Interview: Dave Brock (Hawkwind)

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HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: April 2016. We had the great honour to talk with a legendary musician: Dave Brock. He is best known as the guitarist and captain of Hawkwind since 1969. Their new album is called “The Machine Stops”. Read below the very interesting things he told us:


What is the concept of “The Machine Stops” album?

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The concept for this is from a book by E.M Forster which was written in 1909. It’s quite interesting story because it basically speaks about what people do now living in their room with their computers. In the book they were living in subterranean tunnels underground. It’s very similar to what is going on in this world. Obviously, when our computers go wrong, we have no idea how to repair them. It’s the machine which takes charge and the people who used to repair it are long gone. So, no-one knows how to repair the machine and it’s quite surprising, though. So, that’s the content of the story, briefly (laughs). It’s an interesting story and very alike to what is happening in this world today.


What is different in “The Machine Stops” compared with the previous Hawkwind albums?

So, about every 10 years we do something like a concept album. It’s one of our concept albums and this is a part of our story. We worked a lot on the light show and the harmonies. It took about a year to record it all.


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You have two shows in Greece in May. What should fans expect of these shows?

Hopefully, it would be exciting and good. We love coming to Greece. We do like Greece, yeah. Funnily enough, I noticed a football team (ed: Panathinaikos) does the “tata-tata-tata/tata-ta, tata-tata/tara-tata (ed: the melody of “Hassan I Sahba” -1977). I’ve seen it on the Youtube, actually (laughs). It’s one of the tracks about the Assassins we recorded years ago. They will be really good shows. We’ll be simply in good spirits, I hope. We know the Greeks are very artistic.


Some months ago you released your “Brockworld” solo album. Is it more liberating when you make a solo album?

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Sometimes I do a solo album because I got fed up with the time it takes to make a Hawkwind album. I record quite a lot of tracks and I find it easier to record a solo album than a Hawkwind album. Funnily enough, the one I did this year, is in the charts, isn’t it?! I don’t believe that my agent is lying to me. It’s a very good surprise.


What is like to be the captain of Hawkwind for 47 years?

Stressful (laughs)! Stressful and sometimes it’s very exciting. We managed to save our local Town Hall here (ed: in Seaton, Devon) by putting on our own festival, HawkEaster, which raised enough money to keep the building open and it has now been handed over to volunteers to run as an Arts Project called The Seaton Gateway. We have held our HawkEaster Festival there every year now for the last 4 years.


Are you proud of the “Space Ritual” (1973) album?

Well, I suppose so. I don’t listen to it, anymore (laughs). Last year we did a one-off charity show for animal charities and we raised about 40.000 pounds. That was a good thing to do.


Did you have a lot of problems with the BBC and the police when you released the “Urban Guerilla” (1973) single?

Yes, a lot of problems. We withdrew it because unfortunately the IRA did a bomb attack in London and the record company thought it gave us bad attention. The words of the song are still relevant today. Nothing has changed in the world.


Was Robert Calvert an easy-going person to work with?

(Laughs) Easy guy? Yes, he was sometimes. Other times, he was very difficult. He was an unusual, eccentric character, I would say.


Can you explain to us the connection between Hawkwind and Krautrock?

Well, there are similarities with Can and a lot of other bands like NEU! In Krautrock they used very simple rhythms of electronic music, which it was quite similar to what we were doing in our space rock music with simple electronics, with heavy chords and avant-garde experimentation. We toured with Can and I wrote the sleeve notes for the first NEU! album. I look back on these with joy.


On 27 January 1972, Syd Barrett joined the Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band, when they opened for Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Did you meet Syd?

I did, but I can’t really remember it (laughs). I can’t remember too much about it. It’s a long time ago. Yes, we did. I remember the gig, funnily enough, it was recorded on an old tape machine. I did hear the recordings years and years ago and they were full of echoing, booming and people talking.


Do you miss Lemmy?

Well, I was in touch with Lemmy on and off just until before he died. Yeah, we used to text each other regularly and often we did the same festivals and he would came and play “Silver Machine” with us. A song Lemmy wrote for Hawkwind, “The Watcher” (from “Doremi Fasol Latido” -1972) fits very well with the concept of “The Machine Stops”. We played that song live years ago. Funnily enough, we had Phil Campbell, Lemmy’s guitarist, playing with his band two weeks ago at the HawkEaster Festival at Seaton Town Hall. He even played “Silver Machine” with us.


Was it a right decision by Hawkwind to fire Lemmy in 1975?

I think it was right in a way,  because Lemmy formed a band which became very famous (laughs). Who knows how things would have been if he hadn’t formed a band of his own?


Do you think live shows are more important than studio recordings?

Sometimes yes. Because live is always very experimental. With modern technology, bass and keyboards you can come up with sounds which are very experimental. If you have keyboards in a band, you add adjectives and artistic talents. The objective of a band is to be artistic, isn’t it? There is no hope, anyway (laughs).


Was the ‘80s a good decade for Hawkwind?

Yes, it was OK. We played at big festivals and did some successful albums.


Many people have been in Hawkwind. Is playing with different people a kind of evolution too?

Yes, I think it’s a good thing. I mean actually we now have the same line-up for about 10 years. Our drummer, Richard Chadwick is in the band for 28 years. Over the years, it’s good to have different people come and go. That’s what a band supposes to be.


Do you have happy memories of the days you shared your guitar with Eric Clapton?

Well, yeah. I suppose so. That was a long time ago, when we were young, you know. I used to go and see him. When I was busking in Portobello Road in the early ‘60s, Eric had a flat in Portobello Road or a couple of streets from there. That’s when I met Eric. The funny thing is that Ginger Baker (Cream –drums) ended up playing with Hawkwind. Ginger played with Hawkwind for a year and a half, which is quite an experience, you know.



Why you don’t like big festivals?

They have become too commercial. I don’t like to be at commercial festivals. Too many people. I prefer the smaller ones. I think they are more friendly and you can meet people more easy.


The Sex Pistols covered “Silver Machine” and Sid Vicious at age 14 was selling LSD at Hawkwind concerts. Do you believe that punk rock had anything to do with music or it was just a marketing invention?

At the moment, we are here talking about music. Who knows what is gonna happen next? All the time, I think music evolves, especially rock music. It gets a bit boring sometimes, and some people may look for something new. In our early days, there were a lot of free festivals which gave a lot of opportunities to young bands. It’s very difficult now. There are a lot of tribute bands, with whom I disagree with, you know. I prefer musicians to do something experimental and playing other people’s music note for note is not very experimental. Of course, you don’t have to like everything they do.


Did you get to meet Frank Zappa when you played together at the Oval Cricket Ground in South London on 16th September 1972?

Yeah, I did it very briefly. Funnily enough, I met him at Flo & Eddie’s. When we were in Los Angeles, we went to their house and we played a board game. Another eccentric characters, of course: Flo & Eddie. The whole family were a bunch of eccentrics and good musicians, of course.


Is it possible to play again with Nik Turner (saxophone)?

Never. He disgraced the band’s name.


For what reason?

I don’t want to talk about it.


Hope to meet you in May, if I’ll be in Athens.

Thank you very much. We are looking forward to coming to Greece. We have friends there. When we go to Athens, we all go out to dinner and stay out until very late.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Dave Brock for his time and to Kris Tait for her valuable help.

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