I keep noticing that a lot of the articles that I post these days are by either Geoff Barton or Pete Makowski. These two men have, throughout the years, been utterly important in promoting and making known to us all much of the music we are still listening to today. Their contribution to modern music history must not be underestimated and they deserve a place in the history books when the story of modern rock music goes down on paper.
Oh, well… here`s a good one with those guys from Hawkwind!
Hawkwind: Not a single minded band
Feature by: Geoff Barton
Almost tasteful. A remark that can be taken two ways, to two different extremes: either complimentary, or derogatory.
`Wind are taking it as a compliment, and seem well pleased with their new album which has been called, as I`ve said, `almost tasteful`.
“The album`s called `Warriors At The Edge Of Time`,” remarks drummer Simon King. “Or is it `Warriors On The Edge Of Time`?”.
“I believe it`s just called `Warrior`,” counters co-percussionist Alan Powell.
“No, no, no,” says Simon, “I`m sure it isn`t. I did the layout for the sleeve, after all…”
Typical Hawkwind vagueness and uncertainty – but, given the events surrounding the recording of the album (the title eventually being resolved to `Warriors On The Edge Of Time`), quite forgiveable.
“Yeah, we did it in about a week,” says Simon. “That was totally insane – but at the same time I enjoyed it. We had just one track – Simon House`s – laid down before we went into the recording studios at Rockfield. There, we laid all the backing tracks down in about three and a half days. Then, after we had a couple of days off, we went down to Olympic and added bits here and there, dubbed over vocals and mixed it all. That took about three days, and it was finished.
“We had to do it in such a short space of time because we`re soon to tour America. Atlantic, our recording company over there, needed an album to coincide with our visit. It was just fortunate that we had the numbers written and that we managed to get it ready. Still, we got it together and now we`re just sitting here waiting to go over to the States.”
The new album, released in Britain within the next few weeks, as the introduction to this piece suggests, features a much more mature and varied band. While not totally devoid of archetypal Hawkwind numbers, at the same time there`s a fine 6/8 track written by Simon House (“Just to prove that we can do some things that aren`t 4/4”) and a mellow acoustic contribution from Dave Brock (a `The Watcher`). `Space Ritual` type narratives also make their return, with Nik Turner and Michael Moorcock handling the spoken parts, and both Alan and Simon contributing the atmospheric backing.
The album is broadly based around sci-fi author and on-off Hawkwind member Michael Moorcock`s character Erekose, the Eternal Champion.
“It links up with a lot of Moorcock`s books,” says Alan. “We`ll probably do some more work with him for the next album. Not a lot, just bits here and there. `Warriors` was originally going to be some sort of concept thing between us and Moorcock, but it never really came together except for a few of the tracks – the poems, and the lyrics for some of the songs.”
Are you looking forward to returning to America?
“I really can`t wait,” replies Simon. “The first time I went I didn`t like it at all, but now that I`ve got to know some people over there I`m really looking forward to it. It`s only going to be a short tour and we`re going to play familiar places, so it should be perfectly all right.”
Will you be playing numbers from the new album on the tour?
“Yeah – but actually it won`t be the first time we`ll have played them live,” Simon says. “We gave them their debut on two British gigs at Yeovil and Dunstable a short while ago – which we kept quiet about. We just wanted to try them out, you know.
“I expect you can remember the saga at the end of our last British tour – we had to blow out a number of the final dates, because everyone was physically and mentally wiped out, retarded. It was unavoidable.
“We`ve only partially recovered now,” he jokes, “but what with doing the album and having to have a break, we`ve only had the chance to do two of the cancelled gigs. We did virtually the whole of the new album on those dates together with a few of the old numbers. It worked really well – we were so enthusiastic about doing new numbers that the old ones sounded fresher as well.”
Hawkwind have so far been unable to equal `Silver Machine`s` singles chart success. You may remember the band voluntarily withdrew their follow-up single `Urban Guerilla` from the shops just as it was about to break into the charts because of political implications – bombs were being planted all around the country at the time. A noble gesture, but one that in the end proved harmful for the band: the newest single, `Kings Of Speed`, seems to have flopped rather badly.
“Never mind, I didn`t like the number anyway,” admits Simon. “Apparently, we had to do a single to fulfill our record contract, but really we don`t know how to make them. A band like Sweet, for example, can go into a studio and turn out great three minute singles. I`m not a Sweet fan, but give credit where credit`s due, most of their singles work well.
“We`re not singles-minded, we can`t do things in their way. If Sweet had done `Kings Of Speed` then maybe it would have been a hit – but when we laid the number down we felt like, well, we had to do it, so let`s get it out of the way as soon as possible.”
Last time I talked to Simon, he seemed quite enthusiastic about the single. Why the change of heart?
“Well at one point I was quite into doing the number, I was quite into getting a few things done. `Kings Of Speed` could have been okay, I suppose, but really it was a case of `too many cooks`. People kept on saying to us that it had to have this, had to have that. In the end the band didn`t want to know. It got released, and it just got overlooked. I wasn`t bothered at all, you know?”
I thought the single did fairly well – it may even still be a breaker.
“Maybe, I don`t know. I wasn`t even aware it had been released for some time. A lot of people say to you that the band could really do with another hit single, and all the rest of it. Well okay, maybe we do. I don`t think we do, but I might be wrong. I probably am.
“After all, Chelsea got relegated and I thought they were going to win the league.”