Hawkwind have not been out on the road too much in 2023, although they played a few shows back in June. In Part Two of this exclusive interview, we move on to the two big shows that they have coming up in the next two months. You can read Part One here.
Interview: Paul Hutchings
We start with the sold-out show at Chepstow Castle. When I tell the band that I’m about 20 minutes away from the venue, they respond with typical banter. “Oh good, we’ll come for tea then!” They would be very welcome indeed.
There is a strong connection with Wales. Tim is from Pontypridd, Magnus has a home in West Wales, whilst the rest of the band are all Southwest based. “West is best,” they add. “We recorded lots of albums at Rockfield,” Dave adds, “It’s our second home, really.”
With Wales firmly established as somewhere special for Hawkwind, I ask how the show at the Castle was arranged. “We are always looking for something different, and this was ideal,” they explain.
With Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons as the main support, I’m reminded that there is also the excellent Son Of Man opening the night. “They’re very old friends,” adds Dave. “I knew their fathers you know,” he says, in that grandfatherly kind of way!
The show sold out several weeks ago so it should be a cracking evening. What do the band have planned? “We’ll have the usual light show, lasers, projections, usual things that we do it. Hopefully, we’ve been practising, and we’ll be on form, and there might even be a new song or two. It should be good fun.”
The other gig that we’ve alluded to is slightly bigger in terms of both capacity and prestige. The Royal Albert Hall at the end of September. I was there when Hawkwind played their 50th-anniversary show on 26 November 2019. A glorious night, with 15 classics and appearances by Phil Campbell and The Black Heart Orchestra.
This time round, it’s the celebration of 50 years of Space Ritual, or to give it the full title, The Space Ritual Alive. Is this the main purpose of the show? “Yes, that’s true,” I’m told. “I do believe that it will coincide with the release of the box set in conjunction with us playing there.”
Yes, I tell the band, a ten-disc set that I’m reviewing!
“I hope you listen to every track really hard,” they laugh. “We will expect a page for each disc.” Having jested that I’ll be the same words on each page, I take Dave back to those two dates in 1972 in Liverpool and London where The Space Ritual Alive was recorded. Given the band’s appetite for medicinal support, it’s amazing that he can recall a thing.
“Well, I can’t remember that much,” he admits. “I do remember Liverpool Stadium, playing there because it used to be a boxing venue and the stage was in the middle of the stadium itself, and with the audience all around us, I think. Which is quite unusual really. Brixton Academy, I can’t share much about that because we played there quite a few times, so I can’t recall that much about it.”
At the time, Hawkwind’s line-up comprised Dave, a certain Lemmy Kilmister on bass and backing vocals, Nik Turner (sax, flute, vocals), Dik Mik, Del Detmar, drummer Simon King, Robert Calvert, and dancer Stacia.
The band were promoting their Doremi Fasol Latido album. If you’ve heard the album, then it’ll be evident that even this early in their journey, Hawkwind were really picking up. I’ve got a mate who was at the Liverpool date and says it could never be topped.
I ask Dave about the reception from the fans and the media, for what was Hawkwind’s first live album. “Yeah, that’s right, it was. And it went into the record charts,” he recalls. “And I mean, obviously you know it was a bit of money to buy ourselves a PA, which we didn’t have at the time. And buy us a new van, which we needed. We used to have an old parcel van which was fine. It was fine. I mean many years ago we used to have to sit in our sleeping bags because it had no heater.”
I return to that evening in 2019 at the Albert Hall. As far as I was aware this was the first time the band had played there. “It was,” confirms Dave. “It was a great occasion. We enjoyed it. I went to see the Jeff Beck memorial show there last month. A friend who has a box there invited me to go down. It was interesting going back there and sitting up in the box and watching the comings and goings.”
Dave explains that the venue looks bigger than it is from the stage. “It’s very big. It looks huge. We’ve got a picture standing on the floor, with the mixing desk already there and it really gives you an idea. It’s very high. It’s always been one of those places that I always wanted to play. I played there when I was doing the buskers tour with Don Partridge many years ago [1969 according to the internet] and I think there were only about 400 people in there.”
There follows a prolonged debate about the capacity that night, with the audience estimated anywhere between 500 and 5000! I drag the guys back to the forthcoming gig. What’s in store for the fans this time around?
“We have The Crazy World of Arthur Brown supporting us so we’re probably gonna get Arthur to do some poetry.” I recall seeing the band at The Palladium in 2018, where Arthur joined the band on stage. I mention that I was worried at one point that I didn’t think he was ever going to leave the stage.
The band assure me that he’s in fine form. “He still puts on a very good show. He’s got a really good band together. We played with him recently in Manchester, and he’s still really sort of physical on stage and he’s got his voice and you can still hear all those high notes and everything. He’s even older than Dave!”
“Although he says he’s two years younger,” adds Dave with a laugh.
As we head towards the end of the interview, I ask Hawkwind where they are in terms of record number 36. “We’re at number 37,” they laugh. We’ve done 36. That’s coming out next April! We’re off on something else now.”
As one would expect, Hawkwind are always writing music. “We are always working. Dave has an incredible amount of music, especially because he can’t do his chores on the farm when it’s raining. The last couple of weeks have been very busy recording because it’s been raining a lot.”
As we say our goodbyes, I ask the guys to smile when they see me in the photo pit at the Albert Hall. “We will now stop and pause then,” they laugh.