|Dave Brock on Local Radio November 1981
In the autumn of 1969 when Flower Power and psychedelics were still forces to be reckoned with, a band
by the name of 'Group X' played a ten-minute jam session at the All Saints Hall in Notting Hill. Playing in the
band was Dave Brock, Mick Slattery, Nik Turner, Terry Ollis, DikMik and John Harrison. Their
performance attracted the attention of Clearwater Productions - as a result they called themselves Hawkwind
Zoo, recorded a demo tape and clinched a deal with Clearwater. In November of that year they shortened the
name to Hawkwind and signed a recording contract with United Artists. Dave Brock, lord and master of
Hawkwind explained what their priorities were once they were signed to UA...
DB: "Our priorities were to get some more equipment, because the gear that we had was really old and
defunct. I think Mick Slattery had a home-made speaker cabinet, like a wardrobe with big speakers in it, you
know! And so we all had clapped-out gear, and all that..."
Has your gear actually changed a lot since then? It must have got a lot more sophisticated...
DB: "I actually had...no, I'll tell you something...I've got the same speaker cabinets I've had since 1973. All
our gear got stolen at the beginning of 1973, which is a real shame as it was all painted up with psychedelic,
you know, wonderful designs all over it, and someone nicked the whole lot, amplifiers and everything. Then
we had to get some new equipment. The same speaker cabinets that I got, which were Hiwatt ones, painted
up by Barney Bubbles, who used to do all our album covers. And I've still got those, I still use those on
Well, you signed up to UA and then obviously the next step is to bring out a single or an album -or a single
*and* an album- or both. Which was your first single and album, tell us about those...
DB: "Well the first single was 'Hurry On Sundown', which...and the first album - that's with Dick Taylor,
who was with the Pretty Things. He come and helped us produce it. He actually played on a few gigs with
us, too. He was really a great help, actually, he really was, because, er, I mean, we hadn't really been in a
studio doing an album before, he helped us along."
It seems like there was almost this Space Family going on at the time, you know, people joining bands and...
DB: "Well, we did, yeah, you know like DikMik would sort of be in the band for one, I mean I never used to
turn up for gigs, it was very free. It's very difficult to explain now, I mean we used to work quite a lot...I
mean, some people wouldn't turn up for gigs, it didn't matter. It was a completely different sort of scene
than it is now, you know. I mean we were playing small clubs with, you know, sort of psychedelic light
shows, and people just come along for a loony time. I mean, I actually heard a tape of Space Ritual on the
radio, and I thought it was a mistake. Everybody used to sort of just play what they wanted, it was a very
free-range band, Hawkwind. There used to be that element of people - there would be about three people
doing a solo at the same time, it was very confusing. It sounds awful now. And I heard it on the radio and
thought it was a mistake, and it was two records of Hawkwind being played at the same time. 'Oh Christ,
did we used to do that? You know, this is awfully embarrassing.' I had to turn it off, I did think it was that
bad, you know. But it's the only reason... It was a very free band, you know, he's got to do a solo and
everybody's got to pay attention and wait for him to finish, you know. Sometimes it worked and sometimes
In June 1972 you had a number one hit with 'Silver Machine' and I know a lot of people remember that, I
certainly do. It's a great number. Tell us about that one.
DB: "Well I don't know, it's funny how it goes. It's just one of those things. It's strange how it became
successful, because it just so happened, you know. I mean, it's been re-released so many times..."
Four times now, I think...
DB: "Yeah, and it's even on 'Reader's Digest Hits Of The Seventies' now, or something...
Your third single, 'Urban Guerilla', had to be withdrawn after a week...
Why was that?
DB: "Well unfortunately at the same time it was released the IRA decided to have these bomb attacks in
London, and the record company decided it was a very poor show that we should release a single called
Urban Guerilla, 'I make bombs in my cellar, I'm a derelict dweller, I'm a potential killer', which was the first
sort of lines. And so they got cold feet over that and had to withdraw it. It went straight to number 34."
It's never been re-released - it was just shelved, was it?
DB: "Yeah, it was never re-released at all, it's become quite a collector's item in fact, people were paying sort
of thirty or forty quid for it at one point. But then we put it out on the Roadhawks album."
You've just released an album called Sonic Attack, but one of your promotional records from 1973 had the
same title. Is the music the same?
DB: "No, it's...the music's different, actually, it's basically - it's obviously the same words. There is parallels
now actually, because this band, at this very instance now, is a lot more in line with 1973...we're into a lot
more spacey sounds again, we went sort of... Well, up until 1975...the band changed drastically in 1975,
unfortunately. A period... because then we had Bob Calvert. We've had so many different people.
Everybody has their little influence, you know, I mean sometimes you take a back seat. You know what I
mean, you get lazy and all of a sudden weird things happen to you, and anyway...â€�
What has rekindled your interest in space, is it the Shuttle or what? I mean, what's going on?
DB: "Well it's always been there, actually, I mean, it's never... I read a lot of science fiction books, a lot of
things that happen...in fact it's science fiction fact, what they write about is what's really happening, you
know. Eventually things sort of catch up with what's been written."
Just watching Man's progression, it's incredible...
DB: "Yeah, it is. Seeing the Space Shuttle come down, I recorded it, I thought 'Wow, it's fantasticâ€™ you
know, and the shots... A lot of the stuff you see, especially from Jupiter and Saturn, you know, you think
they're big mock-ups, do you know what I mean?!"
But it's real!
DB : "Yeah. It's fantastic, it really is. But it's very disturbing, what else is going on, you know, spies in the
sky, what's going on up there really."
Famous science fiction writer Michael Moorcock toured with you as a poet and that's started a very long
friendship, and he's still with you...
DB: "Yeah, well he was living in Notting Hill Gate and it's a strange thing as well. I used to read all his books
you know, and I used to think 'Cor, these are really fantastic books' and I used really get into reading them
and all that. And I thought 'I'd love to meet him', you know, and of course when we used to do these gigs -
we used to do these gigs down there with the Pink Fairies, which was another very enterprising, sort of free
and easy band. We used to play gigs together and Mike Moorcock used to turn up, you know, and do the
odd poem on stage, underneath the freeway at Notting Hill Gate and all that. And, um what actually
happened... DikMik was going to India - he was always going to India, you see, I don't know if he ever got
there, half the time he never even got out of the country, you know!"
"And we had Del Dettmar come and replace DikMik - Del was our roadie, he used to play synthesizer, so he
took over from DikMik. Calvert sort of used to freak out all the time, he had to go to a sanatorium every
year, you know, because he's get so highly energetic and had so many ideas he'd crack up, he had to go, you
know, and calm down. And Mike used to come along and do the odd... No, it was just sort of very free and
easy, he never used to tour with us, he'd just turn up and sort of say 'Can I come and do a couple of
numbers', we'd say 'Yeah'..."
"We don't go round the right places, we don't get 'seen', because we don't go out...So consequently we only
have these few people, you know, like Mike and Bob, who we sort of say... I mean, Bob's supposed to be
down here today, actually, doing some stuff with us, but he's gone over the top at the moment. And that's all
ideal, really, it's got a very small circle. I'm sure we'll be very constructive and do wonderful things. You
see, the thing is, the music we're playing influenced huge amounts of people, I mean it really did influence a
lot of people. This music that we actually played... Pink Floyd are very sophisticated, but we're the working
In August 1974 Hawkwind had a very strong following and was very firmly established. That was when you
released 'Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke)' and 'Hall Of The Mountain Grill'. Tell us about those
DB: "Well...what is this...?"
Dave can't remember!
DB: "I can't remember anything to tell you about it!" (laughs) "Well, 'Hall Of The Mountain Grill', why was
it called 'Hall Of The Mountain Grill'? I'll tell you about that. Well, the Mountain Grill was a restaurant that
we used to go and eat in at Notting Hill Gate. It's still there. And lots of Hawkwind fans still go down there
to eat because they just wanted to see what the place was like. We always used to meet there, that was why
we called it that. The band used to come down there, we all used to meet at the Mountain Grill. It used to
be the pick-up point for the band. It was a working man's caff, you know. And I always used to eat in
there when I was busking. I used to busk down Portobello Road in the sixties, and all that. I always used to
eat down there, it's just sort of one of those places. And Mike's Caff, which was another place I used to
After twelve years of countless changes in the band, who's currently in it?
DB: "Well, Martin Griffin's in it..." (laughs) "...and there's me, and Harvey and Huw, and that's it. It's a four-
piece at the moment."
Do you find it's much tighter?
DB: "Well it *will* be. Not at the moment it isn't - it's a bit sloppy at the moment, because this band as it is,
it's only been playing together for... We actually took it upon ourselves to do Glastonbury Fayre, we played
to 15,000 people, and we topped the bill there as well. And we didn't have a band, we actually got Martin to
play and rehearse in this very studio here, for one day before we undertook to do a big festival, which we...
most bands don't do this..."
"The actual album was recorded under great stress and strain, believe it or not, because Martin had got
German Measles as we... You know, it was like we were doomed, because we'd got the studio booked, we
had to go in and do an album. And we'd come in here to do it, and he got German Measles and had to go
away for a month, in quarantine. And so, we didn't know what we were going to do, it was awful, we were
under intense pressure if you know what I mean, because we had to impress everybody with how good we
were and how clever, you know. Like, you know, it really did affect us, I mean it was awful - Iâ€™m not
kidding you, we all started sort of bickering, you know, behaving like this..."
"And uh, what we actually did was record another album which is called Church Of Hawkwind, some of
which we're doing now. And so lot of the tracks on here were recorded without a drummer and the
drummer had to put it on afterwards. It come together under a lot of strain and stress. I think the next
album probably will be a lot better because we've got an actual band, as it were, together. And like, we do
get on quite well, you know. Mind you we've only been together for about six months, but we do know
So the album you've been working on is called the Church Of Hawkwind...
Why the 'Church Of Hawkwind'?
DB: "The reason for that is because there's quite a few cults in America who regard a lot of the things that
we do as very wise words of wisdom, a lot of the words of the songs they regard as having hidden
meanings, have key words hidden in amongst them, you see. If you put all these words together they come
up with one of the unwritten languages that have been lost to Man..." (laughs) "...which gives you power to
get yourself out of this world and into another dimension."
And they take this very seriously?
DB: "They take this very very seriously indeed, yeah. I got a book sent to me, which was handwritten, took
a lot of time to do, which was what it all stated. It was all carefully written out. And I thought, well, what
we should try and do is get this Church Of Hawkwind thing into some sort of perspective relating to all that.
What it is, it's a story about a guy who travels the universe, who gets sort of adulation wherever he goes, but
he doesn't want it, you know, he's just sort of a normal man. Whatever he's said, he becomes a sort of God
figure , when he didn't want to be. He's just a wise man. But everybody wants someone to worship, you
know, wherever you go in this world they always want someone to worship, and it's dead easy, if you really
want, to play upon people's emotions and make them worship you, you know."
But you're not capitalising on this, are you?
DB: "Not capitalising on it, no."
You just want to give it another dimension, I suppose...
DB: "We're just giving another dimension to Hawkwind, it's many-faceted, you know, it really is.â€�
|Above: The Captain, June 1982 (about six months after the time of this interview.)
This interview dates from November 1981 and features Dave Brock talking to Leon Fourie...whose shows
were syndicated across various local radio stations: which one(s) this aired on, I don't know. As originally
broadcast it lasted for 9 minutes and 30 seconds.
Thanks to Dave Law for the interview tape!