|Keith Kniveton Q&A
Keith Kniveton regularly guests with Hawkwind on EMS Synthi, and also plays in his
own space-rock band, Starfield, as Captain Bl@ck. Here he answers some questions
posed by Bruce Stringer, to whom many thanks for arranging this interview and
allowing it to be posted here.
The rather unusual 'Insomniac' CD single - sales info at the bottom of this page
Q1: You've been a longtime fan of Hawkwind. How did you make the transition from that to playing synth for
them? When did you first meet?
A1: Yeah, I mean I've been following them since 1972. I bought a Rickenbacker off Alan some years ago, and
Dave was round his house at the time. Then he found out I fixed stuff so I spent some time in the studio sorting
out problems. I also sent Dave some tapes he liked and eventually he asked me to play.
Q2: Did you get into playing synth as a progression from playing a more traditional keyboard instrument (e.g.
piano) and does experience with playing a keyboard help or hinder when it comes to playing an analogue synth like
the EMS Synthi?
A2: My family used to own an old Hammond Organ, and I learnt basic keyboard skills on that. I always seemed
to be more interested in sounds though, I spent a lot of time trying to drag different noises out of it rather than
playing it. Like, if you turned it right up and flicked the power switch, the reverb used to go 'ploinnggg'. Yes,
those times spent doing chord progressions were well spent.
Q3: What are your favourite synths, and why?
A3: The EMS Synthi AKS is one I would never sell. It's a quirky machine, but it has such a huge frequency
range. Like you can go from sub-audible to ultrasonic in one sweep. The sequencer is digital and was years
ahead of its time, but quite scary for live work though, as you constantly have to be checking the tuning. You can
also use it as a sound processor, in fact we put the whole mix through it when we did Insomniac.
The Jupiter 6 is a good machine too, I've got Hawkwind's old one, which was given a day-glo paint job by Alan
Arthurs. Before that it belonged to Fields Of The Nephilim, so it's well battle scarred. The sound of that is all
over Electric Tepee. That's another one that's really good for effects. I've also got Tim Blake's Minimoog which
sounds totally unique, it's one of the very first hand-built ones with some mods on it. Instant New Jerusalem.
I'm a real gear head actually, I've got loads of stuff and I repair synthesisers too, so I get to try out a lot of
Q4: What other bands and artists do you enjoy / have influenced you?
A4: Kitchens Of Distinction I enjoyed, they had an amazing guitarist called Julian Swales who used to create this
incredible atmospheric backdrop of sound. Another band called Sudden Sway who once did a virtual gig by
phone. I also listen to The Orb, Future Sound Of London - their new album, The Isness, is quite a
psychedelic masterpiece. Early Floyd, up to Dark Side I guess. And mid-period Genesis, particularly 'The
Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', though I think they lost their way a lot when Steve Hackett left. I admit to being
a bit of a closet prog rock freak actually, to the point of putting Mellotron and bass pedals on some of the new
Q5: How did Starfield come together and what plans do you have with Starfield?
A5: I met Danny Faulkner through dealing in equipment really, at the time he was working as a chef in Rick
Stein's restaurant in Padstow. We hit common ground musically and he was like, 'Lets form a band'. Total
enthusiasm. We had this four piece together at one time, but we were pretty incompetent musically, I
remember once Danny showing the bass player where 'E' was. The guitar player was all right, but when he
sang it was like, tonight Matthew I'm going to be Jim Morrison. But when Danny and I got together in the studio
there was a magic there, you know, that feeling that we were both pulling in the same direction. "Man this is
gonna freak 'em
out, we've got to do an album", so we did. And then right at the point of all this coming together, Danny went off
to join Bedouin. And when that fell apart for him, I had the call to play with Hawkwind, so it's kinda taken a while
to get this new album together. But musically we've both progressed quite a lot, we actually dug out some of our
old 4-track tapes recently and it's surprising how far we've come. So hopefully this new one is going to be
Q6: Can you provide a list of all the equipment you use with Hawkwind?
A6: Two EMS Synthi-AKS's, then usually either the Jupiter 6 or an Access Virus Indigo synth, Boss SE-70
effects, Roland Space Echo and an EMS Distance to Voltage converter (soundbeam).
Q7: Sometimes you run an output from Dave Brock's guitar into your synth. Can you explain this in a little more
A7: This is something Del Dettmar used to do which I've tried to re-create. Basically it involves taking the
line-out of Dave's amp into the Synthi's ring modulator and filter, so you get an extra layer of 'stuttered wah' over
what he's playing. It's really about adding expression and movement to the sound.
Q8: How was it working alongside Huw Lloyd-Langton and Simon House, as soloists?
A8: Amazing really. I have a huge respect for both of them. Simon's quite critical of what I play, which is not a
bad thing as it improves the technique. Huw is a real diamond, a really nice guy to work with, though you have to
say Simon and Huw didn't always see eye to eye with each other. But both of them, there are occasions when
they produce something unexpected and stunning and you think, like, fuck, I wish I could play like that.
Here's a few quick ones:
Q9: What was your favourite Hawkwind song to play live?
A9: Brainbox Pollution
Q10: Favourite Hawkwind album?
A10: Either Doremi or Warrior, depending on the weather.
Q11: Favourite Hawkwind line-up?
A11: Any of the '70's ones except Hawklords.
Q12: Favourite Hawkwind solo release?
A12: Probably Captain Lockheed.
Q13: The one Hawkwind song you wished that you wrote?
A13: 7 by 7
Q14: The Hawkwind Canterbury CD has you listed as editor. What did that involve?
A14: For that we only had a stereo DAT to work with, there were no multi-track tapes. So my job was mostly
cutting out the spaces between the numbers to make the album flow better and fixing the bad recording on Golden
Void and Ejection, where one of the stereo channels changed phase then disappeared completely. There was also
a vocal overdub on one number, otherwise it's totally live. Then it was a case of mastering the whole thing to
make it sound powerful and exciting.
Q15: How many rehearsals, or what amount of preparation time did you guys have before playing the Canterbury
A15: Well Dave, Richard and Alan spent a couple of weeks down on the farm, then Huw came in for a few days
and they recorded a tape which was sent to Simon and myself, you know, "play a scintillating violin solo here,
Simon". So then everyone got together for a day or two, I think, to have a run through. I mean, Dave, Richard
and Alan, they are the core of the band and consequently spend the most time in rehearsals.
Q16: Did you play any other shows with the Hawks before Tim Blake came back into the band?
A16: Yes, I played St.Austell on the 1999 tour, and before that a private party at Allescombe Farm.
(Note: The Allescombe Farm gig,took place on 4th August 1999 in the vicinity of Honiton, Devon)
Q17: Did you do any work on the forthcoming Hawkwind album?
A17: Yes, I engineered and mixed the track Letter To Robert, which is Arthur Brown's stream of consciousness
tribute to Bob - basically Arthur came down and was given a list of subjects relevant to the concept of the album,
and he rolled the whole thing off, totally unrehearsed, in one take. That was one of those 'magic Hawkwind
moments' that sometimes happen.
Q18: Did you guys jam on any songs that you didn't play live? If so, which ones?
A18: We've jammed a few instrumentals at one time or another but they usually evolve into new songs or are lost
forever in the mists of time.
Q19: Could you tell us a little known or quirky Hawkwind anecdote?
A19: There are a lot of memorable moments, usually involving either Tim Blake or Ron Tree. Both eccentric and
lovely characters to work with. I remember one time at St.Austell we took a puppy who was too young to leave
on his own, and his lead went missing. We later found Ron using it to hold his trousers up with. As my
girlfriend was removing it from him his wife walked into the dressing room and she gave her a very peculiar
look. Another time involved Samantha Fox at the rehearsals in London for the Hawkestra. Sam had a run through
of Silver Machine, which she was just about OK with, but there were a few problems when she came to do
Master Of The
Universe. "Well, I've never 'eard it before, 'ave I?" So Kris Tait had to go into town and buy a CD with the song
on it so Sam could go away and learn it.
Thank you very much for the Q&A - all the best with Starfield!
|Starfield Sales Information
You can obtain Starfield from CD Services
(website is http://www.cd-services.com ; or
email them at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Alternatively, you can buy mail order from the
PO Box 44
Prices direct from Starfield: Albums are Â£10.00
plus Â£1.00 postage UK, Â£2.00 elsewhere;
Singles are Â£2.99 plus 50p postage UK, Â£1.00
|Interview by Bruce Stringer, © 2003
Bruce Stringer is an Australian session
musician and freelance music journalist
currently residing in England. Some samples of
his music can be heard at