Robert Calvert + Hawkwind / annex

An interview with Robert Calvert & Dave Brock

From the 'Sniffin Flowers' magazine, 1977

SF: How did Hawkwind come about?

DB: Well it was formed in 1969 by me and then I met Bob Calvert who was
a poet down Notting Hill Gate and he comes up to me and says "I got this idea, I've written this Space Ritual" and Nik Turner, this mate of mine, wanted to join up with the band, so he did. And then, he (Bob Calvert) left, he decided he could do better by himself and he suddenly discovered he couldn't so he came back
again, a wandering star, he is. Last year we nearly folded up because we were in so much debt. Last year was the closest we've ever come to folding, but it's looking a bit better now. There's a brief history.

SF: Why the name Hawkwind?

DB: Well it was to do with Nik Turner's rude behaviour right, he was always hawking wasn't he?

RC: He still is.

DB: And he used to fart a lot too and he said to me one day, let's call it Hawkwind and then there's the mythical story behind it, isn't there Robert?

RC: What?

DB: It's got a lot of mystical significance.

SF: (To Robert Calvert) Why do you keep leaving and rejoining?

RC: 'Cos I'm a very restless person I suppose. This band's always going through changes. Sometimes there are nice people in it and sometimes there aren't.

DB: Sometimes there are nasty people in it.

SF: Would you like to name anyone?

RC: Paul Rudolph.

DB: Alan Powell, were the worst influences on the band.
They were the reason the band nearly folded up.

SF: Musical influences or what?

DB: Musical and personal because of their egos.

RC: They wanted to make the band into a funky soul band 'cos about a year ago that was the vogue thing to do.

SF: (To Bob Calvert) Why do you now concentrate more upon the vocals than you did in the past?

RC: Well, I used to stand there and read poetry which I think is not very exciting. It's all right now and then, but we try and work towards generating some excitement now, things have to change.

DB: I mean, you can't do the same thing all the time.

RC: You have to digress. It's only like half way between singing and talking, you know which I think is more acceptable. Actually the German classical composers did that a lot. Kurt Weill used to call it 'sprechgesang', which means talk-sing. There's no way of putting poetry to music.

SF: Why don't you do a lot of the earlier numbers anymore?

RC: It's just that they are old numbers, you know if you are a composer like Dave Brock you don't want to do old things, you've got new ideas all the time and half the time you haven't got outlets for
them. I mean he's got loads of tapes of things that haven't been heard yet. It's not very encouraging to keep on doing stuff you've done over and over again.

Hawkwind - the fabulous 1977 line-up

Hawkwind's fabulous new line-up from 1977:
Adrian Shaw (b) / R. Calvert (vox) / Simon King (dr) /
Dave Brock (g/vox/kb) / Simon House (kb/violin)

SF: Are the more recent numbers less Science Fiction influenced?

RC: No, I think the newer numbers are more influenced by Science Fiction. I think we're maturing a lot now, I mean on Amazing Music there were numbers that weren't anything to do with Science Fiction, you know. Rudolph was always carping about not doing it and it affects you.

DB: You get an idea and you like things to be a sort of unit and we were in the studio and he was in a chair playing his bass and we were doing a high energy number! You can't do things when people are behaving like that and it's the same with your ideas. This album that we've just done is a step in the right direction. One part is a whole concept, it's more towards what we were doing with Doremi and all that lot. We are going back to where we sort of went off course.

SF: Would you consider yourself a Science Fiction band?

DB: Yeah, we do, in actual fact we are the only band that is doing that sort of thing.

RC: We are the only band that gets written about in S.F. fanzines.
Moorcock didn't make it an S.F. band he was drawn to it because of
what it was.

SF: Who are your own S.F. influences.

DB: I haven't really got any influences there, I mean you read a book
and you get an idea.

RC: It's more a case of actually being influenced by the science that's all around you. You can't help but come into contact with it all the time, rather than being influenced by S.F. We make what we make of the world into music and it comes out as S.F. which I think is the only valid way you can write about the times we find ourselves in. I always try to write about things that haven't happened quite yet, but I'm quite sure will happen. Like Spirit of the Age is not quite about the age that we are in now, but one we are heading for.

SF: How did Hawkwind become associated with Michael Moorcock?

RC: It came about from him being in Notting Hill Gate when we were in Notting Hill Gate. Before I did anything with the band I went to see them at the Roundhouse. Barney Bubbles had just done those cabinets and the drums and I thought how very Moorcockian they looked, at the same time I was working for Frendz magazine and I did this interview with Moorcock and I told him about the band and he came to a gig in Paris Square.

SF: How did the Space Ritual idea come about?

RC: Well, it didn't really come about, it was an idea that didn't ever
really get off the ground.

DB: It was never done to its fullest, it was only half done.

RC: But I think the idea of it made a lot of the things that you now see in the band happen. If it hadn't happened like that it wouldn't have developed the way it is now, the light show might not have been along the lines it is now.

SF: How did the Light Show evolve?

RC: Along with the band Jon Smeeton had been doing light shows for other bands.

DB: He was another guy around Notting Hill Gate at the same time when
we were all living round there and we just met up with him and he's
been with us since 1971.

RC: That's when Notting Hill was like the left bank in Paris with its
out of work artists and it lasted for 2-3 years.

DB: And then it became degenerate, full of junkies and alcoholics.

RC: I think that LSD was a major influence on our generation in art and
music. A lot of people, especially the New Wave enthusiasts have dismissed the whole psychedelic era as if it were totally insignificant which they are very wrong about. There was far more creativity than there is now. Punk music although it is very energetic and I find it a lot more refreshing to hear than what older bands are doing, doesn't have as much actual creativity as we had when we were that age and we were a new wave. I'm sure that very soon there's going to be a look back at that time and on our new album we've got a song about the period which is not making excuses for it, but holding it up as something we are actually
proud to have been involved in, which is not a very fashionable view to take now. It was the most important era in rock and in another year or two, you're going to have nothing but people looking back on that time.

Rock and roll had started out as just an energy dance music, then it was influenced by the blues and then it started being influenced by a whole lot of things like poetry, eastern music, LSD, mystical experiences and S.F. suddenly coming into it and opening it up as an art form, which it maintained for quite a long period with bands like the Pink Floyd and us, who were really spearheading the movement and it splintered out in different ways. The Floyd became comfortable, bourgeois and settled and just professional studio musicians and then punks came along to smash apart that sort of complacency, but they are not doing anything creative. The psychedelic era will be revived, we've not dismissed it, we've not said right it's fucking over now we'll play funky music because that's the thing to do.

DB: Not a revival as it was but a revival to what's happening now, 'cos everything that's done has been changed, it'll never be like that again. You can only touch on the outside of the circle that you're in.

RC: But journalists will try and revive the era, look at the way nostalgia has been going. It started off with the twenties for a short time, then through the thirties and forties very quickly, got into the fifties, now they are moving into the sixties, then they are going to have to move into 1971 because there is nothing happening now.

DB: So in a couple of years they will be well into psychedelia and "You remember those good old days" and all this.

RC: The music and the art that was happening then was really good.

SF: What do you think of the bands that have come out of Hawkwind?

DB: Motorhead are all right. I'm really glad Lemmy's got it together.

SF: What about Kicks?

DB: They are nothing to do with Hawkwind.

RC: Kicks are quite a funky band and are the sort of band Alan Powell and Paul Rudolph should have been in rather than trying to disrupt things in this one.

DB: Lemmy's band are the nearest to Hawkwind, Lemmy's you can say is like a splinter off the tree.

RC: Like the Grateful Dead and the New Riders.

SF: Where did you get hold of Adrian?

DB: Well he used to play for Magic Muscle in Bristol, who we have known for many years, they used to do free gigs with us and in fact he had played with us before on and off when Lemmy didn't turn up, he was a natural choice, it's a pity he didn't join sooner.

SF: What's your opinion of the Hawklords book.

DB: Well it's a sort of joke really.

SF: Do the characters in any way resemble yourselves?

RC: I shouldn't think they do. They're sort of like cartoon figures.

DB: I think he did touch at the surface of people's characters 'cos he went to Mike and asked him about them. I think that's what he did because some of the characters do behave vaguely like we do.

RC: I don't think you expect characters in this sort of stuff.

DB: Like Dan Dare.

RC: I think that this book is aimed at young people, which a lot of our following is amongst, which I can't understand. We get a lot of people who are young enough to be our children.

SF: Maybe you're something they can relate to.

RC: Yeah, Hawkwind has always had two strains running through it, one is the heavy street type music and the other is the spacey type music. Lemmy has taken the heaviness and got rid of the spaciness and we are halfway between the two really. I mean we were part of the more militant side of the underground culture, we regarded ourselves as a guerilla band and we were against the established
music business at the time. We refused to follow the dictates of record companies to produce hit material. Silver Machine was never a planned thing it was accidental. We didn't know we were going to have a hit single until it happened and I suppose that changed our attitude a bit, 'cos a lot of money came in which we hadn't set out to make. And from then onwards it became less of a pastime and more of a professional occupation.

SF: Did you always want to be rock stars?

RC: I certainly never did, I wanted to be a poet, which I still want to be. Actually I've got my first book of poems coming out called "Centigrade 232". I don't think we ever wanted to be stars, but to be at the head of a small cult would be enough.

Robert Calvert - the spirit of the p/age