|Alan Davey Interview, December 2001
"Ali Davey, formerly Alan Davey, tells Bernard Law why Hawkwind are still going strong and why
he changed his faith."
but we could have sold a few hundred more tickets. But the tour's going well. We've sold out a few
places." Hawkwind have to be one of the most heavily gigging of all bands. "There's a possibility of
an Italian tour, but there's definitely a Christmas gig at the Forum in Kentish Town on the 20th
December," he continues, chuckling. "It is always good to do one at that time of year. Gives everyone
a break from Christmas."
Many Hawkwind concerts have been released as albums, and 'Yule Ritual' is a well-recorded album
that follows a fine tradition. The only member of the band on the album who wasn't on stage was
Science Fiction writer Michael Moorcock. Incredibly, he was at home in Texas and telephoned his
"It was very much an on-the-spot thing," says Ali. "We didn't try it out first. It was straight in and
hope for the best. It was really moody. I was really into it, just standing there taking it all in." The
Hawkwind line-up has changed again, with the return of an old band member. "Huw Lloyd-Langton is
back, there's Dave Brock of course, myself, Simon House on violins and keyboards, and Richard
Chadwick on drums. He's been around quite a while now. It's a good band. People seem to like it.
It's good because we're all long-standing members. We all get on," Ali said. "The audiences are great.
We get them from eight to sixty years old - if you can satisfy that group you're doing something right!
We're due to do a studio album too. There have been a lot of releases that have nothing to do with us.
I'd say as much as 30% are official releases that we know about, but 70% are nothing to do with us.
Even some of the big record companies do it. People take advantage because we're so mellow. But
for the new album we'll use our own studio. All you need nowadays is a space and a computer. I'd
like to get Matthew Bainbridge in to produce it - he's a bit of a wizard at it. He produced my band's
album. It sounded much better, twice as good as when we did it ourselves. That band is called
Bedouin. It's like Hawkwind, only heavier. We use Arabic scales. We've done little clubs for two
years, just building a fan base. And we're doing five supports for Hawkwind - I'm supporting myself
as it were," Ali laughs.
He went on to explain how Hawkwind create their albums. "We've all got bits and pieces and we'll
jigsaw it all together. Someone will have a riff, and someone will have another to go with it. Someone
else will say they've just the lyrics to go with it. We piece it together. We like to write four or five
and road test them. We're planning a week's tour in March and we'll try some of the new stuff out.
Some of it will work out, and some won't. We can see how they go. We like to mature songs for a
while before we record."
Ali's personal musical influences are quite diverse. "I've always liked Arabic scales," he explained, "but
as for musicians - Lemmy was an influence. I didn't copy, it was natural. I just got a bass and
strummed it. I was a musical idiot! Suddenly it clicked, it sounded just like Lemmy. This was the
late Seventies, about 1978. I was mostly listening to Hawkwind and Motorhead anyway. There
wasn't much around. I didn't like wimpy Metal like Iron Maiden, though. I like stuff with mood.
Chris Squire influenced me too, and Stanley Clarke. I got some of my harmony stuff from him."
Ali had his own band in the Ipswich area, but found an inventive way of joining Hawkwind.
Ali laughs as he recalls. "I went to see them, and it was a mess. It was the worse gig I ever saw by
Hawkwind. I'd already sent a tape of my band to the Hawkwind fan club but hadn't heard anything. I
wrote a letter to Dave Brock via them telling him the band was off course. They needed to get a
balance between Warrior On The Edge Of Time and the Church of Hawkwind. Three or four days
later Dave rang up and asked me to join the band. He agreed with everything I'd said! We were
obviously on the same frequency."
"We've got our own style," he continued. "It's hard to put us in a box. Some of it obviously fits in
other boxes quite nicely, but there's a lot of what we do which is something no one else can do. I've
heard a lot of people try and copy it, like the Ozrics and people like that, but it just doesn't happen,
y'know. It's that raw energy. We are quite a raw band. Even though it's very melodic and good
songs - it kicks! It is quite a unique sound. That's one of the secrets of our success. No one else can
make that sound. You get a niche like that and work it properly and you can go on for years."
Ali did actually take a little time out from Hawkwind, just to have a break. "I did Bedouin and a couple
of solo projects," he explained, "but I'm back now. Lots of people said there was a hole in the sound
while I was away," he laughed. "So I'm still here, and I'm still loud."
With touring so extensively, Hawkwind have found themselves playing some strange places. "We
played a diner in the States once. I think it was Philadelphia. It was the strangest place I've ever
played. It was a restaurant but had a small band stage. We were thrashing away at 'Brainstorm', and I
remember looking up and they were all eating their dinner! It was really bizarre. It was kind of off
putting. They all finished eating, had their coffees and then got up and started dancing around. The
other strange place we played was a lay-by near Stonehenge. They'd closed it all off, so we stuck the
truck in the lay-by and started this gig with cars going by. You'd get shot for that nowadays!"
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that Ali has actually changed his name from Alan. "I
became a Muslim about seven months ago," he told me. "When I was speaking to a Muslim friend
-he's like my closest brother- I started telling him what I was doing and thinking. He said 'it sounds like
you've been a Muslim for many years but you didn't know it.' There are a lot of people like that. They
think like a Muslim, but don't realise it. It's not just about being religious. It is a way of life. I'm a fan
of peace and justice. It is very spiritual too. Doing the salaam five times a day really centres you and
gives you spiritual discipline. It does make you into a better person. I must admit that I felt alone on
the planet. I felt no one else thought like me. People think about things that are too trivial and I was
thinking about global things - what's going on with the planet. Muslims are very environmentally
friendly. For instance, a nuclear power station wouldn't be allowed in Islam because it is too dirty. It
threatens nature too much. There are a lot of Greenpeace types and Mother Earth types that are
getting into Islam in a big way now. It's a good thing.
"Its not what is portrayed on the telly. What attracts me is the way of life. I t's the justice thing. Tony
Blair said in a speech that 'in the west we can no longer live the good life and leave the other countries
behind. We must help them.' So why did five thousand people and two towers have to be knocked
down for that. It should be peaceful and fair.
"The things the Taleban do I don't agree with, like their attitudes to women. But the United States
invested in them, and Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein. They put these people in then slag them off.
The Americans have got to change their attitudes. The answer to the problem is to be fair and not
greedy, to be just to all. Both sides of it are tragically wrong."
Such a life change must have had a dramatic impact on Ali. "To be honest, I haven't changed a bit,"
he concluded. "I'm a nicer person, more conscious and aware of my actions. I don't drink alcohol
any more and I don't do drugs. But when you've got something as strong as that you don't really need
Chatting with Ali you can't help but notice how cheerfully laid back he is. Undemonstrative and ready
to laugh, it does surprise you just how determined and committed to his music he is. No wonder
Hawkwind has such a loyal following. Catch them live if you can - if you missed them this time,
they'll be on the road again!
This piece appeared in issue 119 of Wondrous
Stories ("the Journal of the Classic Rock
Society") in December 2001. It was originally
published under the (IMHO, ropey) title of "Gee,
Ali becomes a Muslim". Since then, Alan has
reverted to his original name, of course.
Pic - Shaun Downey
With the release of the live album 'Yule Ritual',
recorded at the London Astoria on 29th
December last year, and part way through a UK
tour, the CRS's Bernard Law took the
opportunity to talk to Hawkwind bassist Ali
Davey on the telephone prior to their gig at the
Liquid Room in Edinburgh.
"We used to play the Playhouse in Edinburgh,"
Ali explained, "It's a really big venue. This is
smaller, but it's sold out already, so that's good.
The promoters don't always have faith in you,