|Adrian Shaw Interview
Adrian Shaw was kind enough to answer some questions by email today (14/05/2004), which
hopefully don't retread too much of the ground covered in previous interviews like this one and this
Those wanting to know more should check out Ade's page on the Woronzow Records website -
which is also the source for the two photos (c) Woronzow & used with permission
Q1: You started off as a guitar player, and switched to bass when the band JP Sunshine was forming.
Quite a few bass players have been frustrated guitarists (Noel Redding, Lemmy) - are you, and if so, did it
affect your style? I'm thinking here of the fluid, melodic playing you did in Hawkwind, on songs like
'Damnation Alley', for example.
A1: In no way am I a frustrated guitar player. As it happens I get to play guitar sometimes when I'm doing
the Bevis Frond acoustic shows and when I'm recording, which is quite enough for me. Being a bass player
is a fine and noble profession and many of my favourite musicians (Jack Bruce, Phil Lesh, Jack Cassady)
are bass players. I don't think that starting on guitar has affected my playing style much. It's all in the
approach, most lead guitarists make lousy bass players as they just keep doing what they normally do, but a
couple of octaves down.
Q2: I understand that Magic Muscle landed various gigs supporting Hawkwind in the early 70's on account
of your friendship with various members of Hawkwind. Who in particular would that have been?
A2: In the late 60's I lived in Maida Vale, and my flat was very close to Clearwater's office in Great Western
Road. As you know, Clearwater was a collective management set-up and two of the bands there were
Hawkwind, managed by Douglas and High Tide, managed by Wayne Bardell. I was friends with High Tide
and so used to hang out a bit at Clearwater's offices. That's how I got to know Hawkwind. I guess Nik and
DikMik were particular friends, and a bit later I got on pretty well with Lemmy too. We shared a penchant
for amphetamines, amongst other things.
Q3: Among these support gigs were the Bickershaw Festival in 1972 and the entire Space Ritual tour later
that year. What was it like to be part of something so 'happening'?
A3: It was great. They were big gigs and Hawkwind were a good bunch of guys, very supportive. Of
course, the down side was, as their support band we would arrive before them to soundcheck and on a
regular basis get jumped by the local constabulary, out to nail those notorious drug fiends Hawkwind.
Q4: Nik Turner and DikMik approached you about joining Hawkwind as early as 1973 (I think) on account
of difficulties with Lemmy. Had you joined then, would we have got something like the Quark Strangeness
& Charm album in 1974? Would you have liked to play on the (musically more advanced) albums they
subsequently did record, like Hall Of The Mountain Grill and Warrior On The Edge of Time?
A4: I guess the band would have been a little different if I had joined then as my playing style and Lemmy's
are very different from one another's. The band at that point was pretty much a juggernaut though, and I
think the difference would have been less different than it was when I finally did join in 1977. I would very
much have liked to play on Warrior and Hall though, both great albums.
Q5: I read in another interview that you depped for Hawkwind on a German tour at around this time (1973
again, I would guess.) Did you play bass, and was it for the whole tour or just one or two gigs? Do you
recall which towns / venues you played?
A5: I did play bass on those gigs. I think it was probably only 2 or 3 shows, but I could be wrong! It was a
long time ago. I know one of them was a big festival, I seem to recall seeing Free playing and I know that
Spirit were late going on as they (allegedly) needed to send into town for a works for one of the band.
Q6: When you did actually join Hawkwind in February 1977, was it a very different band than the one with
which you had toured and guested a few years previously?
A6: It was very different. Much more controlled and musical, which suited me very well. Of course Bob
Calvert was in his creative prime at that time and he and Dave were really coming up with some great songs.
Plus Simon House was a member by then, and he added a lot to the sound of the band. I knew Simon from
High Tide of course.
Q7: How do you rate the Quark / PXR5 material you played on? It was probably musically Hawkwind's
most sophisticated period, far advanced from what Mick Farren called the "clank-honk-tweet" of what many
fans would consider their classic period. How much of a hand did you have in writing this material?
A7: I especially like Quark, it's full of great songs. I didn't have anything to do with writing the songs on
Quark, they were already in place by the time I joined. I co-wrote a song on PXR5 though (Jack of
Shadows), with Simon and Bob although my credit for it mysteriously disappeared on the later re-issue.
Other than that it was just ideas for arrangements, etc.
Q8: Were you ever frustrated, as a musician, with the essential simplicity of Hawkwind's music?
A8: Not at all, I think the songs and musicianship during the period I was in the band was first rate. I've
always liked jamming too, so there was plenty of scope for that in the band at that time.
Q9: During your time in the band, you had a warm, bubbling bass sound. I've seen pictures from that era of
you playing your old Gibson EB3 bass, and in the Quark tour programme you endorsed an amp called a Zoot
Horn. Did you actually use that amp at the time? What other equipment did you use to get your unique
A9: I'm still playing that same bass as it happens. The Zoot Horn rig was just given to me and in return the
deal was I had to publicly endorse it. Not a problem as it was good equipment. I had a few effects pedals as
well, just the usual distortion, chorus, flanger type of things. Mostly the sound is from the Gibson and most
importantly my fingers. It always surprised me how 2 musicians, using exactly the same gear, will sound so
different from one another. It's all in the fingers.
Q10: I'd like to ask you in particular about the song 'High Rise'. I recently (and foolishly) chose this for my
first effort at writing out bass tablature, and what you did there is incredible. It sounds as though
you played a fretless bass on this one - is that so? Did you have a free hand regarding the bass parts you
came up with during your time in Hawkwind?
A10: That wasn't a fretless, just the Gibson again. I've had a lot of people mention the bass line on that song
down the years. I just played what sounded right with the tune and, to a degree, tried to reflect the lyric in
the bass line. Hence lots of slides up and down the scale. I always had a completely free hand in
constructing the bass parts for Hawkwind.
Q11: I've read that Bob Calvert once tried to cut your head off with a sword on stage. You've also been
quoted as saying you could not work with Brock again, and that it's mutual. Did you find it difficult to work
with these, or any other people, when in Hawkwind?
A11: I've read that as well, but I have to publicly state it's just not true. Although Bob was doing his "Biggles
of Arabia" thing at that time, Arab costume, flying goggles and huge scimitar, he never tried to cut my head
off. I did have to threaten to punch his lights out once, as I recall, but that was a different matter. These
things happen in bands. I remember Bob and Simon King getting into a fist fight in a dressing room as well
around that time.
I've always got on with Dave when I've seen him although I do have reservations about some of his business
methods. I certainly found him easy enough to work with in Hawkwind. I seem to sense he has a problem
with me though, but I have no control over that and I can't say I lie awake at night worrying about it.
Q12: Hawkwind's 1978 U.S. tour was supposedly a disaster after the brilliant European jaunt that preceded it
(although the Crazy Bob Calvert stories would suggest his instability was on the rise well before the band
got to the USA). What's your recollection?
A12: I had a great time on that tour. Of course, Simon House jumping ship a few shows into the tour and
joining David Bowie didn't help. It was the first time I'd toured the States and I just took advantage of all the
things that went with that in the 1970s. Bob was in bad shape at the time, although he always performed
well. He was a bit difficult, but being what would now be described as bi-polar, he didn't have any control
over his behaviour. Nor did we of course.
Q13: What do you recall as the most memorable gigs / tours you did with Hawkwind?
A13: The first gig I did with them at the Roundhouse was excellent, as I recall. Most of the gigs we did at
that time were really good. The venues were excellent, the band were flying, it was just a bit of a purple
patch. Didn't last long, of course.
Q14: Is there a favourite Hawkwind song or album that you didn't play on but would have liked to have
done? And what's your favourite Hawkwind number that you did play on?
A14: I would have liked to have played on Brainstorm. I played it a lot live but it would have been good to
have played on the original. Plus Silver Machine. Not that I like it much, but for all the times people have
asked "did you play on Silver Machine?"
Q15: After leaving Hawkwind, we next saw you playing at Nik Turner's Bohemian Love-In at the
Roundhouse. And then nothing for years - did this experience make you leave the music business?!
A15: Well it wasn't the experience of playing at the Bohemian Love-In that did it! I played with Mike
Moorcock's Deep Fix at that gig, with Pete Pavli, High Tide's bass player who played Cello at that show if
memory serves. At that time I became a father and didn't want to miss my son's formative years. I was also
a little fucked up on various substances. Nothing major, but a break from the whole scene seemed a good
idea. A few years later I got my enthusiasm for playing back and was in good shape physically. I just got
back into music and luckily for me just took up where I left off.
Q16: Magic Muscle reformed to play on the bill at Hawkwind's 20th anniversary gig at the Brixton Academy
in 1989. Did you feel like the audience knew who Magic Muscle were, or do you get the reaction from
Hawkwind fans (even now) that "they're just the band Adrian Shaw's in these days"? Also, what was it like
to step back into the Magic Muscle / Hawkwind environment in 1989, after years away from it?
A16: I guess some of the audience remembered Muscle, and some more would have been aware of the
connection. We went down really well, which was quite gratifying. It was good re-treading old ground and
catching up with some people I hadn't seen for a long time.
Q17: Rumour has it you're a football fanatic. Who's your team? Would you play Gerrard on the left of a
midfield diamond at Euro 2004?
A17: Ah, for my sins I'm a lifelong Spurs fan. Ever the optimist I'm looking forward to the new season.
Simon King and I were the only football fans at the time I was in Hawkwind, and with him being a Chelsea
fan there was a lot of (fairly) good humoured rivalry. For me, Gerrard in the holding position in midfield with
Dyer, when fit, on the left. Always a problem position.
Q18: Who is the single best musician you've ever played with?
A18: I think that would have to be Nick Saloman, my long term partner in the Bevis Frond. A great
songwriter, guitarist and a pretty good keyboard player as well.
Q19: I see a big difference between what you were doing on the bass back in your Hawkwind days, and the
more disciplined playing style you have now. Would it be fair to say that writing and recording your own
solo material provides an outlet for creativity which was previously channelled exclusively into your bass
A19: Yes, I think that may be true. The bass playing in the recording version of the Frond requires a more
disciplined approach as it tends to be very song based. I always just try to add what seems appropriate in
any given situation. The same is true of my solo work. The live side of the Frond is somewhat more relaxed
with space for jamming and I think you'd recognise my old style more in that setting. I've played in so many
bands, with so many differing styles down the years that I've learnt to adapt to whatever's required. If it
sounds right, it probably is right.
Q20: Your next solo album, "String Theory" is due for release later this year on Woronzow. It seems that
you have a number of possible directions you could pursue with it - are we going to hear some more warped
British psychedelia, or do you think the more American-sounding classic rock grooves will prevail?
A20: To be honest, I never set out with any particular style in mind. I really like moving from, say, a heavy
guitar based track to a quieter song, maybe with strings or acoustic instruments but virtually all with a
Psychedelic twist somewhere along the line. I am a Psychedelic musician and wouldn't have it any other way.
I realised there was a glaring omission from the above interview....a question people have wondered about
for nearly four years, and so I followed this up with Ade and he was again very accommodating!
Q21: Why was it that you were one of the very few ex-Hawkwind members who did not play at the
Hawkestra at Brixton Academy in October 2000?
A21: The reason I didn't play with the Hawkestra was that I was asked to do so by the organisers, got all
the rehearsal details sent to me, but when I rang Dave up to see what songs I ought to be brushing up on
found him to be evasive and rather vague. I got the impression that he didn't really want my involvement,
just a "why don't you just turn up on the night and we'll see what happens" kind of thing. I wasn't prepared
to do that and told him so and that was that.