Melody Maker – 7 April 1973
Hawkwind run on an extraordinary mixture of ideas, dreams and energy. Sometimes it seems as if only the dreams are surfacing, but when all three act in coordination the group is capable of imaginative projects of the highest order. Their credibility has been closely connected with the success of the single “Silver Machine” last summer. In one move it gave them the influence and resources necessary to exploit many of the ideas they had been talking about for some time. The result was better equipment and consequently a clearer sound and far more effective stage show. The Space Ritual raised their light show to a supreme position. The group’s history has contained a longstanding association with what used to be known as “The Underground.” They have done numerous benefits, and street festivals in their time. Although they still try to maintain these links “Silver Machine” and “Space Ritual” have increased their popularity and the next phase in their development is likely to be tours abroad. There are plans to go to the USA and Japan in late summer or early autumn. The group has tended to travel in company with many friends and followers, and has a large working retinue. Approximately seventeen people were involved in the Space Ritual tour. Although there is a certain inability to co-ordinate ideas with activity, there is no bar on anyone suggesting anything, and in fact Hawkwind’s manager is among the most vociferous, thoughtful and energetic members of the group.
Their records have sometimes left much to be desired, and the group appears to be aware of it. “In Search Of Space” and “Doremi Fasol Latido” are regarded with retrospective dissatisfaction. Both albums are intense and at times indistinct and monotonous. The first LP “Hawkwind” is in contrast far clearer and more fluid. A live LP of the Space Ritual is forthcoming, and preliminary tapes have met with enthusiastic approval from the group itself. The personnel has changed considerably over the group’s three and a half years of existence. Lemmy (bass guitar, vocals) and Simon King (drums) didn’t join until after the “In Search Of Space” LP, but apart from that things have remained stable for some time. The present line-up is Dave Brock (lead and rhythm guitar, vocals), Nik Turner (saxophone, flute, vocals), Dikmik (audio generator), Bob Calvert (spoken word), Lemmy, Simon King, Del Dettmar (synthesiser) and Stacia (dancer)…
In a way Nik Turner has been projected as the embodiment of the Space Ritual.
He has the stature – saxophone, leather gear and all – to come across as something out of a space fantasy. Through this sort of identification the group has built up an image – or identity if you prefer a less show-biz word – which revolves around space fantasy and social change.
“I think it’s a good thing, but only as long as we are capable of living up to it, and in a lot of cases we’re not on terms of economics.
“I might have a really good idea, something I really believe in, but I’ll be frustrated in it because I will be informed by Doug that we’re running at a loss and we’ve got to make money at a certain time and therefore we can’t afford to do things.
“I’d like to do benefits, I’d like this summer to organise a lot of free festivals, one day events or something like that, but I’m thwarted in this to a large extent because of the business aspects of being involved in such a large organisation as we are now.
“We’re no longer so small that we can just take our equipment and set it up and do it. There’s about sixteen people involved now.”
Like Del, Nik first joined the group as a roadie and thus became absorbed as a musician playing sax. At one time before rock got off the ground with Presley, etc, he was exclusively devoted to jazz, and traced back his influences to Charlie Parker and Roland Kirk.
“I think my original influences were jazz, but not so much now. I mean I like people like Roland Kirk and John Coltrane but other than that the music I like to listen to is things like Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. So I really don’t listen to much jazz at all now. The fact that I play the saxophone is because I was weaned on modern jazz.
“Hawkwind is a vehicle, I find, that enables one to do quite a lot of things. It’s the rock-and-roll thing really, in that it’s very easy to take and if you can get that across to people you can do practically anything else around it.”
Nik always seems to endeavour to relate to the audience’s feelings. On stage, he likes a strong feedback from them, and off stage he tries to be available to talk to anyone who wants to ask questions.
“It’s really hard actually, because becoming popular one gets more people and the more people you get asking the same questions, the more banal the whole thing seems. I like playing music… I don’t know, I can dig it, I can dig the people but it becomes a bit of a bore after a while.
“The whole thing is an entertainment but then again we try not to be playing parts in it. I hope that I’m the same person on stage as I am sitting here talking to you. I don’t want to feel that I’m projecting- an image that is not me.
“There is this fantasy thing but we are part of it. I believe that we are. The life that I lead is a fantasy, although it’s a real one.”
The legendary Bob Calvert, writer and conceptual thinker, has built up a reputation through his extraordinary ideas.
It was he who devised the framework of the Space Ritual, and his “Captain Lockheed And The StarFighter” creation was linked in rumour with Keith Moon and Viv Stanshall.
The Hawkwind Log which accompanied Hawkwind’s “In Search Of Space” album was constructed by Calvert. It is one of the most impressive correlations of relative ideas about our perspective and proportion in the universe that has ever emerged from “the rock culture.”
Despite his effect upon the group’s development, Calvert’s membership of the group has appeared irregular in the past. There have been periods when he just seemed to depart and return without warning. He seemed to be migratory.
“Oh. Well you can’t be there all of the time. You can only be there some of the time. Yes, actually I wasn’t always but I have been recently. I’ve been ill you see. So I disappeared for a while and came back.
“I don’t think keep doing it actually. I think I’ve done it once. I was laid off, as it were.”
Although Calvert’s influence has given the group such close associations with science fiction and space, he believes them primarily to be an instrumental band, with the lyrics and concepts secondary in importance. Did he feel satisfied with the way the music represented the ideas, and concepts contained in the lyrics?
“Not entirely satisfied, no. Some things I think were quite satisfactory but it, could have been better. It’s good doing it anyway. It’s quite satisfying. But the end product isn’t always.
“I think really that discipline is needed to keep all this conglomeration of sounds together. Direction is certainly needed. Improvisation has to be limited to some series of links to keep it all going in the same direction otherwise it would get totally out of hand.
“There are experiments in free music, free jazz, which dispense with chord sequences and I think it gets really too wild to listen to seriously and to hold the attention very closely.
“If you’re producing experimental electronic music, which Hawkwind does in one of its aspects, I think it does help if the sounds are related to a concept of’ some kind.
“If the listener has an idea of the reason for these sounds it helps, it gives it a valid reason for existing, otherwise it’s just noise.”
As he thinks of his role within the group as being that a writer, Calvert is particularly interested in the possibilities of concept albums.
A single, an album and possibly live performances will be based upon “Captain Lockheed,” and in the future it is more than likely that Calvert will drift into more and more outside projects, working with Hawkwind only on a part-time basis.
There used to be a time when the key question to every Hawkwind gig was whether or not Stacia would expose herself.
The chances were that she didn’t know until the music started, and certainly nobody else did.
Stacia believes in total spontaneity, which means that her movements and actions during each gig don’t work to a plan. She has certain sequences she favours, but she acts them out when she feels like it.
There are certain pieces of music that suggest sequences, such as the sacrificial mass that used to accompany “Paranoia,” a number from their first LP.
“As far as talking and reading are concerned I’m no good at it. That’s why I dance and mime, because it’s the only way I can express myself.
“I just like making people happy and I hope that what I do makes someone happy.”
The theatricality of Stacia’s dancing is heightened by the extraordinary costumes and make-up she wears.
“The face make-up is probably to hide my identity or something like that. The Africans paint their faces for their war dances and rain dances.
“Arthur Brown was the first one. When “Fire” came out that really blew my mind and I started to muck around with my mother’s make-up and I suppose that psychologically had something to do with it.
“I want to keep dancing for Hawkwind but I would like to get involved with films or something. I always feel an outsider in the music business because I’m a dancer. I would like to get involved in something to do with the theatre or maybe dancing for someone like Alice.
“Hawkwind isn’t going to last forever and even if they do I might not be with them forever.”
Apart from doing time in a convent, Stacia’s past includes a variety of jobs before she began her dancing career with Hawkwind at the Glastonbury Fayre in ’71. She remembers with affection the happy hours she once spent in a bookbinding factory.
“If I ever get screwed up enough to get out of this life I would go back to it. Old books are really nice, they smell nice. You feel that you are doing something worthwhile. You see them going out looking
new and everything and you feel you are really doing something.
“I used to smoke hundred cigarettes a day when I was doing that. I love football as well. Chelsea.”
Hawkwind’s lightshow is without a serious rival in the whole kingdom. For sheer coordination, imagination and scale, it’s outstanding. Technically and visually, it makes those hazy flower power days of bubbly liquid colours seem like another age.
Jonathan Smeeton, alias Liquid Len, is the mastermind behind the light show. With the success of “Silver Machine” the group finally acquired the bread necessary to develop the visual part of the gigs.
Len joined them permanently towards the end of last year, and with the Space Ritual came the opportunity to create a light show that really related to the content of the songs.
The result was that instead of being a blur of sticky colours, it actually contributed to the feeling created by the music.
In fact it was an important part of the show rather than an accessory. A number of transparencies of lunarscapes were used with paintings by David Hardy and some designs by Sally Vaughan. During the Space Ritual the emphasis was on these fixed patterns and images rather liquid colours.
The equipment Len uses is complicated. The main control panel consists of a keyboard – like a piano keyboard – which consists of five octaves. Each note works a certain combination of lights, which are based on the primary colours of red, green and blue.
Unlike most light shows, Len’s doesn’t use colour wheels, the revolving discs that change the colour of the light as they go round.
In addition to the keyboard he uses projectors armed with cartridges of slides and automatically programmed so that they operate without him having to intervene.
In the past he has also adapted a number of devices like prisms and mirror balls to reflect light in weird and wonderful ways.
Ultimately he feels that he would like to experiment with video. It’s a matter of finding the time and money.
His immediate preoccupation is working on the idea of a 360 degree light show which would onto the walls each side of the group as well as behind them and also take in the audience.
The platform supporting his projectors and keyboard has be-come so big that it has to be built at the back of the concert halls. Thus Len often finds himself too far away from the stage to see what’s going on and has taken to using a pair of binoculars.
A large group and a policy that is, paradoxically, anarchic inevitably produce musical frustrations.
To judge from the stress placed on the idea of ambiguity and the general concept of space within/space without, the synthesiser should be a key component in Hawkwind’s overall sound.
But it isn’t. Instead it often seems to sit on the sidelines, unaccountably absent when the opportunities for spaced out breaks and distortions seem ripest.
Del Dettmar plays synthesiser. He joined the group as a musician at the end of 71 after a period as one of the roadies. Musically speaking, he has his frustrations.
“There are in this band who give you a musical slap across the face and it puts you off trying anything new.”
The point is that it’s not easy to force your way into the music with a synthesiser without the sympathy and cooperation of everyone, and on that score there seemed to be a basic conflict in the group, between heavy, attacking rhythmic structure and more freaky experimentation.
Del tends to reserve his more ambitious sounds for rehearsal, partly in fear of being smothered alive.
“One night I shouted at people to shut up because I get really fed up with them doing that.
“It’s like the great ‘do what you like’ thing which is all very well, but sometimes I think the band has gone the way of the person who moans the hardest.”
It is easy to see obvious ways in which synthesiser could be developed within the present framework of Hawkwind’s music. But Del isn’t content with the obvious, and although he has still to stretch the elementary in practice his ideas for what could be done extend beyond the “space” themes engendered by the Space Ritual.
“Producing space effects is like going to work in a factory. You know – produce space effects for two years. I don’t know that I consciously think of doing something spacey.”
In as much as any one member of Hawkwind sets the musical direction it’s lead guitarist Dave Brock.
He was in at the group’s formation, and has been by far the most consistent in writing material. The direction the group takes now that they are through the Space Ritual tour is likely to depend upon him, which is why it’s a little disconcerting to uncover his present state of mind.
” I can’t get anything together at the moment. I’ve run out of ideas. It’s really bad. I don’t know what we’re going to do now.”
Hawkwind isn’t the first group to find itself strung between, audiences’ demands for familiar numbers and its own desire to move on to fresh material. Since “Silver Machine” was a hit it has become a theme song, an almost obligatory part of their sets.
“Very boring number that is. I really hate playing it. There’s no way you can do it different, it’s a restricted number. It’s like all kind of pop music is limited, there’s nothing you can do with it.”
Dave is currently involved in a project aimed for around June 26 called Exmoor Fair. He describes it as an ecological fair, and it is planned to have a couple of groups playing while the main theme covers the recycling of waste matter. There will be lectures, films and an exhibition of machines to demonstrate that in many cases it is only the profit motive that maintains the present ecological inefficiency.
In terms of his own life, he tries to avoid the arrogant self-obsession of the music business, preferring to live out in Devon with his wife Silvie and two children.
“I find if one gets involved with things like that it’s very hard to keep your ego together. I carry on with the people I know around here and they’re all in the same jobs, so I relate myself with them (rather than the music
“I won’t sign autographs because I find it embarrassing. I say – look you’re no different from me. Anybody could play guitar if they got it together.”
The Space Ritual, the single “Silver Machine” and the last two albums have all relied heavily on a relentless, driving beat, and Simon King – as the drummer – bears the brunt of this.
He is sometimes criticised rather unfairly for laying down, a square, repetitive rhythm. But he takes no part in writing material, and his drumming patterns are more or less dictated by the solid nature of the group’s numbers.
“That’s why I like numbers like “Seven by Seven” because they give you a chance to use the kit. But the Space Ritual is built upon high energy.
“When you’ve got seven instruments on stage it can be a hell of a bloody racket, unless we get it worked out when people play – not so much what they play.
“I think over the last year we’ve got a lot tighter as a band, but we’ve also got stale and bored. Every night it’s the Space Ritual. I think we’ve got to get up and do something about it, because we’ve stopped experimenting.”
Simon’s response to the music is restricted by what he hears on stage. This in itself may account for his style of drumming.
“When I’m playing all I can hear is me and. Lemmy and Daye. It’s like playing for a three piece rock band. When I hear a tape I hear all sorts of things I never heard before.
“But this Space Ritual tour has given everybody a lot of confidence in themselves. I think that was lacking before. If you do a successful tour it does a lot for you.” Although the label “People’s band,” seem to have worn off Hawkwind in the last year, it is still evident that they – some more than others – identify with the general conception of radical social change. On the other hand perhaps too much has been read into their role.
“As far as this revolutionary thing goes all we want to say is look around you and look at the type of environment you’re living in.
“But we’re not out to lead a revolution. We don’t want to get mixed up in politics. Basically we’re out to entertain
people. We’re there to give people a good time.”
Before he joined Hawkwind – after the “In Search of Space” LP – Lemmy was in a group with Simon King in which he doubled bass and lead guitar.
He still reckons his bass playing to be lead influenced and it shows among other things in his stage performance, the way he comes to the front of the group during the last number and goes through a dramatic lead guitarist routine. His bass phrases are often reminiscent of the patterns adopted by lead.
“I like the bass. I reckon I should have started playing it earlier, but it just didn’t occur to me because I had to be at the front. But it is a very satisfying instrument as far as I’m concerned because it’s keeping it all going.”
Hawkwind’s reliance on a very basic rhythm is often criticised as being unimaginative. Lemmy is quick to leap to its defence by saying that if the group wandered off into experimentation they would probably lose the interest of their audiences.
“I don’t know, I think if you mess around a bit you tend to get a bit too clever, and that’s spoilt a lot of good bands. I think we ought to stick with it as we are until it gets to the point where people are complaining about it within the band and then we just change again.
“But some numbers are really different every night. It never works out the same twice, except ‘Master of the Universe’.” There’s a lot of room for improvisation, and in this Lemmy and Dave Brock often play in close cooperation.
“We get amazing empathy some nights. We just play the same riff note for note over about ten bars. That’s why no number’s ever the same. The verse might be the same, but the solo never is.”
“With a lot of the numbers we play there’s not much more the bass can do. If there was I’d do it. But that isn’t the problem you might think at first. It sounds as if I’m doing the same thing right the way through when in fact there are hardly two bars that are ever the same.”
When Dikmik left the group in 1971 to go to India he handed over the synthesiser to Del Dettmar.
As it happened he was only away for a few months and rejoined to take responsibility for audio generator. Consequently there seems to be an overlap between the respective functions of Del and Dikmik. It is often impossible to tell which of the two is responsible for which sounds.
“It does conflict sometimes because it’s two people’s different ideas of what they want to do. But not a great deal.
“I want to get another synthesiser. What I want to do with it at the moment I don’t really want to say. I just want
to experiment I mean you can use two synthesisers without it getting completely complicated. You can use it musically or you can use it totally devoid of music, which is for effects.”
Although he’s reluctant to talk about it at any length until he’s closer to doing it, Dikmik has all sorts of ideas about the effect sound can have. It is widely recognised that sound can have an effect upon human emotions but through the synthesiser Dikmik reckons he can exercise some control over the people’s reactions.
“I just want to experiment with what can be done with sound and what has been done since the creation of this God Forsaken planet we’re on.
“The equipment I’m using at the moment is very basic stuff, which basically the same things you’ll find in a synthesiser but just a small part of that.”
“The audio generator is a two wave sound source oscillator which puts through sound waves, harsh or soft. You have to feed that through a modulator, through an echo unit, a couple of pedals and you get quite a lot out of it, but not enough.
“The range of sounds you’ve got in that machine are really vast, from sub sonic to ultra sonic sound frequencies.”
Making sounds that people can’t even hear places some responsibility on the Dikmik and in fact he maintains that he would never impose anything on an audience that he hadn’t tried out on himself first.
DAVE BROCK: Dick Knight custom built six string guitar, Tony Zemaitis custom built twelve string guitar (1968), Binson echo. Sola Fuzz wah pedal.
NIK TURNER: Conn alto sax, Collonean flute.
LEMMY: Hopf bass, Fender Telecaster, acoustic twelve string Eco.
SIMON KING: Hayman custom built double kit with ten Paiste cymbals, 26in bass drum, 2 x 16in floor tom-toms, 14in snare drum, 12 and 13in timpani.
DIKMIK: audio generator, Coloursound fuzz-wah pedal.
DELL DETTMAR: VCS3 synthesizer and keyboard.
Two Marshall 4 x 12 speaker enclosures; Vox 2 x 15 speaker enclosure: Vox Supreme 100w amp; Vox Defiant 50w amp; Marshall 100w amp; Hiwatt 100w amp; Selmer 50w amp: two Sound City Echo Masters Mk. 2; two Watkins Copy Cat echo chambers.
Vox Foundation Bass 100W amp; Kelsey Morris Mixing Desk; two Kelsey Morris Bass Bins; two Kelsey Morris Treble Horns ; two Electrovoice Eliminator Cabinets; Phase Linear amp; Vox AC30 amp; two 12in Electrovoice speakers; 15in Electrovoice speaker; two Quad 303 60w amps; Power unit 24v.
Four Unidyne IV microphones; four AKG D1200 microphones; four AKG D190 microphones; two AKG D12 microphones; Coloursound foot pedal.
Maestro effect unit; drum machine: three Vox effect pedals; Fender foot pedal; eight Coloursound foot pedals; two Halo mixer units.
Ten Groundrow 30 channel traps; 12 300w side spots: two strobes; two 4ft UV fluorescent tubes and frames; two Perrin Groundrow dimmer packs; two Perrin side spots dimmer packs; 36ft x 24ft plastic screen (white): twelve Groundrow lamps (6 channel); Perrin 9 channel dimmer pack/console; Perrin 31 channel control console; Perrin 5 octave keyboard; Perrin 6 way footpedal system.
Five Anscomatic slide projectors; four 100mm lenses (GAP); four 150 mm (GAP) lenses; three Rank Aldis tutor slide projectors: two Rank Aldis Tutor II 250w slide projectors; five Rank Aldis 150mm lenses; four Rank Aldis 100mm lenses; two Rank Aldis 85mm lenses; two Perrin single dimmer units.
Four WEM X29 speaker cabinets; three WEM PA100 slaves; two Vitavon GPI Horns with drives. Discotheque unit Comprising Millbank Disco III mxer; two AP76 Garrard turntables.
Words by Andrew Means, images by Barrie Wentzell
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting