|Simon King on Radio Trent, August 1976
SK: "Yeah, well we're doing Leicester, and Leicester's not far, is it?! So that's not so bad. But yeah, it's
the same thing, isn't it - there's not the venue for promoters to put it on. And Leicester has got the venue,
so, you know...¦"
CB: What type of show is Hawkwind going to hit the public with when you hit the road?
SK: "Well, it's very different from the past live shows. It still involves lights, though not so much of a
light show - more back projection and front projection, and three screens instead of one. With also some
stage scenery as well. It should be quite a good show."
CB: How much preparation do you have to put into such a complicated show as that?
SK: "Well they've been working -when I say 'they', I mean the backroom boys, you know- they've been
working on that for a few weeks now and the scenery's now being made. We start rehearsals in about a
week, you know, so we'll have had about a month's rehearsal before the...¦just rehearsing this show...
¦before it goes on the road."
CB: So that's a full rehearsal with lights and all the effects?
SK: "Yeah, we do, I mean - they'll be making their stuff, we'll be rehearsing, and then a week before the
show we go to Shepperton Studios for a few days with the whole thing set up as if it's the gig, and let's
hope it works out all right...¦"
CB: Do you still use the dry ice?
SK: "No, we haven't been using that. We used a couple of smoke flares at Cardiff the other week - they
didn't really have the desired effect. But no, we've got a lot of other little toys for this new tour."
CB: Does it ever annoy you when you hear of people that have been to see you, and they come away and
they say 'Yeah, Hawkwind, fantastic light show but they've forgotten about the music'?
SK: "No, not really, because it's the whole thing, you know, it's not just the band, it's not just the lights,
it's the collection - it's more of a sort of theatrical thing than just a rock and roll band, although we're not
using dancers or mime artists."
CB: Sounds like a very expensive production...¦
SK: "Yeah, it is" (laughs)
CB: Would you feel lost if you had to do a normal dance hall gig or a normal university gig without that
type of back-up?
SK: "No, I think it would be quite good actually, I mean I really do think it would be good for the band to
do a few smaller gigs like that, where you get down to just the band playing under a few lights, you
know. It would probably sort of give everybody a lot of energy...¦ With the Cardiff Castle gig, we played
at about 5 o'clock, in daylight, and didn't use any screens. We used a few visual effects, but it was...¦it
was a bit weird, actually, to be playing in daylight. Very unusual!"
CB: You had to wear your sunglasses! Now tonight we are privileged indeed because we've got some
tracks from a new album from Hawkwind, which isn't released until September - so we're going to have a
few exclusives. Tell us more about the album, what's it called?
SK: "Er, the album...¦I've forgotten...¦ It's called 'Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music.' That's taken from
the old science fiction magazines that were around in the 30's, and that's the way the cover has been done
- to look like the cover of one of those old mags, and all the song titles are done so they could be sort of
stories, you know. Like 'City Of Lagoons' or 'The Aubergine That Ate Rangoon' and things like that, you
know...¦ I'm quite pleased with it and I think the band's quite pleased with it."
CB: There's no Green Giants then?
SK: "Not on this one..." (laughs)
CB: Do you take part in any of the writing?
SK: "I didn't on this one, no. I was the only one who didn't write a track on this one. Although once
somebody writes something it's mainly just, like, they've got half an idea and the whole band work it out,
you know. But I didn't write any of these tracks on this one."
CB: OK, let's go to the music and which one should we hear?
SK: "I think we should start with 'Reefer Madness'...¦" (Reefer Madness is played.)
CB: Music there from the new Hawkwind album, which is an exclusive on Radio Trent tonight, and the
album's called 'Astounding Music...' ...¦no, 'Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music'. Quite a mouthful! But
the major change that's visible to anyone is that you've changed from United Artists to Charisma. What is
that due to?
SK: "Well, er, I think our contract had just about expired at UA and I think we'd gone about as far as we
could with them, and they'd gone about as far as they could with us, you know, keeping it diplomatic! I
think we're better off with a label like Charisma, they're more geared to the sort of things that we need,
and the way that our music needs to be put over, you know."
CB: There's more young blood?
SK: "Yeah, I think UA are more interested in their films than in their record company side, you know."
CB: Well, they've got Shirley Bassey and Bing Crosby...¦
SK: "Well there you go!" (laughs)
CB: Do you think this has changed your music in any great way - starting afresh with a new record
SK: "It's given it like a new enthusiasm, because over the last year we've changed record companies,
changed management, changed a lot of attitudes, you know, and it does put a new life into the whole
thing, you know. You feel you want to get out there and do it again, because when you've been on the
road for years and years, you tend to get a bit jaded at some points, and you need, like, a sort of
transfusion of energy. I think this will do it, yeah."
CB: Well, one of the things that normally confuses the general public is that when a band leaves their label
and goes to a new label, the old label always digs around and digs up all their greatest hits and get them on
an album, and that's what has happened to you, isn't it?
SK: "Yeah, the Roadhawks album. I didn't listen to it for ages, actually, when I got it, I just looked at the
titles on it and thought 'oh yeah', and then one night sitting by the fire, you know, feeling quite good, I
thought 'well, I'll listen to that', because there's a couple of the tracks on there are different from the ones
that were on the albums, you know, different versions, live versions...¦ And some of it I was quite pleased
with, some of it quite knocked me out, some of the live stuff. It's not too badly put together, I suppose,
but it's not been...¦the stereo mix on it's not very good, you know. That's the thing with compilation
albums and when you leave a label, the record company just tend to shove it out and they don't rebalance
everything up to make it overall a good sound on the record, you know."
CB: And this is the album that includes 'Urban Guerilla', which was banned when it came out as a single,
SK: "Yes, the story behind that's a bit unfortunate, because Bob had written the lyrics to that a good few
years before we ever recorded it, it was just some lyrics he had sitting around. We did that, it had been
out for a couple of weeks when we had the first sort of bad spate of bombs go off in London, and of
course, in it -'I'm an urban guerilla, I make bombs in my cellar', you know, things like that, and it was...¦ I
don't know, we felt it was a bit...¦in bad taste, and people were sort of saying â€˜oh, you're cashing in on
the publicity' which wasn't true at all, and I don't think anybody would want to do that. Well, of course
the good old Beeb banned it anyway, and we thought that under the circumstances...¦we got together with
the record company and had it taken off the market, which we thought was the better thing to do at the
time. It had done quite well in the first couple of weeks, but no-one was really bothered because we'd
never considered ourselves as trying to be a singles band."
CB: OK, well let's go into the wind tunnel and hear 'Silver Machine'. (Silver Machine plays)
CB: If you have just tuned in this is Chris Baird chatting to Simon King, the drummer of Hawkwind, and
there you go, that's 'Silver Machine', taken from a new compilation album called 'Roadhawks', and as you
might have guessed, it's a much longer version than the single, simply because the single was edited down
quite a considerable amount, wasn't it?
SK: "Yeah, it must have been...¦about three minutes, I suppose, we took out of that."
CB: The actual recording is from the Roundhouse, that must have been quite a phenomenal night, because
there's quite a fantastic atmosphere on it.
SK: "Yeah, it was a great gig that one, that was...¦yeah, it's always been good fun, playing the
Roundhouse, you know."
CB: Was this particular night just a recording session and you listened back to the tapes and thought â
€˜Wow, we might as well put that out as a single'?
SK: "Well we taped a couple of gigs during the time, I think the night before and the night after had been
taped, and the sort of idea of getting some live tracks down, mainly, to use on an album...¦ We ended up
not using any of them on an album, until now, but we did get the tape of Silver Machine from it, and it just
seemed that the only way we could do 'Silver Machine' and really capture it with the sort of energy and
vibe that was around at the time, was to do it live, you know. If we'd gone in the studio and done it, it
would...¦the sound would probably have been better, but it wouldn't have had that feel to it, which I think
was quite important."
CB: Is it true to say that Hawkwind are one of the innovaters of space rock?
SK: "Well I don't know, I mean that's one of the sort of labels that other people put on us, rather than us,
but I suppose we've had a lot to do with it - us and other bands like Tran, who are a good band."
CB: How did you get into this vein?
SK: "Well, everyone in the band is interested in science fiction, science fantasy, a bit of lunacy, you know,
escaping from reality and things like that. It just sort of evolved."
CB: So you're science fiction freaks, really?
SK: "Err...¦well we all are or have been, or drift back to it occasionally. It's good fun."
CB: There's a book which is coming out some time, I think, in September, which is called 'Time Of The
Hawklords'. It's written by a guy called Michael Moorcock and it's built aound the group, isn't it? Can
you tell us more?
SK: "Well I haven't read it, so I can't tell you too much about it. But it's a science fantasy book and
anyone who's into science fiction or science fantasy knows that Michael Moorcock is probably one of
Britain's best science fantasy writers, and he's been associated with the band for quite a while and he's
done this book which I think is about, sort of, the end of the world, sort of thing...¦the final concert...¦"
SK: "...¦and he's used us because he knows us. And he's used people who are in the band now, people
who were in the band, and I look forward to reading what he's got to say about me!" (laughs)
CB: Do you know if you survive, or not?
SK: "I don't, I don't know. I hope so!" (laughs)
CB: OK, back to your new album which we're featuring tonight, with some exclusive tracks before it's
released, and er, which one should we have now?
SK: "Well I think 'City Of Lagoons' would be a nice balance to the other one." (City Of Lagoons is played)
CB: That's 'City Of Lagoons', an exclusive track here on Radio Trent tonight, from the new Hawkwind
album, yet to be released, called 'Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music'. Back to Simon: the band has had a
lot of upheavals over its' existence. How has it survived?
SK: "Erm...¦well, people come and go, mainly they come and go of their own will rather than any sort of
CB: You got off to a very good start with 'Silver Machine' getting into the public's eye, but there didn't
seem to be any great forceful follow-up at all...¦
SK: "Er, no, well we had the 'Urban Guerilla' episode, and we didn't really sort of fancy ourselves as
releasing too many singles, we sort of concentrate more on albums and gigging, and we went and spent
quite a bit of time in America. But we just didn't really see the point in putting out a lot of singles so we
never really bothered with following it up."
CB: How are you regarded in America?
SK: "In parts...¦there's parts of the States where we can go and play to thousands and thousands of
people, and there's other parts where we really have to go in with another act who can pull the crowds.
We've still got to break on the West Coast, whereas the Midwest and the East Coast, we can go and
headline there. It's good fun, working in the States, your audience...¦I don't know, the audiences are a lot
more together. Over here just lately there's more...¦the last tour we did over here, there seemed to be a lot
of kids getting really messed up, you know, and that's a bit of a drag to see that, you know, really sort of
falling about drunk. Very young as well, they were very young kids. It's a shame."
SK: "...¦it was in a place called Hammond in Indiana, which is just south of Chicago. It's a real sort of
industrial wasteland. We did the gig and halfway through the gig, a roadie creeps on and says 'Look, don't
worry, but you're going to get arrested when you come off,' so we thought it was hilarious, you know.
Well, we came off and there's two lines of state troopers from the side of the stage to the dressing room.
We suddenly realised that it is quite heavy, you know, but we're feeling good, we've done a good set, gone
down well, you know, we didn't really mind. Got into the dressing room and there's a guy there from the
American tax people. He was demanding so much money on the spot, which obviously, you know was
ridiculous because no-one carries a lot of money around in cash in the States. So like I said, we were all
feeling pretty good and we were having a bit of a laugh with this guy. All of a sudden, this huge hunk of
person who'd been standing in the corner in plain clothes, looking like a carbon copy of John Wayne, who
was obviously sort of his hero, you know, stepped forward, pulled out his badge, and went through the
whole rap, and it was just like a TV thing, you know. It was sort of 'I'm a Federal investigation officer',
you know, the whole bit, and we were cracking up until he pulled his jacket back. Pulled his jacket back
and there was a huge .38 or something like that in a shoulder holster, and we all went white and quiet, like
'yes sir' and 'no sir'. It was a bit freaky when that happens to you, you know. 'Cause you see it all the
time on the TV."
CB: Did you tell the audience that you were going to be arrested when you left the stage?
SK: "No, well no...¦"
CB: That would have got a few cheers!
SK: "Well probably, yeah, but like, they have a lot of weird scenes over there with their riot police
sometimes. The big halls hold ten thousand people, there's a lot of very heavy security and they start
leaping about too much, it sometimes causes a bad scene which is a bad scene in itself."
CB: Did they try to confiscate your gear?
SK: "Yeah, what they did was...¦'you've got to pay us so many thousand dollars' and we said, well, you
know we haven't got it. That will have to be sorted out with the offices, it's nothing really to do with us.
So they confiscated all the equipment, they went round putting little stickers on saying 'Property of U.S.
Government - Impounded' and we had to blow out a couple of gigs and it took four days for us to get the
equipment back, eventually. It all sorted itself out and in fact we were in the right and they were in the
wrong. It had been a bit of paper lost along the line somewhere, you know?"
CB: So you lived through it, that's the main thing. Tell us about the new single which is 'Kerb Crawler'...¦
SK: "Uh yeah, that's a track from the album. That's Bob and Dave wrote that. It's a bit different, you
know, from most of the things we do. It's got the chick's voices on and Nicky and Bob doing a brass
CB: It's also got a whistle on it! (laughs)
SK: "It's a good sort of rock and roll beat, you know. It wasn't really done as a single, it was 'put it on
the album' and the record company wanted to take a single off it and that was the obvious choice. It
makes a good live number and in fact it's Paul Rudolph who plays lead guitar on that. He's the bass player,
who used to be with the Pink Fairies, and he's an excellent guitarist. We're featuring him more and more
on stage, playing guitar, but it's him who plays guitar on that single, you know."
CB: Simon King, it's been a pleasure.
SK: "Thank you very much."
CB: And we'll finish up with the new single from Hawkwind - 'Kerb Crawler' (plays Kerb Crawler)
This interview was recorded just about exactly 30
years ago, for Radio Trent (a local station
broadcasting from Nottingham, in the UK). It
features Simon King talking to Chris Baird. I
transcribed it from a cassette tape, kindly provided
by Dave Law of the Hawkwind Museum - thanks
Dave! (There are *lots* more where that came
from, but they take forever to transcribe...)
CB: Good evening. Welcome right along to
Nottingham. Has the band ever played this town?
SK: "I don't think the band's played Nottingham for
about 4 or 5 years. It's finding a venue, you know -
finding a place that can put on a show."
CB: What sort of crowd do you need to command?
SK: "Twelve hundred, fifteen hundred, something
like that to make it worthwhile, because it's a big
roadshow to take around, you know, it's expensive."
CB: I notice that you've got a tour coming up in the
autumn and Nottingham is missed out again...