in it, because that’s what I was shown by somebody and other people who’ve really moved my life in music - is that, that’s not the way it’s done. I have no objection to anybody wanting to do it that way though, if a guy wants to go to school and learn how to play like a million other guys, I think that’s great, and in the end he may come out of there shining, you know, like - brilliant. Like, somebody who’s going to be really amazing is going to be amazing either way. But it’s just something that I don’t believe in, so I typically really dislike anything that has to do with like ‘can you show me how to do this’, or ‘how do you do that’. I just can’t go there ‘cause it’s of no interest to me. It’s sad that sometimes you have to take one of these clinics in order to get the gig, you know, where really I don’t want to do it at all, but you do it just so you can play - ‘cause playing is important. But I mean, I think, the most progress for me is when we actually play or go on the road. It’s much better than sitting in the garage practicing. It’s a different kind of thing. When you’re sitting in the garage practicing, you think ‘oh this is not too bad’, then you get out on the road and you realize it’s rotten. So you learn things a little faster….

(piano and synth excerpt, probably Gordon Beck duo)

PH: What do you learn from your audience? By being able to go out on the road and play to people, you feel a kind of feedback, yeah? You can kind of feel yourself out – I mean, what is the position of a musician when you’re on stage and when you’re playing to an audience?

AH: Well, for me it’s of great fear and terror, and horror! (laughs) I mean it’s because I think the more anonymous you are, the better it is for you not to get it in the way of the music. But when certain people come along and they have that sort of expectation, and you think all these people are going to expect certain things and you don’t really want to disappoint them… but you can’t let that into your mind so much, because it’ll stop you from thinking - it’s like interferons. I’m always afraid, I’m terrified of playing, but I just try and deal with it as best you can.

PH: Doesn’t it improve with age and experience, you know? That fear is still there?

AH: Yeah, it gets worse, actually! Haha! It’s like I said before, women look better and I look worse, haha! It’s like that – but it’s a beautiful thing about the music though, knowing that it’s unfinishable.

PH: Is that a reverse effect when you’re not exposed to an audience, when you’re in your garage or studio playing... it’s kind of a safe position to be in, yeah?

AH: Well it’s actually not really, it’s a different kind of fear – then you’re kind of afraid of yourself, you know, afraid of not being able to do something, scared that I won’t be able to pull anything out of the hat or come up with something, or find something. But I think, so long as you’re able to learn and know that you’re capable of learning more, then it’s kind of an endless deal. But the question is, I still get afraid because I also get more afraid of recording the older I get a bit, just because of what I expect to hear from myself. If I know I’m gonna hear something that I’m not gonna like, I also know I am gonna dread to hear something that I heard before – I mean it’s not a stylistic thing, you always expect that to be there, that’s like someone’s personality, that’s like the way you look, you can’t be a chameleon, or I have no desire to be a chameleon, so I want it to be the same personality, but I just don’t want to say the words in the same way each time.

(excerpt from IOU in Tokyo)

PH: You’ve made so many albums, and you look back on those albums, there’s obviously a few dud ones and a few things where you’d probably think, well, that turned out really well – do you have a kind of mixed feelings about the stuff that you’ve put out in the past?

AH: Yeah, I mean, with the exception of one or two of them, most of them have been what they were at the time, and... at any given time I could say the majority of them I wouldn’t have been able to do any better at that particular time. They were pretty good representations of what was happening at that time. But also, as you go along there are some albums that stick out a little bit more than others, without the desire for them to do that, they just do, they just somehow turn out a little bit better than another one, you know. I have albums that I like less and albums that come out a little better…

PH: What would be the albums which spring to mind which you’d say were good albums for the period of time, or still stand the test of time?

AH: Well I think one of the first albums that were related to the Synthaxe, this particular one, was Sand because I saw a dramatic change from Atavachron to Sand, and by the time I got to the album Spokes - I mean that track on the album Secrets - that to me was like another jump in using the Synthaxe… But also just the guitar – I like that album Secrets, it kind of stuck out for some reason. I mean, it was Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Johnson, so you can’t really, you know, it’s pretty hard to beat, and that one stood out to me, and also I was quite fond of Hard Hat Area…because that band had toured a lot before we did the album. Usually the album that I like the most typically is the very last one, because it’s the closest to where you are at any given time, assuming it wasn’t a major disaster.

(piano, Synthaxe and rhythm section)

PH: If I listen to the new album and I listen to some of the stuff that you’ve done previous, now, I see that you’ve come to a completely fresh area. There are not many guitar players I can listen to now and say it’s comparable to. You’ve always had your own style but now you’re in a different space, you can hear that...

AH: Well I’d like to think so, it’s just to do that learning thing and making any musical progress, trying desperately not get stuck, and the desire and that longing to continue. I always follow my heart, I never follow my head - I mean I do that in basic life anyways, that’s why I’m always in trouble, haha - but that’s just the way I feel about it, and with this album, particularly after I played with Gary Novak and Dave Carpenter, and I knew Dave Carpenter played acoustic bass, and I knew that I was trying to refine this electric guitar sound and I felt this would be a really good backdrop for me to write some original music for, and have the intensity in the music, but have a slightly different texture to it, you know, softer kind of feel. And I liked the way it turned out. I wasn’t sure, you’re never sure, but when I went away from it after I’d mixed it - cause mixing drives me nuts, you hear it so much you can’t hear the music anymore - but then by the time it was mixed, and then I didn’t listen to it for awhile, when I went back to it, I heard the music again and it was alright.

PH: Did you go out on the road first with Gary and Dave?

AH: Yeah we did 2 tours of Europe and some gigs in the States before I recorded it, but when we came back off the tour I didn’t have a record deal - I lost my record deal -so, my manager loaned me the money to pay the guys to play on the record so I could document it, cause I felt like, you never know where these guys are gonna go. In fact, Gary went off on the road with Alanis Morrissette, so it was a good decision, and I wouldn’t’ve been able to get him, so the beauty of it was we’d done the playing live, then we went into the studio and they came down and did it on the weekend - and luckily I have a studio at home - so we did Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I recorded, and then just basically shelved it, until such time as I’d gotten a record deal where I could finish it. But I’m really glad that I did that, because I knew that there was something about that group that I liked, and I also knew that Dave Carpenter, although he played electric bass on most of the tour, was playing acoustic bass, and I thought that would just be a little icing on the cake – and I think it was.

(excerpt from Tain)

PH: Probably our time is almost up – we didn’t really get to talk about your other hobby with biking and pulling pints, eh?

AH: Ha ha, oh right!

PH: I mean somewhere along the line it must be a great relaxation, to get away from music and maybe just find some inspiration on your bike.

AH: Well it is. I’ve always thought the bicycle… I can go out with a problem and come back with a solution from the bike. It’s almost like a ‘thinking machine’. It’s really great, I mean riding the bicycle - it’s like to me, asides from music, it’s one of the few times - especially if I’m out alone in the country and I’m alone - I can feel like part of the planet, you know. You’re rolling around on this man-made machine but it’s still all man-driven – probably man’s greatest invention! I love it - it’s a good contrast and counteractor to the gross weight increase from too much beer, haha!

PH: So one helps the other right?

AH: Yeah definitely! I keep getting the ales to miles ratio wrong!

PH: Didn’t you invent something for the pumps?

AH: Yeah I invented a beer dispensing system that uses traditional English hand pumps, but whereas traditional English hand pumps are only used for cask condition beer, because it’s a vacuum pump, and that particular beer - which is unique to England, they’re nowhere else as far as I know except maybe some small breweries in America that make cask conditioned beer - so there’s no extraneous C02 applied to the cask. So when I went to America, because I love the cask conditioned beer so much, I had a couple of beer engines, or hand pumps as they’re known. But I find myself alone in the middle of a beer desert, so then when the microbrewery revolution came along in America, I started to look for a couple of good beers, but of course they’re always dispensed with C02 and tasted more like soda pop than beer. So I used to take a fork and stir ‘em up and get the gas out of them and everything, and then I thought, wait a minute, and I came up with this idea, this mechanism, this valving system to – it’s like a small stainless steel accumulator – the beer goes in under pressure and then it’s depressurized and the C02 volume is lowered, then you pull it out by the hand pump and it puts the same tight creamy head on it that you’d get on like, a pint of Northern beer and it cascades like the Guinness does, and it has a soft mouth feel and real easy to drink and a lot of the ales in America (etc…more technical beer talk). I did it as a hobby, I didn’t realize someone else was going to see it and think it was a good idea, haha, but we’ll see.

PH: OK one last question, we talked earlier about certain people, like Eddie Van Halen, who along the line, you had to deal with a big record company. Now with a smaller label, do you feel comfortable with a small label as opposed to being with a big label who might dictate what you’re gonna do?

AH: Well absolutely, cause that whole thing with Warner Brothers was a complete disaster for me because - Eddie was just trying to help me, which is very gracious of him, and he’s a really good guy, and not many people would have done what he did for someone else you know - but the thing was, it was a complete disaster because they signed me to the label, then told me they didn’t want me to play what I wanted to play, so then I said ‘why do I want to be on this label?’ I’d much rather be with this small label that will allow you to do what you want to do. Otherwise there’s no reason. So for me, about 5 years ago I was trying to get a deal with Polydor in the States, and they took like two years, and it was almost about ready to go through, and then they told me what they wanted me to do – they wanted this guy on this album, that guy on this album, and I said ‘goodbye’. No way, man, that’s not how music is.

PH: Do you feel any kind of bitterness that - you think you’ve paid all your dues, and you see people have more or less overnight success and you feel sometimes that feeling of wanting to reach a big audience, and it sort of slips away, yeah? Do you feel any moments of anguish or bitterness?

AH: No, not really, because when you think about music – it would always be nice, and I truly believe there are more people who would like my music – or a lot of other people’s music – if they were given the chance to hear it. But it’s not their fault that they’re not, and it’s nobody’s fault that most of the people in the record business are complete idiots – it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way it is and I don’t get distressed by it at all, I just see it as part of the thing. Just have to be thankful that there’s guys out there who’re willing to let people play original music and kind of let it go. But when you think about art, or any kind of art, really, it’s more or less judged by people who don’t know anything about it. I mean, that’s what it’s like, I mean, it’s like somebody saying to me ‘that music really stinks man, it’s horrible’ and I can’t argue with him, because they’ve got their own opinion. Maybe it’s because they don’t know anything about music - maybe they do, maybe they’re geniuses, I don’t… - but generally speaking, music is always judged by people who really don’t know anything about it. So if you were a brain surgeon - you would expect the brain surgeon to know a little bit more about it than the person he was gonna do an operation on - but in the case of the music, the person who’s listening to it dictates whether or not they will accept or deny the music, and so that’s the way it is, so I have no problem with it at all.

PH: I suppose the last question will be, if push came to a shove, what would be your most influential record which still stands the test of time, still comes up in your brain cells regularly?

AH: Well, there’s two really. There’s one, the Coltrane record that I mentioned, which is a jazz record, Coltrane’s Sound – I mean that record is unbelievable. And also I was always a big fan of Claude Debussy – and jeez man, I can’t even talk about this tune! It’s like uh, it’s called Clair de Lune and it’s like…that’s it, yeah. It’s simple, but it’s the most beautiful thing…

(Clair de Lune plays)