Paul Janisch managed to put some questions to long-time Ollie freak, Andy Partridge of XTC, via a user-interview facility on the PopDose site.
Here are the relevant questions and answers:
PJ: When did you first become aware of guitarist Ollie Halsall and in what ways has he influenced your playing?
AP: Oh, he's an enormous influence! He's one of the top three influences, I think. I first discovered him with the first Patto album, and I heard the track "The Man." I don't know whether you know Patto, but they made, I think, two and a half really excellent albums. And some of the tracks.I'd say three or four of the tracks on each of those albums.are just stunningly wonderful, with the other stuff just being sort of okay.
Certainly very good for the time. I'm not sure when the first album came out. '70, '71, something like that. And I heard a track called The Man, which is very slow and very empty, and I loved the sort of.this sounds rather rude, but I loved the aching holes in it. There were some great holes in the funk of this track, and it just seemed to ache. And I thought, "Wow!" And I was only a young kid, but that was very impressive.
And then when I heard the complete opposite of that, tracks like Air Raid Shelter, where the guitar plays such inventive runs, not your standard blues stash of things, your standard blues licks that absolutely everybody was doing, the kind of cheap copy of Clapton. He didn't play like that. He just played it like.he made the guitar sound more like Albert Ayler or John Coltrane, more like a sort of fluid piano player.
Once I heard his guitar playing, I was, like, "Oh, I need to be able to play like that!" And I still catch myself.if I sit with a guitar, which I do most evenings, I still find Ollie-esque things falling under my fingers.
What is it about Ollie that you took into your own music?
Surprise. And the element that walls are for breaking down, and that scales are for wrecking. But the sense of surprise, which for me is a lot of joy. It's like a beautiful gift, where you're opening a box, and you think you know what might be in it, but then you're, like, "Oh, that is phenomenal! Wow! Look at that! How did that get in there? What a lovely little surprise!"
His playing is full of that, and I try to do that.or I have tried to do that.with my songwriting and playing to date. But if you don't know Patto, they did make some stinky records, but the first two.
I think it's just called Patto, and then the second one, I think, is called Hold Your Fire.
Patto was the name of the singer: Mike Patto. A very tragic band. Mike Patto died of leukaemia, Ollie Halsall died, I think, of an overdose, and the bass player (Clive Griffiths) was in a car crash, has no recollection of having been in the band, and is in a wheelchair.
The only member that's sort of together is the drummer of the Rutles! The Barry Wom character, whose name is John Halsey. So it's Ollie Halsall and John Halsey.
It was a tragic band, but Ollie's playing.there's a couple of bits of Ollie on YouTube. They're not fantastic, but you do get a sense of how he was quite willing to break stuff down musically.
The person who actually posed the question made note of the semi-similarity between the Rutles and the Dukes of Stratosphear.
Yeah, we like to think the Rutles copied everything we did!
Reproduced by kind permission
Around that time itwas Jimi Hendrix, who wasn't that differentto Jeff Beck, who wasn't that different to Eric Clapton, who wasn't that different to Rory Gallagher. 1 must mention the man who gave me the biggest kick in the pants, because hewas playing very fluently and very well in the way 1 wanted to at the time, and that was Ollie Halsall, who was playing with Patto then. "1 had theirfirsttwo albums, which knocked me out. There was this bitch of a man playing exactly how I wanted to get. I'd like to meet him, so if you can arrange an introduction...
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