Elric'N'Roll

This interview by Neil Perry appeared in Sounds on 4th January 1986
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"Dave, there's a bloke out the front who says he
went to every gig from '71 to '77, and can you
put him on the guest list?"

Dave Brock looks up from his tea and raises his
eyes in exasperation.  "God ... I mean how, just
how, do they expect me to remember?"

Hawkwind are touring again.  With their first LP
proper for three years, 'The Chronicle Of The
Black Sword', kicking around the indie charts
and with shows sold out, Dave is relatively
pleased.
He needn't worry: there is always a Hawkwind
audience.

'The Chronicle Of The Black Sword', and hence
the shows, is based on the six Elric books by
fantasy author Michael Moorcock.  The writer
joined the band on stage at Hammersmith to link
up the songs with excerpts from the stories, and
later showered the crowd with copies of his
books.
During the back-stage chaos that precedes Hawkwind's Walthamstow gig, Dave Brock finds time for a
brief chat. What does Mr Moorcock make of his first major foray into the world of rock and roll?

"Dunno, he didn't seem particularly bothered by it, ha! I asked him if we could do it, and he gave us the
six books. He just said, Go ahead, do what you want. I don't even know if he's got a copy of the
f***in' album yet!"

Six months ago I watched Hawkwind play for an hour and a half on top of White Horse Hill in
Westbury. There was no PA, most of the lighting came from car headlights, and the tarpaulin above
them threatened to release gallons of rain water any second.  For the battered peace convoy and the
bedraggled festival folk, the gig made the difference between victory and defeat.

"We like playing there, that's all.  There's very few name bands who will do free gigs nowadays. They
should pay their dues, really.

"If certain members of the band don't feel like doing it, they don't have to, there's no f***in' obligation
to do it. I'm glad we did it at Westbury...that moment was really quite something.  It was a real task,
but to plough through all the trouble and do it was good. It cost them £1 million and a load of f***in'
silly police violence to come to terms with it. Stupid."

Aside from the music, that attitude is what has always endeared me to the Hawks, a - dare I say it -
way of life that shows up many rebel rockers for the clothes-horses they really are.

Why have you been inactive for so long?

"We can't get a major deal. I went into a record shop the other day, I can't believe the amount of
albums we've got out! Obscure labels...if no one bought the f***in' things they wouldn't be able to put
them on the market.  Even EMI, who sent me a couple of letters - 'cos we're re-releasing all the old
stuff - they asked me permission, and I refused. They ignored me, and two months later they had a
f***in' record in the shops!  They're all the same, we're not actually earning any money out of these
records at all."

Is all this hassle (man) a legacy from the 'easy going' attitude of your past?

"Yeah...it's just making money.  We try and nail 'em, you know.  They will be caught, and I know who
some of them are."

"Any bootleggers outside?" adds Dave, as a member of the band passes through the dressing room.  
"F***in' bootleggers, they're a pain in the arse.  I'm going to stop 'em now.  There's a few bike gangs
that we know, they've...erm, offered their services.  We're going to stamp them out.  For the first time
ever, we've got control, we're going to find their cars...really do it."

Any quest for independence brings troubles by the score, but Dave hopes that a rare Hawkwind
phenomenon, a permanent line-up, will help matters.

"Having Danny, the drummer, and Alan, the bassist...they're both young and keen, they've got a lot of
energy. It's gotta keep going. It'll be a real downer if we stop again, because we only do one tour a year
and the odd free gig here and there.  The rest of the time none of us gets any money. I get publishing
royalties as do all the old members, Lemmy, Nik. We did this album on such a low budget, I was
sleeping on the studio floor for three days 'cos I didn't have any money to stay in a hotel.

"Yet, we've had kids saying they can't get the record.  What the f***'s going on?  Say we play at
Southampton to 2,500 people, at least 100 will want the album. You go in the shop, and they've only
had ten copies and sold out.  This is the problem with independence, distribution and that.  It wears you
out more and more, but I like doing it, see.  I like going round in me old van, kippin' in the back and
stuff. It's nice to go off and do what you want."

Dave Brock is 44, and not interested in the past.  Legendary tales of freak-outs and acid casualties have
been swallowed up by the years, and, as he says: "It's all in the Hawkwind biography, all that.  If
anyone wants to buy that, they can read all the stories.  We've played a few colleges which I didn't
particularly like, 'cos they shout 'Silver Machine'...bollocks, we're not gonna play that."

I mention that the good Doctor and his Medics cover it, and coincidentally...

"I tried to get them to do this tour with us, they were well into doing it.  We saw them at the Crystal
Palace Anti-Heroin gig, and they're a good band, I love watching them.  Unfortunately it didn't happen.  
F***in' management..."

After 15-odd (and I mean odd) years, Hawkwind are still invigorating live. Many people probably owe
them more than they care to admit - they were using banks of TV screens onstage when Sigue Sigue
Sputnik were still watching Playschool - and in a business where longevity is seen as an evil curse,
Hawkwind are playing the game their way and winning.

How far do you look ahead, Dave?

"A long way, a long way ahead."

And he grinned, and spread his arms as wide as they would go.