|Dinner with Dave: Hawkwind's legacy is alive, and very well
This interview, conducted in the autumn of 1994, was published in a Boston-area fanzine called Progression
in June 1995. The photo below is another one from the soundcheck before the Toronto gig on 04/04/95
For the better part of two weeks, Progression doggedly tracked Hawkwind across the United States by
telephone, in the process becoming a bona fide pest to Griffin Music publicist Gina Warren while setting
new standards for perseverance in prog-rock journalism. This dubious odyssey began when the legendary
progressive space-rock band canceled its Boston-area gig at the Middle East Cafe in Cambridge, Mass.,
for unexplained reasons. An in-person chat was out of the question, so a phoner would have to suffice. If
the band would only cooperate, that is.
Warren, a very nice lady, was caught in the middle. She shared the same frustrations from her office in
suburban Chicago as the Hawkwinders proved more slippery than greased pigs, breaking phone date after
phone date. "They've even changed hotels without telling me!" she lamented at one point. It got to where
this editor wondered if the band actually was publicity shy, just totally disorganized, or simply oblivious.
Yet lo and behold, the fateful connection finally came. It was zero hour, to be exact, just after soundcheck
before the band's last show at a place called Slim's in San Francisco. Bandleader Dave Brock was
summoned to the line. The intent on this end was to pry answers to 21 questions from Mr. Brock, an
exercise that would have lasted at least 45 minutes if he was amenable.
Of course, there was so much to learn. Hawkwind has enjoyed a resurgence of late, sparked by the
burgeoning progressive-psychedelic scene in England led by the likes of Ozric Tentacles, Moondragon and
Soma, in Sweden by Darxtar, and here in America by groups such as Architectural Metaphor and Melting
Euphoria. The legendary band also received a major-league boost from its new home, Griffin Music,
which has reissued many Hawkwind classics along with newer material.
It only stood to reason that Brock and company would be positively anxious to capitalize on this new-
found fortune after 25 years of achieving little more than cult status this side of the Atlantic. This only
made the band's inaccessibility that much harder to fathom. So the interview proceeded, albeit a bit
perfunctorily. Our otherwise cordial visit spanned a mere 20 minutes because, you see, Mr. Brock's
attention was somewhat diverted by thoughts of - dinner!
Progression: Greetings! It's nice to finally catch up with you after trying to make connections the past
Brock: "Right. Well, you know how it goes. Things have been hectic all the way through. But say, I'm not
sure how much time we have here, because we should be eating sometime soon..."
Progression: All right. Let's get to it. So Dave, why is it that Hawkwind has never risen above cult status
in the United States when it enjoys such great popularity in England and abroad?
Brock: "Very unfortunately, in two words. That all comes down to the media, I suppose. We happily play
away, doing what we always do. We just seem to barely get by here. The problem is, every time we come
over here we seem to lose money. When we came over three years ago, we lost Â£32,000. Hopefully,
what we try to do is sell records and make some money out of that. This tour, we're losing about $10,000.
"There are a lot of hardcore fans here. It's a pleasure, in a way, to play for them. But for example, we
played at Madison (Wis.), which is a large venue and unfortunately only about 80 people turned up there.
For a university town, I couldn't believe it. Yet for the people who turned out, it was like a party. It was a
real one-off gig, if you know what I mean. Problem was, somebody wasn't getting the word out."
Progression: So has it really been worthwhile for you to come over for just three weeks?
Brock: "Well, we played 15 or 16 shows. It is worth it. It's just that we've been traveling stupid distances.
We drove all the way from New Haven (Conn.) to Atlanta to play just one gig. It's a wonderful venue.
You just think we could have played three or four other towns on the way down.
"In all, we did 2,000 miles of traveling to play Atlanta, and it seemed like a waste of money. It's not us, itâ
€™s the agent. It's difficult to find venues, and obviously not a lot of people have heard of us. We've
already got cult status over here. If we could just reach people... I've often felt it would be fun and good
for us to play some free shows like the Grateful Dead, like we used to back in the band's early days (with
the British free festival scene at locales like Stonehenge). We could get through to a lot of people that way.
A couple thousand people would hear us and say, 'Yeah, that's cool stuff! Kind of spacey! These guys
Progression: Why did you cancel the Boston show? You guys have a lot of fans in this area.
Brock: "I don't really know. It might not have worked out for us logistically. Things like touring in foreign
lands can get to the point where you're paying to play, which is wrong. Unfortunately, musicians are the
last to get paid. We don't actually get loads of money from record royalties. We have expensive
equipment. The (tour) agent and management take their percentages out. You pay for the truck, the light
show and the crew. What's left over is pickings for the band. But I don't want to make this seem like
drudgery. We love coming to America, because it's a fantastic country for scenery. And we have a lot of
friends over here."
Progression: It seems that almost every record label has a Hawkwind title in its catalog - Griffin,
Cleopatra, One Way, etc. How did this come about? Is it of any concern to you?
Brock: "Ah, Cleopatra - another company that doesn't pay us any money. Now Griffin is a really good
company. Rob Godwin, an executive with Griffin, led the charge for us because he likes our music so
much. He told us he wanted to do it because a lot of our stuff just hasn't been available here for some
time. He's got (science fiction author and Hawkwind collaborator) Michael Moorcock's new book and
record out as a boxed set. And with our releases, he's achieved some wonderful packaging with books,
"A lot of these other labels do deals with each other and we're completely unawares. We don't get copies
of these things, so I don't even know what's out there. They reissue it all with a different cover and it's
completely out of our hands. I can't say we've had much control over the licensing of these albums, since
once you sign with a record label, you virtually sign it away for perpetuity. Cleopatra, for instance, have
managed somehow to get a lot of our earlier stuff, from roughly 1970-75. Our percentage (of CD sales) is
about 2 cents a copy, which is a disgrace. So consequently, we don't get paid for anything. We're in the
process of suing EMI, which has six of our albums, because they haven't paid us any royalties for 10
years. I believe Cleopatra leased some of our titles from EMI."
Progression: On to happier things, Could you share some observations on the current revival of heavy
psychedelic space rock, such as what is being done by Ozric Tentacles?
Brock: "I couldn't really tell you much as far as what kind of 'scene' is happening with this style of music.
I know of the Ozrics, and quite a few bands in England that we influence quite a lot. Even over here, there
are a few I've heard of... That would be very nice for all of us if there was a revival going on. Ozrics, of
course, are friends of ours. I like listening to them. I've got most of their records at home."
Progression: I interviewed (former Hawkwind member) Nik Turner several months ago when his band
passed through town as Nik Turner's Hawkwind. He told me he is carrying on the essential spirit of
Hawkwind, while you are doing the commercial version. How would you like to respond to that?
Brock: "What he actually was doing was saying he is Hawkwind and we were his backing band! I've seen
his posters and stuff people sent to us from his tour - 'Nik Turner with Hawkwind.' He did a lot of
damage with that tour, because a lot of people thought it was us with Nik Turner, even though he hasn't
played with us since 1982 or '83.
"He should have stuck with his own band, Inner City Unit. A lot of fans were pissed off, because they
thought it was us. We even had clubs turn us down, saying they had booked us already. We were coming
(to the States) in November, hut Nik toured in September. It's difficult when you travel the same circuit,
and promoters don't even know who the real Hawkwind is."
"Yeah, he did a lot of damage to us. We still do loads of benefits and free gigs in England. In England's
he's a lost cause. In England, he plays in bars of about 40 people. I haven't seen him for a long time. It's a
shame, really. He was sacked from his own band, believe it or not. I've known him for a long time, and
his ego gets the best of him now and then. He is a crazy character."
Progression: Have you sued to prevent him from using the Hawkwind name?
Brock: "He can't do it any more. The record label has trademarked the name now."
Progression: Do you ever speak with Nik? Has there been any discussion of him rejoining the group?
Brock: "Unfortunately, he's blown it. It's a shame, really, because we were thinking about getting a few
old members back this year and having a big party, it being the 25th anniversary and all. But then we said,
what's the use?"
Progression: Who is with Hawkwind now, besides yourself on guitar and vocals?
Brock: "Well, we've got Alan Davey on bass, keyboards and vocals, who's been with the band 11 years.
Richard Chadwick, on drums, has been with the band eight years. Plus we've got Ron Tree, our vocalist.
We usually have Simon House on electric violin, but he didn't come over with us for this tour. He's got
Progression: What has enabled Hawkwind to survive all these years?
Brock: "1 don't know, really. I guess as long as you enjoy what you're doing and keep changing, you've
got a shot. You have to be a bit revolutionary, in a way. You build things up and tear them down again.
Our shows in England are a lot different than what you've seen here. We have mime artists and fire-eaters
and a much larger light show. It's sort of a multi-media event. What I'd love to do is get in touch with
people over here that do those same sorts of things and travel around doing the same sorts of shows. In a
nutshell, we continue to change and make things a bit more interesting as we go along, if we can."
Progression: Who are your fans in the United States? Are they the same people who followed you in the
70s, or are there some new, younger people in the crowds?
Brock: "It's quite a variety. We still have a quite young audience as well. I guess they discover us by
1istening to records and different radio stations that play our kind of music. I know that in England, we
influence lots of ambient bands. Over there, a lot of bands sample us and do different versions of our
songs. We reach a much younger audience overall in England than we do here. Here, we probably should
be playing more colleges and universities. That way, we'd probably get through to a lot more people."
Progression: What drives your music? Is the band consciously rooted in science fiction, from a conceptual
Brock: "Well as you know, science fiction usually becomes science fact. We still like watching Star Trek:
The Next Generation. We're all travellers of space. We'd all love to launch out into the universe and see
what's out there. Yet Hawkwind is about both inner and outer universes."
Progression: How much of that is inspired by experimentation with psychedelic drugs?
Brock: "Well, in the early days we used to take LSD and experiment with that, and magic mushrooms. As
you get older in life you find out you shouldn't abuse those things, really. You don't need to smoke loads
of dope all the time to be creative."
Progression: How has life on your Devon farm contributed to Hawkwind's sound?
Brock: "It just provides a different situation, all of us having roots in the city. We rehearse in what used to
be an old milking shed. It's very quiet and peaceful..."
Progression: Your last studio album, It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous, has a neat
ambient feel - much more interesting than Pink Floyd's The Division Bell, for instance. Do you plan to
retain a less frenetic approach musically in future studio projects?
Brock: "Well, we change all the time, so who knows? With that album, we were sort of mucking around,
just letting the tape run and playing. We play that sort of stuff when we're just mucking around. In the
country, you naturally feel more laidback. I'd be afraid that playing (ambient music) all the time would
bore people. We have our basic niche... You know, I really should be going. They're calling me to eat."
Progression: OK, just a couple more quick questions. What's your favourite Hawkwind album?
Brock: "Probably the first one." (Hawkwind, United Artists, 1971)
Progression: I've heard rumours that this is your final American tour. Is that true...?
Brock: "I sincerely hope not. I'd like to come over here and play many a year. We have a lot of good
friends here, some of whom have travelled thousands of miles to see us. If we could rent our own
equipment, that would solve a lot of problems. Anyway, I've got to go now. You know, if you don't grab
dinner when it's available sometimes you miss out."
Progressions: OK. Chow down. And thanks for your time.
Brock: "It's been a pleasure."