|Return Of The Space Cowboys
This interview is from issue 7 of Classic Rock and dates from Autumn 1999
Nik Turner: If the 'Silver Machine' remix by Jim Cauty from the KLF does well, there's a move afoot to
reform the 1974 line-up - minus Simon King, who doesn't play any more - to do concerts. As well as the
back catalogue, EMI might be interested in a new album from the band. With a modern producer and a
state-of-the-art studio at our disposal, we could produce the albums people have been waiting a long time
for. The band would be myself, Dave, Lemmy, Simon House and probably Del Dettmar. Alan Powell or
Terry Ollis would play drums, as Simon King doesn't want to participate - he's an antique dealer now, like
Your back catalogue has been plundered by innumerable labels over the years. How do you feel about it,
and do you make money from these reissues?
DB: It pisses us off, because we have to sue a lot of these companies to get money off them. I never
even get a copy for myself, fans usually tell us by e-mail. We make money, but not that much. If we
were making proper money we wouldn't be scrabbling round like we do; I have to finance this band, and
I'm hard-pressed sometimes. Our drummer Richard Chadwick lives in a council house!
We've never been recognised by the industry itself - I'm not complaining but after all these years and
millions of records I've got only one Gold disc, for 'Space Ritual'. Over the years we've been conned
something awful, one of the many bands who've been diddled by major companies who think give 'em a
few years and they'll disappear. But we're still here!
What exactly does it take to constitute Hawkwind - Dave Brock plus sundry others?
DB: I should imagine so, because I founded it!
NT: Hawkwind is greater than the sum of its parts and although Dave has been trying to keep the name
alive he's rather been trading on the mythology and reputation created in the 1970s by quite a lot of people
that now, unfortunately, don't want to have much to do with the band. I was going to go out in America
backed by Helios Creed and Pressurehed as Nik Turner's Hawkwind, but I was legally forbidden to use
the name by Dave, which I thought was a bit mean - I had as much right to use the name as anybody. I
changed it to Nik Turner's Space Ritual.
By re-forming the original Hawkwind, might the Kiss problem arise that current members get shunted off
to the sidelines with bruised egos?
DB: There's no problem with the band we've got now. Ron's a good bass player, but he also plays EMS
synth and 'death generator' so he can do that while Lemmy plays bass. Nik played with us a couple of
years ago in America in a Space Rock festival in Cleveland: our first time since 1984. I told the boys
what he's like, he never stops. But he'd injured himself and was in a chair so he couldn't move very fast!
How has Hawkwind managed to stay the course for three decades?
DB: Because it's fun - I wouldn't continue if it was a pain in the arse. People say you've got a career, but
I've always regarded music as good fun. I've enjoyed it, despite the hard going, trials and tribulations.
NT: Hawkwind was always more than just a band. There was a lot of love put into it by creative people
like Barney Bubbles, Michael Moorcock and Robert Calvert, Jonathan Smeeton [aka Liquid Len] who was
doing the lights. All those people around the band were doing things for it because they believed in it, and
it was more like a concept than just another band.
That's what the Hawkwind of today has lost, credibility at that level. The 'Greasy Truckers Party' at the
Roundhouse in '72 was a good example of what Hawkwind was about; we organised a benefit gig with all
the current Ladbroke Grove bands and friends like Man, and that was recorded. The single 'Silver
Machine' is a recording from that gig with a different vocal put on it by Lemmy. Robert Calvert was
supposed to do it, but he was ill.
We did all sorts of wacky things like playing inside Pentonville and Chelmsford Prisons, a CND protest
gig outside Wormwood Scrubs, all sorts of very social, powerful things. The band was more than just a
fucking pop act, but a powerful political force. Many bands today have their heads stuck up their arses
in terms of political power. They could do a lot, but don't.
Are Hawkwind still - or have they ever been - relevant to rock as a whole?
NT: If you're relevant to the fans that's what matters. The whole thing is a vibe, it's very accessible
music - more like a spirit that pervades the whole thing.
DB: I couldn't care less. When you start performing and jumping around because people expect you to
-or management tells you to- you're lost.
How important are the fans in the Hawkwind story? Your rapport with them is legendary.
DB: You need the fans' support or you go nowhere. If a band's been around for a long time with lots of
different people it's the same sort of thing. I find great parallels. They send me Minidiscs of their own
compilations with artwork they've designed themselves.
NT: I did a concert a couple of years ago in America which was organised by the fans when I announced
to them that *they* were Hawkwind.
What influenced you to plot your Space rock course - and how do you define it?
DB: Space rock is a certain niche - Kraftwerk, Can and Neu, the music that came out of Germany in the
early 1970s, the repetitious chords people used to play with electronic music. It was the beginning of
dance music, in a way.
So have Hawkwind had an influence on today's scene?
DB: We've got a load of young DJs doing an album of remixes, which is their interpretation of the music.
It's like poetry, pronouncing the words differently. Music has always got to be ongoing.
NT: My girlfriend's organising Afro-Celtic events in West Wales, and we had some African musicians
staying here. One asked what I did, and I said I used to play sax in a band you'll never have heard of
called Hawkwind'. "Fuckin' 'ell, mate", he said, "I grew up on that!"
The Space Ritual tour in 1973 had seven musicians, three dancers and a big light show. You couldn't
afford to do that now, surely?
DB: Yes, we're still doing festivals similar to that, with dancers, fire-eaters, belly dancers - though
unfortunately our light show with projectors, screens and mirrors got sold off in '96 by a 'friend' of ours!
Would more hit singles after 1972's 'Silver Machine' have changed things?
DB: Unfortunately, 'Urban Guerrilla' came out as the follow-up and went into the charts the same time the
IRA did a bomb attack and the record label withdrew it from sale. If that had got to Number One, who
knows what would have happened? We might even have gone on Top Of The Pops. We wouldn't do it
at the time, but over the years they've pinched all our lighting effects! Maybe that's where the missing
gear ended up...
NT: After 'Urban Guerrilla' my flat got turned over by the bomb squad, who tore the floorboards up! I
had some Hells Angels staying with me who'd been with guys whose fingerprints matched ones on a gun
that had been used to shoot an FBI agent... You find yourself in really weird situations.
Unfortunately, we didn't have a commercial awareness. 'Urban Guerrilla' not getting off the ground didn't
help, while other singles weren't good choices. When we put 'Silver Machine' out I had no expectation
that it was going to be successful. I had no ambition for success except thinking it was really wonderful
to play music that people enjoyed and were turned on by. I still feel that, which is perhaps a very naive
attitude - but not so warped as some...
When did the gravy train hit the buffers, and why?
DB: The band of the 1970s went off to America, lived the high life and people did get very egotistical. It
became a bit like backstabbing, sackings and cliques within the band. It went down the drain when
Lemmy got the sack in 1975. It was Nik who, in a way, instigated all that, but it caused bitterness and
Nik got sacked as well a year later when there was another coup. They'd decided to sack me because
'my heart wasn't in it'. I went up to London, there was a big freakout and we went off as the
Hawklords... it was like being captain of a pirate ship! Then Simon House joined us and we were
NT: Success didn't help the band: direction and principles went by the by, and the goodness of the band -
doing benefits and playing inside prisons - all degenerated. It was a divorce from the principles and ideals
Hawkwind once had. Suddenly we had minders so people couldn't get to us.
Lemmy's sacking, though a sad thing, was one of the only group decisions the band ever made. We'd
had enough. Everybody took different drugs, but there was an incompatibility and Lemmy was quite
hard to work with. He was in a different time zone; he'd stay up for a week and then sleep for a week!
Finding the money for lawyers and bail [after his drug bust at Canadian customs] and flying another bass
player out from Britain was the last straw, but nobody wanted to tell him. I volunteered to do it and ever
since have been known as 'the man who sacked Lemmy'! He's a good friend of mine now, and says it
was the biggest favour I ever did him.
Did your reputation as a drugs band precede you, as on that occasion?
DB: Yes, we have -I've had- a lot of problems getting in and out of America, but they're all so paranoid
anyway. Too much television, too much greed - they're the great corrupter of the world.
NT: We were always being stopped and roadblocked. Maybe the reputation was justified on some levels;
the company we kept was indicative of the reputation we helped foster.
What was it like having the legendary Ginger Baker in the band in 1980?
DB: When he first came and played we were all in awe because he was a wonderful drummer. You build
people up as monsters but he was all right. He had a problem with alcohol and drugs but he was a
character, a great drummer. We'll be touring the States this autumn along with a band that features his
son and Jack Bruce's son!
I heard that Ginger tried to get Jack into Hawkwind, which is why he departed.
DB: I stick with the old boys and Harvey Bainbridge who was on bass was a mate, I couldn't kick him
out. Then Ginger went off with the keyboard player Keith Hale and toured Italy as Hawkwind! But it
was no big deal.
Back in 1969, when you first got together as a band, we all thought that music could change the world.
Do you still believe that?
DB: It has changed the world, a lot. Music has brought about the defeat of colour prejudice through
black music's influence in blues, reggae, whatever, which is fantastic.
NT: I believe that music is a great healing force, and it's a means of transmitting love. It depends what
your intention is when you play it.
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if Lemmy had stayed?
DB: You can never say. It could have changed my life - I could have turned into a monster!
NT: I don't think that band reached its full potential. After 'Silver Machine', we went downhill; money
was the root of all evil and misguided our route. I got the sack in 1976 and 1984, and getting the sack
-twice- from a band that was supposed to be a communal project is the antithesis of what Hawkwind
should be about. The band had lost its way and I was quite glad to leave.
Many of our readers will want to know whatever happened to other past Hawkwinders, and most of the
male ones will have a keen interest in your 'clothes-free' dancer Stacia?
DB: These days I only tend to keep in touch with people like Simon House, Nik and Lemmy of the old
boys. The rest of them don't play any more. Simon's son Thor does a lot of dance music.
NT: When I was touring Germany I phoned Stacia's number where she was living with Roy Dyke [of
Ashton Gardner and Dyke fame] who she'd married. He thought she might have been living in Ireland,
but someone recently told me she's living in Liverpool.
Thirty years on from their Ladbroke
Grove beginnings (as Group X), it's all
happening again for Hawkwind.
Founder members Dave Brock,
guitarist, vocalist and ever-present - and
extrovert saxophonist Nik Turner
compare notes on the past and future of
this classic 1970's 'head' band.
Joint roller: Michael Heatley.
What are your opinions of the current Hawkwind
renaissance, with the 'Silver Machine' single
reissued, two EMI compilations of classic 1970s
material and a mooted series of gigs with the
re-formed 'Space Ritual' band?
Dave Brock: It's jolly handy for us. The remix is
all right if you like that kind of thing, but EMI
getting involved is useful because people don't
realise we're still going. We play at festivals, go to
the States and play there - but because we don't
have a publicist no-one knows.
|Does anyone wonder if Dave & Nik were interviewed separately?!
The article also carried a separate piece featuring Huw Lloyd-Langton:
Hawk Talk - with original member Huw Lloyd-Langton
Huw Lloyd-Langton became a founder member of Hawkwind in 1969 after coming across Dave Brock
busking on London's Tottenham Court Road.
"We never wanted to be pop stars - this was an honest band that went out and played, because that's
what we loved," he recalls. But changing the world was far from his mind.
"I was 17, and wasn't concerned with the state of the planet." Ironically, his wife Marian is a charity
fundraiser and, in August 1997, Huw and Hawkwind joined forces for a one-off gig in Blackheath that
raised Â£8,500 for the homeless.
Lloyd-Langton played on the first Hawkwind album, and still revisits 'Hurry On Sundown' from it at
acoustic gigs. Leaving on health grounds in 1971, he admits to having been "slightly worried" when
asked to rejoin in '79.
"I'd been playing with Simon King in a three-piece called Circumstance, and Dave [Brock] invited us both
back. Having been through the drug thing I didn't want to do that again, but everyone was different, on
the ball; it was totally enjoyable."
His second stint lasted rather longer than the first - ten years, including such well-regarded albums as
'Levitation', 'Choose Your Masques' and 'The Xenon Codex'.
"But people in the band came and went far too often, and that's what upset me eventually."
Should the Hawkwind name have been retired by now?
"Good grief, you've got to be joking! They're going to be out there batting away, God willing, until Dave
decides he doesn't want to do it any more. But what else is he gonna do?"
As for a third spell, "all the bad water's gone under the bridge, so it depends if they ring me up," he says.
While he awaits the call, Huw has an album, 'On The Move', recorded in Sweden last year, due for
release here by Voiceprint; a brand-new recording is also in the can.