- 1 "...Where No Guitarist Has Gone Before..." (Cymbiosis 1986)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)
- 3 Allan Holdsworth interview (Abstract Logix 2004)
- 4 Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)
- 5 Holdsworth & Co. A New Side Of Allan's Music. (Guitar 1980)
- 6 Joe Satriani Meets Allan Holdsworth (Musician special edition 1993)
- 7 No Secrets (Facelift 1994)
- 8 Once Upon a Lifetime (Jazz Times 2010)
Cymbiosis: Instead, you took up an instrument that you didn't really fancy and fashioned a whole new style of playing that Guitar Player has called "the Allan Holdsworth school of guitar playing."
Holdsworth: Yeah, it's weird. I don't understand that anyway. I'd like to think that an individual is an individual, so that he can be whatever he wants to be. That's one of the things that I like to stress to people. I have a stubbornness not to want to do anything the same as somebody else. If I see and hear something and I'm moved by it, I want to do something with that quality. It's only the quality that concerns me, not what it was. When Jaco [Pastorius] was doing all that stuff with the bass, people were so preoccupied with the sound he was making they totally ignored what he was actually doing. The most important part about Jaco was what he was playing on the bass. That was the thing! If I'd have been a bass player, I'd have been looking for that, and I'd have forgotten about the sound. The sound was just the sound that he made—it was his. Instead, what happened was you got a whole bunch of guys going around sounding like Jaco. In the end, it almost ruined a perfectly good sound because it became so common.
Cymbiosis: I understand that when you were auditioning bass players for one of your bands in England, if you saw a fretless bass being opened up, you said, "Fine, next."
Holdsworth: Yeah, we did. I know that sounds unfair; it was just that we'd been through so many guys trying to find a bass player, and it was pretty difficult. We found out that most of the guys who had fretless basses were just trying to play like Jaco. They made that tuba-like sound, but they couldn't play in tune. All we wanted was a guy with character; some personality of his own. The first bass player, Henry Thomas, was great. We had some personality problems, and it didn't work out for one reason or another, but he was great.
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.
Fan: I heard in an interview that when you were with Tony Williams, there was an audition for bass players and Jaco Pastorius performed. Do you have any particular memories about that meeting? Did you ever run into him again afterwards?
AH: I remember that whole day when he came over very well. He was a very, very sweet man. Completely blew us away with his talent. I loved everything he did. It was a great tragedy. Unfortunately we never crossed paths after that.
Nobody played like Tony. When he switched from the jazz thing to whatever you would call what Lifetime did—fusion, I guess—no-one had ever heard anybody play the drums like that. I still have never heard anyone who does. It was his own thing. I was only in his band for a couple of years. It was a short stint because of management and financial problems. I was staying at his house for awhile. He had a tall townhouse in New York City at 141st Street and Broadway. There were a couple of top floors he didn't use and he'd let me stay there and we would play all the time. He kept inviting people over. For awhile, Lifetime was just me and Tony. There were no other members, so different bass players would come by until we found someone he really dug. Jeff Berlin came by and so did Jaco Pastorius around December 1975. It was an interesting time.
What was it like to play with Pastorius and Williams as a rhythm section?
It was just really amazing. I loved Jaco. There are some recordings of the rehearsals, but I don't know where they are now. They would be embarrassing to hear. Tony was looking for someone who played less than Jaco. He wanted something specific in the bass division. Jaco was a really sweet guy and a ridiculous bass player. It was really great to play with those guys.
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.
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH: "I mean, it's great to LIKE people and be influenced, but there's a difference between being influenced and trying to play like somebody else. I've actually started to hear Scott Henderson clones! Nothing gets left alone. There was a time when you heard Michael Brecker and it could only have been Brecker---and it still could only be, anyway, because there's always something WRONG with the rest of it---but it's that strange thing of so many people trying to sound like him. It's sad...it was like that with Jaco. The most important thing about Jaco was what he was PLAYING. But nobody picked up on that; the first thing they go for was the SOUND."
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH:" So everybody gets a bass with a bald fingerboard, and tries to play like Jaco, and it's all out of tune, HEWIN' and a SKEWIN'---and it's a DRAG, because the thing that made him stand out was the musicality. People are sometimes so influened by---so INTRIGUED by something, that's the only thing they see."
"So I'm as disgusted with John Stevens as I am with a lot of the record companies, who are doing the same thing to a lot of the people who pass on, like Jaco Pastorious. I think it's completely degrading what they'll do to people after they've gone. I think if the musician wanted them to be part of his thing they would have already been out."
The guitarist flew to New York and stayed in a hotel for a while before eventually settling into the drummer's Upper Manhattan abode. “It was just me and Tony at first, playing together and developing material,” he recalls. “And then he would invite different bass players over to play. There was an upright bassist named Juno, and then we played with Jaco Pastorius, which was a great opportunity for me. And Jeff Berlin also came up.”