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Progressive Rock Interviews

Hawkwind

Interviewed by Bruce Stringer
Interview With Richard Chadwick, Tim Blake and Dave Brock of Hawkwind from 2003
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Could we begin by talking about your influences in the beginning?
Richard Chadwick: The beginning?
MSJ: Acid Punk, wasn't it?
Richard Chadwick: Yeah, yeah. It was the Do It Yourself nature of Punk Rock music that appealed to me, so that's what I got into, basically. We just left our colleges and various other things that people were doing… I was the one at college whereas various other people were just dropping out of various other things. We moved about and formed this Acid-Punk group called the Demented Stokes or 'DS' for short and we went around and played the free festivals and sort of got a scene going in the city where we lived. When that split I formed another band called Smart Pills and we did quite a few gigs with the 80's Punk bands like Sub Humans, Disorder - all west country Punk Rock that was quite popular at the time. There are bands from that ilk that are still going, now. Disorder are still playing, they're all still going. It's an active scene, really, and it's world-wide so they often go to Japan and abroad - it's great! Yeah, groovy scene, so that's what got me into it, really. I thought I could do that, so I jumped in… My drum lesson lasted all of nearly two minutes, where a guy just moved into our squat and he showed me how to play his drums. He said "You do this with this hand, this with this foot, this with this hand and off you go… And everything else is just practice".
MSJ: How did you hook up with Dave Brock?
Richard Chadwick: I used to bump into him at free festivals with Hawkwind and all the rest of it and I knew his partner, his long time partner, Kris Tait who was a friend of our vocalist in the band at the time in the Smart Pills. So we sort of bumped into them at festivals and things and just gravitated together after my band split-up - well, not my band: the band I was in! I sort of joined them (Hawkwind). I got involved with Dave and he just said "What we need is a pulse" and I said, "I am a pulse!"
MSJ: Okay, now to the new line-up…
Richard Chadwick: The new, old line-up, yes. Tim's been swazzling around with us for a bit, now. He's into doing this and he's really good fun. We like playing with him and he's a hell-of-a character, a bit of a whack, so it's good fun. Yeah, we're having a gas. He's enjoying himself, I think - gets him out and about 'cause he lives by himself in France, making his music in his windmill. Fantastic, really, so it's good for him to come out and have a bit of an adventure! Last night he said "I haven't tasted this for years and in this instance it was chocolate fingers!". "I haven't tasted these since I was six, or seven years old!"
MSJ: How do you feel about working with Tim on keyboards as opposed to Harvey?
Richard Chadwick: They've got a different approach to sound: Harvey's got a massive soundscape, he always makes a big presence in what he plays, whereas Tim's is more of a faster keyboard player, so he tends to be pre-occupied playing these whiz-o solos rather than creating huge soundscapes. I'm always saying "get fat, get fat Tim! Make some noise!" I'm always saying "get an analog synth back in there" and he'd say, "If I could carry it over, I would!"
MSJ: I understand Huw has been playing the December mini-tour, yet he's nowhere to be seen…
Richard Chadwick: That's the trouble at this time of the year people, when people catch the flu: they live on their own in their houses or with their families and everything's quite normal. They go to rehearse and it's alright then they come out to a gig and meet people and three quarters of them have all got influenza, it's really easy for people to pick it up. Dave's highly cautionary with anybody who's got the flu or a cold 'cause it fucks your voice up, you can't sing. That's the reason why.
MSJ: How did you find playing with Huw as a guitar player?
Richard Chadwick: Huw is a foxy player! He's the most famous lead guitarist, axe-man I've ever played with. He's a nice guy, as well.
MSJ: Have there been any changes to your drum set-up - any recent additions?
Richard Chadwick: Drum kit-wise… No, not really - I just need some new cymbals because I'm breaking everything at the moment on this tour, they're all getting broken! Probably because we're thrashing a bit, but electronics - that's something I'd like to get into a bit. I'd like to have a little bank of machines behind me that would do all the things I'd like them to do. I'm just missing a good sound effects-type generator, a synthesizer noise thing… A virtual analog type thing that generates good sound effects to help fatten up the sound a bit, to try and create these deep, rumbling bass landscapes: trademark sounds of the band.
MSJ: Have you tried out the new V-Drums from Roland?
Richard Chadwick: I know all about them, but they're out of my price range. I'd like to have a go on them: they'd be good for programming. You'd have less difficulty in dealing with the velocity increments and differentials between hitting a real drum and a synth pad, especially with their sensitivity: they're apparently awesome, but I ain't tried them yet!
MSJ: I can tell you right now that they're awesome!
Richard Chadwick: Have you tried them out?
MSJ: Yeah, I'm not a drummer but from playing around with sounds and sensitivity and speaking with drummers who play them I can tell you that you wouldn't de disappointed!

Hawkwind are highly influential in the use of sounds and improvisation. Do you have a role in Hawkwind besides being the drummer?
Richard Chadwick : My role in Hawkwind apart from that? I don't know. Here's Tim Blake…Tim, I'm being interviewed at the moment. How would you describe my role in Hawkwind apart from drumming?

(Waiting for Tim to speak, Richard narrates:)


Tim Blake pauses for a moment. Tim Blake pauses quite seriously, staring pensively as he ponders…


Tim Blake : Richard is not the leader of the American Musical Singing Troupe, but he's one of the first to get involved quite rapidly. Richard has other tendencies, you see. For a start, he's our chief Indian. When we go into prairie mode we're looking to Richard because he knows the signs.
MSJ: Now onto solo projects…
Richard Chadwick : I'm in a band called Star Nation and I'll give you a couple of CDs so that you can give them a review or tell people about it because I do think it's good music and I think people would like it.

(Dave Brock enters as Richard is fishing around his bag)


Dave Brock : Do you need your glasses? It's a bit dark!

(Laughs)

Actually Richard's right on the case, but he never does radio interviews.
MSJ: Speaking of which, how did you two go yesterday… (the band appeared on Danny Baker's BBC Radio London Breakfast show on Thursday 12th December 2002)
Dave Brock : On the radio? It was alright actually, it was very good. I don't like getting up early in the morning and going off and doing an interview, you know. That was quite strange.

(Laughs)
MSJ: What's the new album plan?
Dave Brock: The new album plan…
MSJ: I understand that Huw had written a couple of pieces and that each member was contributing two songs.
Dave Brock : Yeah, it's all come to a stop. Actually, Richard and me have done a lot of nice, spacey sort of dance stuff, haven't we?


Richard Chadwick : Yeah, we do like Caribbean techno (laughs)


Dave Brock : I think we've got a hit single there… (All burst into laughter). We do a lot of weird stuff together, you know? So, we've got all of that: we've got about an album's worth of that. What we're thinking of doing is a double CD with one as sort of weird and one CD of intellectual words, stuff like that. A guy called Richard Morley, who's a very well known writer, has given us a load of words. One of the story lines… I could go on for ages talking about it. He's a real weird, eccentric character who went mountaineering in the Himalayas and become really ill whilst rock climbing and his life was saved by one of the Nepalese guides working for 'em. This guy carried him all the way down and saved his life, so he said to him "any time you're in trouble, or your son needs educating get in touch with me". So he did. I think his wife, or the boy's mother had died… Anyway, Richard went over there got his son into a really nice school and became a father figure to him. He tried to get him to live in England, but of course the English government wouldn't allow it and wanted to kick him out of the country. At the end of the day... It's all such a long story- it takes ages to explain (laughs). Anyway, next question!
MSJ: The Hawkwind symbolism. Hawkwind have used the same symbolism as used by Rosicrucians, Masons, American Indians, Middle Easterners…
Dave Brock: Oh, yeah - the Nepalese, the Indians…
MSJ: How did you get involved in that?
Dave Brock: What, in the art of symbolism?
MSJ: The interest.
Dave Brock: Tradition, mate. Tribal tradition (laughs). The more you read about these things the more you learn, really. Then you find that it's all pretty much the same. I mean the Tibetans and the Peruvians are very similar, you know, where you see in stature and what they wear: very bright colours, very similar colours. You never know… And they live on high plateaus. It's quite interesting when you go around the world. Like you say, going back to primitive art, very simple lines and all of that. Maori art is quite interesting too, especially with all the tattoos on their faces. I could go off on a tangent, anyway…


Richard Chadwick : Dave's always maintained with the name Hawkwind that he derived it from the symbolism, to quote him: "The hawk flying over the forest seeing far". So I guess that's how the influence comes in, Dave's always been fascinated with that culture. I am as well and I think visually beautiful artwork comes from those people. I suppose there are elements of that symbolism in Hawkwind's music, philosophy - if you like. If anything, more for it's orientation towards the Earth, the constant of the Earth: the fact that it is a sentient thing and that we need to take care of it. I'm not necessarily saying that they're the only people who think like that - they're not. They're a symbol that's well known in Western society as a culture of people who were very aware of their existence on the planet and careful of it. So, that's probably why.
MSJ: It was actually because of Electric Tepee that I started to research the American Indian tribes, like the Sioux and the Hopi Prophet Stone. There is an interesting connection between the Hopi and Tibetans: the Hopi word for sun is the Tibetan word for moon and vice-versa.
Dave Brock: Yeah!
MSJ: Apparently they share the same DNA characteristics.
Dave Brock: Yeah. Well I suppose the more humans actually explore their own selves and how they moved across countries with different tribes…. I mean, look at the English language: it's French, so many words. If anybody really wants to look at the lost language of symbolism then you'll certainly find that there's so many little things that are very similar. It's like hieroglyphics, isn't it? So much of it has been lost, really: think of all the burnings of libraries and clay tablets and stuff that's been destroyed over the years. A wealth of knowledge gone, lost from our own stupidity, really. Still, that's humans for you isn't it: Cancerous growth on the Earth? It's true, isn't it? We ain't no stars, that's for sure.

(Laughs)
MSJ: We made the fatal mistakes years ago.
Dave Brock: We took the wrong step years ago, the song!


Richard Chadwick : At the end of the day all these cultures are dealing with a universal truth. They're trying to impinge on that sensibility, as it were and that's why you get similarities because there is a fundamental, universal truth and that's what they're aspiring to - all these cultures, religions, philosophies, I think… In the past and now.
MSJ: Richard, do you consider yourself a religious person, a spiritual person?
Richard Chadwick: No, I'm just a regular guy! (Laughs) That side of things is mine and mine alone.
MSJ: Could you discuss the longevity of Hawkwind? How would you…
Dave Brock: How would I explain it? (pauses) Is that what you were going to say? Ah, well… It's a strange sort of situation because it's a love-hate relationship - it's like a woman, in a way. People who've been in this band and leave - and can't get back in again because we've got somebody else doing what they were doing - are like divorcees. They become very embittered. It's weird… Can you relate to what I'm saying? And 'cause we've had a lot of people in the band people give their different objectives and the way they see music we play (pauses). I am the Captain of the ship and I might be a bit of a dictator in a way, but you've got to be a bit of a dictator if you get the ship to go in different directions. But at the same time you want all the crew to give lots of ideas because it might go somewhere to an island, you know what I mean? One of the crew's found some gold and then we can all sail on somewhere else (laughs). So, it's a bit like that but it is an art form, I always regarded it as a show in which lots of things are going on… You know, I'd like to go back to having dancers on stage - here we are, look (points to stage): if we had three dancers, there's so much we could do. We've got a huge screen up there. What we've used before: if you see the front of the actual stage like that, we had a screen come down so you could see through the screen but it gives this really weird 3-D imaging that you can back-project. If you look forward what will come through backwards are these incredible images coming out through the smoke - It's amazing, I can't explain it. What I'd like to do is, if I had extra money, is indulge some of these fantasies because the audiences love it when you got dancers moving behind… You can be fish, the whole of it could just turn into an ocean. Dancers coming up pretending to be fish, playing all this spacey… We've done it in the past and I've got ideas for new shows but new shows always cost a lot of money.
MSJ: The film-shoot in Morocco - could you talk a little about that?
Dave Brock: No! (Laughs)
MSJ: Okay, there goes that one…. (Laughs)
Dave Brock: Yeah, the film-shoot in Morocco should be jolly exciting. I'm sure we'll get very stoned down there, probably smoke a lot of dope. (Laughs). And get nothing done!
MSJ: Is this going to be just Hawkwind or will you be teaming up with other, local musicians?
Dave Brock: It's just going to be an exploration, really. Same as we'd like to go to Australia again, we had a really great time over there.
MSJ: Richard, besides Hawkwind what are your future plans? Star Nation?
Richard Chadwick: Yes, carry on with that and we have got a lot of new things on with Hawkwind, actually. We're doing an album at the moment that we've got to finish up. We've got to do some more recording on a different project in Holland. It's been talked about but I don't know the details about it yet… Something about this big company that's invented this new kind of sound system. They want a number of acts in the classic genre, as it were, to record some music specifically for a release on this new sound format. I can't be more specific than that because I don't know much more about it. Various other things, twiddling around in the ether. We're active still and there's plenty of things to do as far as we're concerned.
MSJ: That sounds reminiscent of the Levitation sessions, being the original digital recording…
Dave Brock: You mean the re-master, or…
MSJ: The original recording…
Dave Brock: At the Roundhouse Studios?
MSJ: Yeah. Could you tell me a bit about how you approached the new medium of digital back then?Dave Brock: How did we approach it? We just did it as we normally would, actually. (Laughs)
MSJ: That was one of (if not the) earliest digitally recorded album.
Dave Brock: It was! That was supposed to be one of the original digital albums, because we'd just signed a deal to Bronze records and they owned the studio, Roundhouse Studios, and just had it re-vamped and got us. We had Ginger Baker at the time and it was their idea of promoting us, a bit more extra press: "Hey, look - they've got the new technique. They've got the new 6-speaker system…" You know what I mean! But I don't think it made any difference and I can't really tell the difference, myself anymore - can you: between digital and re-mastered analogue? It's like analogue synthesizers, my old synthesizers, but then I'm going a bit deaf, now anyway. I wear earplugs on stage too, now. I never used to but the hearings getting badly effected.
MSJ: So, any other future plans?
Dave Brock: Yeah, get a new stage show together, as I say. Probably get Arthur Brown to be involved with it as he would like to do something like that, rather than… We can play music but we like to actually indulge in a bit of art and I think people would appreciate that. It's like putting a show on. Years ago I used to love going to see a band that might be playing erratic music - sometimes good, sometimes bad - but if it's a weird show… you know. If it's like that (points to stage): the lights have gone out. If you can imagine a screen with all of this going on it's great. People come here and they're like on a big trip.

(Dave laughs as a mischievous grin appears on his face)

That's what we'll do: send 'em on a trip!
MSJ: Do you have any Hawkwind anecdotes that you could tell our readers?
Richard Chadwick: Uh… Dave's unknown skills include being a master… a master of Hoovering. He'll eradicate grime no problems - he's really good. He knows how to handle a Hoover in tight spots. He can move effectively and efficiently!
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