Hawkwind Regroup!

Gary Cooper investigates the new look line-up of Britain's oldest sci-fi rock band

This article is from the September 1977 issue of Beat Instrumental.  A muso’s publication, so this piece goes a bit pointy-headed in the middle but should still be of interest to the general reader…well, to hairy-arsed Hawkwind fans... Originally the article was entitled "Hawklords Regroup!" but that would be a little misleading since it concerns the 1977 "Quark" line-up...
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When you've been playing an instrument for a few years you often begin to develop strong ideas about which musicians who play your instrument have got the plum jobs in certain bands. Being a bass player, I can look at Yes and envy the melodic freedom afforded to Chris Squire, cast a few envious glances towards some of the American jazz rock outfits and see how their bass players are allowed to do more than just hold the root note of a chord on a firm repetitive beat. But what would you say if I told you that, in my opinion, one of the most exacting bass roles in British music lies within the mighty Hawkwind machine?

You might be tempted to rush for the 'phone and arrange for my certification as criminally insane {
never crossed our minds - Ed.) but hang on a bit - dig out those old Hawkwind albums you've got and listen to what Lemmy used to do for this most curious of groups. Take In Search Of Space as an example. When the band drift off into a free-form (ie stoned) ramble, listen to Lemmy's establishment of a driving riff, how it works in with the drums and pulls everything back together again. Yes, the bass gig in Hawkwind offers the inventive player an awful lot of scope. He's got to keep in with Simon King's definitive rock drumming and yet he's required to be not only an anchor but a sail as well — to pull the band's melodies along.

When Lemmy, er, 'left' the band, the gig was taken by Canadian Paul Rudolph whose success as a member is best left undebated - quite simply Hawkwind hadn't found another Lemmy.  Now a softly spoken veteran of strange days, Adrian Shaw, has taken the gig and grabbed the band by the scruff of its neck, shaking it back into peak form with a driving, melodic excellence. His history as a player is as unusual as you have every right to expect from a Hawklord.

"Well, immediately before, I was playing in a band which was making a living, and that's about all, by doing cabaret gigs, in other words backing male strippers and drag acts!"

"We had to get a release for him from the East Grinstead Transvestite Society" chips in Simon King.

"It's like up North where the bands support the bingo session!  You wouldn't believe some of the gigs we were playing, places like Tilbury Power Station. We were just a bunch of freaks who used to get very stoned and laugh about it."

However funny it may have been, it's no laughing matter when a bass player of Adrian's capability ends up backing drag acts in working men's clubs. Still, he'd been drafted into the band once before, when Lemmy had 'gone missing' before a German trip, so, when the gig was offered following the sacking of Paul Rudolph and Alan Powell (the band's other drummer) it was Hawkwind to the rescue and Adrian gratefully accepted their aid.

When I first saw the newly staffed band, on their recent British tour, I was not only bowled over by the bass playing but quite surprised at Adrian's choice of gear — he was toting a battered Gibson EB3, one of the potentially best bass guitars but one which is now chronically out of fashion and sadly changed by Gibson's attempt to redesign it.


"I've had mine since they were ubiquitous and I've just never found one to beat it" he enthuses, "I've had this one now for about ten years and it must be about fifteen or sixteen years old. Ever since I had it, I haven't had to change anything. The bridge is exactly as it was and I've never had to do anything at all with the neck. It's got a wider tone range than any other bass I've ever played and if I tell you that it's suited everything I've ever played from cabaret to Hawkwind, you'll see how versatile it really is.  Fenders are fine for a Fender sound, if you happen to like a funky disco sort of sound they're great but I can get near that with the Gibson and do a lot more besides."

"Mine's not typical of the newer ones. For years now I've gone down and looked at the new EB3's in shops but you might as well just go and buy a decent copy. Mine was made in the days when they were still made by hand and it shows. My neck seems slightly wider than the new ones and it's got just the right amount of camber for me. The new ones are just all wrong." Are you listening Mr. Gibson?

Those bass playing readers might just now be wondering what other attractions this axe offers. There are plenty, as Adrian elucidates.

"The short scale is a great help. The Fender or Rickenbacker scale feels like playing a clothes prop and providing you remember you're playing a bass and not a guitar, then the fact that it's got a scale more like a guitar makes it a very pleasant instrument to play."

Strings are Rotosound round wound which have impressed so many bass players over the last few years.

"They're much lighter gauge than the equivalent flat wound. After about two gigs they're at their optimum and are good for about another five gigs. I've tried others, I tried Fender once and they're terrible, much too heavy a gauge as well."

Unlike a lot of bass players, Adrian came to the instrument fairly late in his career. He started as a guitarist and possibly would have remained one had not a better six-string wielder arrived in the band he was in at the time. It was decided that a bass player was needed and so Adrian trotted off and returned with a trusty Burns NuSonic which was adequate for a while. The next guitar he bought was the Gibson and that's been it to date, although he admits to wanting a Fender and maybe even a Ricky although can't see that he'd use them much.

Amplification for the Hawkwind gig is the much vaunted Sunn valve bass amp run through two Dave Martin bins equipped with those very fine JBL 15" speakers — a classic combination! Before that he had an HH set-up with a custom reflex enclosure but finds that the Sunn/JBL combination unbeatable, a sentiment that I'd share as would most bass players.

A lot of readers, of course, like to emulate the equipment of their favourite players and Adrian himself admits that Jack Bruce was the motivation behind his purchase of the EB3. As far as duplicating his amp set-up is concerned it shouldn't be difficult for anyone who likes to try it.

"Plans for all sorts of bins are easily available but it's a question of whether you actually need the projection you get with them. I like them for the big gigs we do but I often have a D.I. taken from the amp and that's mixed with the sound from the miked bins. Even JBL's distort a bit and I prefer to have the clean D.I. mixed in with it which is what we do when recording."

Recording, in fact, is a bit of a sore point with Hawkwind at the moment. Although Quark, Strangeness and Charm has been an unqualified success, the bass parts were recorded by Adrian's predecessor and he had to repeat that uncomfortable exercise performed by John Wetton when he joined Family — overdubbing a bass part after everything else had gone down.  In fact this is one of the nastiest jobs you can undertake because you're left with very little room to work in.


"I was given a tape with some rough mixes on it and just went into the studio, got very stoned and did it. This is all going to come out wrong I know but you just wouldn't believe the difference it made. The tracks that were down there before were all wrong but I'd never like to have to do it again."

Simon King confirms just how much better the rhythm section is now.

"I found that when Adrian joined I was doing things that I hadn't done since Lemmy had been in the band. Little bits of telepathy were there, Adrian would set up a bass riff in the middle of the number and I'd know that we were going to pull it back into the main song. It's really great and I only wish that I'd recorded the rhythm tracks with him in the first place."

"For me the switch of bass players happened at just the right moment. With going back to using one drummer I needed help from a bass player and as things were I wasn't getting it."

For those Hawkwind fans who've been apprehensive over the past few years because of the over frequent personnel changes, I think that I can fairly safely report that things are well stabilised now. Everyone seems happy to leave Robert Calvert in charge of the lyrics and singing, which he does so well, and the rest of the band concentrate on the music. There's a new spirit in Hawkwind and it seems likely that this line-up will continue unchanged for at least a while.

Direction? Well, I prophesy that we'll see a return to a slightly dirtier and more complex sound over the next couple of albums, and that with the help of Charisma, who now release their records, we will see a lot more of one of the last great British Rock bands to keep to their roots and play for their audiences.