Hawkwind's Space Trip

Sounds – 4 September 1971

TWO OF the faces in Hawkwind were listening, or had just finished listening, to the takes of their new album at UA, when a little man breezed in with a tape. “One rocket-ship, courtesy of EMI” he said. It went straight on the tape machine at full volume, and it was deafening.

“Hmm, not bad,” said Nik, the man who plays the sax with a difference. “Yeah, but it’s probably done on a moog” added Dave the guitarist. Then, to me, “What we really want is a proper recording of one of the Apollo rockets.” Hawkwind, fresh from their recent altercation with dance hall management, have got quite an ambitious project going with their second album. They want to get this one just right, as it’s been nearly a year now since the release of their first.

It’s conceived as a continuous piece of music, though the individual cuts have yet to be spliced together. The subject is a two-dimensional rocket-ship trip, and a specially designed booklet in the form of the space-ship’s log, will accompany the record. They have been doing this in conjunction with some of the people on a magazine. It was in the course of returning their friends a few favours by giving away the mag at a recent gig that they had a few problems the other day.

They were both amazed at the hostility with which they had been treated on that occasion: “We’re only trying to make people more aware,” said Nik. It seems that they share some of their ideologies with their friends: “The album has got quite a lot of the things we believe in, particularly the ecology thing. The people in the space-ship visit Earth in 1985 and find that it’s a total mess of concrete and iron.”

They have been working in conjunction with several other people whose ideas have helped to crystallise the project: “The two-dimensional trip was Bob’s (Calvert), and the space-ship idea was Barney’s (Bubbles).” It was Bob who did the words for the log, entitling himself grandly as a member of the “Société Astronomae,” and the plan for the rocket-ship was Barney’s, who will also be responsible for cover art-work. Quite apart from that, the music is Hawkwind’s own.

Their line-up uses a conventional rhythm section, comprising Dave Anderson on bass, and Terry Ellis on drums (“We call him Boris”), but all the other instruments lean heavily on variations of electronic processing: there is Dave Brock, who plays his guitar through an echo unit and a wah-wah pedal, Nik Turner, who was doing most of the talking, and plays his flutes and saxes through the sane processors and gets a sound not dissimilar to lan Underwood’s (“I figured the sound out myself, though,” he said when I asked him about the similarity).

Then there are their two paid-up electronics experts, Del who plays the synthesiser, and DikMik, their audio generator operative, who also doubles up on Moog. The last feature is unique to Hawkwind (though I’m open to correction). The audio generator is capable of creating any frequency, with or without first and second harmonics, and ranges over the whole audible spectrum.

All this jargon means that it produces a very clear, pure sound (pure frequencies sound strange to the human ear, which is accustomed to the sound of instruments). This is exploited well by the group in their search for an appropriately spacey sound on the album. The record was put together at Olympic, and the vocals are at the moment being added and the whole thing carefully mixed down to arrive at the finished sound.

MARTIN HAYMAN

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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