Chad Wackerman is an American drummer. He has played with Allan on many albums. These albums include Allan's "Road Games", "Metal Fatigue", "Atavachron", "Sand", "Secrets", "Wardenclyffe Tower", and the live albums "All Night Wrong" and "Blues For Tony", as well as Chads solo albums "40 Reasons", "The View" and "Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations".
- 1 CHAD ON ALLAN
- 2 ALLAN ON CHAD
- 2.1 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1982)
- 2.2 Allan Holdsworth (Music UK 1983)
- 2.3 Guitar Phenom Allan Holdsworth Says He’s Not That Impressed By Flash (The Georgia Straight 1983)
- 2.4 The Innocent Abroad (Musician 1984)
- 2.5 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)
- 2.6 HUMBLE GUITAR MASTER ALLAN HOLDSWORTH ALWAYS STRUGGLES TO PAY THE RENT
- 2.7 Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)
- 2.8 Guitar Like A Saxophone (Guitar World 1987)
- 2.9 Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)
- 2.10 I want to reach people with my music – common people. (Sym Info 1987)
- 2.11 Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)
- 2.12 Jimmy Johnson’s Bass Concept (Guitar World 1989)
- 2.13 The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)
- 2.14 Allan Holdsworth’s Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)
- 2.15 Creating Imaginary Backdrops (Innerviews 1993)
- 2.16 No Secret (Guitar Extra 1992)
- 2.17 Allan Holdsworth: An interview (Atavachron 1994)
- 2.18 Allan Holdsworth Interview (richardhallebeek.com 1996)
- 2.19 A Different View (Modern Drummer 1996)
- 2.20 Allan Holdsworth interview (Music Maker 2003)
- 2.21 A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)
- 2.22 The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)
- 2.23 No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)
- 2.24 Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)
- 2.25 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 2.26 FUSION, ROCK AND SOMETHING ELSE (The Jerusalem Post 2017)
- 2.27 Allan Holdsworth (Sound Waves 2012)
- 2.28 Allan Holdsworth - Jazz/Fusion Guitarist (Musicguy247 2017)
CHAD ON ALLAN
Modern Drummer, December 1988
RF: I know you always get a solo with Holdsworth. What is that gig like for a drummer?
CW: That's very, very open. Basically, I write my own parts, and the bass player writes his own parts. First, Allan writes the guitar parts then we write parts that fit with that.
RF: What about material that was previously recorded?
CW: It's still pretty open. Actually, Frank said the same thing when I joined his band: "Whatever you do, don't become a Vinnie clone or a Terry clone. I don't want a replica of someone I've already had." Allan feels the same way. Allan's approach is that he likes to get guys in his band who play the music the way he wants to hear it, but he never gives us any instruction at all. We never talk about it; we just play it.
RF: Take one of the songs you did with him and analyze that—maybe "Clown."
CW: That's off the latest album, Sand. I think I was away when he did the basics, because he did it with a drum machine first. He took the drum machine away, and I played over it.
RF: That was probably more confining than others, so pick a song where you feel good about the drum part you created.
CW: There's one called "Tokyo Dream," which is on the Road Games record. I could play it for you, but I can't really describe it. There's a part that matches up to the guitar part pretty well, where the rhythms and the punctuations are the same. The accents on guitar are the same as the drums. I used my bell cymbals to match his harmonics, my garbage cymbals to match the bass line, and a couple of different hi-hats.
RF: How was that piece brought to you?
CW: Allan played the guitar part for us. He usually has a song section and then a separate section that is the solo section, rather than using a jazz form of A-A-B-A, and just going over and over that. The tune section is fairly strict rhythmically, which isn't very typical of him, but then on the solo section, it's much more open and a bit floatier. I usually try to hear the music first. I normally don't think of drum patterns first. | try to fit in with what's going on musically.
RF: So that's a lot of improvisation live.
CW: Yes. There's still form to pieces, but they're very open.
CW: When I'm on tour with somebody, I like to listen to the opposite music of whatever music I'm playing on the tour. It's a good change. Often with Allan Holdsworth, we'd listen to pop music, Top-40 radio.
caravan with a drum solo: the chad wackerman interview
©t'mershi duween # 25: june 1992 (by ben watson)
I met Allan through John Ferraro, again (laughs). It's always based on clicker friends. Allan had moved to California - they'd done I think one tour in the States. Gary had to go back to London and Allan needed a drummer. He'd been auditioning for a couple of weeks. John Ferraro knew Dave Ball who used to bicycle with Allan and found out that Allan needed a drummer. So Dave called John and said to give Allan a call, and he did. But at the last moment he got another tour, so John called me and said 'Holdsworth needs a drummer'. It usually works like that.
ALLAN ON CHAD
How does a drummer affect the way you play?
Everybody has been in a band with a bad drummer, and a good drummer is very important. I like drummers who play; I don’t like drummers who are plodders. It’s important to have a balance. That’s why I liked Gary initially: he had a good balance. And Chad has a great balance as well. Some drummers are just into a groove, and it makes me want to tear my hair out.
The first IOU band split after a series of gigs in the New York area and the East Coast because of internal problems within the band.
‘It all got too much, one of the band thought everything that went wrong was my fault, and I just didn’t need that pressure. With the old band I’d get on stage and not even want to play, I’d feel this evil vibe on stage. Paul is the only guy with me from the old band, and I recruited Chad Wackerman on drums, and Jeff Berlin on bass for the current line-up.’
As you’ll know if you read September’s issue, Eddie Van Halen is the self-confessed number one Allan Holdsworth freak, and it’s obvious that Allan appreciated the way in which Edward, as he likes to call him, put himself out for the band’s sake. He also appreciates his new band. ‘Jeff Berlin is such a strong player, especially in the trio context, he’s so harmonically happening, it makes my job a lot easier. Having Chad Wackerman is great - he plays fantastically, they’re both really nice guys, and they don’t particularly give me a hard time you know, which is really important . . . I don’t get any headaches, and they’re not continuously complaining at me all day making me feel bad. So I’m a lot happier about it now, and I feel freer to play the guitar and get on with that rather than worry about what somebody’s thinking.’
The new Road Games album was the opposite. We had plenty of time to record it, but we just got shoved around so much by the record company. Which is why it says “produced by circumstance”, because for three of the tracks I was forced to mix at a studio that stinks in my opinion. They had a Harrison console in there, and I just don’t like the way they sound. Some people like them and some people don’t and I don’t.
Warner Brothers wouldn’t let me mix it anywhere else, so I had to spend my own I.O.U money in order to remix three tracks and make it liveable with. But there is some good playing on it; Chad and Jeff play great on it.
Indeed, Paul Carmichael and especially Gary Husband were unable to get used to living in a very foreign land. As Williams relates, "Gary was having trouble dealing with his own head, so to speak. He wasn’t very well; his father died and he was suffering a lot, so it was affecting us. So he went back to England." Holdsworth filled their chairs with journeyman bassist Jeff Berlin and Zappa alumnus Chad Wackerman (great name for a drummer, eh?).
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.
For his three Town Pump dates, Holdsworth will be focusing on material from his new album Atavachron. Named after a word he heard in a Star Trek episode, the new LP features a newly developed instrument called the Synth Axe. “It’s like the next generation of machines that guitarists can play to control synthesizers,” says Holdsworth. As well as his trusty Synth Axe, Holdsworth will be joined on stage by drummer Chad Wackerman, bassist Jimmy Johnson, and keyboardist Billy Childs (formerly with saxman Freddie Hubbard).
There are only two guitar solos on the LP…
Yeah. I don’t know whether it will alienate a lot of people, or not. But that was all I felt I wanted to do on it: I really wanted to further my playing on the SynthAxe. Right now I guess the guitar is prominent, from the onlooker’s point of view, but eventually I’d like that role to be reversed so that I would just become a synthesist. I’d like people to be more aware of what the music is about, rather than just the fact that I play the guitar. What’s so wonderful about the SynthAxe is that it’s taken me out of that thing. All these things that I dreamed about I can try and have a go at. It’s just unfortunate that I didn’t find out about it twenty years ago - but that’s life!
The two tracks where I did use the guitar are the two tracks I really felt it should be played on. There’s one track which I wrote with Chad Wackerman, which is depicting the train ride from London to Bradford - I used to catch this train from King’s Cross to Bradford called the Bradford Executive. I wanted to write something which depicted the changing scenery as you ride by on a train, so the chord sequence doesn’t repeat; there’s a little motif at the beginning and the end, but the actual structure doesn’t change. It’s quite a long piece, about seven minutes, so even though there are only two guitar solos, at least this is a long one.
I also built a room inside my garage so there’s like the outside garage and the inside garage - just made of two-by-fours and hardboard - just basic but it is a room and it’s the first time in my life I’ve actually had somewhere I could work, let alone record.
What happened was, with each consecutive record I got further and further in debt with the studio, so I decided that I needed to do some recording at home. When we do the basic tracks in the studio they’re always done really fast because the guys - Jimmy Johnson, Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman are so fast - and the basic tracks are done in just two or three days. So I checked around and tried a few machines and decided to get the Akai 1214. Actually it’s called the 14D, I think! It’s the rack mount version with no board. What we did was mix the basic studio tracks down to two tracks on the Akai and then did the rest of the overdubs at home. It worked out great because even though I couldn’t get the same quality on the Akai as using a 24 track Studer, I could make up for the difference by the fact that I was able to spend more time on it - more time fine tuning the sound, rather than just having to go in there and record it because we were out of time. Everybody knows what that’s like! So that worke d out pretty good with both the guitar and the synth.
Oh, the other interesting thing which I must tell you is that, you know people always come up and ask about the SynthAxe ‘Can It sound like a guitar?’, and I thought well, let’s have a go. I mean it’s pretty stupid really to want to control a synthesiser and make it sound like a two hundred and fifty buck Strat plugged into an old Marshall or something. It’s kind of weird and I can’t imagine anyone wanting the SynthAxe to do that but I thought I’d have a go. So I waffled about on the Matrix 12 and came up with this patch, stuck it through a fifty watt Marshall and recorded it just like you would a guitar. It’s really clean and controllable and even though the
sound’s distorted, there are no sounds of your hands on the fretboard, like you have on a guitar. So the notes stop in a really neat way; they’re not cluttered with all this white noise crud of your hand moving around, which I hate and try and control on the guitar. But it’s pretty much eliminated with this. Also that track Mac Man was recorded on a sequencer, using the Mackintosh, except for the solo, which I had to record on my Akai, at home. The rest of it, including Chad’s percussion parts, the drum machine and bass, were recorded on the sequencer down at the studio. Mac Man is this chap who has more command of the computer than I’ve seen from most anybody and he was manipulating it while we were waffling.
The melody part is played with the SynthAxe through a Roland digital piano. It’s funny because the first part is like a pseudo acoustic piano and the solo’s like pseudo electric guitar. It’s an interesting track - a fun track. There are no keyboard controlled synthesisers on the album whatsoever, except for the solo on Pud Wud which is Alan Pasqua. The rest of the sounds - the accompaniment sounds behind the guitar - are just the SynthAxe.
Guitar fanatics showed up two hours early for his recent show at New York’s Bottom Line, scrambling for front row seats in order to better trace the paths of his fingers flying tip and down the neck. They howled at the announcement of each number and nearly levitated off the floor during Holdsworth’s solo excursions. Bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Chad Wackerman propelled things along as Allan switched modes from song to song - first the Steinberger, next the SynthAxe, back to the Steinberger and so on. Curiously, he never touched his patented Ibanez AH-I0 guitar. Backstage, Holdsworth talked about his recent conversion to Steinberger guitars.
"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...
As it turns out, one of the tracks I heard, entitled ‘Mac Man’, featured some stunning sequences created using Mark of the Unicorn’s Performer program and a Roland digital piano. Allan points out that he used the SynthAxe’s Poly mode 3 rather than Poly mode 1. From there, Macintosh ace John England (MacMan, himself) edited the sequenced track with Performer. Chad Wackerman played live to the track, and his performance was recorded as MIDI data into the sequencer, leaving the leadline the only part not sequenced. Allan says he’s looking forward to getting into an Atari ST to run the Steinberg sequencer program, which is apparently ideally suited for recording MIDI data output by the SynthAxe in Poly mode 3.
Together with drummer Chad – and bassist Bob Wackerman Holdsworth gave a performance from one hour which was creditable. Very varied, and with a lot of space for soloing by the diverse musicians, without ever threatening to become freaky. On guitar Holdsworth was in a better shape than ever and played a couple of solo’s that are amongst the fastest I’ve ever heard, in which he didn’t lose his sense of melody not even for a moment. The man stays a phenomenon. The other instrument handled by Holdsworth was the SynthAxe.
With or without large label interest in his career, Holdsworth is moving forward enthusiastically. He is particularly excited about the new album. Secrets, which features L.A. All Star drummer Vinnie Colaiuto [sic] on drums, Jimmy Johnson, his regular bassist, Steve Hunt (a drummer playing keyboards on Maid Marion his own piece), with Chad Wackerman (his regular drummer) also playin on one of the tracks.
According to Johnson, that same harmonic freedom is at work whether he’s working through change-heavy tunes or building up from a simple pedal-tone framework. "The simple progressions are equally fun," he says. "That’s a whole other deal. There you’re talking about grooving and filling. I think Al wrote ‘Devil Take The Hindmost’ to contrast all his tunes that have a lot of chords: ‘Try this one - Just go to G...for days!’ So Chad and I tried to lay something down and get a little silly. I wish I’d gotten more silly new that I listen back to it. And harmonically, he just takes off on it. I can’t exactly hang on to all of it, but he goes to Mars on the stuff."
The Holdsworth band’s loose structure and erratic work agenda often dictates that such drummers as Wackerman, Gary Husband and Vinnie Colaiuta juggle the sticks amongst themselves to suit their own hectic recording schedules. Because Johnson remains a constant factor in the equation (he’s managed to keep gigs that allow him to sub out when Allan needs him), he’s developed a responsive sense for the music no matter which direction it’s being pulled Between Chad’s sharp, kinetic attack, Husband’s lush, active approach and Colaiuta’s remarkable hybrid of the two, the bassist truly has his job cut out for him.
"The first time I played with Husband was a one-off gig in Milwaukee, out of the blue" Jimmy recalls. "Allan cancelled a tour for some reason and had one gig he just couldn’t get out of, and Chad wasn’t available, so Husband came over and played it. We met in the middle of the country, rented a bunch of gear and played this gig, and it was, like, ‘Yow! Where is this guy going?’ It was wild. I loved it. It was so different, such a contrast. It’s amazing how it changes the material around, just how each approaches it."
GW. Some of your most interesting solo.’ have flown over pedal tones. You play pretty discursive solo over Chad Wackerman’s new tune, "Peril Premonition, " while "Devil Take The Hindmost" [Metal Fatigue] almost sounds as though you’ve played every existing tone over a G minor vamp and succeeded in making them all function for what you were trying to say musically.
HOLDSWORTH: [Laughs] I don’t know about that; but the reason for tunes like those is just to allow us a different kind of creative thought. Although I try to maintain a consistent approach, the way I view what you could play over one chord is pretty close to how I’d determine what I could play over a lot of chords. But the application is slightly different. What I wanted to do with "Devil Take The Hindmost" was write a tune that didn’t have a lot of chords in it, because most of the tunes that I write have a lot of changes. So to give us a little bit of brain rest, during the night we’d play something like that, because it was something that people can relate to, something with which the players can sort of just have a good time, just a kind of "boogie-out" tune.
But Allan is far too judicious to squander time on one element in the picture he wanted to present with Secrets, which is why he chose to mix the tracks at home, away from the financial demands of a studio schedule and the distractions of travel and industry. But this kind of music lives for the bandstand, and he was called away from the console for short tours that waylaid the project even further. "We did a tour with Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy that was just wonderful," he reports, "and in the same tour played with [drummer] Chad and [bassist] Bob Wackerman, and that was wonderful. Then we did a trip to Japan with [drummer] Gary Husband and Jimmy, which was amazing. I’m so stoked to be playing with these guys. As far as I know, they’re probably all saying, ‘Give me the guitar.’ In fact, I tell them that every time: I say, ‘Man, the only thing wrong with this band is the guitar player. There’s probably a lot of people who would agree with that, and I’m with ‘em. They played so great on the alb um, and it makes me feel particularly good, knowing I gave them the kind of freedom I would enjoy."
He’s right on the first and last accounts. This band - drummers Colaiuta, Husband, or Wackerman, Johnson, and keyboardist Steve Hunt - is one of the most vital rotating units in electric jazz, and their breathtaking performances stand tall in Allan’s crystalline production. From the rich ambience of the drums and Johnson’s 5-st’ring Alembic all the way down to the Spaten Franziskaner ale Allan pours as a spirited coda to "City Nights," Secrets is a rich, deep collection of adventurous music that features some of the guitarist’s most dramatic electric work, and some of the most expressive guitar-synthesis to be encountered anywhere.
This is a great piece by Chad Wackerman, so different from anything I would write. He recorded it on his sequencer at his mum’s house, using real drums. It had this really perilous vibe; it always sounded like something was going to happen, as opposed to nothing keeping happening, which is what normally happens when I try to play. The solo began immediately - from the first second, beginning to end, it’s completely improvised. Whichever one I used of the 20,000 takes I did, that’s how it was from the outset.
We did it really differently. When Chad came down to the garage, we sequenced all the parts on the multi-track, and I soloed over that before they put on the bass and drums. That track has a really, really live feel, and it made me think about that for the future. Although I had done a couple of things with sequencers in the past, I had always waited to do the solo last. When I play with a backing track, I’m concentrating on what the other guys are playing, saying, "Oh I can’t play this, because he did that. This time I just did what I wanted. Then I called Chad and his brother Bob, and they went down to Front Page Studio and played the drums and bass live, and that was it. I would have never thought it would work, but it did.
Let’s briefly talk about Chad Wackerman’s Forty Reasons album.
It’s pretty interesting. It’s pretty different. [laughs]
Some have suggested that some of your finest playing appears on it.
Really? I don’t know about that! [laughs] You know, that whole album is live. I’m never happy with anything I do like that. It’s a good album. I enjoy Chad a lot, and I think he did a great job and the ideas he had. But we didn’t rehearse enough though. We got into the studio and recorded it live. I think it’s a good album from Chad’s point of view, but I’m not happy with what I did on it, no.
Q: What’s going on with the new record?
Allan: It’s finished, but it’s not mixed. I do want to record one more track, and drop one of the tracks that I have onto the next album, because I turned out having a lot of ballads. Also, I really enjoyed playing with Skully [sic] Sverrisson and Chad Wackerman on this tour, and I’d like to record a track with Skully on it. What I’m going to do is mix the tracks that I’ve got now, and then right before I hand it in, go in and record and mix another track.
Q: And this is for Restless Records, right?
You know, it’s sort of like somebody comes up to me and says, "Oh yeah, I really like what you did on Chad’s new album," but I’d have to say they’d be really completely crazy. ‘Cause for example, that last album that we did with Chad, has prompted me to decide permanently and completely locked within my mind that unless I know the engineer, or what he’s gonna do, I’m never going to play on anybody else’s album again.
MP: What about it? What made you say that?
AH: Well because he took what I did and completely changed it, and destroyed it, in my opinion.
CH: Not Chad, but... Chad’s engineer [Walter Quintas-JP].
AH: No! Yeah, but... Chad was there.
KK: And it’s Chad’s name on the record, so ultimately Chad has to be satisfied...
AH: Chad has a certain responsibility to it...
MP: Destroyed it? How?
AH: Well, he did all kinds of stuff to the guitar-he put all kinds of effects on it, and processed it and harmonized it, and did shit to it that would have driven me completely up the wall-and does! I can’t even listen to that record!
CH: In other words, the engineer took the track that Allan had laid, and had his own ideas about the effects and, you know, basically botched it up.
AH: You know, I told Chad, with all due respect, to be loose on it... like in terms of processing. And if the guy wanted to do anything [try it,] but what I was meant was more like... I was thinking of it in a more subtle way; I wasn’t thinking of any blatant, complete, tortured sounding shit, you know, which is what happened. And... I can’t listen to it-it’s painful. I can’t believe that someone can do that. That just shows you-that’s another reason getting back to your question about the producing-is why I can’t give that stuff up to people. ‘Cause it’s like taking a solo that someone did on the saxophone, throwing it through a ring modulator... harmonizing it... you know, putting twenty tons of reverb on it, and then saying, "Thanks for that solo."
AH: Not just... Chad’s album just confirmed that. That it was a complete sidetrack, and in a way, I let my friendship with him because I think he’s great, you know, he’s a wonderful musician and a really good friend. But the friendship overrode my gut feeling.
KK: Did you have reservations even just prior to the gig?
AH: Ah, I really did not want to do it. I tried to kind of escape.
MP: When this whole thing happened with the Chad album, I remember you also having a problem with the fact that whoever was marketing it wanted to feature your name pretty prominently, whereas you saw yourself as a contributing member and didn’t want to be, you know...
AH: Well I just saw myself like all of the other guys, and not bigger. Just the same as all the other sidemen.
MP: But yet they were displaying your name a little bit more prominently-or they were trying to.
AH: Yeah, I think so, but that was a record company thing. I don’t think we should get into that... well, I know what you mean. That’s how I felt, yeah.
-On your new album, the band exists of Gary Willis-Bass, Kirk Covington-Drums and Gordon Beck- Piano. This is a different band than you normally use. Why didn’t you use your own band?
I did a compilation album a few years ago where guitar players did their rendition of Beatle Tunes. When they called me I had two days left to prepare something. Coincidently, Gordon Beck, a good friend of mine and a great piano player was staying for a few weeks at my place. It was his idea to do a rendition of ‘Michelle’. Now, I’m a big fan of Gary Willis. Especially when he plays swing, he sounds fantastic. I know the conflicts that may arise between bass players and drummers, so I asked him with whom he liked to play and he said Kirk Covington. Funny, because that’s half of Scott Henderson’s band Tribal Tech. We did the song pretty fast and I really liked the way things turned out, so I decided to ask them again for my new album. The problem with my own band is that they’re living spread in all corners of the world. Chad Wackerman is currently living in Australia, Gary Husband is living in England, Skuli Sverison in New York and Steve Hunt in Boston. I can only get them together for a longer tour.In th e past things turned out pretty OK, but the last tours we didn’t make a dime. I cannot keep asking these people to play for next to nothing. That’s why I have been looking for some musician’s in the neighborhood for some time now. I’m on the right path with Kirk and Gary, but at the same time I realize it’s impossible to find a replacement for somebody like Gary Husband. It’s also about finding a soul mate, somebody who’s on the same wavelenght.’
RF: What comes to mind when I say Chad Wackerman?
AH: Precision engineering. Highly polished, detailed, and clear. It's just great, the combination of his ability to fly around with chops, combined with not just going potty all the time. I've been a lucky guy.
AH: I only started working with other drummers in my own band after I made a decision to move to the States, which was around 1981.
RF: And among those was Chad Wackerman.
AH: Right. I met Frank Zappa, and he knew I was looking for a drummer. He said, "You should try the drummer who is working with me; he's really good." I'd been holding auditions without the band there. I just played with each of the drummers who came along. Sometimes you get a guy who spends a lot of time learning the music—but that doesn't mean that he can play. Anybody can sit down and learn it, but I'm not interested in that. When I held auditions, we didn't play any tunes at all; we just jammed. When Chad came along I immediately really liked what happened.
RF: What was it you liked?
AH: It was organic again. There was a connection. To me, half of music is hard work and the other half is some kind of magic. I felt that when I did things, Chad was there—he heard everything. When we did eventually start playing the music together, I knew his interpretation of the tunes would obviously be different from Gary's. But I also knew they would come out sounding good. I try to give the players I work with the freedom to be themselves. That's something I learned when I was playing with Tony Williams. A lot of the time, he wouldn't give me any direction. After a while I realized that was really good for me; I had to contribute something without being told what to do. I always like to do that with the guys I work with now.
I heard that you were gonna do an album with Chad Wackerman? No.
Yeah. We did a live album in Japan last year. But that was all. And I haven’t got anything else lined up with Chad. At the moment. So we’re gonna do something when we get back. With Joel and Ernest.
I caught up with Holdsworth following a gig with this current trio (Joel Taylor on drums, Ernest Tibbs on six-string bass) at B.B. King’s Bar & Grill in Manhattan. The interview took place on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon in July on a grassy knoll in Central Park.
Bill: It was great hearing you play older things like ‘Funnels’ and ‘Protocosmos’ last night at B.B. King’s. It reminded me of seeing Wayne Shorter in concert recently playing his older compositions like ‘Footprints’ and ‘Masqualero.’ These tunes are your standards, part of your legacy.
Allan: Yeah, well, that’s because I haven’t written much lately. I had a dry spell for the last five years. But I think it’s OK to play a couple of old tunes.
Bill: It certainly is for the audience.
Allan: And also, the different musicians interpret them all very differently. So when you play the same tune with new guys, it’s always new in a way and I really like that. I did some gigs with Jimmy (Johnson) and Chad (Wackerman) recently and we played some of the same pieces of music that you heard last night, and it was so different.
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.
TCG: So what’s going on, you just got back from Japan?
AH: Yeah, we did...I met and hooked up with this guy, Leonardo at Moonjune Records...
TCG: Oh yeah!
AH: Since hooked up with him, he’s pretty much kept us busy. We did a tour... I’m actually working with two bands right now - my old band, with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman. Then I’ve been doing this thing with a co-op band with Alan Pasqua, myself, Jimmy Haslip and Chad Wackerman. So we did an East Coast tour with my band, Chad and Jimmy Johnson, and then we just went to Japan with the other band, Alan Pasqua, Jimmy Haslip and Chad and were going to Europe with that same band, actually, next week.
TCG: Wow, I’ve heard great things about your band, with Jimmy Johnson as far as gigs and acceptance.
AH: It’s been really great to hook up with Jimmy and Chad again, because like when Chad moved to Australia, he was kind of gone, you know, And I’ve been playing with a couple of other people who are also really great players like Dave Carpenter on bass, and Gary Novak, the guys who played on Sixteen Men Of Tain. We did some touring with that band, and then some stuff with Joel Taylor and Ernest Tibbs. But then I managed to hook up again, when Chad moved back to the states, with Chad and Jimmy again, so it’s been really great.
You’ve recently been more active in terms of touring and working on new material than you’ve been in years. Why did you pause your career and what’s behind the resurgence of activity?
Things were going well until 1999 when I went through a divorce and that changed everything. I lost my studio and had no way of working, so I was temporarily displaced for the first year or so. I was living with friends, floating around, and things ground to a halt. I went into a big downward slide and didn’t do anything. I wasn’t interested in playing. Meeting Leonardo Pavkovic, who runs the MoonJune label, was the biggest thing in getting my career going again. He’s been amazing in helping me manage a lot of things. I started touring again during the last two years and I’m going to have to tell Leonardo to stop, otherwise he’ll keep me on the road forever. [laughs] I also started working again on two album projects that were never finished. They should both come out in 2008. I also have a few tracks that I’ll be finishing for Chad Wackerman’s new solo album. That one has been going on for awhile too. I did quite a few tracks for it in Australia around the time of the All Night Wrong project. So, I’m now playing catch up. I put out the Against the Clock compilation just to do something. I figured there were enough albums out that we could put out a reasonably good “best of” from them. I thought it was also a good release for people who weren’t familiar with my work.
Are there any guitarists that have caught your attention lately?
I really love James Muller, the guy who plays with Chad Wackerman sometimes. He’s a great guitar player. Also a guy named Tim Miller that I met in Boston. There are lots of them, and I feel bad not mentioning them all, but that would fill the whole book.
“I was trying to find a drummer and I crossed paths with Frank Zappa who told me, ‘oh, you should check out this guy.’ So when I held some auditions, I invited Chad. We just improvised, just me and the drummer, we didn’t play any songs at all.
I know that people can learn to play certain music, you can learn anything, but I wanted a guy I could feel comfortable playing with. And with Chad, it was like, ok, you can stay. Even today, there’s always surprises when we play together, which is great.”
I understand that your most recent recording is for a Chad Wackerman solo project. Please tell me about this new record.
The album is titled “Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations.” The recording of this album was spread over a very long time. His last studio record was released almost as long ago as mine. We started recording some of the tracks in Australia about eight years ago, and then he just kept adding to it. It was a long process, and we recorded a few tracks at a time, and he recently decided that he finally had enough tracks to put out an album. So that was that.
R.V.B. - Why did you move to the United States? Was it tough to pick up from your homeland and move here?
A.H. - When I first got my own band together, the singer - Paul Williams - lived in Tustin California, with his wife. They invited me to stay with them. I was married at the time but I went out there on my own. I started working with some musicians like Chad Wakerman and Jeff Berlin. We started doing gigs and people started showing up... which was amazing. We went from playing in a pub to 6 people, to a 250 seat club that was packed. It wasn’t a tough decision at all. I had been to America before when I came to New York in 1976 to work with Tony Williams. I started my solo career in England but it was a struggle. It started gaining momentum in the States, so I made the jump. I decided to stay because it was all about the music. Then my family moved out here.
R.V.B. - Do you still see Chad Wakerman?
A.H. - I haven’t seen him in quite a while. I’ve only seen him a few times since his wife passed away. It was very sad. We’ll still play together because he lives not far away. I’ve been working with a different band. I like it and I’m sticking with that for a while.