- part 2 -

Ok - let's move on. How did it come that Robert re-joined Hawkwind in '75 and how did the band change after that? The difference between Warrior On The Edge Of Time and Astounding Sounds is quite radical. Sounds like a completely different band.

Mmm, there were probably a few tactics involved... I think all of the band's members were trying to be as creative as possible really. A situation where everybody had a chance to actually write something and was encouraged to. Which had not happened before, I mean I was always trying to instigate that, but it didn't really happen. Also Lemmy wasn't in the band anymore, that was another significant change - a difference. Paul Rudolph was much more musical as a bass player, as a musician I mean. He was a really good guitarist as well, far better guitarist than Dave you know. But he's living in Canada now, where he's from. So there's quite a few umm... Paul Rudolph played on Captain Lockheed as well. There were quite a few contributors...

Yes, he was very much involved in Captain Lockheed. And in Lucky Leif as well.

He was actually a very creative guy. You know, he's got more than three chords! He can play lots of things...

Yea I've heard about that from others as well.

He studied Spanish guitar when he was in Spain, Flamenco and stuff.

Did the spirit of the band - the spirit between the members also change very much? It was the first time that Calvert stepped in as a real lead singer - the first time the band had a true "frontman" - a showman, as a matter of fact. That must have been quite change for the band.

Yes, he was more of a singer than anybody in the band...

Calvert surely drew the focus on himself when the band was on stage. Besides you, he was probably the only one who already had some entertainer qualities. Whereas Dave Brock and Simon House as well, seem to be happy to "hide" behind their instruments.

I guess so. They are not really the sort of public performers, as they were probably more interested in recording - and just playing really... I think though that Astounding Sounds was an album that was created at a time conveniently for Robert - when he wasn't having a nervous breakdown. He waited till some time later to have one. So yea, there was probably a vast difference between the previous album and that one.

I mean the sound changed so dramatically - all these very, not pompous but very prominent keyboard sounds from the "Warriors..." albem were gone and Astounding Sounds is a much more rock oriented. Steppenwolf is. And so is Back On The Streets, Kerb Crawler a. o songs - they are much more heading into a direction which would later be called "new wave".

Yea, the sound of the band was changing as well.

So, the album contained a lot of different styles and elements - Did the band also became more "democratic"?

I think so, very briefly, yea. I mean, and then you know, there were all this sort of...

It seemed that like the power struggles came back again quite soon. You left the band, only a little while after Paul Rudolph did.

Well I think Dave felt that he was losing control of the band because he's always tried to maintain control of the band and...

I've read a in an interview with Robert that he and Dave were sort of instigating a "Stalinistic purge" - as he called it - in order to get the band back on course...

This is what Robert said?

Do you have the feeling, looking back at this period, that Robert and Dave tried to become the sort of two powerful figures in the band and wanted to get everything under their control?

Well I think probably Robert didn't. I think Dave probably wanted Robert to perform that role.

He also said that after you were out of the band; I don't know if you decided yourself to leave or if they sort of officially sacked you; they said "Well we actually wanted to have him back in again but then Nik didn't wanted to do it any more.". Did it happen like that?

Yea, it was.

Were you tired of playing then?

I basically was bored of them, and I think I lost respect over this whole business of me getting the sack. You know, there was a sort of a stand off type of thing. You know, the band was supposedly... I mean it was all very ironical really - I set a management deal up for the band. And then, the manager, who was this guy who used to manage Marc Bolan...

Tony Howard?

Yes, Tony Howard. He created this sort of thing where you take the main man and put all the other the other guys on wages. And this is what I think he started to get together with Dave basically, with Hawkwind. So it became a situation where we were supposed to be going into the studio to do a single...

That was "Back On The Streets"?

Yea, I guess it was. And then... I think Paul Rudolph and Simon King said that they would leave if I didn't leave and everybody else... Well, I can't remember the exact circumstances of it, but anyway it was a sort of situation like that, where nobody else seemed to care anyway and I was sort of presented with being sacked. Well, it was either them leaving or me leaving or the band breaking up... more or less. You know, so I said: "Well, you know I'll leave.". And what happened then was, I was phoned up by Dave I think and he said "Oh look we've sacked Paul Rudolph and Allen Powell from the band. You can be in the band again." and I said "Well no thanks.".
You know, I just thought, if this is the pattern of how things are. I'm being blackmailed to get out of the band by two guys who suddenly have got no power. You know, well if they had no power, then what were they doing blackmailing me out of the band?
So I thought well, 'time for a change'.

But before that, you made the Astounding tour with this - and I've only seen photos and a few super 8 clips - with this fantastic Atomhenge stage-set.

That's right.

Also from the records and bootleg recordings I've heard, it seems to have been quite a good tour musically. And lot of songs that were officially released a year or two later were already there like Uncle Sam's On Mars and Assassins Of Allah/Hassan I Sahba.

That's right.

So, it seems that this was a very productive period.

Yes, it was, I mean we were trying out lots of things. The Atomhenge-stage for instance cost quite a lot of money and it was a band / group thing to finance it out of record royalties really.

Can you tell me something about the stage-acts that Robert was performing during that time, the costumes and characters he was using on stage?

I do remember a few of them - I mean he was a cross between Lawrence of Arabia and Biggles. You know Biggles?

Yes. That's how I think Mick Farren described him.

I think it was mostly that sort of thing for most of the time. I'm trying to think of what other costumes he used but I can't really think of any.

The Steppenwolf outfit - can you remember that?

I think he had sort of a long coat and a top-hat pulled down over his eyes something like that.

From reading other interviews I get the impression that he was always completely immersing in these characters when he was on stage.

Yes, he was.

And that was becoming a problem for him after the shows and on extended tours - was that so?

Well, I don't really think so. I mean it was never a problem for me. It might have been a problem for Dave or the others because he saw it as a convenient situation, to sort of capitalize on in some way or other. I mean you must understand that the women, the girls that Robert lived with, none of them liked Dave at all. They all really thought he was a conniving rip off artist you know, that he was exploiting Robert and just sort of dismissing him when he felt like it, when he'd got what he wanted out of him. This is what they thought, which may be quite near to the truth possibly, you know.

Did Robert ever talk about... that it is or could be problem for him that he was actually recognized as a *rock star* - let's say in the public conciousness, when at the same time, he prefered to be acknowledged as a poet and a writer?

I think he saw the stage and sort of being a rock star as a vehicle to actually enable him to do other things. Because it gave him credibility you know. For instance, the guy that we had managing us at the time; Tony Howard, he helped Robert to mount different theatrical projects that he was interested in doing. He did The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice at a theatre in Hampstead, which I went to. And later on The Kid From Silicon Gulch. I don't know whether Robert was still involved with those people whe performed on the Captain Lockheed album - but I think he was really much more into that sort of thing, than actually being a rock star. But, as I say, being a musician, being on stage, having success with records, enabled him to have the credibility and possibly the influence to actually do the things that he really wanted to do. I mean he was basically a writer, a poet, and I think it was a good vehicle really for him to enable him to write more, to develop a direction and an outlet for it as well.

Did he tell you anything about the reasons why he finally dropped out of Hawkwind in '78?

Well, differences with Dave really. You know all the sordid side of Hawkwind.

Quite shortly afterwards he began to perform with your current band then Inner City Unit.

Yea that's right - he made several guest-performances with ICU.

Do you know when that actually started?

It was must have been about 1985 - something like that.

That late? I thought it was earlier.

I think it was that late because I was in Hawkwind 1984 and I left the band at the end of '84. I had picked up with the band, sort of re-constituted Inner City Unit, and that was the band that Robert ended up doing some gigs with, as Maximum Effect - that's how the band was called when performing with/for him. So it must have been sort of '85, '86 I guess.

How did this come about? I think he joined you during the touring with Inner City Unit as a sort of guest performer?

That's right. We did a few gigs, some very good ones actually. We did an anti-heroin benefit in Liverpool, a gig at Dingwalls that was really good. This one has also been video'd - quite an exciting and interesting gig. And then my band broke up - and then Robert took it over and did some gigs with it. They changed the name to Maximum Effect, but it was the same band basically.
(editors note: Calvert's backing band at that time - sometimes announced as The Maximum Effect, sometimes as Krankschaft, consisted mostly of just two (ex)-members of ICU: Fred "Dead Fred" Reeves and Steve Pond - with the aid of a trusty drum-computer.)

When I saw these videos - the ones recorded at Dingwalls and some place else, I had the feeling he completely changed his persona on stage. I mean, he came up on stage like, well, like coming straight out of his living room - a checkered pullover and always his pipe in his mouth - I mean the classical anti rock star.

Yea. {laughter}

Was it conscious or was it just his habit at the time?

Well, I think it was how he was really. I mean he wasn't doing a gig with me as a show case for him as a theatrical personality.
Also, quite previous to that, he had done an album, I think it was called Freq? ...

Yes, Freq.

... Which was about the miners strike and the political situation in England at the time. I think he was more in a political mode, you know sort of an arm chair philosopher type of thing - rather than presenting this sort of outrageous theatrical rock person. He was leaving that to me. {laugthter}

That's true, I've seen it...
Another thing is, I have the feeling that he took pleasure in trying out different styles. I mean - apart from his on-stage characters one can see so many different pictures of him, sometimes wearing a suit and looking like a very distinguished English gentleman from the countryside...

I could say as well that perhaps, when he did those gigs with me and he wasn't this sort of outrageous person, he was maybe actually getting over his depression. He wasn't particularly outgoing at that time but he was able to cope with going on a stage and performing some of his works. So maybe that that appearance was... belied sort of how he felt.

It must have been around '82 or '83 that he married Jill Riches?

I guess so.

Do you think that, from what you say looking back, that it gave him more stability in his life?

It probably did, yea. Also because he moved into Michael Moorcock's flat that Mike had been living in - with Jill in fact - and having a sort of decent place to live helped him a lot. I mean he'd been living with me quite a lot and hadn't a good place quite often. We'd been living with some girls and it had been OK, but he'd have his mood swings when he sort of dropped out of different scenes. And I think Jill was actually a very understanding person. I think the other girls he'd been living with mostly, had, well, problems coping with him, coming to terms with him, as he wasn't the easiest person to live with.

I think it was also a completely different type of fatherhood for/from him, when his latest son Nicholas was born.

Yea. Nik was named after me.

...Nicholas, yes. From what Jill and also Nicolas told me as well, Robert was a very caring father and tried to spend as much time with him as possible.

Yes I think so. I think Jill was good for him in many ways. She was, because Mike Moorcock was a manic depressive too. So I think she'd sort of come to terms with that sort of, well, style.

I didn't know that - but I guess Moorcock had a better way of coming to terms with it - if one could say so...

I think so. I think he sort of, perhaps... he wasn't so extreme, or he managed to get on top of it and cope with it better I think, than Robert did. I think Robert was more extreme.
I think maybe... Robert had a problem, because his mother was a State Registered Nurse and they had a cupboard full of drugs at any time, of different stimulants and depressants - just like samples and... I mean not for taking particularly, but his mother just had them because of her job and that was her business. So, having that available when he was sort of getting manic and going wild and all that sort of thing didn't help him really. And then his mother used to administer him to drugs, you know, that she might think he needed when he was depressed. And I don't really think that helped him a great deal. Again I think, probably, it might have made him more extreme. I mean his brother was a bit of a wild boy too, he was probably out dealing drugs or something like that. You know, speed and stuff that he got out of his mothers cupboard or something, perhaps. PERHAPS. That was the sort of you know, possibility.
(editor's note: dear reader: please mind the PERHAPS.)

But I think later on he didn't use much drugs, at least that's what he said.

No, no he didn't. I mean I think he had experimented with drugs in his youth.

Yes, sure, but not as a typical rock star prototype...
Do you know anything about the latest projects Robert was working on before he died?

There's a few things like the Basement Tapes (ed.note: some of those demo-recordings have been released under the title Blueprints from the Cellar) recording wise, but I don't think I've heard them. I think I was going to be sent a copy. I've recently started my own record label: Nicked Records. And I'm re-releasing my own first solo-abum Sphinx / Xitintoday on it. And I'm releasing an album of my current band as well: Nik Turners Fantastic All Stars. But I'm also approached by Jill (Calvert) about releasing some of Robert's stuff. And I'm actually hoping to release some of this stuff - any albums I can get hold of really. Including any other material which hasn't been released. There is a guy called Trevor Hughes, who runs a fanzine (Hawkfrendz) and he's got a lot of material - but these are tapes, bootleg tapes of Roberts stuff. I've been trying to get him to compile some albums for me, stuff that he considers really good. And then another thing I had from Jill which was a book. I can't remember what it was called.


Standing At The Gate I think or Standing at the Barrier or something like that. Or the Nigel, the Nigel books...
I mean, what I like to do is release as much of Roberts stuff that hasn't been released as possible. And any bootleg stuff I find - and it would be good if its together with getting into book publishing. I mean I'm not into book publishing, I don't have any knowledge of it at all, but as a spin off from what I'm doing.... If people buy buy the records, then there's a fair possibility they might buy the books. I could do the whole thing on the Internet possibly, that would be one means of publishing it and through the usual channels that I'll be dealing with with records. I think quite a lot of record shops take books now don't they?

Yes, or they combine it.
You also played a lot of Robert's songs during your latest tours. Especially during those through the USA with the Pressurehed members.

That's right.

How did the audience react and how did the musicians?

Well, they were really impressed, I mean, they really liked Robert, they are all really great fans of his. You know, the audience, when his name is mentioned they... they just go really wild you know. They really appreciate it.

I think the musicians Pressurehed and Far Flung...

They're all real fans of Robert. They knew all his songs backwards {laugh} they didn't need me to sing them. {laugh}. And then there are other people, artists like Jello Biafra* - I met him in San Francisco. He came and played a gig with us and he sang Silver Machine - he too is a real fan of Robert. Robert had actually changed his life he said. Other people that I've met, you know on the way, Genesis P. Orridge**, for instance, they are very aware of Robert's work
(* vocalist of the Dead Kennedys, owner of the Alternative Tenctacles label, collaborator of Ministry as "Lard"...)
(**member of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV - one of the pioneers industrial music


He too lives in San Francisco.
Many people, you know, journalists and fans - Robert is actually very well remembered.

What would you say, what was/is the most important influence that Hawkwind; especially in the period when Robert was in the band, lets say up to '78; had on other bands that came after that? Would you describe them mostly as pre-cursors for punk or, or were the psychedelic elements the most important thing?

Yes, probably - You know, Johnny Rotten was Hawkwind's roadie for a night apparently. {laugh}
I mean, if you listen to Punk music, like the Sex Pistols; it's Heavy Metal. Its not so different from a lot of heavy metal records, Deep Purple or somebody like that. It's very similar, I can only think. I think it was just labeled Punk then. You know, the youth expression. Johnny Rotten was like the the poet, I mean in a way Johnny Rotten was a fan of Robert Calvert as well. And yes, I think Robert was probably very influential.
(editor's note: Johnny Rotten / John Lydon has indeed confirmed in his autobiography that he had been a fan of Hawkwind - and during the latest Sex Pistols reunion-tours the band also played a cover of Silver Machine - at times they even opened their set with it AND also set bubble-machines in action - like Hawkwind did during their live shows in 1972..)

I mean the direction you are taking yourself now could be described as ambient maybe, at least when it comes to what you are doing with the Anubian Lights.

That's right. I am getting into sort of ambient music, but I like to be involved with lots of different ...

It's got some Ethno elements as well. What people describe as...

Yea, I don't like to just sort of play Hawkwind music. I play in a Ska band, a soul band, Afro-Cuban dance band, I go busking {laugh} on my own. You know what I mean? Pedal, bass drum peddle on a snare drum. I like to do all sorts of music. The album that I'm making at the moment is going to have some sort of House rhythms on it, samples and stuff like that.

Is the *nostalgic* element that you surely come across especially with a lot of audiences that are still connecting you with Hawkwind - is that a problem for you?

No. I'm just appreciative of them really. I think that Hawkwind made a profound impression on their lives, that the Hawkwind gigs were real events and a lot of people that I've met were really impressed by it.

Do you think that the band; especially in that period during the '70's, I think that was the most important period; that they ever received the credit they deserved for it?


I mean, a lot of bands from that era are now acknowledged to have paved the way for a lot of other bands and styles that came after them. Do you think that's the same with Hawkwind or...

I don't think Hawkwind got the credit for it really. But I think that's down to the PR that's gone down about Hawkwind. You know... in some ways the band hasn't a very good reputation. In a way the press doesn't like Hawkwind. Their not darlings of the press, their not sort of held up as "Oh look! Hey guys, this is the band that started it all!" because, even if the band did start it all, their not going to be acknowledged as doing so because, they've got bad cred. That's the problem....

How is it with your own work now? I mean listening to Anubian Lights it's evident that this is not a nostalgic thing.

That's right.

You also perform with a lot of young musicians, when you're on tour now. Is it still that the press says "Oh god! Nik Turner, that old bleedin' Hippie from Hawkwind."

I don't think so. I don't know, I don't get any press {laugh}
If I do get any press it's usually favorable. I mean I get really wild totally flattering press in my my own area, where I live, because people know me, and I do good things, and they love it! I had like a big band for a couple of weeks, sort of fifteen piece big band playing Count Bassey and Duke Ellington arrangements and dance stuff. You know '40's dance music like the Cotton Club. I mean people just go ape shit really. And at the moment I'm playing Afro-Cuban music with a Cuban percussionist and an African drummer. I've done loads of playing with African bands, *World Music* outfits and stuff like that. I just do loads of different things, so I don't know what the press's reaction will be. They probably won't think its me. {laugh} Then they'll get this record and they'll think "Oh who's that guy? Somebody's impression..or impersonation... somebodys ni(c)ked... ripped Nik Turners name off.". {laugh}
So you know, I'm not bothered really, I just think what I do is good and if people like it that's great! And if they don't, that's great!

What do you think about what we were doing during the last few days? Is that thing going into some new direction or basically...

I think its good. And I think it is going in a new direction, because The Moor are different from anything I've actually played with before. And their style of music is like... sort of heavy Nordic, ehm, Holstian sort of music. With lot's of dark overtones, but I like it actually. And so me playing with them, and them playing with me, we are creating a different perspective. I mean, I've been sorta getting onto them to make their music more danceable. Which I think they should - I'm into dance music and if I go and see a band I like to dance. If I don't dance to the music its got to be really good. I mean this music might be really good but I'd like it to be danceable as well, you know?

I think that's something that you and Robert have in common - I think you are both great entertainers. I mean you put your fantastic costume on every night which is really slavery work... so, I suppose it's an important thing for you to see yourself as an entertainer?

I'm very interested in presentation. And I think its extremely important. I've been in bands where you wear dirty old jeans with holes in the knees and leather jackets - all a bit like those I'm wearing now. {chuckle} But then you present that as your image, because that's like a street cred image type of thing, and that's what we did, what we were in Hawkwind. It was like unpretentious music that, that anybody can play, so people could identify with it and see that they could be doing it. And consequently quite a lot of them did do it you know? Other bands started out that were influenced by Hawkwind, there are still bands that are influenced by Hawkwind, and they're happy to be and they'll admit it freely.
But yes, I'm interested in presentation so I have a different attitude: if I'm presenting myself in a sort of science fiction context, then I'd like what I do to to appear to be a part of that as well. So if, if I'm either wearing some weird wacky sort of mutant costume or looking like somebody out of The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe or looking very slick, that's in order to raise the sort of expectation of what people feel about the gig.
For one thing I like to be unpredictable, {chuckle} because otherwise I get bored with being predictable. And - as I said, you know I like to do different things, so I like to vary what I do. So, if you are on stage the whole thing is theatre. And I like it to be outrageous theater, I like the people to say "Wow!".
What I like to present, is a sort of show that I'd like to go and see myself. You know, if somebody did what I'm doing I'd think "Wow! That guy is fucking crazy!!!" ... But in a good way you know?
What I really think that music ought to have - or ought to be, is a healing force as well. People should feel really good at my gigs. And I think one of the ways of feeling good is to dance.
And another way of feeling for them feeling good is to be amazed at what's going on.
That's what I'd like to present really.

© the spirit of the p/age

(the interview has been kindly transcribed by Chris Gibbs from the original video/audio-tape.
my most sincere thanks for this!
the picture-strips consist of stills from that interview session.)


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