|Nik Turner Interview 23/12/93
This interview previously appeared on the Golden Void website which has now closed. Thanks to
Frank Weil for forwarding it to me. I think Frank is the author.
We started by describing the computer network and the BOC-Hawkwind List.
Gordon: ...assume the whole world will be watching but likewise only 20 people could be watching. Who
knows? It's a network thing - it's strange and different.
Nik Turner: OK well, there you go. Well ask something...
G: Space Ritual '94...
NT: In America?
Mike: Yeah, we've got a lot of American members and they don't hear Hawkwind a lot so they're really
wound up over this so we're trying to get where the gigs are and when.
NT: I dunno - I've got an itinerary in my pocket somewhere
M: If you've got a number we could call to get info on where you're going to appear cos these guys are
really into it and this should give you good publicity.
[Twink knocks on the door to wish Nik a good Christmas]
NT: [searching for itinerary] Lost it. I had it earlier 'cos I was showing some friends. I dunno what I've
done with it. We'll forget about that bit.
G: Space Ritual 94 - what are you intending to do with it?
NT: Well I'm doing a tour round America starting on the 6th of January in the Whiskey in Hollywood. Then
Bogarts in Hollywood the next night and then San Diego the next night and then going east after that I think.
Loads of places.
M: Who's that going to be then?
G: What's the sound you're aiming towards?
NT: Well, the story behind it is that there's this band Pressurehed who played on the Sphynx album which
has been released in America which is going to be released in this country very soon on Cherry Red records
and there's some people who played on that and when I suggested that I go over to America to promote the
record they suggested that I go over as Nik Turner's Hawkwind and use Pressurehed band as my backing
band and Helios Creed playing guitar. So I was quite amenable to that and then an agent phoned me up and
said "oh we're arrangin' your tour - when d'y wanna come over here? And how long do y' wanna come over
for?" And I said "well about a month really - I don't really want to be away from home for too long" And he
said "well you can't tour America in a month" So I said "well how long do you want me to stay over for?" So
he said "well two months at least" - so that's what I'm doing - a two month tour.
[interruption - NT had to move his van from the area so the interview was adjourned at this point and he
offered to give us a lift in the van to a friend's house where we could continue. Twenty minutes or so later in
an unknown part of London, 8 or 9 folk were welcomed into someone's sitting room - thank you Stef - and
settled down amid cushions and a long settee we continued]
G: Musically, yeah...
NT: Well, I'm going to America doing a two month tour.
G: 40 dates I think.
NT: All over America - with an American backing band and Helios Creed. the backing band's called
Pressurehed and they've got several albums out. Did you mention that you had an album of theirs?
Jill: Yeah - we've got a single of theirs, the recent one.
G: This is going to be quite different from the Sphynx CD though isn't it?
NT: Yes it is, we're going to do a couple of tracks off the Sphynx album and then the rest of the songs are
mostly going to be songs that I wrote with Hawkwind. We're sort of recapturing the early Hawkwind sound.
Which is what they want - they say that that's what people in America want. They really want that
G: Right - The Spirit of the Age.
NT: So we're recapturing that and we're presenting this "Space Ritual '94" with lots of theatrics I hope. So I
hope it's going to be exciting. I've got to go out there on the 28th. I'm flying over on the 28th and I'm
rehearsing on the 29th, 30th and up to the 6th for the gigs so we've got to get the show together.
J: Have you got someone special to do the lights - like Liquid Len?
NT: Yeah, there's a guy over there who's reputed to be very good. He was recommended to me by Tommy
from Pressurehed. He's a nice guy Tommy, he's the rhythm guitarist in the band, he, like runs the band.
G: Have you played with Pressurehed before?
NT: No, never have.
G: Have you actually met them?
NT: No. Tommy said the last time... he saw me playing in a squat. He said when the Hope and Anchor was
being squatted he was one of the people who squatted it. And then he met this American girl in the squat and
she wanted to stay in England. So he got married to her and then he wanted to go to America so he's got
G: I'm going out to America to meet this girl I've never met who I've been speaking to for a year and a half
over the computer - so it's a similar sort of relationship. Somebody you don't really know in actuality.
NT: Yeah only in bytes.
G: But you've got a good grasp of who they actually are.
NT: That's how it is with computers
G: So that's how it is with Pressurehed and Helios Creed?
NT: Yeah, for me. What happened was that they wanted me to make a another Sphynx album. they originally
wanted to reissue the old album but they couldn't do that because Virgin records owned it and they didn't
want them to have it. So they decided they'd make a new album and I was going to try and make it in
England. I did some recordings actually which I listened to the other day and it sounded really good but I
didn't actually end up having the time to do it with all the technology. I had to buy a new tape machine and it
promptly broke down so I had to get it repaired and then they wanted it back and I ended up doing it and had
nothing at all so I gave it up and went back to Plan A which was for the people in America to record the
album over there. So I sent them the original recording of the flute music and me reciting the lyrics at 146
beats per minute - this is what the speed was they wanted me to play all the music at. And I sent them the
tapes and they put a new backing on it and that was the Sphynx album.
And since then they sent me the money to buy a 4-track cassette machine on which I've been recording
Inner City Unit based material. I recorded the Inner City Unit track on one track and then I recorded a new
vocal and a new saxophone solo and a bit of backing vocals on the other tracks and we've sent that to them
and they're putting a new backing track on it - with the Pressurehed musicians. And then that album's
coming out while I'm in America - to coincide with the tour actually. And while I'm there I'm recording an
album and making a video - which I suppose will be released in this country or in Europe around the time
that I'm going to do a tour of Europe, which is the beginning of April. I was going to be originally starting on
the 25th of March I think but I pushed it back a bit. I'm doing some gigs with Bevis Frond. And then I'm
doing 4 festivals - sort of co-headlining.
G: Twink's done some work with Bevis and the Fronds hasn't he?
NT: Yeah, I've got an album of Twink's that's got Bevis on it. I haven't heard it actually but I think that it's
recorded in America, I'm not sure.
M: Is Adrian Shaw still with them?
NT: I haven't seen anything of him for a long time.
G: Adrian Shaw worked with Bevis Frond - that was a good 5 years ago though.
NT: Was that who he was working with? That's nice - I'd like to meet up with him then. I'm supposed to be
doing 4 Festivals headlining with them. Then they got this tour together for me and then it suddenly
transpired that Hawkwind, who didn't like me using the name of Hawkwind at all, decided that they'd do a
tour at the same time in Germany - around the same venues or round the same area that I'm doing a tour. I
mean it's a totally sort of underhand move on their part.
G: So what is your relationship with Hawkwind at the moment?
NT: Well I don't have much to do with them really. I haven't spoken to Dave Brock for quite a long time.
The last time I had anything to do with him I got the sack from the band.
J: Is that why you left?
M: Was this after the Calvert Benefit Gig?
NT: Well Dave sort of slagged me off after that gig didn't he. It was because I announced that we were
getting 400 pounds for the gig and Hawkwind were getting 4000 and I thought this was the benefit...
G: The last time I saw you playing with Hawkwind was at Stonehenge 84.
NT: Yeah - they've made a film of that. It's just been re-released. Anyway, what else?
M: What about the original Kittyhawk gig?
NT: The Kittyhawk gig never happened did it? Lemmy couldn't make it at the last minute.
M: The way it's written up - you stayed in the pub all night and just couldn't make it - so what really
NT: Well, Lemmy just turned 'round and said he didn't want to do the gig. And things just fell apart really. I
mean cos Lemmy was supplying a lot of the music and doing some of his songs and we'd rehearsed it all and
then, like I think, the day before the gig he said he didn't want to do it.
M: The day before?
NT: Yeah, something like that.
G: How much control did Lemmy have over the early Hawkwind?
NT: No, not much really. I mean Dave's the only one who's ever had any control over Hawkwind - he's sort
of made sure that he's in charge! Although it was always... I never took any notice of him in that context. As
far as I was concerned I was in charge and everybody was in charge. It was not his band or my band or
G: That's been obvious. I just wondered how Lemmy fitted in because he's a very outwardly-going person
and very self-willed and he's the sort of person you wouldn't expect fitting into a Dave Brock sort of band.
NT: Yes, I know what you mean. But I think things were different in the early days as well somewhat, I
think before Dave turned into the megalomaniac he is or maybe he always was the megalomaniac but he
didn't sort of show it so much - he wasn't so obvious. So things were pretty grim(?) you know, or we all
thought they were, you know, so we took loads of acid and sort of had a groovy time and didn't worry
about the future or present or money or material things - we let Dave worry about the money.
M: I suppose though it needs someone really hard to take care of the money side?
NT: Well, I think it's easy for it to go to your head and it's easy to be greedy and there's a lot of it about.
J: You seem to have made a decision that you were not going to worry about money - that you were going
to play the music - the music was more important.
NT: Yeah, that was what we thought - that was what my attitude was anyway.
G: It seems to have back-fired as well though.
NT: I don't suppose it was everybody's attitude but I thought that everybody's attitude was that at the time.
We would play anywhere - anybody that came up to me and said "oh would you do this benefit?" I'd say,
yeah, where is it? What time? We'd play anywhere, we really would. We played under a flyover and all over.
J: Does it ever get to the stage where you feel you cannot keep giving people music again and again, that you
have to start taking something back as well?
NT: I think you do, I mean you sort of change. It's part of evolutionary experience, progress really through
yourself - your own karma and that sort of thing.
J: But to improve do you not need to get something back from the audience.
NT: I suppose you do need feedback but I tend to be very self-critical of myself anyway so I don't think "oh
great, I'm doing really well here and people love me," I don't think that. I think "oh I'm having a good time, I
hope other people are".
M: Glastonbury a couple of years ago in 1992. You were really working it - you were at the Circus Tent
three times a day.
NT: And in the Ska Stars (?) as well, a jazz band that is, that was at the Jazz stage.
M: Did you see yourself as doing this for the band, like "I'm going to project ourselves"?
NT: Not really. I didn't really think like that. I wasn't trying to impress people - I thought I would just have a
good time and turn people on.
Other: Glastonbury was sort of brilliant - that was about playing that year.
NT: It was great, yeah. We did six Circus shows or something like that and we played on the jazz stage and
the Oasis and we played in the Croissant Neuf and we played in other places. It was good because we get
invited to play at Glastonbury now. Arabella Churchill will phone me up and say "oh can you bring your
circus show to Glastonbury" and so we get in. But Michael Eavis, he doesn't like me at all, I'm like a thorn in
his side - I'm the sort of acceptable aspect of the convoy almost. He considers me part of the convoy and a
bad influence and sort of drawing the convoy to his farm and all this sort of thing. And he does everything
he can not to let me play there.
G: How do you fit in with the convoy.
NT: Well I've got a lot of friends on the convoy and I've had a lot of my friends for a long time.
G: But how do you fit in personally? Do you feel part of the convoy thing?
NT: Well I think so in a way, yeah. I mean I'm a voice in certain respects. I mean I'm not part of the convoy
because I'm not living on the road but I know it's very difficult to live on the road and I have quite a lot of
people who live on the road living at my house. I have people parked up at my place quite a lot so I help
people if I can. I sympathize with them, I think it's a great life style. I wish I could do it, you know. I wish it
worked. Go on...
G: Where do we go from here?
M: Let's go to the really early days then. What was it like in really early days?
NT: It was brilliant. The thing is it was a real turn on. You were just sort of quite lucky because the band
rehearsed a couple of times and then we went and did a gig. And John Peel was there and he thought it was
great and sort of recommended the people that were running the gig to manage us, you know and so we got
managed quite quickly and then the manager was friends with with A & R guy at the record company and
we got a deal. But it was a really bad deal - we got something like two and a half percent royalty I think or
something like that on the first album.
G: But the records sound magic, you could believe that there was magic going on.
NT: But the early days of Hawkwind - it was like - what made Hawkwind great in a certain context was the
people that were putting energy into the band, like Barney Bubbles and people at Frendz Magazine and people
at International Times and Jonathan Smeaton and Liquid Len and people like this.
G: The whole thing was dynamic, it was more than just the band.
NT: And Mike Moorcock as well. I was talking to Mike Moorcock the other day actually and he said "look -
what about you and me starting a band with Alan Powell and Simon House and somebody else and go out as
Hawkwind because there's more people called Hawkwind in this band than there is in that other band".
G: I said that to Twink earlier and he said no comment!
M: We were saying that tonight. It would give Dave Brock a shot in the arm.
NT: Well Hawkwind did a tour without Dave Brock didn't they in Europe sometime. In 91. A bit of a cheek
J: But then you did the Hawkon Con without Dave Brock?
G: The Trev Hughes Hawkon - no Brock was there wasn't he?
NT: He was, but he wouldn't play.
G: Oh no, he was, he played two tracks - he was there for Hurry On Sundown but he certainly wasn't there
for In The Mood.
NT: Did you like Hurry on Sundown tonight?
G: It was the most incredible version I've heard, it was the best song you played tonight.
NT: It was a nice surprise for people because I think people don't expect that sort of thing.
J: How long did you work on that?
NT: Well we played it about four times I think.
G: It was great with the flute. Let's play fantasies here. What happens if this becomes big? You go to the
States and all these promoters and they make you Hawkwind and they make you special and they put you up
on a pedestal and the world's watching. What happens then?
NT: Well I'll rule the world then...!
G: So where do you go? What's the band called?
NT: Well if I'm going to be in the States with this band then I'm coming to Europe with Helios Creed and the
G: You're bringing the American band over?
NT: Well some of them and the bass player. I've got to get a drummer over here and a keyboard player. So
I'm getting Simon House I hope and possibly the drummer that we played with tonight - if he's available.
[Simon House] was supposed to be playing with us tonight but he came for one day's rehearsal and didn't
come the next day, he was ill with a very bad cold.
G: Simon House is probably one of the people most missed on the Hawkwind circuit from the fans' point of
view. He doesn't appear often but when he does he is special every time.
NT: He's done gigs with us as well. We did that gig at the Brixton Academy with Hawkwind I think. He
came and played there. That was really nice.
M: Yeah, Brixton Academy. Hawkwind were meant to go on twice but we heard something about a money
J: Something strange happened backstage and we were suddenly warned they weren't coming back for a
NT: I mean they don't really like playing they just like money - I mean that's what it seems like. They're not
very enthusiastic about playing, to me. They're not visible on the stage.
J: Hawkwind have never gone out as a front stage band.
NT: No they haven't, they've gone out as a light show really.
G: This is a thing I find strange about Hawkwind. Every year they seem to shrink further back into their
own envelope of sound and hide behind a sort of grunge acoustic and that seems very much how Hawkwind
are trying to express themselves with a totality of mushy sound.
NT: I don't know, I've not heard them recently, I don't know what they sound like at all. I think they're using
some computers and sampling.
G: A noisy big sound - let's go stadium rock, if we can - and hide behind it. There's no front to this.
NT: And no personality in it.
G: And while the Hawkwind sound is still there there isn't any direction at all - there's no Calvert, there's no
Turner, there's nobody out there fronting the band and taking a bit of a lead.
NT: Or bringing the audience into the band.
G: In a way Pinkwind is redressing the balance - it's a rock and roll band and you're making the audience
NT: Yeah - it's a good-time band. That's what I like about it. People do enjoy it - people dance and have a
G: I noticed that there were a lot of people along to see Inner City Unit and Inner City Unit were my favorite
band of last year. Their Venue gig was special - it was really good.
NT: I've got a recording of that actually if you'd like it. I've got it here, I could play it for you here if you
wanted to hear a bit of it.
G: So what else are the plans for World Domination?
NT: World Domination! Well, play as much music as I can. I play in quite a lot of different bands I'm playing
in about 5 different bands at the moment. I'm playing real sort of modern jazz dance band and I play in a Ska
band - Star Skas and playing with jazz bands and a big band as well.
G: I've got this photo of you and your baby. It just looked so wonderful - this bald headed mohawk standing
there with your baby in the nude and it was an amazing photograph.
NT: One for the family album - I'd like to see that.
G: How do you fit that in? How do you keep the family and do the wild thing?
NT: Well, I lead a quiet life at home really. I do a few gigs and then spend a lot of time with my kids. And
then when I come away and do wild things like going to America it's like I'm freshly starting. Going away
for two months, I don't really want to go at all. I'd rather stay at home with my kids and my girlfriend.
J: So you're extrovert on stage and introvert in normal life.
NT: Well, not really introvert. But I lead a quiet life. I like to practice music as much as I can but I'm finding
it quite difficult lately, I've got too many things to do. Too many chores to attend to before I go away. I just
play a lot of music when I go away.
M: After Bob Calvert died - you used to come on stage with the long hair and the wig. Did you try to be him?
NT: No I didn't try to be him, I just used to make jokes about him.
J: You didn't feel you were taking over his place when he left?
NT: Oh not at all. He was a very good friend of mine, I knew him long before Hawkwind.
G: What did you feel that your best moment with Hawkwind was?
NT: I don't know really. I think it was all quite good I don't know there was any particular people. I suppose
when Silver Machine was a hit record, when we were getting success with big gigs it was quite exciting.
The wild things we'd get up to. And then it stopped because our drummer was taking all his clothes off.
G: I'm one of these strange people who's favorite album is Astounding Sounds.
NT: It was quite a departure for Hawkwind. What was good about it was that all the members of the band
actually had a hand in the compositions which was unprecedented. Before it was always Dave dominating
the writing. Everybody wrote something.
J: Thanks for the venue list - it's a long tour.
NT: Yeah - about two days off and one day off in Las Vegas. I suppose they work it out on a computer.
They phoned me up one day and said "we want to put together your tour" and then phoned me about 2
weeks later and sent me this itinerary.
G: A friend was sitting in a hotel in LA and all he could hear were gunshots going off outside about one few
minutes or so all night.
NT: Where about was that? Was it in LA? Motel number 6?
G: I don't know America at all but I'm flying there at 11.30 this morning. Well thank you, and I think we've
got a good interview there. The basic precis is: You've got the Space Ritual tour in the States. You're
planning one for spring in this country and Europe, the States promoter is planning a number of albums.
NT: There's one that I've made, an Inner City Unit based one which is coming out while I do the tour, so it'll
probably be out soon. The Sphynx album is being released through Cherry Red records at the moment in this
country so the other ones might come out on Cherry Red as well in this country. And there's the live one that
we are going to make while we are there and we want to make a video as well - as sort of composite video,
use lots of different make up and images and make a video with lots of variation in it. What I'd like to do is
make a science fiction film out of it.
G: I've got some contacts in LA who can do computer animation.
NT: Yeah, I'd like to know about that can you fax me some information?
The following interview with Nik Turner was recorded in
the early hours of 23rd December 1993 partly in Nik's
dressing room at the Emerald Center, Hammersmith, London
and partly in a sitting room in an unknown location,
somewhere in London. Those present were Nik Turner
himself, several friends of his and ICU band members, and
Gordon Hundley, Mike Holmes and Jill Strobridge from the
Firstly, though, I'd very much like to acknowledge the
generosity that Nik Turner showed to us. He had just done a
4-hour session on stage and performed intensively
throughout but he immediately agreed to do an interview -
despite all the post-gig confusion. And even though he was
confronted with a group of folk who were, to say the least,
totally inexperienced at any kind of interview technique he
coped patiently and tolerantly with our sometimes less than
coherent queries and gave full, honest and immensely
informative replies to the questions he felt we were asking. It
was at least 4.00am by the time we left but he remained
courteous right up to the end and I hope this transcript will do him justice. I've done some editing of
our questions - to make them more sensible - and occasionally joined together two or three of Nik's
replies where he was trying to answer all of us at once, but otherwise I have tried to report things
exactly as they happened.
|Nik Turner Interview on 22/23 December 1993, Emerald Center, Hammersmith, London