|The Glow Of The Futuristic Druids
This article was first published in Sounds on 2nd October 1976...
Hawkwind are going through a phase. Well, three phases actually - several slotted periods of time, during
which the band plan to transform their stage show and propel it into previously uncharted realms of the
The 'Lords have always had an impressive, different lightshow, largely a hangover from their days as a
sound barrage, strobe-dazzling, acid-tripping psychedelic band. While other outfits -Nektar, for one, springs
to mind- have in the past had lightshows that have been overall much more together and organised,
Hawkwind have at least been consistent in their presentation over the years. The new show bodes well for
the future, as Liquid Len, a.k.a. Jonathon Smeeton, explains.
"The band's original policy was to keep the show small, but make it very powerful brilliance-wise and
include lots of interesting images. However, since we changed management we've also changed ideas.
Right now we're lugging around 1,000 pounds of machinery around with us on the road. And this is just the
beginning, the new beginning."
So Atomhenge is phase one. Phase two is to change the lightshow from single screen projections to treble,
right under the construction's arches. And phase three..."will be Atomhenge, the lightshow, plus some fairly
new special effects," Smeeton reveals. It's named after this man called Nicola Tesla, who in his lifetime
invented all sorts of electrical phenomena. In 1902 he came up with the idea of a spark generator and I've
been playing around with it, seeing if we'll be able to use it effectively onstage. Sparks start about an inch
long, they travel down in between two thin wires that can stretch to anything up to 150 feet in length. At
the end of the 150 feet, the wires diverge until they're about six feet apart - so at the end of the line you can
have this giant six feet tall spark travelling up from the stage into the ceiling.â€�
But wouldn't the GLC [Greater London Council] object to such extravagance?
"The GLC object to most things, if you show them a strobe or even a fuse they're a problem. Hopefully
we'll be able to get round it."
Some effect, eh kids? Smeeton also hopes to be transmitting TV pictures onto the between-arch screens,
which should be something to look forward to. All effectgs, however, must conform to Smeeton's basic
principle, that is - "keep it simple. If you show too much to people too quickly, they'll never be able to
understand it. It's much better to give them something very basic, very simple to understand â€“ in that way
the imagination can be stimulated and before long people start seeing what they want to see. Which, in its
way, is more pleasing than anything I could ever show them."
If you haven't seen the structure on stage yet, the
drawing accompanying this piece [I thought you'd
rather see photos, even these two small blurry ones
as well as the bigger one across the top of the
page...] will give you some idea of its magnitude.
Built in just over four weeks in a tiny workshop, it
contains about 2,000 lightbulbs, is 18 feet high by 40
feet wide and takes all of six hours (along with the
PA etc.) to set up and four hours to take down and
squeeze into an articulated lorry.
The rethinking of the Sonic Assassins' show began
back in April. "We wanted to do something new,"
says Smeeton, "and it was pretty obvious that we had
to do something totally removed from the concept of
projections onto one big screen, plus a million special
effects. It had been getting pretty meaningless, we
had got to the point of just having an effect for
effect's sake. I had been toying with the idea of
three screens for some time and had reached the
point when I decided that, to make the thing work,
these screens should be broken up in some way with columns, monoliths, totem poles...or something."
"Eventually the idea of Stonehenge came to mind, what with its cultural and mystical connections. So I sat
down with a friend of mine, a good artist, Larry Smart, and together we conceived Atomhenge - pillars and
atoms, all joined together, full of lightbulbs, thus framing the screens perfectly."