|Dave Brock Interview, 1998
This interview appeared in issue 27 of Ptolemaic Terrascope, published in Summer 1999. It was
conducted by Dave Sheppard in the summer of 1998. This interview appears by kind permission of
the folks at the Ptolemaic Terrscope, so please support their excellent publication by at least visiting
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About the Ptolemaic Terrascope
Deepest Devon, Summer 1998
PT: You were born in Isleworth, West London and started playing the banjo in Jazz bands. Unearth your
DB: Where shall I start? My uncle Maurice gave me a banjo when I was about thirteen. I couldn't play it
properly, of course, but I used to plonk about on it and then my parents bought me a guitar when I was
fourteen. I used to like jazz - it was quite popular in the '50s. From then on I learned to play the banjo and
started playing with some friends and we got together our own New Orleans Jazz band. I preferred New
Orleans jazz as it was a lot pokier and more powerful than Dixieland.
PT: Do you come from a musical family?
DB: Well Uncle Maurice was musical, he used to be the choir master at Newport Pagnell? Stony Stratford?
No it wasn't...[deep thought]... New Bradwell, near Wolverton in Buckinghamshire. I'm just getting my
brain working this morning. But we used to have our little band and would play a few clubs for nothing and
nothing fantastic ever came of it [laughs]. That was the Gravnier Street Jazz Band.
<<That band was actually called the Gravnier Street Stompers>>
cold. Eventually we got a flat there and played with a wonderful piano player called Rob Hooker and a
Dutch player called Boy Van Delden. We played at the Harlem Blues Festival, which I have a LP of which is
a bit scratchy! I then lived in Putney where Bob Kerr had a music shop at the end of the street - Gwalior
Road, Putney. I was busking in London and decided to get a band together. Bob kindly let us his basement,
which was a very small room where we rehearsed with Mick Slattery, and occasionally in my back room
which annoyed all the neighbours - the whole street used to hear us playing!
PT: By then it was what, 1966?
DB: The late 60's, 1966 or '67. I frequented Middle Earth, a psychedelic club. We used to have Arthur
Brown and various playing there which was very good. I think we played as "the Famous Cure" in some of
these clubs, I vaguely remember we had our own band playing psychedelia. I toured Holland in 1967 with a
circus, a rock and roll circus called Tent 67. We were the B-band or warm-up band before they had the
famous Dutch bands playing. One night, or maybe we didn't...[long pause]...not every night. We used to
stay in one place 2-3 days and then take the tent down and move on to the next place. It was a long time
PT: Where were you living at the time?
DB: I lived near Ladbroke Grove, West London, in various places around there. It was the era of
psychedelia, loads of people smoking dope, taking LSD, loads of parties, lots of psychedelic music
everywhere, clubs, strobes in all the clubs. Luke, a harmonica player, Francis and me got invited to Marc
Bolan's party, well, not invited - we gatecrashed really [laughs]. Luke was a wonderful harmonica player,
played like Sonny Boy Williamson, and I played guitar. We were at the party and heard Marc Bolan clanking
around on his guitar. Luke said to Marc [thick Geordie accent] "Ee mon, give im yer geetar!" So I had this
guitar and played some blues and of course Marc Bolan didn't like that 'cos we were good [laughs]. We were
asked to leave. Consequently that's why I didn't turn up on his TV show in Manchester that time - I carried
resentment for many a year! I gave the excuse my car broke down! I didn't fancy travelling all that way just
to mime the show for our latest single 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm' anyway.
PT: What do you remember of Hawkwind's first album?
DB: It was recorded at Trident Studios, just off Wardour Street. Dick Taylor was asked to come and
produce it. He was like the caretaker to keep us in order and used to play in the Pretty Things. A wonderful
musician and a nice man too, a great character. Yeah, he played twelve string on it.
PT: Hawkwind were the first band to headline on their first tour of America, what springs to mind?
DB: We were lucky boys, we had records in the charts and everything was jolly wonderful. We flew
everywhere, so we lived a luxurious lifestyle, we were always having parties. I remember in Detroit we were
in the same hotel as the Eagles, Man and who else..? I can't remember but it was a famous band. Total
lunacy. There were loads of girls running around all over the place, those were the days when groupies used
to run around. Oh yes, and the Timothy Leary benefit gig. We got met at San Francisco airport by Joanna
Leary in a cavalcade of 1950s or 40s cars, it looked like a cavalcade of old gangster cars, these big old Buick
saloons. It looked fantastic. They asked us who could do this gig and make a phone call to Leary, who in
fact could make phone calls out, and connect the telephone to the PA so it could be broadcast to the
audience. OK. We did the gig and halfway through said we would make contact with Leary and we got into
big trouble with the police 'cos they found out about it. There were bad scenes and we were naughty boys
for allowing it to happen which added to our reputation of course. So there you go, that was the Leary
benefit gig. We were well received in the States, it was good fun and I've still got a lot of friends there from
PT: How did the Strange Daze festival, the first space rock festival, go in America? Wasn't Lemmy
supposed to play with you?
DB: Well, he wasn't in the line up. He said he had flu [laughs] at the time. It cost too much money cos
Lemmy wanted to fly from L.A. to Cleveland and then be picked up by limousine to be taken to this camp-
ground where we were. When we checked out the cost it would have been about Â£800-Â£900 just for his
air fares. We weren't getting nothing so it was totally out of the question. Maybe next year, I mean the
people that run the Space Rock festival are fantastic characters, they've been Hawkwind fans for years and
years back to the early days when we used to tour. You've got to give respect to these people. The festival
went well, it was all videoed with a knockout light show. It was on for three days and we were there for 2
days. It was in a wonderful area, you would have loved it; beautiful spot. People all had their luxury campers
parked up in a long line [laughs] not far from the stage. We didn't make any money, Jim the guy who ran it
lost about Â£2000. It was quite well attended but with a lot of bands there the overheads were large. But it
was a wonderful show and everyone who was there had a really good time. Anyone who missed out should
try to get there.
PT: How did the Live in Chicago 1974 CD come about?
DB: Well I dunno, EMI found the tapes I think. They had the tapes stashed away for many a year. Nigel
Reeves is responsible for it all. He's the guy who has packaged all the new stuff that has come out on EMI,
so all the credit must go to Nigel. We mixed it in 3 weeks I think, I enjoyed it but some of it was horrendous
because it does meander about a bit. But overall we sung alright, it was exciting. Obviously, you've got to
imagine we had a wonderful light-show going on when you listen this double CD. A beautiful stage show,
dancing around with a lot of action on stage. The band were full of real over the top characters so it was
very visual and it's hard to understand the band going off onto one and wondering why all the cheering's
going on. It was the terrific light-show.
PT: The band are famous for their charity gigs.
DB: We done all the Stonehenge things, and had problems with the police- I used to get my phone tapped. In
the early days we had the bomb squad, not the bomb squad, it was MI5 actually believe it or not, raiding us
cos we were working with the White Panthers who used to put out all this risque literature about how to
stop the cities, cause punctures, power failures and generally cause confusion. OK we did benefit gigs for
them. Also the underground papers, we made money for that, and also Princess Margaret's wheelchair
benefit with the Hells Angels [laughs] doing the security there. We've done so many things there is so much
to go into.
PT: What music have you guested on?
DB: Well, I did the Starfighters, I wrote most of that with Bob Calvert. The annoying thing about it was that
Calvert and me had this huge argument. We had written so much stuff together and we had this row, as you
listen to the Starfighters you find most of the guitar stuff was Paul Rudolph and me! Anyway I won't go into
that... It was jolly fun, the major thing was doing a track with Arthur Brown. I've always admired Arthur
PT: Has recording and touring with Hawkwind affected you?
DB: Yeah, it has caused a lot of problems in my life unfortunately. If you dedicate yourself to doing
something for a long period of time you suffer, there are penalties for it. There are consequences for your
actions, it has caused me lots of problems with family and friends, 'cos you know lots of people get very
jealous with what you do for a living. It's hard work, it's not easy.
PT: What do you do outside of music?
DB: Well, I live on a farm so there's plenty of work all the time. I've always got something to do. I've got a
train set! A friend of mine, Steve Smith, usually comes round and plays with it [laughs]. My hobbies are
my music in a way, I'm lucky to do what I do.
PT: What's in the pipeline musically?
DB: Unfortunately as we couldn't do the tour of Australia as it would have cost Â£6500 to get over there.
I'm doing solo stuff as well. We are hoping to update Mission Control on the Internet, everything takes time.
There wasn't an autumn 1998 tour but in 1999 we will be touring with a show based on the Ledge of
Darkness book which is going to be fantastic, with ex members of Hawkwind joining us on stage.
PT: Why did you cease playing the good old Hammersmith Odeon?
DB: I dunno, I suppose the people who run it want a lot of money for the hire of the place. I am sure we
will do Brixton again.
PT: Have the band's legal problems ceased?
DB: Well, Doug Smith has got Chumbawumba of course so we've become the little fish now. We've been
discarded to a certain extent which is most unfortunate really. Perhaps Douglas will remember us soon, he
did earn a lot of money out of us.
PT: Any message for the fans out there?
DB: Yeah, the band are always changing and we are trying to get more things together musically. We are
still trying to keep the Hawkwind style of course, which is our niche, space rock music is our niche. Come
and see us, *we need you*! If it wasn't for people listening to us and buying our music then we would not
be doing what we are doing.
PT: Did it lead to anything though?
DB: Well, I used to play in a club in Twickenham called
Eel Pie Island, which was a very famous jazz club, quite
a big place. I played in the interval with a friend of
piano player called Mike King. Mike was, probably still
is, a wonderful piano player who'd learned his stuff from
Pete Johnson, a famous boogie piano player, in Canada
for a few years, so he had this fantastic style. In the
course of the intervals, initially jazz then blues, we played
with Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Sonny Boy
Williamson and other famous blues characters.
PT: You lived in Amsterdam at one time...
DB: I lived in Amsterdam for a while and busked on the
streets there. I went there with my friend Pete Judd who
had an old Mercedes car. We used to sleep one in the
back, the other in the front - very uncomfortable and jolly
|Left: issue 27.
The CD on
the front did