Allan Holdsworth: Creating imaginary backdrops
What were you going for when you first conceptualized the album?
I never really have a concept for an album as a whole. Whenever I'm working on a piece of music, I'll just be working on that. I'm never thinking about a concept for an album. I just think about writing tunes and trying to find a balance between the tunes to make up an album. Usually, when I come up with an album title—and this has been true with every album I've ever done—I don't think of it is as a whole. Sonically, and making sure the balance between types of tracks, and the running order—that's important. The titles of the albums have always been related to one piece or one song. I take one piece of music and say "That's a good title, so I'll use that." And then the album ends up being called that. Secrets was the same—just that one track, I liked the title, so I used that. So, it wasn't a concept for the whole record. I balance the pieces of music in a record to make it a whole. I never have an album title based on a concept.
Musically-speaking, did you achieve what you envisioned?
Yeah, pretty much. I think each piece of music turned out the way I wanted them to, except with the way they were mixed, which is very important to me. They weren't so bad that they weren't recognizable. I carried a tape of mixes around that I had, even though I started out saying "Geez, I shouldn't have done that, I should have done this." After I spent time listening to the tape, I got used to it and made the decision not to go back to do it again. I got so used to hearing it as it actually was that I didn't know if it was gonna be worth doing it again. I like to work constantly on something until it's the way I want it and release it and never worry about it again. I'm not very good at working to a deadline, in fact I'm horrible at it—that's what's going on right now, I've got this stuff I'm supposed to do by a certain date. To me, that whole concept doesn't work. They're gonna take as long as they're gonna take. I can't guarantee it. You might just get one thing that sounds really good right away and it's done and you get to another track and you just can't get what you want out it.
Composition-wise, Wardenclyffe Tower strikes me as an extension of Secrets.
I think every album has been an extension of the previous one, or has grown out of the previous one. But I think it's quite different. I think it's a little less aggressive in a way. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not—it's just the way it turned out you know. [laughs] I'm already working on stuff for the next album. Obviously, the problem with Wardenclyffe Tower is the amount of time between recording it and releasing it. I like to get it so they're fairly quick. Usually, when we start recording it, I work on it until it's mixed and it's out, so there's not a huge difference between when it's recorded and when it comes out. Now that I think about it, that happened onSecrets as well. I got involved in a tour and other projects at the same time, and I wasn't able to finish it when I wanted to. I don't know, it's hard for me to say, it's hard to compare them. They sound different—the music is different. Hopefully, they have something that's the same about them, the thread of evidence of one mind or something, but I don't know.
Full 1993 interview http://www.innerviews.org/inner/holdswor.html