|Simon House Interview, 1974
This interview, by Allan Jones, appeared in Melody Maker on October 19th 1974. Thanks to Mike Holmes
who originally posted it to the BOC-L list. I have edited out the interviewer's intended comic effects
It's very perplexing this. I mean, here's Simon House, Hawkwind's new boy wonder keyboards, Mellotron
and violin exponent in a state which could loosely be described as somnambulance, and here I am with a
hour's worth of tape to fill, and a set of questions that provoke the most monosyllabic response you could
hear this side of Van Morrison.
It's rather like Conversation by Numbers - one nod for yes, two nods for no. The thing is, though, Simon is
a potentially interesting subject for an interview. He was, after all, a member of the ill-fated but interesting
Now that's a subject that seems to stir some life, so all is not lost. Simon, do you think we could talk a little
about the band before we talk about your exploits with Hawkwind? "Uh, yeah. I don't remember much: my
memory's not all it could be."
They were an underrated band, though?
"I thought so, yeah."
What were the kind of problems that caused you to finally split?
"Basically, it was money. A bit of untogetherness getting gigs and the record company wasn't too helpful.
Plus there were some very strange people in the band. It was...a very strange scene. They were all brilliant
musicians, but a bit unstable.
"It was a drag because we made two albums, and were making a third when we split. The third could have
been The One, y'know.
"Between the first and the second album there was quite a development. I think the second album was very
good. It was very complex, perhaps a little too complex. I think if we re-formed now, the music wouldn't
be as complex, because we've probably got over that.
"It would have to be music with a good feeling, rather than very technical music. People still remember us,
even in the States they ask me about High Tide."
Having established some of his history with a few well chosen words, perhaps we could move on to the
period between the demise of High Tide, and the time he joined the celebrated ranks of the Cosmic
Warriors. What had he been involved in then?
"Well...I played with the Third Ear Band for most of the time, for about two years. Then I had a year
resting from the music business. Then I joined Hawkwind."
Well that disposes of that. But it's rather a strange progression. The musical evolution from High Tide,
Third Ear Band and on to the Psychedelic Warlords hardly smacks of logic. But as Simon explains, both
High Tide and Hawkwind can be traced back to the same root. They came into existence at about the same
time. He's known the band since then, and he even used to do the occasional gig with them when he was
with the Third Ear Band. It was, really, quite a natural step to join.
"It was about the end of the hippy season," he recalls a little hazily, referring to his first association with the
Lords of Space, "which Hawkwind is still maintaining desperately...though it's no longer a very firm thing."
That's hardly a word one would associate with Hawkwind is it?
Ah...No. "Firm." Hawkwind have always been synonymous with a kind of fluidity, in terms of their
development, line-ups even, and their attitudes. "Yeah, it's very loose. The band, though, is changing. It
changes at its own speed. It's changed since I joined."
In what ways exactly? Simply with the addition of yourself to the line-up?
"That, and now we've got two drummers. And the music's changed as well. The songs that Dave is
writing are different from the ones he used to write. Virtually everyone in the group is writing now."
Was the change perceptible to people outside the band? After all, critics still seem to maintain the same kind
of attitude to Hawkwind. There's something of a Standard Hawkwind Review which undermines
whatever progression has been made on succeeding albums.
"We're still unmistakably Hawkwind because it's still basically the same people. The foundation of the sound
is the same. But the last album was a bit of a change, I think. Because of the Mellotron, I suppose, it's
sounding a bit classical. A lot of people seem to like it. It's selling very well."
That's a fact which can't be disputed. For so long Hawkwind have been regarded as little more than
something akin to a psychedelic music hall joke, and now here they are, with "Hall Of The Mountain Grill,"
in both the English and US album charts. That's a reasonably impressive state of affairs for a bunch of
fazed-out hippies to have reached.
What, essentially, broke the band in America, Simon?
"I dunno. It was probably because no other group like Hawkwind have ever played in America. That
whole kind of theatrical show, the whole visuals and a dancer with big tits. And we're very loud. We
haven't had any hit albums until now, although we've been over there three times. And each time it's been
getting better. So it must be a word of mouth thing."
It seems, somehow strange that Hawkwind should have captured the imagination of an American audience.
As a band, they hardly reflect an American influence, and on the surface, at least, it's difficult to imagine
American kids beaming out on Spaceship Ladbroke Grove. Hawkwind have always seemed a peculiarly
English phenomenon, encapsulating a typical eccentricity and inspired amateurism.
"I don't think we're particularly English. I don't know why you said that."
Precedents for Hawkwind would be difficult to determine, but that would seem to be a fair starting point.
"English music means to me a sort of folk music."
How, then, would you describe Hawkwind's music, in what sort of terms could you define it?
"It's Space Music."
Well, I think we'll leave that line of questioning and turn to the American audience. Was it comparable to the
type of audience the band pull in this country?
"No. The whole scene is different. People over there are much more violent. They're much more ready to
go right over the top. The audiences are bigger as well. We always seem to go down best in heavily
industrialised areas. And all the gigs we did in the mid-West were all very good - it's like the north of
England, I suppose, it's a very oppressive, heavy environment. I suppose Hawkwind are a very dramatic
escape, in both visual and audio terms, it's an escape. On the West Coast, we're not as big. They've got
their own scene and they seem happy with that."
The conversation turns to the recent Hawkwind confrontation with the US taxation department. It happened
very much as it was reported in the press, says Simon. A dozen or so Federal agents, "straight out of
Hawaii 5-0" moved in and impounded their equipment until the band handed over the money it was claimed
they owed the Government.
"Ironically enough, that was one of the best gigs we'd done. I was oblivious of the whole thing anyway, so
I thought it was petty amusing, the worst part was that they insisted in taking our own personal instruments
off us. They already had £30,000 worth of equipment. They then insisted on taking my violin, which was
the one thing that really annoyed me."
In all truth, Simon seems so completely mellowed out that it would be hard to imagine him being disturbed
or provoked by anything. Except the press, that is. There's this attitude that runs through the whole
Hawkwind organisation, which reveals an uncertain animosity, if that's not too strong a word, towards the
It's a disappointment, really, at the fact that the press has constantly failed to realise how big the band are.
It's possibly justified at the moment, what with album sales in the States, and the kind of reviews the
album has received there. Perhaps English critics are a little more discerning. Simon thinks they're just the
right side of sub-normals. At least, that's the strong impression one gets from speaking to him.
"There's all kinds of malicious gossip in the music papers. I hate them"
Does the criticism worry you then?
"It doesn't worry me."
You could have fooled me.
It all sounds like a Tony Iommi / Black Sabbath press paranoia routine. But Simon would seem to lack the
stamina for a full force tirade in the inimitable manner of Sabbath. He's got the prospect of a second leg of
Hawkwind's American tour to face, and a series of British dates to follow.
In America he's becoming something of a star turn. There seems to be a focus of attention directed towards
him, although he would be the last person to admit it. It's even been suggested that it's his contribution to
the band, and the last album, that has caused the Americans to pick up on the band. Although he would be
the last person to admit that too.
The silence between questions and answers grows longer. The afternoon wears on and the sun sinks lower
on the horizon. Simon smiles, "Sorry, I'm feeling a bit out of it..."
Yeah. A typical Hawkwind interview.
|HOUSE OF KEYBOARDS
Allan Jones meets Hawkwind's new boy wonder Simon House, master
of space, time, keyboards violin - and the silent interview