ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 13, 1990
By Steve Newton
Hawkwind may just well be the ultimate cult band. The British progressive/space metal act has released more than 20 albums since its inception in 1969—and sold millions. Yet ask the person next to you if they’ve ever actually heard the band—least of all bought one of its albums—and chances are fair that you’d get a “Hawk-what?” in response.
But Hawkwind founder Dave Brock is still at the helm of the band, which recently released its Space Bandits album on the New York-based Roadrunner label. The 49-year-old guitarist/vocalist will be bringing the latest of many Hawkwind line-ups to the Town Pump next Thursday (December 20) for the band’s first-ever Vancouver appearance.
Get those tie-dyes out!
While your average music fan might never have heard Hawkwind’s music, they’d no doubt recognize some of the musicians that have gone through the band’s ranks—including Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister, and science-fiction author Michael Moorcock.
“I used to read a lot of Michael’s stuff,” says Brock, on the blower from Cleveland last week. “And I eventually met him in 1970 or ’71, somewhere around there, when he was living in Notting Hill Gate. He was a very shy person—and so am I—but I said, ‘I’ve read all your books.’ And he said, ‘Oh yes? Mmm…I like your music.’ So that was it—from there on he used to recite poetry in the band, and relate the story of what was going on.”
Although Hawkwind has definitely been out of the mainstream music scene of late, the band did actually tour the Eastern United States last year. It was the group’s first North American tour since the late ’70s, but Brock says it was an enjoyable trip, and proved that those die-hard Hawkwind fans are still kickin’.
“It was really good—I mean there’s quite a cult following here, which is jolly nice. And we do like it over here, because I find the countryside fantastic—it’s so beautiful, so vast. I can imagine it a hundred years ago, the wild country with loads of wild creatures everywhere. Unfortunately you can see how it’s being spoilt, with all the factories on the riverside puttin’ all this shit in the water. But it’s still very beautiful.”
Listening to the new Space Bandits release brings memories of obscure bands like the Pink Fairies and Captain Beyond as well as biggies like Pink Floyd and Yes to mind. But Brock says that Hawkwind wasn’t influenced by any of its fellow prog-rock pioneers.
“We weren’t influenced by anybody actually. When we first started getting the band together I don’t think we had any influences, ’cause we were just doin’ sort of weird, spacey stuff. I mean we wrote all our stuff, and I used to go busking to try all these numbers out down echoey subways. Then we just started gettin’ weird electronic effects and things. It was the ’60s psychedelic era, so there was a lot of avant-garde music going on; people were quite into doing weird things on stage, as it were.”
And does Brock expect that the experimental approach that bands like Hawkwind have adhered to over the years might make something of a comeback in the too-safe music world of the ’90s?
“Well I dunno, really. It would be quite interestin’ if it did, because it’s a bit boring listening to sort of acid-house music—everything’s geared up to MIDI, and MIDI’s very boring because it’s the machines playing, really.”
Does Brock enjoy using this complex musical technology himself? “I don’t read the books too well. I prefer to be a barbarian with the machines as it were, and just muck around.”