The Flipside of Nik Turner
By: Al
Flipside #89
April/May 1994

This notorious English madman, along with Helios Creed, members of Pressurehed and friends are touring an amazing musical collaboration designed to bring the spirit of acid / space rock out of its grave and give it a good 90's shake up.

So I've been a big Hawkwind fan for a long time and of course the chance to meet any of its many members (ex- or not) is always a welcome opportunity. Well, it just so happens that somehow my good friends in Pressurehed have been doing these recordings with one of Hawkwind's founders, Nik Turner. Not only that, but f*ckin' Helios Creed, the absolute God of guitar noise, has also joined in with the bunch and now I hear they're taking it on the road! My opinion of reunion shows and has-beens coming back from the dead to play greatest hits tours is pretty low, and when this Turner-Helios-'Hed alliance booked themselves as the 'Space Ritual 94' tour, I was a bit puzzled. Certainly on the strength and reputation of Helios Creed alone could they pull this tour off - not to mention Nik Turner who, although somewhat unknown in the States, is a bona fide living legend in Europe not only for his many years in Hawkwind, but by his solo efforts, the Inner City Unit band and now the two brand new full length releases with Helios-'Hed ('Sphynx' and 'Prophets of Time'). And of course, Pressurehed have two very excellent releases of their own to boast ('Infradrome' and 'Sudden Vertigo'), have done a bit of touring and can indeed command a pretty good cult following locally. Anyway, the booking people could call it what they want. The fact is this alliance was doing a variety of stuff from all parties concerned, and that included a few Hawkwind tunes that Nik had penned. So be it, I was amped.

By some odd fate I ran into Nik at a Nirvana concert (of all places!) and immediately decided an interview was in the stars. So we decided to do it during the rehearsal session for this upcoming tour. This was indeed a gas for me, getting to see the band go through and actually develop renditions of each other's material, as well as to chat endlessly. That was also a bit of problem since it was impossible to decide where to actually begin the official interview - like turning the tape on.

At one point Helios, Paul Fox (ex-Trashcan School, now Pressurehed and bass on this tour), and Nik were going on and on about psychedelic drug experiences. This topic came up when it was discovered that both Nik and Helios live in rural areas (Nik in England, Helios in Hawaii) where Psilocybin mushrooms grow quite abundantly. Both of these characters have deep roots in the "acid" rock underground. Hawkwind defined "acid" rock pretty much the same way Helios' Chrome defined "acid" punk, and as you might have guessed the psychedelic experience was a big part of shaping those sounds. Well, things have changed a bit, I guess we're all older and wiser and perhaps of the attitude that 'you get the message, you hang up the phone!' - but the spirit is still ablaze.

When it finally dawned on me to turn on the tape recorder, we were half way through psychedelic memory lane and I guess that's as good a place to start as any... was like 1 in the morning, then I'd look at my watch and it would be 9 o'clock, then I'd look again a little later and it would be 3 o'clock - it kept going forwards and backwards. It was weird - I thought it was some kind of new kind of acid, some secret government experiment or something like that because I was tripping so hard. I mean I can't believe I was jumping around in time like that.


I'd go into blackouts too, coming into different places and not remembering what I was doing.  I was drinking a lot too...

Paul: Where'd ya get it? Was it blotter?

Helios: It was blotter. I got it at this hippie party.

Paul: Dead heads?

Helios: Yeah...

Paul: Oh, they've got the best acid.

Helios: I dont remember what kind it was - it may have been "musical notes"...

Nik: Oh, I had some of that in London - don't know where I got it.

Al: I always figured that those early Hawkwind days must have been wild - everybody just giving you the best of everything.

Oh, it was, it was wild. A gig in London was like a dope dealer's convention. All these people were there, that you knew and they seemed to be giving aťay everything. It was really good.

Helios: Acid is one of the most popular drugs now here in America, with High School kids.

Nik: Really?

Al: That's what they say, I don't know if I believe that...

Helios: It is. I know some High School kids and that's all they think about - doing acid, going to concerts, in Hawaii too!

Nik: Things haven't changed much, have they!

Oh, when you're a kid acid is fun, it's cheap, it's better than crack or cocaine...the government doesn't want you to do it... It's like psychedelia itself never disappeared, it just went underground. It's always been here.

Al: That's what I mean, it always has been and now the media is just focusing on it again and playing it up big to gain support for their war on drugs.

Helios: Yeah, it's always been here. People have always been into it and the music. I've always been listening to old psychedelic music, new psychedelic music, but if it don't have positive lyrics I get kind of bored of it. We just went through a kinda cold wave of depressing music.

Al: What other things were going around besides acid, Nik?

Nik: Oh, drugs... PCP, DMT, THC, mushrooms...occasionally bad speed when I was driving a long way...

Paul: Now look, you don't even get high!

Yeah, you don't drink any more. Helios can't even handle caffeine! What's going on? (Earlier both Nik commented how alcohol zaps his energy if he drinks before playing, while Helios searched for a caffeine-free soft drink!)

Helios: Hey, I had to spray bug spray in my house that I'm moving into. I had to get the PCP bugs out of there. I just did some mushrooms out of our field before we left - haven't done them in years - they were OK.  Went out into the field, walked around, aired out my brain - they weren't very strong. I wrote this song on my last album about how all they try to push on us are bad, dangerous toxic drugs when they could make really good drugs. They could make really good psychedelic experiences, where you come down and you feel better, you're healthier - mentally healthier.

They're here. I think Ecstasy's a really good drug if you can get the real thing.

Nik: Yeah, but it gets bad publicity as well, people claiming that it rots your bones...sends you mad...they need to perfect it and they need to give you the real thing.

Helios: People say it drains your spinal fluid. Every time I've done Ecstasy it's been a totally different experience. One time in San Francisco we were waiting for a Bomb show, and me and my girlfriend did it and all we could do was sit in our van - paranoid, and cry. Weirdest trip. We tried to have sex...then Mike knocked on the door to see if we were coming in and we were like "Ohhh, who is it? Who is it???"  Then I did it again and it was a sex trip. It's a different thing every time. I did it with Z once and she was throwing up all over the place.

Nik: The things you do for kicks!

Helios: But the weirdest things I've ever seen is on mushrooms, like when trees turn into time in Hawaii I did some mushrooms with my girlfriend and we got stuck together! Her leg was connected to my leg, we tried to pull apart but we couldn't! I just flipped out, man! Our skin...and there were these voices talking in our heads, telling a story: "We are all one and flesh." NO!!!! It was weird, man...I could write a book about how weird some of my psychedelic trips were. I still try to do psychedelics every once in a while, but I never have trips like I had when I was younger. I don't know if it's the drug or me or, I don't know.

Al: Do you ever do psychedellcs any more, Nik?

Nik: Magic mushrooms, occasionally, but nothing else really. I quite like healthy drugs.

Helios: Oh we have some good pure acid for you Nik, for the desert!

Well, this sounds like it could be a pretty fun tour!

Helios: Oh yeah, it's gonna be Nik Turner's big comeback.

Nik: Oh, I'm glad you think so!

Al: How did this all happen?

Nik: Well, Brian Perrera from Cleopatra Records got in touch with me because he was interested in releasing an album that I produced in 1978, what was based upon some flute music that I recorded inside the Great Pyramid, in Egypt.

Helios: That was sort of what got me, the fact that he recorded inside of the Great Pyramid. I go, "That's different, that's cool, I think I'll support that consciousness."

Nik: I turned it into an album at the time and promoted it with a pyramid stage and took it around to festivals and had a really wild, theatrical tour. It was really good and it sold around copies and then it was deleted. Brian thought he'd like to reissue it. But Virgin Records wouldn't let him do it, and they wouldn't reissue it either, so we decided to make a new album. I couldn't get over here at the time so I did some recording, and ran into a lot of problems with equipment and what not. The original recordings of the flute was done in Egypt, on a Sony tape machine powered by motorcycle batteries. So Brian wanted this album, but I couldn't get it together properly so I sent Brian the tapes and he enlisted the help of Helios and Pressurehed and they got thing together and produced it. I went to India in the mean time for 6 months with my family. It's a filthy, stinking place but it's fantastic as well. Lots of flies and disease and poverty but it is a fantastic place too...

I've always wanted to go there.

Al: How did you get involved with this, Helios?

Helios: Well, I've known Brian for a couple of years because of Pressurehed. I did a show here at Rajis and they came up and introduced themselves. So every time we played here since, we stayed at their house. I knew that they were huge Hawkwind fans and I was like, yeah, I'm influenced by old space rock, too. I used to listen to that when I was a teenager and do acid and stuff like that. Although I didn't know who was who - but they were always talking about Nik Turner and how he was the craziest guy from Hawkwind.

(Laughs!) They were putting me in the same bag with Roky Erickson and Syd Barrett I seem to remember!

Helios: I started to realize that his trip was very similar to my trip in the sense that there was this partner that took off with the band and the name...

Nik: A music business bullshit trip...

Helios: Yeah, music business bullshit sort of left him without credits and stuff like that. So I feel maybe he's more of a Hawkwinder than the Hawkwinds, you know?

Nik: Well I used to be called Hawkwind, that's where we got the name.

Helios: So I sort of knew all about Nik before I met him. People thought we were old friends!

I had never heard of Helios, and then suddenly I got this record back ('Sphynx') with Helios Creed on it. I said to a friend of mine "Do you know who Helios Creed is?"  And he was like "yeah, he's great!" So I got Helios to send me some albums of his. I told other friends that I was doing this tour with Helios Creed and they were impressed, saying how they admired his playing and his albums, brilliant...

Al: Oh, when I saw that Nik had teamed up with Pressurehed and then teamed up with Helios, it was like how f*cking perfect!

Nik: It's a match that I am very interested in making work, it's very exciting.

Helios: Music, since it's been so negative all these years - the cold part of it... In the late 60's and early 70's, maybe this is kinda corny, but it was really positive music. Then we went into punk rock and explored the negative aspects of music, now I think music could kinda reach a synthesis of negative and positive knowledge. Sort of a tree of life. A lot of Helios Creed songs are like bad acid trips but a lot of them are like GOOD acid trips.

Nik: A lot of the Hawkwind stuff, a lot of that was like bad acid trips too. The first album was exciting, and in many ways it was great but a lot of it was Dave Brock trying to freak people out. And not in a nice way. He used to go around his house and just try to freak you out all the time. You would think it's funny sometimes but when you're feeling a bit sensitive... like what happened to Huw Lloyd-Langton, he took some acid and, well, he got freaked out by it all and Dave wasn't very understanding about it. He's quite sadistic really...

Helios: One approach that we had, that I guess I discovered by accident in listening to other bands - something that is really fun on acid is when the music is scary AND funny at the same time. It really creates an... you laugh, you're scared and all of a sudden you're at a different level. That's what the Butthole Surfers like to do, on that song "Late Bloomer". It's like this big monster thing, and I lower the frequency and it's a scary kind of song but what he's saying is how he has to stay in bed... "his mother said you gotta to stay in bed, or you'll catch a cold..." You know what I mean? If you hear the lyrics, you go "What? This doesn't fit the music." I like tt. That's the one I want to do with this band because our set needs a funny/scary song.

Nik: I used to write quite serious songs with Hawkwind - the self experience type of thing, "Brainstorm" and "Master of the Universe", that sort of thing. But when I left the band I got into more satirical sort of lyrics, very political, but very satirical with a lot of analogies so that it didn't appear to be about what it was about. Things could be taken on many levels - you could take it as a cheap trashy pop song but it could actually have a very deep meaning. A lot of people are just not into deep meaning. I'm not always, I just want to be entertained really - so by the end of the day things have got to be entertaining.

I think Hawkwind had a good balance of the "deep meaning" songs and the lighter "Sci-fi" kinda stuff.

You know I always thought it would be great to play guitar on 'Master of the Universe', and now here I am playing guitar on it.

Al: Was there a falling out between you and Dave, Nik?

Nik: Oh no, I've never had a falling out with him. I mean I feel sorry for him really. I've been sacked from the band twice, and he's basically instigated it to make sure it was his band - when everybody else in the band thought it was their band. You know, we had this band that everybody put all of their energy into. I got a lot of the gigs for the band and established a lot of its' street credibility by doing a lot of free gigs and benefits and being agreeable to play anywhere - establishing the band like a people's band. We were even quoted as being the British Grateful Dead, and I was like the British Jerry Garcia, you know!

Helios: You kinda are, I mean if you were still there and the band had maintained like Jerry did, you guys would be huge.

Nik: Yeah, well that was one of the mistakes of the band...

Helios: Same thing with Chrome, if we would have kept it together...

It's consistency, really, our mistake was not following through. I mean everybody in the band though it was their band and then suddenly Dave starts sacking people. It got to the point where people realised it wasn't their band, it was his band - that sort of devalued the whole thing as far as I was concerned. It wasn't what it was purporting to be. On the one hand,there were a lot of people putting a lot of energy into it because they thought it was the democratic thing, that it was the people's band, the people that created the imagery, the artwork, graphic design, the light show - all the peripheral people that did things for the band for the love of it - suddenly found out that it wasn't what they thought it was.

Helios: When we played in London some muppet boys with dreadlocks came up to us and were like "You should do festivals like Hawkwind." And we're in this shitty club, "Sure, I'd like to to do a big festival for free!" I had heard about the Stonehenge festival.

Yeah, they were real events, milestones really. They were quite reactionary and totally anti-establishment, absolutely anarchistic. Thai's why they failed really, there was no organization, no strengths to them. A sort of "divide and rule" sort of thing. Anarchy was a convenient thing to be going on for the establishment because it was a divide and rule thing - because it was an anarchist situation it was unorganized. Anarchy by its very nature is a disorganized thing but it's played itself right into the authorities hands by that. The last year before they shut the festival down I was talking to guys who had been talking to the police, and I had discussed it with the chief of police myself...they were saying they don't mind the festival going on but they have to have somebody to talk to, who is responsible or who the people will be responsible to so that the thing can maintain itself and not be destructive to the people around it. Because that was what was happening, you'd go to the site after the festival and you'd find like 15 stolen cars there - all wrecked.

I heard there was a problem with graffiti on the stones?

No, that was never a problem, that was a publicity lie. If there was graffiti on the stones it was put there by students from Bristol University to whom Stonehenge is nothing. It's just a pile of stones down the road to them that they piss on when they've had too much to drink.

Al: You can't even get near them now, right?

Right, and they've used this as an excuse. They've used the whole scene at Stonehenge to actually change the law in Britain.

Helios: It's all your fault!

Nik: Ha haaaa... They blew the whole Stonehenge anarchistic angle up so that they made people afraid of people with long hair. To the point where they were sh*t scared that these people might be moving in next door to them, or whatever, perverting their kids... So when the police wanted to stop Stonehenge they just stormed in, wrecked all the people's vehicles, beat up pregnant women and all sorts of things like this and totally justified it because the British public were behind it. They had created this monster, this Bogeyman, which was the freedom-seeking individual who didn't want to live in a council house and want to be part of the system. He wanted a slightly different lifestyle. They created this paranoia amongst the general public that these people were dangerous.

Helios: What did the English punk rockers feel about Stonehenge? Was it as sacred to them as the older hippies...

Nik: No, actually, because the punk movement was a reaction against hippies in a way.

Helios: Yeah, at first...

Nik: Although Johnny Rotten publicly sort of disclaimed anybody with long hair, he was actually secretly known to have been a roadie for Hawkwind at one point. Unbeknown to Hawkwind too! Ha haaa. It was only later when he was famous that he mentioned that he had roadied. I think he mentioned it to Bob Calvert once...

Helios: I know Jello Biafra was a big Hawkwind fan...

Al: A lot of later punk bands ended up playing at the festivals, like Citizen Fish...

Nik: A lot of the neo-punk bands, I saw Nicky Tesco at Stonehenge and said "What are you doing here? I thought you people didn't like this sort of thing?" and he was like. "No, it's great!". The publicity angle of it was that punk was a reaction against the old guard of long hair and LSD and drugs.

Helios: And a few years later and they were sucked up into it too!

Nik: But there was a whole crossover movement centered around this group called Crass...

Helios: Oh, I love Crass...

Nik: And Poison Girls and a few other bands and they were basically old hippies and they created this Anarchy center, a gathering point. And they were really nice people and they would be at Stonehenge. I was at Stonehenge when all these bikers were backstage and I think Poison Girls were on stage and they were throwing cans at them. I was in a unique position, I was in Hawkwind and I knew the bikers and the bikers were fans of the band, and I knew loads of them personally in England from all over the place. So there was me, who they had some respect for, and they were throwing cans at this punk band, calling them a load of spikey haired bastards and all that sort of thing. So I said, you know, "What are you doing?" And it ended up it was really only one guy that was really anti- punks, and by talking to him I sort of defused the situation. I mean, they were getting ready to have a f*cking riot, but I pulled the plug out and it sort of went away. But this was all part of punks becoming part of Stonehenge. There were psychopunks and then they sort of became psychedelic punks and part of the whole movement...

Helios: That's what Chrome was, psychedelic, acid punk. We were considered the first acid punk band...

Nik: And that's what Inner City Unit was, that was an acid punk band.

Helios: It was a good energy to turn into psychedelic.

(Helios leaves to set up his equipment for the rehearsal.)

Nik: And then you had Jimmy Pursey from Sham 69, he would secretly go to Stonehenge because he was a fan of Steve Hillage! It all went round and round and at the end of the day you realised that it was the media that was creating this rift. Nobody else. It was just the media putting words into punk's mouths, the punks weren't really reacting against the hippies. I think, they were reacting against the music business, and what was going down as the music business exerting an influence on what people would get to hear. The punks were basically the same as the hippies really, it's only the media that draws this division. One minute the hippies were great peace loving people that were into love and all the rest of it and the next minute the media were singling them out as drug crazed fiends, sort of Charles Manson types. When I was in Inner City Unit we'd do benefits for people living in squats and they'd crack open a squat and we'd play with these punks and they were all taking psychedellcs. If the initial punk thing was that they didn't take drugs, well, they were all taking speed and there's Sid Vicious taking smack. There was smack all around them. I know people who were involved peripherally with the Sex Pistols and there were some real drug casualties amongst them.

The early punk scene here was a heavy drug scene.

Nik: But there were a lot of different factions: there were punks and psychobillies and skinheads and squatters...they were all in the same boat and it was crazy really, some of them were quite militant and fascist like the National Front, this right wing Nazi organization...

Al: More recently, how did the rave culture fit into it all?

Nik: I think the rave culture was a reaction against banal live music - what was happening as well was the music was being produced by producers without musicians, really, with sampling and all that sort of thing.

Al: What did you think of it all?

Well, I like it but it's not the sort of thing I want to listen to all the time.

Al: Right, I like rave music at the raves...

I like live music, and I find it really boring to listen to rave music. I like rap music as well but I think it's sort of degenerated. It used to be a fine medium of expression but it's become a medium for fanning people's egos. I suppose it's a reflection of what is going on but I don't find it entertaining when you have records about stuff like "I f*cked six women and I nearly killed my kids and I robbed the liquor store and I'm gonna go sell some more crack now." I don't find that very entertaining, I think it's crap. I don't want my children listening to that sort of thing and I don't find it entertaining. Music ought to be entertaining or have some sort of message, but it doesn't have to be offensive. There are areas that we should be enriching. It should make people feel good. It shouldn't make people depressed and suicidal, it should be enlightening... It should be a spiritual experience, really, like John Coltraine, he became really engrossed in music as a spiritual experience, as a spiritual expression, as an expression of love. I think that's a really lovely way to look at it. That's how people should look at it but many people don't understand anything like that. Yeah, the rave thing I thought was healthy. I thought it was great but I don't see it as a permanent thing. In fact, there's sort of a reaction against raves, towards live music, which is quite a good thing.

Al: Getting back to your current project, the flyers and publicity seem to put a lot of emphasis on Hawkwind...

Nik: Yes, well there is. What these people are into doing and what I'm quite keen on doing as well, is to recreate the sound that Hawkwind had in the early 70's. The material that we're doing, and we're doing several songs by Helios and several Pressurehed songs, is basically the songs I wrote with Hawkwind. A lot of them are songs that haven't really ever been performed before - or very rarely.

Which ones, for instance?

Nik: Well, 'Dying Seas of Time', 'D-Rider', 'Kadu Flyer', 'Children of the Sun', lesser known songs. I didn't really come over here to play the "Space Ritual", the album or the material, because I wouldn't feel very good about that. But I don't mind coming over here and singing and producing material that I wrote and I feel good about.

Does Dave Brock know about this project?

Nik: I think that he does but I haven't really spoken to him about it. We've had a few problems, for one there's a fanzine over here called Kadu Flyer who expressed interest in helping us promote the tour. And then when apparently they talked to Dave and told him they were advertising the gig as "Hawkwind" and how "That's not right", "They shouldn't do that"... The next thing I'm hearing is that Hawkwind are trying to serve injunctions on some of the venues we're playing at because we're advertising it as Hawkwind.

Al: I was wondering why you were doing that?

Nik: Well, we're not. What we were calling it was "Nik Turner's Hawkwind" to stress the fact that it isn't Hawkwind...

Al: It is a bit deceiving, I'll admit.

Nik: Well, it might be. That is a problem, especially in a legal situation, trying to pass something off as something it is not. But we're not. It's been stipulated in all the flyers and promotion material that's been given promoters that it isn't to be presented as Hawkwind. But the fact that they (the promoters) are presenting it as Hawkwind is because if they don't they'll probably only sell half as many tickets. At the end of the day, as well, I think people coming to the gigs are gonna like what we do. I'm confident that they will. And I think that it can't do Hawkwind any bad at all, it can only do them good. Al: I think that the strength of Nik Turner, Helios Creed and Pressurehed together is strong enough without riding Hawkwind's coat-tails.

Nik: Well, it wasn't my idea really. I came over here to produce this Nik Turner "Sphynx" album. I was coming over here as Sphynx. Then Brian was saying "Well, wouldn't it be a good idea..." I had been toying with this other idea in England of getting this band together called "The Nik Turner Hawkwind". It's Dynamite - TNT Hawkwind, it's dynamite. That was gonna be a really mad show. It would obviously be my band, it wouldn't even seem to be Hawkwind. But Hawkwind is a sort of weird thing, you talk to a lot of people and they ask what happened to them. People don't know about them, they're not like a big name act and I'm claiming their name and using it to capitalize on what I don't have any right to. I was in the band for ten or twelve years and I've been out of the band for ten years and I have a name in my own right, but it was an easy option to use. We'd like to get as big an audience as we can without going through the leg work of one night stands with no people there. The easiest way to do that was to use "Nik Turner ex-Hawkwind". The fact that some promoters are using Nik Turner's Hawkwind with Hawkwind in bigger letters than my name might tend to deceive certain people into believing that that is what we are playing. A lot of people may not know that we aren't Hawkwind, but I'm not out to deceive people personally.

Al: Would there be any chance of you teaming back up with Dave Brock?

Nik: I don't know really. The reason I left the band was because Dave Brock gave me the sack. Dave phoned up everybody and kinda said "Well, do you think Nik... this and that... do you think he should be in the band" and at the end of the day they said to me, "Well, you're sacked." I was like what does that mean? And Huw Lloyd-Langton says "Oh, we think you're trying to turn Hawkwind into a punk band." And I wasn't really at all. I was just trying to turn it into something interesting, something that would excite people. Then Alan Davies says, "My mate thinks you shouldn't ought to be in Hawkwind, because you're not what Hawkwind's all about." I said, "Well, I was in Hawkwind for ten years and I am what Hawkwind is all about." Not to say that "I" was Hawkwind and I wasn't gonna argue with his friend, that's his opinion - but that isn't justification for me getting the sack. The drummer said he didn't mind, he didn't have any objections. He told me Dave phoned him up and asked him "Don't you think Nik's not taking enough interest in the band? Because he's not showing up to rehearsals all the time." Basically [why] I wasn't showing up is because I knew all the tunes and I was writing new songs. I had read all the Michael Moorcock books, which nobody else had. I started writing songs based on these lyrics, and actually came up with the whole concept which was from "The Black Sword." I think Dave saw me as a threat to his whole domination of the writing credits... So I got sacked and for me there was a total loss of respect for them. It was like "F*ck this, who wants to be in a band with a bunch of people like this." I was quite happy to leave.

Al: I know they've had their ups and downs since then, but there have been a few great records recently...

Nik: I don't denigrate their efforts in what they do, I just don't listen to it. It's not really what I'm into. I listen to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, John Coltraine, some Ska music, big band music... I play in a big band, a soul band, a jazz/funk band, a modern jazz dance band, a circus band - I just do a lot of different things - I play in a space rock band as well! I personally feel quite strongly, and to a lot of people this is true, that Hawkwind is a concept. It's not just a band and it never was just a band. At the time Hawkwind became popular it was the product of a lot of people who put their love and energies into the band. Those people have all withdrawn their support now, one of them committed suicide, as I was told, as a result of the way Dave treated him... A guy called Barney Bubbles who handled all the graphics of the band, created the image of the band. He created the propaganda machinery behind the band. In a way, -I mean this is a bit corny, but I've heard people say similar things and I've found it rather corny as well- but to me it's a rather spiritual thing, in as much as I'd like to do this for those people. There's a lot of people who liked the light show, done by Liquid Len. I mean he was really into [the] band and I coerced him into doing the lights for the band. He was really into it for the spirit and he won't have anything to do with them now... I know that people aren't interested in that side of it - all they want to see is the music and that's fair enough. That's fine, but for me things go a bit deeper. I don't like doing things that I don't like to do. I wouldn't do this tour as anything to do with Hawkwind if I didn't feel some right to it or for a reason that is justifiable to me. That reason, to me, is to do something for the people who created Hawkwind. A lot of people that got involved in the band and were responsible for the success of the band, to a large degree were friends of mine, that I got involved in the band. Like Robert Calvert, I got him involved in the band. They did it because they believed in it and it was me that gave them the belief. Not to blow my own trumpet about it but I was there and was a catalyst to create a situation where they felt like they really wanted to do it. Things were right, in that respect.

Al: There must have been a lot of energy around the time those first Hawkwind albums were coming out... It was so different, the whole approach, I enjoyed the spoken interludes between songs...

Nik: Oh it was, it was really good. It was a totally different concept really. Having the spoken words accompanied by electronics, there was a marriage together of a lot of things; simple music that anybody could think "Oh, I could play that!" I know loads of people who "Master of the Universe" was the first tune they ever learned! Some accessible music, like Can and all these other bands doing fairly simple based electronic music, rhythmic was all happening at the same time. The different elements that were around at the time got all pulled together. People were building things for us - things to plug my sax into and play through. Sort of avant-garde and new and untested ideas, and it was very exciting.

Al: It seemed to me that when "Space Ritual* was completed there was a sort of turning point.

Nik: I think "Silver Machine" was a sort of turning point. We had this success generated by a pop record, and it was selling a lot. We generated a lot of success and a lot of money that we were able to plow back into the band and create this stage set. This whole show, which to a large extent was engineered by Robert Calvert. He devised this "Space Ritual" idea as a concept and wrote a lot of poetry to be used in it. Michael Moorcock contributed partly. So all these very creative people were contributing towards the creativity and success of the band. It broadened the appeal of the band - with Michael Moorcock we were suddenly in the realm of a public that Michael Moorcock was catering to. He had created this new genre of "science fantasy," I don't know anybody else who had popularized it so much. Actually he's in the process of moving to Austin, Texas...

Al: I kinda felt that pre- "Space Ritual" Hawkwind was more along the lines of psychedelic inter-dimensonal space and drugs and personal insights, and after "Space Ritual" it went heavily to the science fiction / fantasy side...

Nik: Yeah, I think Robert Calvert was one of the prime instigators of that change, really, because of "Silver Machine" - a sort of ambiguous song about, oh, I don't know what it's about - hypodermic syringes or silver motorcycles or rocket ships or just a fast car...

Al: Some of the science fiction stuff was a bit corny for me personally, but I really liked the metaphysical stuff...

It depends what you call science fiction really. Hawkwind started to get into the realms of sword and sorcery, which is a form of science fiction...

Al: Or science fantasy, I guess I didn't see early Hawkwind as either fantasy or fiction...

Nik: Yeah, Robert Calvert, he tended to draw the band into sort of J.G. Ballard style of science fiction, with crashed cars and all that sort of thing. Then Robert got into this whole thing of Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, he went off on his own doing all these solo projects about things that he cared about.

Al: Are you doing "The Right Stuff" on this tour? (A Captain Lockheed song that Nik played sax on and Pressurehed cover on their new CD.)

Nik: Yeah! It's quite a varied repertoire we have actually, with a few Robert Calvert songs in there and we're gonna be writing material on the tour as well.

Al: Good, I'd really like to hear songs that you come up with as a band more so than doing Hawkwind covers - although I'm looking forward to that as well.

Nik: Yeah, I've just come over from England a week ago and we've hardly had time to rehearse. But we're going to be doing a lot of playing together, with some long soundchecks - that's what I'd really like. I'm really curious to see what will happen, I'm really excited and stimulated by it. It's a strange beast really, I hope people aren't expecting us to be performing the "Space Ritual" as it was performed in 1973, verbatim, with the same light show, with the same dancers, same everything...

Al: When you came over here in 1974, you played a lot of songs from "Space Ritual" but a lot of everything else as well. Was the "Space Ritual" set a tight sequence of songs with the dancers and lights...

Nik: I can't really remember what the "Space Ritual" set was - I know what the "Space Ritual" album was and we did do a tour in Britain with the "Space Ritual" with all these dancers - and then we came to the States and did the same show - more or less. It wasn't exactly the same because we didn't have all the dancers...

Al: You had one...

Nik: Yeah, a girl, Renee from San Francisco.... (Helios returns from setting up equipment and is a bit concerned that some stages might not be big enough for the band that includes 7 members now...)

Al: So Del Dettmar has joined in for this tour!

Yes, he's been living in British Columbia, Canada for the last 18 years. I've been keeping in contact with him quite a lot. He's still doing music, he has a studio and does a few gigs now and again and does different things with different people.

Al: Does he still have his old synth equipment?

Yeah, he does, he has his EMS VCS3's - which was a sort of "state of the art" electronic gadget in probably 1970 or something like that. It was state of the art in that it was a totally variable package. It wasn't something like you push a button and that's all you get - you had to program it completely. You cant sample sounds on it but it has all these variable contacts that lets you do a lot more than you could ever do with any sort of preprogrammed synthesizer. It's got a lot of versatility and it's still in demand. When I asked Del if he'd do these gigs I told him that if he had any problems getting his equipment in that he could use some of the equipment we have here: Korgs, Moogs and things like that. And he said, "Really, I've been playing this thing for 25 years and I'd rather play that!"

Al: What will become of this project. Is there another recording in store?

Nik: Yeah, we're gonna do a live recording on this tour, a video as well.

Brian: And there's the new studio album "Prophets of Time". It's got Simon House playing keyboards and violin on it as well as some spoken word stuff that Michael Moorcock donated that Genesis P-Orridge does...

It's really good actually...

And Helios is on there and the guys from Pressurehed.

When did that get recorded?

In the last couple of months. I like it better than "Sphynx", it's a lot more diverse, more spacier...

Nik: It is, yeah... A lot of it is Inner City Unit based material, but using this lineup. It's quite interesting and quite different as well. The album is like, more or less, the best songs that Inner City Unit had, in my opinion anyway! I like the songs and I felt quite happy about doing it. But on this tour we'll be doing a live album...

(At that point Helios got his equipment warmed up and breaks into "Master of the Universe", of course, nothing else could be heard....)


Images appearing in this interview: