Sounds – 23 September 1972
So how did you feel when that friendly bunch of freaks, the ones you always liked to go and see when you got really out of it, are at number two in the singles charts? “Was I tripping or did I really see Hawkwind on Top Of The Pops?” someone wrote to us, and a lot of people were similarly astonished.But not Dave Brock. “It didn’t surprise us man. We knew it was going to be a hit.”
“Well, we just did; we know what we’re doing, see. At least, I knew it would get to number five or seven, but I was surprised when it got to number two.”
Outside the farmhouse the sun’s shining, down the lane in a converted cowshed someone’s overdubbing a track on the album they’re recording, in the rest of the house people are sleeping and falling about, and Dave Brock has reluctantly given up the idea of catching a pony and going riding to talk to “the man who gave Hawkwind a bad review at Bickershaw”.
As we talk, the room begins to fill up with other people from Hawkwind and the people who surround them, all joining in, the interview getting more and more confused. Some of the things I attribute to Dave may have been said by someone else, but trying to sort out a tape of about ten different voices, all mumbling at once ain’t easy.
It’s Thursday, and they’ve been down at Rockfield since Monday, recording since Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve got enough down for two albums in fact, because it’s so nice down here. All the basic stuff’s done; we recorded bass, guitar, drums and vocals together, so it’s as live as it can be, and then we put on the other things afterwards. There’s just some sax and vocal to do now.”
Pretty fast for two albums. “Well, it’s easy for us to do – we don’t have any hang-ups. If you record in town you’ve got all that going on as well, and you have to go into the studio at a certain time, but down here it’s the country and you can just loon around and have a good time, it’s a nice farm, nice people who’re where we are, no difference, and we can relax.”
“We just let the tapes run and play like we do when we’re playing live; do a three hour track and then cut it up into pieces, use one piece as a complete section, and join it up to another piece with a synthesiser link or something. It doesn’t matter to us about doing tracks to a certain length or anything, we just do it. It’s improvised, but it’s together in the first place, that’s why we do it the way we do because the three of us know what we’re doing, so we put that down and then if the others don’t know it they can listen to what
we’ve done, get some ideas, and lay their bits down afterwards.”
The thing about Hawkwind is that you feel they are, and always have been, the kind of crazy band that they’d like to go and see themselves if they were going out for a good time. You can imagine any one of them turning up in the audience of a Hawkwind gig and really getting off. They grew out of the street community of Notting Hill Gate, and despite all that’s happened, they still feel part of that community.
“See, what we’d eventually like to get together would be the kind of scene they originally had at the Roundhouse and places, when wherever we go to play there’d be this big thing, like a market place, so everyone in the area who’s into selling things could have a stall and you’d have a complete environment, music, lights, food, stalls, art exhibitions, whatever people wanted. That’s what was supposed to happen with the Roundouse things and others, but then people started to realise they could make vast sums of
money out of it, so it didn’t.
“We’ve been through so many bad scenes with benefits too, so now if we do a benefit we run it ourselves, like we run most of our gigs, so we know exactly where the money goes. And then we get accused of selling out or something because we won’t do all the benefits we’re asked to do, but people don’t think about all the bad scenes you’ve been through with people milking money out of you.”
Strangely, the question of bread keeps cropping up when you’re talking with Hawkwind; not, I hasten to add, because they’re obsessed with country mansions and fast cars, but because they need a lot just to keep going, to help projects they believe in, and to equip themselves so they can create the right environment for their gigs. They resent strongly any implication that they’re involved with the music business: we were talking about the way they’d grown out of one community and, by becoming more successful and popular over the country, must have got involved more in the business.
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong; we’re not involved in the music business at all. We’re still doing exactly the same things, seeing the same people, still living round the Gate, our friends are still the same people they always were. There’s so much shit involved in the music business that none of us want to be involved at all: we’re on the fringes, like having a record contract, but only as long as we can do what we want to do.”
Fine words, but a lot of bands say those kind of things and find it impossible to act them out. Was it possible?
“Surely it is. Everywhere we go we can create our own environment, and people can come and get turned on by what we stand for and by what we do. Most of the places we play, we hire the halls, and run the gig ourselves, and the thing we usually get is local councils and commissionaires and people putting a block on us doing things, like getting that market scene together or having a light show. They want us to have the hall lights up all the time and things, but that only causes bad scenes. What they don’t realise is that people will co-operate with us, because we’re into the same things they’re into but they resent them trying to impose their authority.
“Lots of bands could do the same things as us, but very few people want to – they start off saying they want to but they somehow, er, go astray. You just know how to get it together and set up the right situation.”
How had they managed to get to that point? “We starved, that’s how. You just keep on going and going until you’re skint, and then you start thinking you’ll give it up as a bad job, but you don’t and you keep going because eventually you know it’ll all dot into place and something will get together. You just keep steering the ship, and I think if we keep steering it in the direction we’re going we could do some really nice things, revolutionise a few things, without a doubt.”
The next big project will be the long awaited Space Opera tour, due on the road in November. “It’s coming along slowly, but there’s so much work, really a lot. and you just don’t realise how much there is until you
start. Our normal number of people on the road is l6, but with this we’ll need 24, and they all have things to do and they’ve all got to be paid. When I see it all written down, I tend to freak out, because apart from all that we’ve got to get it all together musically too.”
“If we can get it done in time, all the speakers we’ve got at the moment will he done away with and replaced with new ones, all ridiculous shapes and sizes. We’re going to have them all-directional, with lights inside them, and have a 360 degrees sound system, like the Pink Floyd use.”
Meanwhile the strangeness continues because however much they try to carry on as if nothing had happened, things are different for Hawkwind now. It shows on gigs, where the pulling power of a hand with a hit single means they can’t play the small places they used to, and even when they play the hip places, they sell out.
“It’s a bit of a drag because all the heads who used to come and see us usually turn up late, because they’re completely out of it, and of course now they can’t get in. It’s good in a way too, because the average age of
our audience has dropped to 14 or 15 or something, and they probably get turned on to new things when they come to one of our gigs, see things a bit differently maybe, but we get really pissed off about the people who can’t get in.”
If they’d seen what was going to happen with the single so clearly, didn’t they see that problem coming as well?
“Well, no. Not as much as it has. I mean there’ve been some really bad scenes, riots almost. Like when we played at Croydon, that was really silly – 1,500 people got turned away, and the alley where they got in was packed with people and they started freaking out, hitting each other, chicks with broken noses and cars getting turned over – really bad, you know?”
“And there’s not much you can do about it except play in bigger and bigger places, but that’s all right if we keep the prices down and make sure we can create our own scene there.”
And will they be releasing another single?
“Ah. Well, not yet, not ’till the time is right again. Not ever yet.”
A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting