Gary Husband is a British drummer and keyboardist. He has appeared on several of Allan's albums: IOU, Metal Fatigue, Atavachron, Sand, Secrets, Wardenclyffe Tower, and Hard Hat Area, as well as the live album Then!. Allan appeared on Gary's "Dirty And Beautiful" albums. Additionally, Gary has recorded the solo album, "The Things I See - Interpretations of the Music of Allan Holdsworth", featuring himself on piano.
"Sounding Off" Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6UoYEuPxqQ
See also Gary Husband on Allan Holdsworth
- 1 Quotes by Allan on Gary
- 1.1 Holdsworth & Co. A New Side Of Allan’s Music. (Guitar 1980)
- 1.2 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)
- 1.3 Allan Holdsworth (International Musician 1981)
- 1.4 The Reluctant Virtuoso (Guitar World 1981)
- 1.5 The Innocent Abroad (Musician 1984)
- 1.6 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)
- 1.7 Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)
- 1.8 Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)
- 1.9 Gary Husband (English Tour Program 1989)
- 1.10 Jimmy Johnson’s Bass Concept (Guitar World 1989)
- 1.11 Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)
- 1.12 The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)
- 1.13 Allan Holdsworth’s Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)
- 1.14 Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)
- 1.15 On The Level (IM&RW 1991)
- 1.16 The Reluctant Guitarist (Jazz Journal 1992)
- 1.17 Creating Imaginary Backdrops (Innerviews 1993)
- 1.18 Joe Satriani Meets Allan Holdsworth (Musician special edition 1993)
- 1.19 Allan Holdsworth Jam (Jazziz 1994)
- 1.20 No Secrets (Facelift 1994)
- 1.21 Allan Holdsworth Interview (richardhallebeek.com 1996)
- 1.22 Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)
- 1.23 A Different View (Modern Drummer 1996)
- 1.24 The Outter Limits: Allan Holdsworth's Out of Bounds Existence (guitar.com 1999)
- 1.25 Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview (tlms.co.uk 2000)
- 1.26 A beginners guide to (Classic Rock 2000)
- 1.27 Audiostreet Featured Artists (Audiostreet 2000)
- 1.28 The Sixteen Men Of Tain (musired.com 2000, Spanish language)
- 1.29 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 100 Guitar Heroes 2000)
- 1.30 Allan Holdsworth (NPS Radio transcript)
- 1.31 Don’t you know? The Lost Words (Oneiric Moor 2003)
- 1.32 A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)
- 1.33 The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)
- 1.34 Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)
- 1.35 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 1.36 Allan Holdsworth (Sound Waves 2012)
- 1.37 Allan Holdsworth - Jazz/Fusion Guitarist (Musicguy247 2017)
Quotes by Allan on Gary
Although he is known to most electric guitar fans, and regarded by many as one of the world’s best and most distinctive guitarists, Allan Holdsworth has never achieved a widespread popularity or success. The main reason is that apart from occasional gigs with the nebulous Allan Holdsworth Quartet, he has always played in other people’s bands, notably UK, Tony William’s Lifetime, the Bill Bruford Band and Soft Machine. This year sees the beginning of a new project which may do much to change that - a trio called Holdsworth & Co in which Allan will play guitar and sing, Gary Husband will play drums and piano, and the bassist will be a player whose name we cannot divulge for contractual reasons, but who is at present playing in another well known band. Allan is very excited about Holdsworth & Co, as he feels it will enable him to show a hitherto unknown side of his playing and music. He played us a demo tape recorded with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman of tunes the band will perform, numbers in which the balance of strong melody and instrumental ability is well maintained, and featuring some beautiful chordal work from Allan, as well as his unique ability to play fast legato passages. He says that Holdsworth & Co will sound different but certainly as good, and they commence a European and British tour in Hamburg on April 8. They will release an album later in the year, perhaps on ECM.
Are you planning to use acoustic guitar with the trio?
Yes, I’d like to. I used to have one of those amplifiable Ovations, but I just didn’t like the sound of it when it was plugged in. There was something nasty in the sound, and I hear something of the same character in that Yamaha electric piano. It’s as though there’s no sag or give in the sound, it’s not elastic or woody . . . I don’t really know how to describe it. A very hard sound. It sounded quite nice when I mixed the electric sound and a microphone sound, but when I tried that live a couple of times with UK it never worked, simply because I hated the electric sound so much and couldn’t get the mike sound loud enough. With this band Gary will probably be using acoustic piano, so I won’t be competing with huge amounts of volume.
Have you heard any new and interesting players recently?
Well the most interesting guy I’ve heard for ages is Steve Topping. He’s a friend of Gary’s and he’s a fantastic player. It’s ‘watch out all the imitators’ because he’s really doing something else and going off in another direction. We did a couple of gigs with him, sort of added him to the band, and we’ll probably do that again in the future. His development shows an early interest in John McLaughlin, but he’s gone further and channeled his own route from it. It’s one thing to pick up things from somebody, and then it’s easy to just carry on chasing that guy, but with Steve I feel he’s just listened to things for their musical value. He’s a very inspiring player, yet I don’t think he’s playing with anybody or doing much at the moment. It’s very encouraging because there are so many impersonators around, and l got very disillusioned trying to find a bass player - the world is full of miniature Jaco Pastorius’s That’s why I like Steve Topping so much, because he’s not only a fantastic guitar player but he’s also cutting out a new hole for himself. It’s the essence you should look for in music, not just what it sounds like. I really haven’t seen that for a long time.
When did you form the group with which you are currently playing?
Early this year. It’s called False Alarm, and it’s a trio that we’re now trying to get management for. We have Gary Husband on drums - he’s also very good on piano - and Paul Carmichael on bass. Besides playing guitar, I also sing a little. We had a terrible time finding a bass player because so many of them are interested in sounding like Jaco [Pastorius]. We wanted someone who sounded like they were doing something of their own. Our music has some elements of jazz and rock, but we try not be overly tricky.
Who is in the band?
ALAN: Gary Husband is the drummer, I found him in Leeds, he plays piano too. The bass player is Paul Carmichael, and vocals for the band are handled by Paul White (sic).
The transatlantic telephone conversation is punctuated with temporary pauses for some deep, basso-profundo coughing as Holdsworth relates the grinding frustration of his current situation. "Yeah, it’s still called False Alarm, that’s the name we’re using in the U.K. It’s my band but I don’t like using my own name. Same band members, Paul Carmichael on bass and Gary Husband on drums. We’re looking for management and a record label. It’s hard [getting signed] everywhere, but it’s really dreadful here. We can’t get anybody interested."
In search of a rhythm section to call his own, Holdsworth "met this really amazing drummer, Gary Husband, and I more or less saw it as a musical partnership with him. We tried to find a bass player - with great difficulty - and eventually found Paul Carmichael. We tried to get someone interested in the band, but we couldn’t, so we borrowed the money and made the album on our own and tried to sell it. We couldn’t even give it away." It was around this time that the redoubtable Paul Williams re-entered our story. Williams’ long career as a rock singer/bassist included four years in the trenches with Andy Summers in Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and stints with Alan Price, John Mayall, Aynsley Dunbar, Juicy Lucy and, of course, Tempest, where his work sounded noticeably like Cream-era Jack Bruce ("Well, maybe he sounds like me...," rebuts Paul).
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.
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.
"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...
During the next couple of years Gary’s growing reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative drummers around earned him a level of respect equalled only by the amount of gigs he was picking up. At various times he was to be found occupying the hot seat with Gordon Beck, Mike Carr, The Morrisey Mullen Band, Turning Point, RMS, The Ronnie Scott Quintet, The Gil Evans Orchestra and eventually Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia.
It was under this mantle that he came to the attention of Holdsworth, who had popped in to the Ronnie Scott’s, accompanied by Jack Bruce, with the express intention of recruiting a new band.
A musical meeting was duly arranged, after which it was generally accepted that things gelled extremely well, and once Allan discovered that Gary was also a Star Treck [sic] fanatic his fate was sealed. Over the next decade there developed a musical relationship that remains virtually unparalleled in terms of radical creativity. And during his on/off involvement with Allan, Gary has emerged as an archetype of the contemporary drummer.
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."
"The guys all played incredibly. I was really moved by what they did. Among some of the highlights noted by Holdsworth are drummer Gary’ Husband’s City Nights (Very nice," says Holdsworth; "with good chord progressions."); Steve Hunt’s Maid Marian [sic] ("When he first presented it to us it reminded me of something from Old England, like Robin Hood, but it was quite soft so we renamed it Maid Marian."); Endomorph, a solo piece in which Holdsworth dubs guitar over Synth-Axe; Spokes ("I really liked bicycling riding when I was a kid, and this piece reminded me of it - of wheelies, actually."); 54 Duncan Terrace (This was the address of a really great piano player friend of mine who died a few years ago. He had this wonderful room in his house.. A white room with blue clouds painted on it or maybe it was vice versa And he had this old Bluthner piano in there. The music he used to write was soft and gentle, with colorful harmonics. And I wrote the piece for him. The chord sequen ce sort of reminds me of something he would have done.").
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].
GW: Did that record do anything for you?
HOLDSWORTH:: Well, it’s the same prob1em. I have great difficulty listening to it now because I sound so bad on it. But it was obviously representative of what we were doing, and that’s the way I played then, because I didn’t know any better. But it’s a good record in terms of having captured something; it captured the essence of what we were doing. And Gary I thought, played just great on it. Paul Williams sang great, too.
GW: Do you think the vocal concept prevented you from getting over with the jazz constituency?
HOLDSWORTH:: It was just something that I grew out of, or that I thought I should change. The original vocal concept stemmed from the trio concept; I wanted to be able to play things as a trio with a melody and chords, set up in a situation where I could perform them with just a guitar. So I used the voice like an instrument, and Paul was the perfect person for that. But I just wanted to do something different. I mean, I never know what I’m going to feel like or what I’m going to want to do, because it changes, and I can’t help it. When I got the SynthAxe, a whole other thing suddenly opened up to me and I didn’t see what I was doing as a musician, or the band itself, in the same way anymore. And I also saw the vocal thing sitting me on the fence really hard, and that people who like instrumental or "jazz" music were kind of perturbed by the vocal aspect of my music. I never was, but I thought that they were, and I also felt that there were people who liked the vocal aspect of t he songs but didn’t like the rest of it. It was like stretching both sides, and, like I said, when I got the SynthAxe I decided that that was what I wanted to do, so I just continued to sit on the fence in a different way.
There is one English guy I admire who never gets any mention - Steve Topping. There’s a guy who’s amazing. And it’s typical of England that he can’t get out or get a deal or anything, because, like Gary Husband, he suffers too much opposition to what he’s doing. Steve plays really; really interesting harmonic lines - and definitely absolutely, not bop. His lines are so unusual that the bop guys would have a hard time figuring them out [laughs]. And he plays chords that I’ve never heard people play before. He’s got ridiculous chops - I’ve seen him demonstrate both left- and right-hand facility; but he’s got just outrageous right-hand chops. He’s got it all covered. We had a band back in England called Handlebars: just him, Gary myself, and anybody we could get on bass. It was a really free thing where we’d just go, and some very interesting things happened, mostly because of him. He has this unbelievable control of space.
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.
When the guys played it in the studio, I thought, "Boy, this would be a nice one to use as an opener." It was really hard for me to decide the order of the tracks, because although there’s a lot of intensity on the tunes, there are a lot of ballads. It made it easier when I stopped thinking of them in terms of slow tunes versus fast tunes. I sequenced the album through the intensity of each track. Gary Husband, who wrote the tune, played keyboards. He played a ridiculous keyboard solo on his demo, and that inspired me: "Gee, I can’t fall asleep on this tune, because I just heard what he did on it."
The ale at the end of the tune was a Spaten Franziskaner poured into a weissbier glass. I had to waste a couple, actually, being a bit of a madman on the recording. I finished up not being able to drink them all, and I was getting out of control trying to record it. Luckily, I made it with the third bottle. Gary’s been known to have a bit of fun after the gig, and it was his title for the tune:
We kept thinking about all these times, particularly in Paris, where you leave a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and no matter how big that thing is, man, the maid’ll be there breaking your door down at sunrise. We had some really funny experiences with Gary Husband when we first took the band to Paris and somebody was pounding on the door. He got up out of bed, and the maid had actually come into the room, got hold of the sheets, pulled them back over but didn’t change them, didn’t change his towels, and then left. Not only that, but there’s usually someone down the street with a pneumatic drill that’s starting at 7:00 in the morning, and there’s some guy in the next room fixing the plumbing. Those sounds and voices at the beginning are just a bit of humor; Claire, my wife, is saying in French, "Open the door, I’ve got to clean up the room."
MP: In 1980 you started a trio called False Alarm, with Gary Husband and Paul Carmichael – was it time for you to become a leader?
AH: Well I – during the time that I – most of my life worked – well after I moved to London I been just another guy in someone else’s band, I just decided myself – I had a backlog of material I’d been working on and I wanted to try and play with different people and I met Gary Husband, cause I met all these musicians who had been saying Hey you should listen to this drummer friend I mean it he’s like unbelievable and I had an opportunity to play with Gary and it was like really special, the guys really an unbelievable musician. And I really liked working with him, he really understood – probably understood more where I wanted than I could understand what he was really wanted but it was the beginning of a really great kind of relationship and we just tried to get this band off to the road and we couldn’t – we had a friend worked for Virgin Records and he gave us some free studio time – a guy called Nicholas Powell, and we did some tracks -in fact we finished doing the whole album on this little boat on a canal in London.
The following conversation took place in his London hotel room in the middle of his two week residency at the Hammersmith Odeon with Level 42 and I began asking him how he became involved with them. ‘They asked me to play on their new album, which I did and I really enjoyed it. Of course after Alan Murphy died I knew they were looking for a guy to be a permanent member so I said to Gary, ‘if you guys get stuck and you can’t find the right guy just call me up’. So they did.
‘That’s the way I’ve always felt about the guys in the band, or the guys I’ve played with, like Gary (Husband) and Jimmy (Johnson) and Steve Hunt. They’re all such great musicians, and as far as I’m concerned they’re right up there with the best guys in the world. The music is mostly improvised, and we play over reasonably complicated chord sequences. And I still think that in essence it’s kinda jazz, even though we came up from different things.
Your next album completes your Restless contract, right?
I’m gonna deliver it as soon as I can, but as to when they put it out, it’s up to them. But once I deliver it, that’s it for me with Restless. So, that’s another reason I was thinking about doing the solo album—something like the Music For Imaginary Films record. A compositional type of record. At the same time, I don’t want to just do that if it’s not the right time. I’ve been working on music for a new band album, and I want to do that with the existing band, which is Gary Husband, Steve Hunt and Skuli Skeverson. So, unfortunately, the money that they’re paying me isn’t enough for me to pay all of these guys to do it even though I know they’ll work for nothing, because they’ve done it before. It’s just really hard for me to ask them to do that. So, it’s a tough one, shall I do the band album even though the guys have offered to do it free, or shall I do the solo album because that’s basically all they’re paying for? Either way I’m going to do the best job I can. That’s the other thing. It might be great to hold back on the band album and give it to another label.
What about the possibility of a live album?
Well, we did a live album, but nobody liked it. We recorded it in Japan one year and the general consensus was that it wasn’t happening. It’ll never come out.
Is that something you’d like to do eventually?
I would like to yeah! Especially with all the bootlegs. In fact, we were thinking about releasing an official bootleg record. Since there are so many bootlegs out there, we figured we might as well give the guys in the band a choice of what nights were okay as opposed to the ones which weren’t. So Gary Husband recorded some gigs with his DAT player. Some are pretty good too. I mean they’re live—that’s the thing I like about them. They’re not like the studio-live albums—in other words, you get a supposedly live album that sounds like the worst studio album you’ve heard in your life. That is definitely something I want to avoid. In fact, the microphone in the back of the room seems to be a good way to go for me. You always get that feeling of a live performance. From now on, I think we’re going to carry DAT machines around and record gigs.
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH: "No, there’s other guys, too, that want it bad. I’ve known a few musicians that really want it, but unfortunately---being really cold---it can never be. I actually know some players woh practice all the time and you can see the work, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the opposite of somebody like Gary Husband, a drummer I’ve worked with for a long time. When he takes an instrument that he can’t play, or initially couldn’t play, like guitar, after six months the guy plays incredible guitar, on a harmonic depth you don’t get in that amount of time. I always look for that part of the musician speaking out from inside, rather than the guy that just put a lot of work in. I’d rather have the one than the other. I’m lazy; I know I could be a lot better if I worked harder. I still practice, but I’ve always been the same: I’ll work hard on something, but I just get to a certain point and then go out and have a beer. When I should stay there and work [laughs] The only thing regimented in my life is riding a bike; that’s the only thing that gets an alloted space. The guitar is just whenever I feel like it. And sometimes, when I take time off from the guitar, then when I get back to it, even though my hands won’t work properly for a few days, I’ll feel I’ve accumulated something in the time I wasn’t working on it. ‘Cause sometimes if I practice alot, I find myself doing the same things."
Holdsworth’s recorded output belies this self-deprecating comment. Though Hard Hat Area has the title of a work in progress, its sound, like a typical Holdsworth project, is carefully finished. The album is a cohesive package that highlights the band as well as the man up front, and it features drummer Gary Husband (a longtime Holdsworth compadre), keyboardist Steve Hunt, and the dexterous Icelandic bassist Skuli Sverrison.
The germ of an idea for the title track of Hard Hat Area, a sequencer-driven, mechanistic construct, came during a Japanese tour. Holdsworth admired the work ethic of a huge construction crew erecting a skyscraper. "That stuck in my memory, seeing all these guys, quite organized and doing this work," he says, "In my mind, I could see a Super Mario version of the process. What I wanted to do was write a cartoon tune.
"All I’d ever done was play guitar for other people and I just wanted to do my own thing. And then I met Gary Husband at the same time and started to do that. And we tried really hard when I was in England - in fact I had a little band together before IOU, with Jon Hiseman and Jack Bruce. And we did a couple of demos. And we couldn’t get anyone interested at all. Just shortly after that was when I met Gary and we were just banging our heads against the Wall but we kept going. And there was a club in France called Riverbop and there was a really nice lady there called Jacqueline Ferrari. She liked us and she would bring us over there for like two weeks at a time, playing this little jazz club. It was great, but she was the only person who really gave us a chance.
-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.’
It’s a little surprising to see his name on records with groups like Level 42, Russian Gorky Park, and Krokus.
- I could never work as a studio musician. Such side projects have come about because I know these guys, and sometimes I have played on records as a thank you for helping me out. This is how it was with Gorky Park, they lent me the equipment to mix None Too Soon. As for Level 42, I filled a temporary vacuum. (Drummer) Gary Husband played with them, and when their guitarist died, I participated in a tour and a recording. I was definitely not the right man in the right place, but I cannot say I regret anything. Generally, it would have been more fun if one could have influenced the music to a greater extent, but I do that with my own compositions.
RF: Through your solo years you've used a variety of different drummers for their individual nuances. Can you expound on some of the choices you've made?
AH: I've always felt that the drummer makes the band—and I like to play with people who I feel will enjoy working with me. Obviously I look for people who are gifted musicians. When I started my own band, I started working with Gary Husband. I'd heard about him when I first moved to London. People were saying, "There's this nineteen-year-old guy who is monstrous." Gary's a phenomenal drummer-and a great keyboard player, too. We really hit it off and I've always liked working with him.
RF: What does he bring to your music?
AH: He plays different from anybody else I've ever played with. Actually, most of the guys I've played with have something that makes them unique, which is what I like. I don't like to play with drummers who play like somebody else. A lot of guys make that mistake. They'll think, "He plays with Gary Husband, so when Gary is not around he'll look for someone like that." But I don't. I just look for some other drummer with a musical personality that is distinctly theirs.
If I had stayed in England, I would most likely have ended up playing with Gary all the time. When you have a musical partner—someone who is able to hear what you hear and understand things with out having to speak about them—why look for someone else? Everything I tried to do on guitar, Gary instinctively understood. It was very organic to work with him. 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: Do tracks come to mind that might have been particularly influenced by a drummer?
AH: Everything those guys do influences me. Seventy-five percent of what I play is a response to what someone else is playing. And because of the way the music is presented in the first place, it's not that different with each guy. Of course what comes out is somewhat different with each person, but the result is usually ninety-nine percent what I expected it to be. But sometimes the track turns out so good I go, "Whoa." Gary was particularly good at that. For certain songs he would come up with unique drum patterns that I didn't dictate to him—like when I wrote the tune "Non Brewed Condiment" for Atavachron. The beat Gary came up with on that one is really a great thing. He did the same thing with the title track of that album. He always used to say to me, "Man, I'm afraid of the day when you get me to play on something where I won't be able to think of a new thing." So far he hasn't had that problem.
RF: What comes to mind when I say Gary Husband?
AH: A lot of fun. The guy is like a natural-born comedian, and his playing is absolutely beautiful. As far as the closeness to the way things are heard in my head, he is the closest. Sometimes it's like we're one guy. When I play with him, I get lost in it. This is a difficult thing to talk about because I'm not really comparing anybody. You could never do that; all these guys are absolutely unbelievable.
RF: Do you have a preference in sizes of drums?
AH: I tend to like real small kits, but it's different for different drummers because of the way they play. You can't really give everybody the kit of your dreams. Gary Husband has been my longest-standing relationship with a musician, and he's always played the music the closest to the way I hear it in my head. Ironically, when I first met Gary, he had a really small kit. Then I said, "Hey, man, you'd sound really great if you got lots of drums." So he did—and then he found it hard to put them away. So it was my fault! However, we did a tour in England a little while ago where he played a real small kit, and I loved it. I thought he sounded absolutely spectacular on it because he's not the kind of guy who needs a lot of drums: He's a very creative musician, and small drums seem to articulate such creativity. You can hear everything; nothing gets in the way of anything else. Also, usually when there's a smaller kit involved, the cymbals tend to be reduced from bicycle wheels to a reasonable size. I tease Gary about that. We had a cab driver in England one time who got out to put the cymbals in the back, and even he said, "Geez, look at the size of those."
Guitar.com: Are you still playing with the trio that’s on the record?
Allan Holdsworth: Since that recording, Gary Novak started working with Alanis Morrisette, so he’s gone doing that. I’m playing with Dave Carpenter still but we’ve got Joel Taylor on drums. Joel’s a really great musician. And it changes it again. Each guys brings something different. I’m also doing a tour of Europe with a different band -- Gary Husband and Jimmy Johnson. So that’s going to be pretty different, too.
Guitar.com: How has your recording studio evolved?
Holdsworth: Where I used to live, I just converted the garage. I didn’t have a place that I could really record, it was just somewhere that I could mix. I could record guitar there because I made these special isolation boxes with a speaker and a microphone. I didn’t make a lot of noise, so I could get the sound I wanted at pretty low level. That was how I did it then. But when I moved to where I am now in San Diego, a good friend of mine who’s also a carpenter helped me convert the big garage into a studio. With this one, there was actually enough room that I could record drums too. It’s still small and it wouldn’t work with someone who plays perhaps at different levels volume-wise. With someone like Gary Husband, you really need to put him a nice big room to get the drums to sound the way they should. And because Gary Novak can also play very loud but typically plays a lot softer, I was able to do it there.
MRJ: How’s it working with (bassist) Jimmy Johnson on the new record?
AH: He’s an amazing bass player. He’s the perfect balance for (drummer) Gary Husband. He’s like the track for the train!
So hurrah for Gnarly Geezer, a label looking for, in Holdsworth’s own self-deprecating words, "Guys who might have got lost, or didn’t have the right opportunity". They rescued Holdsworth from his deal-free state, released ‘The Sixteen Men Of Tain’ (through Cream Records in Europe and awarded four stars last issue), and now he has a follow-up in the can, also a trio, but with Gary Husband, another of Holdsworth’s old muckers, on drums.
"The reason I moved to the States was economical." says Allan, "Because when I first met Gary Husband after I decided I wanted to form my own band and working with Gary was one hell of a struggle, a struggle that he’s still going through now with his own music. We would play a pub and there would be ten people in there, then we’d go to California and there’d five hundred people and it’s packed. So it was a very simple and obvious thing for me to do, I thought well do I want to go back there and play to ten people or do I want to go over here and play to loads. So I moved."
"It wasn’t a conscious effort, it was just a nice accident. Because what I wanted to try and do after the last album that I did with Gordon (Beck)"None Too Soon" we played old tunes, so in a way it was my album but I didn’t think of it like it was my album. The last band album I think of was "Hard Hat Area" which was with Gary, Skuli (Sverrisson) and Steve Hunt and right after that album I was thinking I wanted to write some original music, but just put in a different setting, a slightly different setting. And in a way this also happened by accident because I was playing with Dave Carpenter, who introduced me to Gary Novak and we played a lot and we did two tours of Europe with that group and I also knew he played acoustic bass.
And also you have a long solo career. Have you had any facilities to record your projects?
It is very difficult to keep record contracts with the type of music that I like. Record companies want to sell millions and, well, with this music it is not probable they will do it.
However, you have always tried to play what you want without letting yourself be influenced by the demands of the record companies ...
Yes, I’ve played in many groups where people told me what to do and I decided I wanted to do this. Economically, it was a disastrous decision. When I formed my first group with Gary Husband I almost left the music [business] because I did not make enough money and then I met Matt Valy [Mike Varney? Ed.] , who had a column in Guitar Magazine, he found me and showed me all these magazines in which my name appeared and which I had no idea of. So I got a few gigs in California. It was amazing to play in front of ten people in a pub in England, to clubs in California with six or seven hundred people and always full. So I thought it was time to move. That’s why I went to the US, for work ... and it’s better to avoid rain. It’s not that I’m very fond of the beach or any of this, but I like to see the blue sky and the sun from time to time.
Allan has worked with loads of people during the past 25 years, but are there any musicians he’d particularly like to work with?
"There’s lots of musicians who it would be nice to play with, but I’m quite happy just doing what I do. I just feel privileged to have worked with some of the musicians who I have worked with. Gary Husband (drummer), for example, is just unbelievable, although not too many people know who the hell he is."
Allan Holdsworth (NPS Radio transcript)
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.
OF: A few months ago Gary Husband released a terrific piano solo project called "The things I see - Interpretation of the Music of Allan Holdsworth"... It casts a different light on your music, maybe closer to classical music... What was your reaction upon Gary’s interpretations ?
AH: I absolutely loved it! I was so incredibly flattered. I was very moved by it. It meant al lot to me. The fact that it was interpretations of my music was something I really liked. There are people out there who make these clone records, and try to do everything verbatim just like it was, and what he did was much more deep. He came at it from a totally different perspective and I really liked that. He knew I would have wanted it that way and I like that he chose to do that.
Bill: These recent Bruford sound great. Have you heard that stuff?
Allan: I have a good friend who’s also a big fan...because I don’t really have any of my own recordings,I usually end up giving them away and then I try to get them a little later on. But he played me some of One Of A Kind, which I hadn’t heard it in 25 years. It was pretty good, I thought...for the time and everything.
Bill: That must’ve been an interesting band to tour in.
Allan: Yeah, it was. I think if it hadn’t been for the U.K. experience I might’ve stayed with Bill a little bit longer because I really enjoyed playing with him. But with U.K. it was kind of uncomfortable because we had such different tastes in music. All of the guys were great guys, it wasn’t like a personal issue at all. We got along really well. It’s just that (bassist) John (Wetton) and (keyboardist) Eddy (Jobson) were of one mind musically and Bill and I were of another. And then when I started working with Gary Husband...I had just been introduced to him and played with a couple of times and I thought, ‘Oh man! I wanna play with THIS guy.’ So I decided to form my own band and that’s what cut short the Bill thing.
MM: It seems you’ve dialed back on the overdrive sounds. Am I correct in this observation? Is this something that you’ve done on purpose as a musical choice or are you able to get the sounds in your head with newer modeling amps/pedals without the saturation that you’ve used in the past?
AH: Well, it’s really related to the kind of music. When I did the album None Too Soon and then 16 Men of Tain it was a challenge to put a distorted guitar sound in that musical setting which was basically acoustic bass and drums. If I was to take the sounds I was using on albums like Hard Hat Area which was mostly the Boogie’s and stuff, when you stick that in with acoustic bass and drums it just doesn’t seem to work. It just doesn’t seem necessary to use the same amount of distortion. When Gary’s playing it works because it’s aggressive and has got that edge in that setting. But something softer and more delicate like on None Too Soon, it just didn’t sound right. It was a real challenge to make that work and sound right and I was pleased that I was able to do that in that setting. Now I don’t use that much distortion but I still use it to get sustain and but I get more of a controlled thing. The new album will be a return of stuff I used to do, more aggressive sounding.
The first new CD is Snakes and Ladders, coming out on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. What can you tell me about it?
I signed a deal with Steve around the time I got divorced and he never got his album. He’s been unbelievably patient. The reason he hasn’t bugged me is because he’s a musician and understands that things can go wrong. Usually, a business-oriented record company guy would be beating down my door by this point.
Snakes and Ladders is an interesting record because it has two sets of people on it. Part of the album has Jimmy Johnson on bass and Gary Husband on drums. It also features another rhythm section I was touring with comprised of Ernest Tibbs on bass and Joel Taylor on drums. People have always asked me how different personnel change the music, and Snakes and Ladders really depicts that. There’s one tune that appears in two different versions on the album, played by each set of players. It sounds completely different because of the way they interpret it. With Jimmy and Gary, the music is a bit more high energy and rock-oriented, and with Ernest and Joe, it’s a little softer and goes into Sixteen Men of Tain territory. The record that comes after Snakes and Ladders will be another trio record, with Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Johnson, who I’m currently touring with.
It was as amazing as it was unbelievable. I learned so much from Tony. He is the reason I never give musicians who play with me any direction on how to approach anything. Tony never did that with me. He would let me dig myself a hole. I’d stand there and say “What am I supposed to do?” He made me find my own way. When Gary Husband first played with me, I realized he had been listening to some of my albums and was trying to do something like what he heard on them. I told him right away “No. That was something that happened as an improvisation and it was only meant to happen that one time. Forget the record and do your own thing.”
Tell us about your two upcoming recordings.
I’d started a project with Gary Husband and Jimmy Johnson about five years ago that was supposed to be released on Gnarly Geezer before the label folded. I’ve got all the recordings from that session, along with additional tracks recorded with drummer Joel Taylor and bassist Ernest Tibbs a couple of years later, and the first album will feature a mixture of those four musicians. One interesting thing about the project is that one of the songs was recorded by both groups, and the versions turned out so differently that I want to include them both just to show how the musicians can radically change the music. I don’t tell anyone what to play specifically. I just show them the compositions, and their interpretations are completely up to them. I think that’s why some of the guys like to play with me. The second album will mostly be with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman, and I’ll release it myself, possibly also this year.
About that time, I started playing with drummer Gary Husband on the side. At this time, I had already written a bunch of new music for myself. So I thought it was a golden opportunity to form my own group with Gary and Paul Carmicheal. But unfortunately it was a disaster from a financial point of view. We called the band “IOU” because more often than not, it would cost us more money to do the gig than what we normally got paid for doing it. That’s what happens when you want to play “esoteric bullshit,” which is what some people call what we do.
R.V.B. - In the late 70’s you hooked up with guys like Jean Luc Ponty and Tony Williams. Things are starting to happen now. Was that a natural process to lead you to finally going out on your own and leading your own project?
A.H. - I loved working with Jean Luc and I loved working with Tony Williams. I got to a point where I just wanted to play my own music. It was a logical step to form a group of my own with Gary Husband and Paul Carmichael. We did that for a while and then I left the UK. I worked with Bill Bruford, which was great.
"The interpretation of my original music can be played in so many different ways, almost like different kinds of styles," he remarks. "And as I began playing with Gary Novak and Dave Carpenter a couple of years ago, I could hear that the interpretation of it was pushing into a different direction. And it sounded really kind of natural. So I basically wrote the material that was on this record with that in mind, because I knew that Gary Novak’s interpretation is a different kind of thing from the way that Gary Husband’s interpretation of it would be. He plays with a lot of energy but he can also play pretty soft, and I was enjoying that. [Novak] has a pretty amazing way of just making it feel good. It feels better than it does with other guys even though you can’t really put your finger on it."