Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview (tlms.co.uk 2000)
Summary: Allan Holdsworth discusses his musical influences, mentioning his discovery of John Coltrane's music, his early experience with Charlie Christian solos, and his fondness for Chopin and Debussy. He talks about his new album "16 Men of Tain" and the involvement of a new record company run by two passionate fans. Holdsworth praises his bassist, Jimmy Johnson, and hints at future gigs, including a tour in England. The conversation also turns to equipment, with Holdsworth describing his journey from Lab Series amps to Yamaha DG series amps and his continued use of Steinberger guitars. He offers advice to students, emphasizing his method of exploring intervallic permutations for scales and chords to develop his unique musical logic.
Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview
Merlin Rhys Jones
In April this year, LMS was granted an exclusive interview with British fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Merlin Rhys Jones, one of our longest serving and respected tutors met Allan along with New Note Distribution's Gary Hughes.There follows a summarised transcript of the interview...
Merlin Rhys Jones started by asking Allan about the influence of John Coltrane on his playing...
Allan Holdsworth: ... that's when I started going out and buying tons of Coltrane records, everything I could find. My Dad had a lot of records and I started out copying Charlie Christian solos. By the time I discovered Coltrane I had learned to just absorb the (musical) experience. I never analysed or transcribed anything (Coltrane) did because it was very spirited, with a lot of heart but it was also heady. Coltarne Sounds was my favourite record.
I also listened to a lot of Chopin and Debussy. (My Dad) knew I wouldn't get anywhere with the piano so he gave me a guitar, but the guitar wasn't that much better! He used to sneak me into clubs to see electric players.
MRJ: How old were you then?
MRJ: Listening to the new album, 16 Men of Tain, it sounds more content with more stylistic integrity, as if you've really found your style
AH: It was almost like I was a guest on someone elses album! Even though it was in my name. It's a new record company. (It's) these two really amazing guys that have been involved in the music business before. They're both in the computer business and they both turned out to be huge fans. They came up to (after a gig) and said We can't find any of your records, what the hell is going on? I told them , and they just looked at each other and sid Right! We'll start a record company! They want to get other people on the label.
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!
MRJ: Any gigs on the horizon?
AH: Yeah I'm trying to organise a tour in England for August. We're playing at the Bath Guitar Festival. There may be something at (Pizza Express) Dean Street.
MRJ: (referring to Allans recent album title)What is the '16 Men of Tain'?
AH: The title comes from one of the (album) tracks. I used that because I like the sound of it. The first track is a bit darker, but the title track has a sort of festive feel to it, a carnival kind of thing. When I think of that kind of thing I think of alcohol. In tain there is a famous (Scottish) distillery called Glenmorangie and there is supposedly only 16 men who work there. On the bottom of every (whiskey) bottle it says 'Handcrafted by the 16 Men of Tain'.
THE CONVERSATION TURNS TO EQUIPMENT
MRJ: You were getting a fantastic clean sound from those Lab Series amps back in the early eighties. Did you use them for quite a while?
AH: I used to play through a Marshall 50W with two 4x12 cabs, but when I would play a chord it was always a 'crunch' sound, so I didn't play a lot of chords back then. When I decided to start my own thing I had an endorsement deal with Lab Series. I really love the clean sound-soft and wide. It was my first stereo set up and the beginning of what I use nowadays. I used to use three amps-a Hartley-Thompson and two Lab Series. It was a very fat sound. (Then) I used a Dual Rectifier. That was probably one of my favourite all time guitar (amp) heads. I used Mesa Boogie amps for years. when I went to Japan a few years ago (someone from Yamaha) brought me the first DG series amp. It blew me away. I now use two of the new DG *0s. I used on the whole of the (new) record.
MRJ: Are you still using Steinberger guitars?
AH: Yeah I still have an original Stenberger. I've been using a Bill De Lap guitar. I also use a custom Carvin. The only difference between that and the Steinberger is that it has a headstock.
MRJ: Any technical tips for our students?
I'm a pretty stubborn person and I don't like to ask a lot of questions. (When I was learning)I wrote out all the possible intervallic permutations of the different scales. I put them in a chart. I then began to think about chords a shifting colours. It's like basic mathematics. It helped me to find my own loic in the naming of scales and chords.