COTBS Interview

This interview by Alan Linsley took place backstage on the first night of the Black Sword tour at Guildford
Civic Hall on 5/11/85, and first appeared in the April 1986 issue of Forearm Smash - a Portsmouth-based
HM fanzine (named after the Budgie song) run by the late Paul Miller, who went on to write for
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Kerrang! before he lost his life in a tragic accident in
1990.  Paul was a very well known and well-liked
character on the HM scene in Portsmouth in the '80s
and ran the local HM disco as well as the fanzine.  He
used to have a sign on his front door saying "Knock
loudly, I'm probably listening to Slayer!".

Paul asked Alan, as the local Hawkwind expert, to
interview the band for the fanzine.  It all came
together smoothly thanks to the intermediary efforts
of Brian Tawn...many thanks to Alan for his
permission to republish it here
If there is one band which truly lives up to the phrase "rock institution" it has to be Hawkwind.  They've
been called everything from "Masters of the Universe" to "a bunch of 70's leftovers", they've lasted longer
than practically all of their contemporaries and they've survived more changes of record-labels, personnel
and musical styles than anybody can keep up with.  For FOREARM SMASH's first encounter with
Hawkwind, I spoke to Dave Brock at the start of their recent (umpteenth) tour.  Backstage at Guildford
Civic Hall, I began by asking the chief Hawklord how he felt on the brink of another lengthy bout of live
sonic attacks.

"Harassed.  Very harassed, there's a lot of things to do.  It actually takes about a week for the band to start
going.  We've only spent 3 days doing this with the light-show and we rehearsed about 2 weeks before.  I
mean, with us a lot of it comes together on the road really more than standing around in rooms."

So are Hawkwind very chaotic live like they were in the early 70's or is everything a little more together

"Well, it's together in the sense that we know what numbers we're doing but they're always open for
improvisation in the middle or the end.  We're a band of the moment."

As other assorted Hawklords drift into the room, I check that the line-up still stands at Dave, Huw
Lloyd-Langton, Harvey Bainbridge, Alan Davey and Danny Thompson.  Dave, Huw and Harvey have
stayed together as a 3-man core of the band for nearly 7 years now ("It's like a football team", Harvey tells
me, "we just change positions").  So where has the new rhythm-section come from?

"Ipswich," bassist Alan hisses into my tape machine.

"I've played with Alan before, ages ago", says Danny, drummer since July '85.

I dare to ask Dave, (a man rumoured to be the wrong side of 21), if the more youthful members of the
band are giving the older ones a hard time...

"Of course not!  We're old hands aren't we?" he laughs, turning to Harvey, his cohort since the days of the
Hawklords in 1978.  "How dare he ask that?  Actually the good thing is that when you add the average age
up it lowers it a bit.  The average is, er...23 now!"

Let's talk about the new album 'The Chronicle of the Black Sword'.  Why is it on the Flicknife indie label as
opposed to a 'major record company' ?

"Because no major record company wanted to have anything to do with us", Dave explains.  "We're always
open to offers, but major companies are only interested in sales.  Apart from that, major companies like
young bands who don't cause any trouble and do as they're told.  We're quite an independent band - a lot of
things we can do ourselves.  We know all the ins and outs of the rock music business -which is so
corrupt- and there's so many people working in it who are pain-in-the-arses; they foil your attempts to do
things.  The only way to do it is doing it yourself and they don't like that."

The album is a concept album based on Michael Moorcock's series of 'Elric' novels.  I ask Dave how he
feels about doing a 'concept'.

"Concepts are good fun if they actually come together and the final product is what you wanted it to be.  
It's very hard to follow things through quite often, you do come in for a lot of flak and a lot of struggling
to get it together.  Especially stage-shows, there's not many bands actually doing stage-shows."

At this point Dave introduces me to Tony Carrera, mime and dance artist from the legendary 'Space Ritual'
tour of 1972, who is painting himself white to play the part of Elric (an albino warrior-prince) throughout
the tour.  Tony continues on the concept by telling me "There has never been a true Rock-Theatre."

So what about things like 'The Rocky Horror Show'?

"Ah, there's 2 different variations", says Dave.  "I mean, there's the trendy sort of rock-theatre - 'Rocky
Horror' was very trendy.  This is like acid-rock, crazy, freakout, loony goings-on on stage, with sword 'n'
sorcery mixed up.  It's very different."

So how did you get the whole Elric series on one album?

"We had to go through 6 books and condense it down into one and put it across.  We're all Moorcock
freaks anyway but I happened to have all the books so everybody borrowed them.  If you're gonna do a
project like this you've got to read the books.  Everybody read all 6, except Alan Davey who's only read
½ a page..."

"I've read up to page 40!" protests Alan.

"You told me you read all 6", says Tony, clipping chunks of black hair from his arms before applying more
white make-up.

"No, he meant 6 pages" quips Dave.

On a less frivolous note, I question Dave about all the sub-standard records by Hawkwind released over the
last couple of years.

"Nik was responsible for about 3 of 'em.  Dave Anderson (ex-Hawkwind bassist) was putting out
Hawkwind records on his own label and most of 'em were rubbish.  There's not a lot we can do about it: if
we ask for royalties they just close the company down.  Basically I wish Hawkwind freaks wouldn't buy
the bloody things, then there wouldn't be a market for them."

So why has the new stuff taken so long?

"Actually we've not had the money to get into a studio.  Basically you need backing.  For us to rehearse
anywhere we have to hire out a van coz everyone lives all around the country, pick the gear up, then go
down to Rockfield Studios which is £500 a week.  The people who run it are old friends of mine anyway
and they can always give you credit but obviously our credit runs over the top quite often."

Just as Purple have 'Smoke on the Water' and Zeppelin have 'Stairway to Heaven', Hawkwind seem to be
remembered for one track: 'Silver Machine'.  How do they feel about this?

"I don't care any more, it really doesn't bother us.  It's difficult to explain, but why put something down
which is quite often reviewed as a classic sort of track?  Mind you, I don't think it's a particularly classic
sort of track!"

What do you think of the music press nowadays?

"I don't.  I must admit I'm not particularly enthralled by the music press ever, though I find them useful,
coz they're obviously reaching quite a few people we couldn't reach otherwise."

What happened to Nik Turner, Hawkwind's crazy sax-player who was sacked for the second time in April
'85?  (About time too - Ed)

"Nik, I think, was ousted from the band, in a way, because of antagonism from Huwey, who he had a lot
of uproars with.  Nik unfortunately was using Hawkwind as a stepping stone for Inner City Unit.  So
consequently, he couldn't actually be in 2 bands at the same time.  Basically he had come to the crossroads
of his career, he had a choice, and we felt he would be better off doing his own thing rather than using us
to promote his own interests.  He did actually go over the top a few times but that's Nik.  Actually a lot of
people don't realise he's a bit egocentric, he's definitely a bit full of himself sometimes."

How did Hawkwind come to appear on 'ECT', alongside such fledgling 'Metal' bands as Shy, Tobruk and

"Our management arranged this TV show for us and we did it, simple as that.  I find it's difficult actually
doing TV if you haven't done it for such a long time (the last Hawkwind TV appearance was in 1977
*) -
you've got to have a different frame of mind.  If we did it again we might actually have a bit more control
and know what we're doing a bit more rather than standing like dummies.  You've got to think a certain
way, play to the camera really."

[* Not counting German TV appearance in 1981]

How do you feel about Stonehenge, a festival with which Hawkwind are quite often associated?

"Well, I feel that the f***in' government made a right f***in' load-of c***s of themselves by spending £3
million of taxpayer's money trying to stop a festival that should've gone ahead really."

Put it another way - will Hawkwind continue to play there every year?

"We do, but I never like the thought of it feeling that we have to; I like going down there coz I enjoy
myself down there really.  It's up to individuals in the band.  I mean, quite often different people haven't
turned up coz they don't wanna go down or can't be bothered to turn up."

"That's what it's all about," chips in Danny, whose first gig with Hawkwind was at Stonehenge 1984 as a
stand-in for absent drummer Clive Deamer.  "A tour is more serious, Stonehenge is just about going down
and enjoying yourself and improvising for the audience."

Hawkwind audiences have a reputation for not giving support bands the best of reactions.  So why have
groups like Vardis, Baron Rojo and Bronz gone down so badly?

"Because a lot of support bands we have are f***in' awful", laughs Dave, putting it in a nutshell.

How did the 'Friday Rock Show' session go, did you enjoy it?

"The producer (Tony Wilson) made contacts, he phoned up the office.  We had to hump all our gear in the
van, drive all the way down from Wales, all the way back to the BBC, unload it, set it all up, do the gig,
take all the gear down, put it back and drive all the way to Wales - all in one day!"

Don't you get bored of playing numbers like 'Brainstorm' gig after gig, year after year?

"Not really, I'm programmed now.  I do enjoy doing it.  If it was awful and we hated doing it, we wouldn't
do it: sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad."

I round off our little chat by asking Dave what's in store for the future, attempting to glean a tantalizing
taste of what's to come.  He is typically unconcerned.

"I dunno at the moment actually, no idea at all.  My vision doesn't extend after this tour......"

With that, the Warrior At The Edge Of Time went to sort his guitars out.  The ease with which this
interview was set up (Thanks a lot Brian Tawn) is a mark of Hawkwind's respect for their fans, and it's the
fan's respect for the band which has in turn kept this particular bunch of Timelords going for so long.  It
only remains for me to suggest that when the Hawkwind space-craft next takes off in your area, don't get
left behind in the vapour-trail.
L-R: Huw, Harvey, Danny, Alan, Dave - HW in 85