It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact starting point of Hawkwind, the seminal space rockers whose phenomenal career spans six decades. According to the internet, Dave Brock first formed the band in 1969. Since then, the band has released at least 35 studio albums, countless live releases, and a substantial number of compilations.
Interview: Paul Hutchings
As the band mentioned during their interview, you need a rather large set of shelves to accommodate their full output. With more changes to the line-up than Chelsea had during the last season, it’s always been a fluid and crazy ride aboard the starship Hawkwind. But Brock has always been your captain.
It’s a sunny afternoon when I catch up with four members of the band at Dave Brock’s farm in Devon. Only drummer Richard Chadwick is missing from the current line-up, with Doug MacKinnon, Magnus Martin, and Tim ‘Thighpaulsandra’ Lewis joining Dave on the phone.
It seems apt to ask the obvious question to start. How are things down on the farm? “We are busy rehearsing and preparing,” I’m told.
And indeed, with two high-profile shows to come at Chepstow Castle and the Royal Albert Hall, it’s pleasing to hear. As we will discover, the band are permanently writing, and the farm provides a haven for them to do that.
With the release of their latest studio album, The Future Never Waits, at the end of April, I check if the band and Dave are keeping track of which album number it is. “I think 35 is about right,” Dave says. “I heard that the other day. But there’s probably a lot more because there are compilations as well.”
Indeed, there are compilations galore, many containing the same fan favourites. For fans of Hawkwind, The Future Never Waits had some new traits which veered away from the band’s traditional space rock formula, although this is a band that influences rather than being influenced. How was the reception to the album?
“We are always trying to cover as many bases as possible,” Dave says. “We don’t mind straying off into different styles or experimenting. It’s all part of the fun for us”.
Tim interjects, “I mean, I was a bit worried about it because it gets a bit jazzy at times, but we’ve had a really great selection of feedback. People are obviously taking the correct amount of drugs to listen to the album.”
As the guys muse about space jazz as the new genre they’ve created, there’s a reassurance for fans of the old-school style as they explain that the next album may well go back to the basics and do some “nice space rock.”
Since 2016’s The Machine Stops, it’s fair to say that Hawkwind have been on a bit of a roll. They’ve released an album every year apart from 2022, with three live albums sandwiched alongside the studio recordings. The pandemic pushed the band to use digital transfers for 2020’s Carnivorous.
Dave explains the process. “We recorded that using tracks that we would send to each other using WeTransfer, and I’d just send my tracks to the others, and they would add their bits.”
Magnus recalls that there is a song on the album where he shouts. “I was in my bedroom shouting about lockdown,” he laughs. “The neighbours must have thought I’d lost it!”
As a result of the pandemic, many bands found that recording individually and then transferring their music digitally became the new way of working. Hawkwind aren’t most bands, of course, and with all the members of the band being multi-instrumentalists, working in this way may not be the best option.
How have they written and recorded Somnia and The Future Never Waits? “Well, we do a bit of each,” explains Dave. “Yes, we do a bit of both now,” the others agree.
“Yeah, I mean. You can you play the bass guitar, keyboards and you programme the drums. You end up doing everything, and then you send it to another member…and they take things out!” they laugh. “That’s the challenge for us”.
There follows a debate about the best bass player in the band, with Doug offering up that Magnus is a better bass player than him. Time to move on as I can’t see the guys, but it’s all good fun with much frivolity.
Reviews of The Future Never Waits seemed to be universally positive. Over 50 years into their journey, do the band really care what people think?
“You just hope that people will be truthful, really and say what they think. Let’s hope that we’re not turning into Americans,” Magnus adds, “I’d like to say I don’t care about what is written, but we’d be lying. I’ll read every single one that comes out.”
I wonder what Dave thinks of it all. He must have seen the full range of reviews over his career with Hawkwind from the early ’70s all the way through. Hawkwind have never followed a fashion, after all.
“It’s funny,” he says, “I’ve got a scrapbook with cuttings of all the reviews we used to get from Melody Maker and NME and Sounds. You know, I’d show my mum an article, and you’d always cut it out and keep it. And then my mother used to say to me, why don’t you get a proper job.”
In Part Two we look forward to Chepstow Castle and The Royal Albert Hall and find out which new album they are working on. You can read that here.