|Del on the Beat
This article is from the December 1971 issue of Beat Instrumental.
"The Glastonbury Midsummer Fayre was the best thing we've ever played", said Hawkwind's Del Dettmar.
"There was just so much happening - so much energy floating around. We were able to draw it up from the
audience and use it for ourselves, just like the way a generator uses electricity." (Eh?!)
He was talking at the end of twenty-one days of solid gigs. The band were taking just three days break
before starting again on another tour. Hawkwind, Del explained, are a band that likes to work hard:
"Sometimes we feel it would be nice to work less for more money. But the big band thing is something we're
not really into. Neither do we like the adulation bit. It just doesn't interest us. If we're into anything at all,
it's people. The audiences we play to are most important of all. We use them to give us the power to play.
It's like the way that one guy in an audience can get into what the band are playing and his excitement just
spreads to the people around him. We pick it up, build it up and then pass it back to the audience. We got
into it one night at a Roundhouse gig. There was some guy dancing on the stage and we found that we were
gradually able to 'play' him. The rest of the audience became caught up in the same thing and they were able
to play us."
Del painted for me a vivid picture of the excitement that Hawkwind generate. "It's like a vortex. The
audience and the band get caught up in a spiral of musical energy that just builds up and up. We're a fairly
uninhibited band anyway and we try to get the audience to feel the same."
This is perhaps the main reason why Hawkwind have remained aloof from the conventional club and concert
circuit. They place great importance upon visual and musical spontaneity. "We're not really the kind of band
that likes to spend most of its time in the studio. The live gigs are much more important. We've also found
that recording and record promotion involve a lot of hassle. We're a fairly disorganised band when it comes
to anything but playing live music. It's the way we prefer to be."
Despite Del's self-effacement, they seem to be as successful on record as on live gigs. The new album 'In
Search Of Space' is already in the charts and looks set to go higher. In these terms, the band is certainly
finding some of the 'success' that they've almost consciously sought to avoid in the last two years.
They came together after guitarist Dave Brock decided to form a band to play in the Crypt at Notting Hill.
The rest of the early band - originally called Group X and later Hawkwind Zoo were similarly part of the
'Gate scene'. "They used to busk before," said Del. "As a matter of fact, we still do sometimes." Del (VCS
3 synthesizer) and DikMik (electronics) joined later. The rest of Hawkwind is Nick Turner (sax and flute),
Dave Anderson (bass and guitars) and Terry Ollis (drums). Dave Brock and Nick Turner handle the vocals.
"Actually," Del continued, "we're all shitty musicians. We like to think of ourselves as just a bunch of
looners. We've never really got into proper musicianship. Most of our sets are more like jam sessions than
anything else. Often we play without one or two of the regular members. Instead we get someone to sit in.
It works well because we've got a lot of friends who are totally sympathetic to us and our music."
Is there any form of conscious idea or 'message' behind their music?
"Not really. If there is a message then it's 'be yourself'. We never try to change anyone. We let them come
to us. When we play it's like climbing a mountain. Suddenly you come to a ledge. You've got to have the
faith to lean back and let the wind take you over it to the top. We try to take people with us."
They've got very definite ideas on how they like to get the music across. Hawkwind are not a drinking band.
They don't like playing to audiences that have been drinking - so they prefer to play in venues that are
unlicensed. Similarly, they dislike venues where the audience is inhibited. "If people are sitting down they
tend not to let themselves go. So we ask the promoter not to put the chairs out next time we play. We don't
like the 'star' trip that a lot of musicians are on. We usually sit in the audience if there's another band
playing. Then we just clamber up on stage and start our set. What we like to do afterwards is talk to the
audience and see what ideas they've had."
At the moment Hawkwind are working on their first full-length piece of music. "You can't really say that
we're 'writing' it because most of our tunes emerge out of a jam session. We just build them up and put
The work is to be a 'space opera'. "The theme behind it is an extension of the 'Mother Earth' idea. It's just
five guys going through space in a state of suspended animation. The opera is a musical representation of
the dreams that they experience."
At the moment the idea is in its very early stages and the band have no plans for going into the studio yet.
But Del has ideas of his own. "What I'm hoping to do is to get DikMik into the studio and record an album
of electronic images. Maybe I'll release it as a bootleg of myself!" In the meantime, with the next tour
coming up, Hawkwind are getting ready to hit the road again. "We'd like to flog the vans and buy a horse
and cart. If nothing else, travelling would be a bit more relaxing."
But Hawkwind accept that they've got to do too much travelling to indulge in such 'luxury'. They work far
too hard and play too many gigs. Anyway, that's the way they like it.
|Some of the contemporary
protagonists - Dave Brock
(left), Nik Turner (right),
DikMik (below left) and
spokesman, Del Dettmar