|Harvey Bainbridge on Radio Clyde, November 1981
...that was 'Coded Languages' from the Hawkwind album 'Sonic Attack', which we started off with tonight,
and Harvey Bainbridge, a member of Hawkwind of course now, is with us. Harvey...a few things to sort of
talk about because the band's been going a long time. You haven't actually been with them since the start but
I think you've actually known the band for quite a long time, even before you joined it.
HB: "Yeah, well I joined first...in 1978, I joined, and I've known Dave and Bob -that's Robert Calvert who's
now left, of course, to do his own thing- I've known them since 1976. And they used to live down where I
live in the West Country, and Dave phoned me up one day to ask me did I fancy joining him in a band called
the Sonic Assassins. So I said 'Yes, why not', sounds like a lot of fun, I thought. Get out...this band was
just put together to play open-air gigs in the summer and just do the odd show now and then. That's how I
got in on it really."
I vaguely remember the name, though I couldn't tell you anything about them. I presume you kept a fairly
low profile, did you?
HB: "Well yes, it was meant to be one of these...the idea behind it, we were going to just appear in places and
play and no-one was going to know who it was. But, er..."
Did it work?!
HB: "Yes and no, but people got to hear about it, for some reason. But still, there we go. It was good fun."
Well, Bob and Dave, who you mentioned just now, Dave Brock of course who's still with the band, and Bob
Calvert you mentioned - actually he's been with them a couple of times, hasn't he...
HB: "Yes, he had the title of 'Resident Poet' for a while, Resident Poet and 'Swizzle Stick Operator' I think..."
What's he doing now because it was quite interesting, some of the stuff he was doing earlier on, Captain
Lockheed and things like that...
HB: "Yes it was, he's a very clever bloke, he thinks very hard and deeply about things. He gets carried away,
obviously, like we all do. But I last saw him just after we played at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. He
came on and actually performed 'Sonic Attack' with us on stage. And I had a long long chat with him
afterwards. He's got his own LP out at the moment, I think, called 'Hype' with a book to go with it. And I
think he might be out on the road right now, actually, I know he's out on the road this month some time."
I heard that that was coming out, I haven't seen it yet, though, so maybe it will be coming in soon. There
have been quite a lot of personnel changes in Hawkwind over the years, that's one of the things that theyâ
€™re best known for!
HB: "Known for, yeah. Well it changes, you know, as it's often said, 'A change is as good as a restâ€™, I
think. I think once you...when, you know... Folks have gone off to do their own thing, folks have gone off
to put their own bands together and been quite successful at it, you know, the one notable one being Lemmy,
of course. That's a very successful thing going for him. But it sort of creates a new change, it creates new
ideas, it brings in breaths of fresh air, that kind of thing, into the band structure, even though the journey of
the main idea still seems to carry on in the same line, it just brings in... It's like a train which gathers more
and more carriages as it goes along, you know."
Interesting for a band that has had that many changes, you're still identifiable as Hawkwind. If you put the
album on and hadn't been told that it was Hawkwind, the chances are you would probably hear who it was.
And that's sort of 1981, you could have said that in 1971 - so that's ten years of music along a similar path,
let's put it that way. Obviously the handling and the treatment changes with changing techniques and
everything else. Why is that? If so many people have left and come back and gone and everything else, why
has that direction stayed similar?
HB: "Well I think it's the driving force, you see. What the band has been well known for, for finding a
specific niche if you like, in the rock world, and it's a branch of ideas and artistic intent that not many bands
seem to follow around the world, and Hawkwind do it very, very well I think. They're attempting to define
music for inner space and outer space and it started off, lots of bands doing it in the psychedelic era, but
obviously commercial trends change and lots of bands fell to the wayside, but Hawkwind kept, you know,
stuck to its guns, and I think this is... It's proving now that the band's been right, because each album, if you
listen to it, is, you know, the songs seem different, the attack's different, but as a rule, as you say, the actual
intent behind it is the same. The idea, it still carries on that one path, although it develops as the years go on.
I think you couldn't say this one is the same as any other LP, unless of course you go back and say 'Well,
you know, they're doing Sonic Attack', a song which weâ€™ve brought up to date, or a number that we
decided would be good fun to do again. Even now, with all the Cold War going on between Russia and the
rest of it, sound is one aspect of attack and defence that we don't know anything about as a nation."
(1981 remake of 'Sonic Attack' is played)
HB: "...bring back Fu Manchu films, that's what I say. That was his idea, wasn't it, to take over the world
Yes it was, wasn't it...
HB: "...it's quite a feasible thing and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the governments of the day
haven't got quite a big thing going with that. But the thing is, we don't know about it. And of course it's a
form of attack that you can't really defend yourself against either, it's a bit like a nuclear attack, you know,
once it's happened, that's it."
Do you think about things like that a lot?
HB: "I think about it every time your movement's restricted, every time you get a parking ticket or every time
you get told 'you can't stand there' or every time you get told 'you can't wait here', you can't use that door or
this door... You start thinking a bit more about just what it is you *can* do and what's the reason for
curbing people's movements, what's the reason behind it, and the only thing I can come up with is a political
reason: you stop people moving about, you make it easier to manipulate them. I think more and more people
are actually defying rules and regulations which has made it a very wary political situation over the whole
Could it not be a lot simpler than that, though, could it not be a question of a lot of the things that you
mentioned there as examples - your freedom to do those things would inhibit somebody else's freedom to
either be in the same place or do something at the same time. Parking tickets, for instance, quite often inhibit
the right of somebody else to drive down the road because it's blocked by traffic, parked all over it...
HB: "Yes, but it's the aggression that goes behind it, isn't it, it's the...this is the one thing that stands out. We
play aggressive music, it's a sign of the times. Aggression's always been there but itâ€™s never been quite
so poignant, it's never been quite so much all over the place. Obviously for years you've had people saying
'Oh well, there are rough areas in this place and rough areas in that placeâ€™, but it's not like it has been
now, or it certainly is more open, more out in the open, the tribes are forming. You see people walking down
the street, and you can tell instantly what tribe they belong to by what they're wearing, how they're looking.
You never see Mohican haircuts around England up until quite recently, you never used to see people openly...
even in the flower power days, if people wore bells and kaftans and that, they used to get jeered at and
shouted at. But now it's all over the place, people are just dressing the way they want to dress, following the
kind of lifestyle they want to follow, irrespective of what political regime is in power. And I think that's
where the clash is going to come, eventually."
If you take that sort of individual freedom of action to its furthest extreme, you end up with complete
anarchy, and you earlier on were describing your music as anarchic or the band as anarchic...
HB: "In a sense. Well of course I think we try and, not mirror, but we try and show just what feelings, what
emotions are around. You take the song 'Living On A Knife Edge', for instance, off this album, it's all about
living on the edge in a town situation where you don't quite know what's going to happen next, you could
have a bomb thrown through your door. You could get run over, you could get taken over by a police state
at any minute. But unfortunately it's a world we're creating. This is what that song says, it's a world we're
creating and we've got to hand this world on. So what state is it going to be in 20, 30 or 40 year's time, if
it's like this now?
('Living On A Knife Edge' is played)
Hawkwind, a track from the album 'Sonic Attack', that's the new album from them, and the track was
'Living On A Knife Edge'. Talking to Harvey Bainbridge from the band, bass guitarist and vocalist with the
band, also synthesizers and keyboards; that's quite an unusual combination, bass guitar and keyboards, isn't it?
HB: "Well yes, it's a bit difficult when you've only got two hands. No, it's, er... What we found was, when
we were rehearsing for this LP, we lost Martin the drummer, he went down with German Measles. So the
three of us, me, Dave and Huw, had to start sort of putting stuff together on tape ourselves, we didn't have a
keyboard player sorted out, and we discussed the notion of getting another, of inviting another keyboard
player in, and we thought 'Well no, we don't really need a keyboard player as suchâ€™, we need someone to
operate synthesizers and put the odd little touch in here and there. But we donâ€™t really need a full-blown
keyboard player, let's do it ourselves. With modern technology the way it is, you can actually set things up
with footpedals, and all that kind of thing. And so we just decided to have a go at doing that, and this last
tour proved that we can do it quite easily with no problem at all. So I think weâ€™re going to stick as a four-
piece band now, with just Dave and myself operating the synthesizers."
That's quite interesting, you mentioned the technology aspect of it, the fact that the instruments are available
and in many ways as long as you've got either a musical knowledge or in some cases a technical knowledge
of what you're doing, they're actually much easier to handle, aren't they?
HB: "It's a bit like driving a car, I mean once you've worked out what things do, then it's quite easy to do it.
And the joy of electronic instruments is they can create sounds that you've thought of but haven't quite, up
until now, been able to get, you know, with instruments. So I think it's just a question of time, really, just
spending your time messing about with one, getting to know how sound is made up through a synthesizer.
Then it's easy. Anyone can do it."
How important then, are the synthesizer sounds like the old Mellotron when Hawkwind first started, and the
sort of instruments that were around then - how important are they to the music that you play, because itâ
€™s always been very preoccupied with spaces, and space...
HB: "Well, obviously when you are trying to get an image across, then you try and use a sound that gives that
image in a nutshell, as it were. What we try and do is we try and imagine what it would be like in space,
outward space as well as inward space, by using like, for example, the Mellotron, with a wash chord sound,
you know, that big build-up of chords swooping away somewhere, then you give this impression of
vastness. You give this impression of an open area, and you can just build up sounds then, on top of that, to
colour that open area, if you like. Although we use the technology, I think Mike summed it up, and that was
Mike Moorcock summed it up, by saying that we were the only band he knew that used modern technology,
but used it in a brash way, just threw it all in, here, there, but not just everywhere, you know, we're quite
tasteful I think, with the way we throw things in! Certainly it's, you know, we joke a lot with synthesizers,
we joke, we don't try and pretend that we're concert pianists with it at all, because weâ€™re not. We use
sounds to be as effective as we can. We play sounds in the most effective place, and that's as far as it goes,
A sort of contemporary mood music in some ways, I think.
HB: "If you like..."
The effect you get if you sit and listen, especially with headphones, with some of your stuff, if you actually
sit and listen you can get taken along with the music quite easily...
HB: "Oh yes, well that's the joy of putting things onto disc, because you can spend a lot of time, once you've
actually put it onto disc, then the hard work is getting it to sound right when you listen to it through your hi-
fi, or in your headphones. We try and make a record interesting for people to listen to on headphones and we
try and do things with the picture that they're conjuring up in their heads. And the comments that we've had
on this one and the one before that is that it's a very interesting picture that comes, because things are
constantly changing and moving. The word 'psychedelic' has been used quite a lot recently in connection
with the last two albums, or certainly with this one. It was a pleasure, mixing this one, it was an absolute
pleasure - it was so entertaining, because not one track is the same. We tried to really sort of piece the whole
thing together so that you get an idea of it moving through a certain sort of pathway, and I think it comes out
OK. It comes out OK."
Well you mentioned there that, with one track being very different from another - and we can tell that from
the two tracks we've already heard, but... In that case, where does the new material actually come from? I
mean, the writing credits are on the album but there's obviously more to it than just the name after the song,
HB: "Yeah, there's usually, I mean, it depends...Actually ending up with a song or a number can turn out
either to be the most easy thing in the world, something that just happened - you say 'I've got this idea' and
you play it, and that's it - no more needs to be done to it... Or else you get the other way, where it's a lot of
blood, sweat and tears, where you start off with an idea and you have to really drag it along for weeks and
weeks until you get, you know...if people say 'Well, don't throw it out the window, that's worth keeping',
you know. So you persevere and persevere, and it brings lots of heartache. So you can never say it's one
thing or the other, it always happens in different ways every time. It's just very pleasant to have the end
thing, finished at the end, you know - it's quite rewarding to have it in a sleeve and finished - not half...yeah.
Towards the end you get a bit...it's a bit like being on the road, towards the end of a hectic mixing session,
you're working constantly for 12 hours, 14 hours, over the same thing sometimes, and your brain gets a bit
addled. And your ears go a bit funny, you start to wonder whether you're hearing things right, so you've got
to take a break and go back. Usually though, you come back and just do it the next day and it's completely
wrong anyway, so you've got to go and do it again. It's very hard work, but it's good at the end, it's worth it.
Talking of hard work there, you do spend still quite a lot of time touring, don't you?
HB: "Well it seems that's, er...I don't know if you knew about it, but we've just been on the road, folks! It
wasn't advertised very well, but there we go. We spend...it seems the last 2 or 3 years we've spent, ooh,
three months on the road, two to three months on the road. And this year's UK tour was a bit shorter than
the last one, and the one before that, I think."
Yes, you were actually here about three weeks ago, weren't you?
HB: "Yes, which was, I think, a very good gig, and I hope you all enjoyed the light show up there. That was
the joy about taking this tour around, that we had a very nice light show with slides and films, put together
by a fellow called Jon Perrin, who was involved with the old liquid light show from Hawkwind in the very
early days, with Liquid Len and his Lensmen. A fellow called Jonathon Smeeton put that together with the
help of Jon Perrin and we sort of teamed up with Jon Perrin again, and he was all for the idea of doing this,
so we started to put this lightshow together again. But unfortunately we had to compromise a bit on what
we really wanted to do with it. We wanted to project out into the hall as well as just on the screens, on the
side of the stage, so that the whole audience is part of the light show. That was the original idea. But as
usual, you know, people put up their prices left right and centre, so you can't afford some of the things [you
want] to do, as it were."
Was the tour fairly well received, though?
HB: "The tour was exceptionally well received when you consider that there was only the odd advert in the
local press every so often. But I think people came along and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, I think they
saw a band that was revitalised, really, after last year's tour which went on and on and on and dragged out
and dragged out. And this one was, well not 'short and sharp', but it was sharp, and certainly not short."
Well you've not been terribly well received by the media, have you?
HB: "Oh, no. Well I don't think we are being well received, present company excepted, of course. But I
don't know what it is. I think it goes back a long way, and I think they're just very frightened of what may
happen if they sell us to their readers, viewers, listeners, too much - you know? I suppose I can say it really,
we've been banned from Radio Forth across the way over there, they won't have us on there, for something
that happened a few years ago, which I can't really remember was that bad. But obviously it upset someone."
They must have good memories, then...
HB: "Yes, a bit like elephants, they never forget, do they. No matter what it is you do, you know, weâ€™re
the only band doing this type of light show at the moment, this type of stage show, and there's not a word
spoken about it on London radio, or on the national, or even in the national press, where you get things... I
noticed there was a, in one of the national papers, they review rock shows quite, just about every week now,
and they reviewed all manner of people. And we hit London with this light show, shocked a lot of people,
sold out Hammersmith Odeon two nights running, and not one mention anywhere. And I think the review
came out in Sounds last week, and the concerts happened two weeks ago. And we sort of arrived and left,
you know: nobody knew we were there, apart from the people that came along to see the show, and
thoroughly enjoyed it, I may hasten to add. Certainly if you go by what they say afterwards, and they hang
around, an awful lot of people hang around afterwards, and they either say they hated it or they enjoy it - and
they even wait to say they hated it, you know. But nicely, so they don't sort of throw things at you very
often. Apart from bananas, any of the banana crowd listening! (It's an in joke...) So it seems a shame that
they don't want to know, nobody really wants to know and it's a pity because they're missing out."
It hasn't really put the band off, though, has it...
HB: "No, far from it, it means we should try harder, actually. It's helped it half the time, because you decide
'Oh well, sod it, we're going to do what we want to do anyway, let's just do it', and weâ€™ve got quite a
network through the Hawkfan magazine, which is run by a fellow called Brian Tawn, down in Wisbech in
Cambridgeshire. So word gets about if anything's happening through there. We played at the Glastonbury
festival, Glastonbury Fayre, with 30,000 people there, and that was there for us. We played at Stonehenge
the night before, for six or seven thousand people there. We played...we play these shows literally off the
cuff and people arrive, you know, people arrive..."
What would you say to the criticisms that you sometimes hear, that you're a band that appeals most of all to
HB: "Aha, well they ought to come along and see the show then really, shouldn't they? I know a lot of ageing
hippies who think it goes at 100mph and should slow down a bit. But no, this isn't...well, I dunno, I suppose
it does...I mean, if an ageing hippy wants to get spaced out and come and watch the show, then he's going to
be entertained, 'cause he's got a good selection of good music and a good light show to watch, so he would
enjoy it. If a young fellow wants to come along and see what all this so-called high energy rock and roll
music is, with an interesting light show and a bit of a mind journey to it, then he's going to be amazed, I
think, because it's something that they haven't experienced before, with the 14 and 15 year olds - they missed
it all at the end of the 1960's..."
Has the sort of re-emergence of heavy metal and also just sort of heavy rock (as opposed to heavy metal) in
recent years, since about '78 or '79, actually helped you?
HB: "Well it hasn't helped the British Steel Corporation, has it? I suppose it has, yes of course it has, because
what's happened is you get, heavy rock and roll gets more airplay now, on all radio shows. I mean, even six
or seven years ago you wouldn't have got many heavy rock bands being played in the afternoon on Radio 1."
No, and you wouldn't have got the singles in the charts, either...
HB: "Precisely, you know. So obviously it's helped, and as I said earlier, there's a whole new generation of
people who haven't, who weren't around or were very, very young and didn't know anything about rock
music in the early 70's when all this was really happening then. And of course it's been commercialised very
nicely over the last eight years, and now it's sort of a force in its own way. It goes back to what I was
saying about tribes again, it's created its own kind of tribal set-up in the same way that punk music has, and
soul music has, you know. And it's taken...I suppose what, go back to the old heavy rock bands of the time
like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, really, go back to those days, you know - it was all the same then, and it's
just got more interesting now. What annoys me are the rock bands that don't take it on any further, that are
so overtly commercial that they're just steaming in on, like, you know, mini Led Zeppelins or mini Deep
Purples, you know - because they were doing all that way back in '70, '71, '68, '69, and they stuck to their
guns. But lots of other bands have just come on and literally taken over the image of them, you know, all
pretending to be little Robert Plants or Jimmy Pages. And I find that rather sad. But nevertheless, what
that's done is help to establish it, you know, as being pop music in its own right..."
A curious thing I find, talking to sort of a lot of people from various bands and musical areas, is that quite
often this subject of aggression and anarchy comes up. You can accept that the music is based along those
lines, but I wonder how serious that is, or whether how much that goes into your everyday life - because the
funny thing is, whether talking to you, or I was talking to Emerson Crocus [?] a little while ago, and Saxon
as well, and Gillan, who is perhaps the biggest example of this, is that none of you strike me as aggressive
people...and yet, all the talk of it...
HB: "You haven't seen us angry yet, that's the thing...you've probably got the nasty tempers, you see...
When you sort of, well certainly on the road it's much more so than when you're at home, working. You live
with emotions stretched to their extreme and I don't know, I've seen people freak out and throw themselves
to the ground because the telephone doesn't work, you know, smash it...over and over again. The only
reason is frustration, that's all, it builds up and builds up. You get tired, youâ€™ve got to travel a hundred
and twenty miles in an hour, or something like that, you know. You've got some ridiculous journey to do,
you've got to get there, you've got to do this that and the other, and suddenly things start going wrong. You
can see it, it happens all the time, you can see people losing their tempers ever so fast, when normally, in the
normal run of things you'd ignore it and just carry on. It starts to hang you up, and you start getting angry.
So aggression does come out, just purely and simply by the speed at which you live, on something like that.
And if you look at the speed at which we live now, all the way round the UK, even, the rest of the world too,
it's understandable that there's a lot of aggression, because of just the extremes of the way people live. When
you're at home you don't have to live at extremes, until someone breaks something or stands on your guitar,
you know - then you lose your temper."
"We're quite easygoing folks overall, I think most musicians are, but they're very temperamental. They have
to be, otherwise they wouldn't be doing what they're doing, they have to cope with extremes all the time.
And if you're doing that, I think you manage to sort of get an inner balance going, because you can't actually
use all those extremes unless you are balanced anyway, to start with. Whether or not you remain balanced at
the end of it is another thing!"
It sounds sort of like controlled schizophrenia to me...
HB: "Yes, come to Dr.Harvey! I mean, yes, I suppose it is controlled schizophrenia, that's a very good term,
yeah. It's a very schizophrenic lifestyle, that's for sure, in terms of having to be there one minute and not
there the next, you know, that's very strange."
Well, we've heard 'Coded Languages' and 'Living On A Knife Edge' from the new album, can we just finish
with one more, Harvey, for you to choose to take us out?
HB: "OK, I'll choose Huwie's song 'Rocky Paths'. I think it's a nice short, sharp song, it was written by Huw
and his wife - and originally we thought this might have made a good commercial single, you know. But they
don't play anything anyway so we decided not to bother in the end...but anyway, this is it. I think it's quite
an interesting song..."
OK, Harvey Bainbridge, thank you very much...
HB: "A pleasure!"
('Rocky Paths' is played)
|Above: Harvey in 1980. Oh, how he talks.
Broadcast in November 1981, this long rambling interview clocks in at 31:46...thanks once again to Dave Law
who provided me with the tape from which I transcribed it.