|Hawkwind Interview, 1996
These extracts from a 1996 Record Collector interview with current & ex-members of Hawkwind
were dug out of the BOC-L/Hawkwind archives
|They were the urban spacemen. Half a dozen stoned young men from Ladbroke Grove with a
head-full of interstellar dreams and an armful of dodgy equipment. To many prog-rock aristos,
Hawkwind were no more than a hippie hangover that ill-suited the more sophisticated,
technique-driven early Seventies. Spinning improbable tales of black holes and space overlords,
driven home with a blend of rudimentary heavy metal and primitive space sounds, Hawkwind were
certainly no Pink Floyd. Wispy harmonies and mock-classical wizardry were happily absent from the
band's first four albums for EMI/Liberty, all recently remastered and reissued in stunning packages
complete with bonus tracks.
So what was it like being part of this ramshackle outfit whose name still carries more cultural
currency than almost all of their contemporaries? We tracked down many of the original members of
the space-rock collective, most of whom had barely spoken about their drug-fuelled lurch into rock's
outer orbits in over twenty years.
The article also carried brief comments about the EMI reissues:
Hawkwind: The self-titled 1970 debut blended acoustic hippie whimsy with stoned jams that hinted at the
band's future overdrive
In Search Of Space: 1971's "In Search Of Space" began the cosmic explorations in earnest, blending
rudimentary riffs with exotic waywardness.
Doremi Fasol Latido: By 1972's "Doremi Fasol Latido", Lemmy had joined the band on bass, adding
considerable thunder to the sound
Space Ritual: Many critics described Hawkwind as an unwanted hangover from the acid era. Maybe they
were right. That's why the "Space Ritual" double live set is a rare early Seventies highlight.
Hall Of The Mountain Grill: Things had begun to get serious by the time of 1974's "Hall Of The
Mountain Grill." A major split ensued.
"I was Bob Calvert's understudy basically. When he was in the loony bin, I would attempt to tour with
them. I first got involved with the group while I was organising free gigs under the motorway at Ladbroke
Grove, in the days when we all felt the community spirit. I'd written "Sonic Attack" for them, Bob got
carted off by the men in white coats, and that's when I appeared with them.
What I liked about Hawkwind was that they seemed like the crazed crew of a spaceship that didn't quite
know how everything worked but nevertheless wanted to try everything out. There was a sense that they
were completely out of it, but yet were producing something actually very interesting. And what I *really*
liked about them was that they weren't pretentious. There were a lot of people who the minute they stated
using electronic music started talking about Stockhausen, which I think is crap, frankly. They didn't have
any of those hi-faluting claims for themselves. I could never listen to any of the records. I can't stand any
record of mine. I don't read my own books. Life's too short! There's a lot better stuff than that in the
I enjoyed doing it, and I have a lot of admiration for Dave Brock and what he did with the band. I like the
fact that they stuck to the principles they believed in, particularly the first decade. I don't see a great deal of
difference between Hawkwind and what punk was doing. It was just the same, really, with different
haircuts. There was as much idealism, disgust with hypocrisy, and Hawkwind had this reputation as a
peace and love band, but none of the lyrics were like that at all. It was urban stuff that could have been
written ten or twenty years later. I was always very sceptical about the whole peace and love aspect of it
all. I was for the sentiments, but you needed something more than just a peace sign and another joint."
"We always used to get slagged off in the press for playing the same three chords, but simplicity in music is
always the key, and I've got a very traditional way of playing. Lots of it doesn't sound dated - the first
album still sounded good when I played the new CD yesterday. I still take the sci-fi stuff seriously; I've got
a huge library now. We all used to read the books, and you'll find that a lot of what was written in the fifties
has now become an accepted part of life. We've decided to do this story of an alien who comes to Earth,
which has obviously been done before. But now with Roswell and The X-Files, everyone seems to be
interested in it again. Last year's tour was very spacey and tribalistic - you can't go wrong with that!
We always used to record under the influence of LSD, and back then it was a very pure form, not corrupted
by crap. I used to take LSD when I was about to mix those old albums, so you could get all those things
you knew would register when audiences were under the same influence. There was a community. We
used to live in Notting Hill, which was an arty place to live. We all lived in the area and for a while we
shared a house. When that happens, you tend to think along similar lines. We did loads of benefits then, all
living in London, going to the same clubs. But we've continued doing that to some extent, the odd charity
After the big crunch occurred in 1975, when the band first split up, I carried on Hawkwind with Bob
Calvert. The band was full of larger than life characters - there was Nik, Lemmy, Bob Calvert - strong
personalities who could write good music too. Actually, that had a lot to do with the split as well. I wasn't
too keen on Nik going out as Hawkwind because a lot of people turned up expecting to see us. We were
pissed off because basically we are Hawkwind, and just because Nik decides he wants to make a bit of
money at the time....though I have to say it wasn't a bad sounding band! He did the same thing in Europe
and it fucked it up for us just before we went out on tour over there. I don't know if we'll ever get back
together all those line-ups (like last year's Gong reunion gig.) Lemmy lives in America and so does Alan
Powell. Del Dettmar lives in Canada. Simon House still plays with the band on and off, but he's about the
"The sci-fi thing was part serious social comment, part entertainment. Our version of a Utopian future was
never sanctimonious. I got involved with Timothy Leary for a while, who had this idea for Starseed, a self-
contained, ecologically balanced satellite which was totally self-contained. He took that very seriously. The
band were very community-oriented, and people identified with us because we were no different than them.
We were all living on the streets of Ladbroke Grove - Dave Brock was a busker; I was living in the back of
a lorry in Notting Hill, or on other people's floor's.
Drugs were obviously quite important because the band were part of a drug culture. Everybody was doing
it. We were just part of it, though not necessarily promoting drugs. LSD was the main drug of the time,
and shortly before our success, that was still legal.
I think success began to detach the band from community thing. We were travelling a lot, touring America,
and that spoilt relationships both within the band and with the audience. I don't think it was a case of us
putting ourselves on pedestals. When you're successful, other people tend to put you there, though I tried to
avoid all that. I still do free festivals and am still of the people.
I think the music still stands up. Hawkwind were one of the instigators of, or at least inspirations for,
punk. Our music was like punk in that it was accessible, and gave the impression anyone could play it - and
they could! More recently, I went out as Nik Turner's Hawkwind in America, but I had an injunction served
on me to stop me using the name, so it became Nik Turner's Space Ritual. That kind of materialistic attitude
is the antithesis of what the band used to be about. That's what was so good about the Grateful Dead; they
never lost that vision."
"A democracy? I dunno. Whoever recorded the most got his own way - and that was Dave. I started out
as a road manager for several bands, usually related to the NEMS agencies. The first band I worked with
was Cochise, and when I left, Doug Smith asked me to roadie for Hawkwind. Then one day DikMik
decided to leave because he couldn't face travelling, so he gave me his synth. We'd all been told since the
Fifties that we already had a Utopia, you know, that "never had it so good" stuff. So people were already
used to that idea. But I wouldn't say Hawkwind were ever expecting such a thing to happen.
Actually the word "hippie" didn't really apply. That was an American thing. The dynamics of a lot of bands
only seem to last three or four years, so I upped and left for Canada. I thought England sucked! It was no
longer a resource-based country, and that's even more true today. I play music most days. My instrument
is a double-pitted wood axe. It has one string attached to a pick-up, which goes through a variety of
electronic equipment. I like to buy things like harmonizers when I see them. And I work with dancers now
and then and release the odd CD."
"I answered an ad in Melody Maker, and when I turned up it was just John the bass player, Dave Brock and
me. That was Hawkwind Zoo. I was about 17; the rest were all, like, ten years older than me. Dave was
quite impressed with Can and Soft Machine, bands like that. He'd come along with a riff and then we'd jam
for hours. We played loads of gigs with all seven of us tripping and it was fucking amazing - you'd go so
far out and yet you'd all be there. If I died at the time, I couldn't have done anything better with my life,
because I totally believed in what we were doing.
I left because it was becoming like a business; the idealism was going out the window. Not from the band
so much, but from the record company and the management. After I left, I lent my drums to Simon King
but all their gear got stolen. I went to the management to get some money and they said it would have to
come out of my royalties. I left the manager's office, bumped into Dave at the Mountain Grill, told him
about it and he said "Yeah, that's right." It was the biggest fucking slap in the face I'd ever had, and it put
me off the music industry. I mean, we'd been living in each other's pockets for three or four years. I went
off to Blackheath into semi-retirement, though I did play a benefit gig with my mate Steve Took, fuckin'
lovely fella. I think he got a bit done in by it all, too."
"I was notorious for leaving the band, and when I did, Del took over. We had similar roles, providing the
sound effects. Though I think my main role in the band was supplying the psychedelic substances. I
reckon I was probably out of my head on that stuff for three years continually. It might have helped the
inventiveness of the music, but I don't think it improved the live side of it. Sometimes we were abysmal!
Our philosophy was to get as many people together as possible and have a good time. We were merely a
catalyst for an event. However, the straight press was always trying to put us down, an excess of sex and
drugs and rock'n'roll. I was never a serious musician, so when it stopped being full-time fun and started
getting serious and business-minded, then I left. I had other things to do with my time. I've not done
anything musically since."