Dave Brock, will on 28th May, become the first artist to play all four
phases of Friars with seminal space rock band Hawkwind. The styles have
varied over the years but science fiction themes have always run through
their work. Their work falls in to distinct eras and everyone has their
favourite. Commially at least, their golden era was the early to mid
1970s when they hit the heights with the timeless Silver Machine and had
a number of Top Ten albums. As they prepare to come back to Aylesbury,
Dave took some time out on the way to their Southampton gig in May 2011
to speak to the Friars website.
Dave, thanks for
talking to the Friars Aylesbury website, we’re very much looking forward
to the gig next Saturday.
(photo: Dave Law)
We’ve waited a
long time to welcome Hawkwind back to Friars and you are the only band
to have played all four venues, something which may never be challenged!
You played the first time in 1970 and it was quite different at the time
for Friars billed as a ‘special electronic concert’. There wasn’t too
much of that type of 'experimental' music at the time apart from the
'obvious' such as Pink Floyd or the very early ELP?
I suppose so, I think we called it
psychedelic prog rock!
A good way of
describing it! Right at the start, with your roots in the influential
Ladbroke Grove scene of the late 1960s with the busking, what did you
see as your influences when you were starting Hawkwind?
I don’t know – I don’t think we had
any influences really…I guess maybe early psychedelic music. I was doing
all sorts when I started, playing guitars with echo units and the like
So you were
always trying to break new ground musically….
Yes, with repetitive riffs! We
always got slagged off in the music press..oh that’s Hawkwind, they can
only play in one key!
were bursting out of London and the free festival scene... by the time
you played Friars again in 1972, you were being tagged as the people’s
band. Is that how you saw yourselves or as an underground band or both?
Both actually. We did free
festivals for the White Panther Party (anti racist group) and various
festival scene was starting to spread beyond London and you were a big
part of that weren’t you?
Oh yeah, we carried on doing that
through the 70s, 80s and 90s – we did a lot of free festivals. We used
to do them every two weeks going round the country. These festivals were
often set up as craft shows with music. People trying to sell their
stuff while the music was on. Quite arty. But there were a lot of drugs
unfortunately. At festivals here this (drugs) carried on till the 90s
with the rave culture.
If we talk about
the classic free festival era, if we look at the giant Isle of Wight
Festival in 1970, this seems to be to be a turning point in the free
festival movement so to speak.
The Isle of Wight Festival was huge
and we played outside in a canvas dome shaped thing and we played the
festival last year in exactly the same spot where we played first time
with our Hawkfest! The local golf course freaked out as it had visions
of people running naked across the golf course! There were about 1500
people in a family orientated festival. The 1970 one had about 650,000
people. I have a photo, eight feet long joined together of the entire
festival and only then can you take in how big it was.
Funnily enough, some people coming
to see us play tonight (in Southampton) run the Dimbola Lodge museum on
the Isle of Wight and they have memorabilia to do with the Isle of Wight
festivals and we have had our pictures taken with Jimi Hendrix! If you
go the Isle of Wight, this museum is worth a visit.
Hawkfest and how the local golf club perceived your audience as running
naked round the course, so how did you as a band react when a certain
6’2” lady (the unforgettable Stacia) turned up at your gigs and ended up
joining the band?
Taking your clothes off and dancing
naked was taken as a symbol of freedom. It was that age when women took
off their clothes and burned their bras to be free. Lots of people used
to wonder round naked. You have to remember this was the era when people
also dressed in bright coloured clothes. A lot of this was down to LSD,
which opened peoples minds and made them a bit more artistic and changed
their way of thinking (laughs)
it nicely! The early to mid 70s line up of the band achieved
considerable notice, most obviously with the iconic Silver Machine. It’s
interesting to me how you now might see the reaction to Urban Guerilla
today (banned single from 1973) with a 2011 head on - do you see it as
just bad timing with what was happening in Britain at the time or an
over-reaction by the BBC?
Well nothing’s changed, but yes it
was an over-reaction by the BBC. The words of the song reflected what
was happening in society then and they do now. Nothing’s changed. We
wanted to stop all this and come together.
A friend of mine
who was there has told me about The Greasy Truckers gig from 1972
(legendary Roundhouse gig with Hawkwind, Man and Brinsley Schwarz and
Friars DJ Andy Dunkley) and album. Although the album was a limited
edition, this did seem to help put your name out there didn’t it?
I don’t think it did. Yes it was a
limited edition but there were several reprints which I don’t think
should have happened but the money went to the organisation. But we got
Silver Machine off that album and after that yes we had Top 10 albums
and went off to America and played huge auditoriums.
With all the
success and the Top Ten albums, we had to wait and finally got you
coming back to Friars in December 1976 around the Astounding Sounds
album (there’s pictures on the website). The following year’s Quark
Strangeness and Charms album, this was the one that saw you open up to a
wider audience even forming to an extent an alliance with punks who
accepted you. Would you see it like this?
Yes – the funny thing round that
time, when we did the Hawklords…...
I was going to
ask you about that – it wasn’t long after that you formed the Hawklords,
this was presumably meant to be a totally different project to Hawkwind
or complementing it?
It was an extension to Hawkwind
really. It cost us a lot of money to get it together. But John
Lydon came to see us when he was in the Sex Pistols….
It seemed at the
time, a lot of the punks were saying we don’t like the old guard, but
Hawkwind are OK.
Yes, we always wrote about society
(which obviously struck a chord)
As I mentioned,
you are the only band to have played all four phases of Friars Aylesbury……
this leads to me to ask what do you think sums up Hawkwind’s longevity?
Between this upcoming performance and the last appearance in 1976 you’ve
released the best part of 25 albums including the most recent Blood of
the Earth which is a great piece of work. After 40 years, what still
makes you tick as a band and retain that loyal following?
It’s fun! It does get a bit harder
as you get older. We have a couple of albums worth of material we’ve
recorded. And the band sound alright and they are an interesting bunch
of characters. We’ve got Mr Dibs and Richard Chadwick has been our
drummer for 22 years.
many bands after forty years still going retaining a loyal following and
gaining new followers on the way whilst making new music.
The kids of the audiences have
grown up and now go to the gigs with their parents – they listen to
their parents’ record collections and think this isn’t bad – I’m going
We were talking
earlier about being accepted by the punks. John Lydon is on record as
saying that Hawkwind are an influence, but there are clearly influences
on other acts and as much as I don’t like musical tags, let’s say trance
or space rock, say The Orb or Ozric Tentacles. You must see these
I guess so – it’s quite nice to get
accolade for doing out stuff. Musicians get their bands together and go
off on their own courses, and I don’t mean just The Orb or Ozric
Tentacles. Even some big name bands have covered out stuff. Primal
Scream covered Urban Guerilla last year.
That still makes
Hawkwind relevant doesn’t it?
I think it’s quite a nice thing.
We’ll see in in
Aylesbury next week – the reports from the show are amazing – we can
expect spaceships, stiltwalkers and all sorts can’t we?
It’s part of a show – we try to
entertain people – escapism!
Thanks very much
for your time Dave, see you on the 28th!
This interview and its content
are © 2011 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used
in whole or in part without permission.